National: Trump, Putin, and the New Cold War: What lay behind Russia’s interference in the 2016 election—and what lies ahead? | The New Yorker

On April 12, 1982, Yuri Andropov, the chairman of the K.G.B., ordered foreign-intelligence operatives to carry out “active measures”—aktivniye meropriyatiya—against the reëlection campaign of President Ronald Reagan. Unlike classic espionage, which involves the collection of foreign secrets, active measures aim at influencing events—at undermining a rival power with forgeries, front groups, and countless other techniques honed during the Cold War. The Soviet leadership considered Reagan an implacable militarist. According to extensive notes made by Vasili Mitrokhin, a high-ranking K.G.B. officer and archivist who later defected to Great Britain, Soviet intelligence tried to infiltrate the headquarters of the Republican and Democratic National Committees, popularize the slogan “Reagan Means War!,” and discredit the President as a corrupt servant of the military-industrial complex. The effort had no evident effect. Reagan won forty-nine of fifty states.

National: Russia Hacking Election Scandal: Investigation Too Complicated For Tech-Challenged US Congress? | International Business Times

Capitol Hill lawmakers are starting the process of investigating Russia’s role in hacking last year’s presidential election and whether the Trump campaign was communicating with the Russian government while the hacking occurred. With members of Congress, most of whom have legal backgrounds, slated to begin digging into issues like hacking and cyber security, it’s unclear if those responsible for conducting such vital investigations have the technical expertise to fully comprehend the technical data. Very few members of congress, or their staffs, have any background in technology, and that worries many technology experts who spoke to The Intercept, an investigative news outlet formed in 2014.

National: Intelligence nominee supports probes on Russian interference | Reuters

President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the director of national intelligence pledged on Tuesday to support thorough investigation of any Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, seeking to reassure lawmakers worried that partisan politics might interfere with a probe. “I think this is something that needs to be investigated and addressed,” former Republican Senator Dan Coats told the Senate Intelligence Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the top U.S. intelligence official. Coats, 73, a former member of the intelligence panel, also promised that it would have full access to all of the documents and other materials needed for an investigation. “I have no intention of holding anything back from this committee,” Coats said.

National: After Court Setbacks, Lawmakers Push for New Voting Restrictions | Stateline

Amid President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 election, bills have been introduced in at least 20 states that would make it more difficult for many people to vote. In some states, such as Texas and Arkansas, lawmakers are responding to court rulings that struck down or scaled back earlier attempts to restrict voting. Bills in other states would make changes to early voting and registration deadlines. Proponents of the legislation say the proposed limitations, such as requiring a photo ID and eliminating Election Day registration, are necessary to restore public confidence in the electoral system. They say the measures protect the integrity of the ballot box by confirming voters’ identities and whether they are qualified to vote. In state legislatures the measures are backed mainly by Republicans, though polls show that most Democrats also support a photo ID requirement.

National: Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media | Carole Cadwalladr/The Guardian

Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe you any more.” CNN was described as “very fake news… story after story is bad”. The BBC was “another beauty”. That night I did two things. First, I typed “Trump” in the search box of Twitter. My feed was reporting that he was crazy, a lunatic, a raving madman. But that wasn’t how it was playing out elsewhere. The results produced a stream of “Go Donald!!!!”, and “You show ’em!!!” There were star-spangled banner emojis and thumbs-up emojis and clips of Trump laying into the “FAKE news MSM liars!” Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now. I Googled “mainstream media is…” And there it was. Google’s autocomplete suggestions: “mainstream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished”. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media – we, us, I – dying? I click Google’s first suggested link. It leads to a website called and an article: “The Mainstream media are dead.” They’re dead, I learn, because they – we, I – “cannot be trusted”. How had it, an obscure site I’d never heard of, dominated Google’s search algorithm on the topic? In the “About us” tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Center, which a click later I learn is “America’s media watchdog”, an organisation that claims an “unwavering commitment to neutralising leftwing bias in the news, media and popular culture”.

National: Analysis: Election hackers used many of the same techniques as Carbanak gang | SC Media

An analysis of two Department of Homeland Security reports focusing on Russia’s reputed interference in the 2016 U.S. election revealed multiple commonalities between the infamous hacking campaign, dubbed Grizzly Steppe, and activity by the Carbanak cybercrime group. TruSTAR, the threat intelligence exchange provider that conducted the research, has cautioned that its findings do not necessarily mean that APT 28 (Fancy Bear) or APT 29 (Cozy Bear), the two Russian government-sponsored threat groups tied to Grizzly Steppe, are one and the same as Carbanak, which is also tied to Russia and has garnered a reputation for stealing from financial institutions. Still, one also cannot summarily dismiss the notion that the groups are somehow related or share certain personnel, especially because they have adopted similar tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

National: House GOP rejects Democratic effort for info on Trump-Russia probes | Associated Press

House Republicans have rejected a Democratic effort to require the Justice Department to provide Congress with information about President Donald Trump’s finances and possible campaign ties to Russia. The GOP-led Judiciary Committee on Tuesday defeated the resolution on a party-line vote of 18-16. Republicans said it would be premature and duplicative of their own efforts on the matter. The committee vote came a day after the full, Republican-led House blocked an attempt by Democrats to force Trump to release his tax returns to Congress. The resolution of inquiry, introduced by Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y., would have sought information related to an investigation on Trump’s ties to Russia and potential financial conflicts of interest, but wouldn’t have forced the Justice Department to turn any of those documents over.

National: Why Rep. Darrell Issa is breaking with his fellow Republicans on the Russian hacking probe | Los Angeles Times

Over the weekend, Darrell Issa did something that no other Republican congressman has done. Sitting for an interview with HBO’s Bill Maher, the longtime Vista Republican said he believed that a prosecutor needed to investigate Russia’s involvement in the U.S. election and that Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions, who was involved in President Trump’s campaign, should not be that prosecutor. “You cannot have somebody — a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions — who was on the campaign and who is an appointee,” Issa said. “You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office.” He backed that up Monday with a statement calling for a fully independent review of Russian attempts to interfere in the election, saying there is too much speculation and assumption. “An investigation is not the same as an assertion of specific wrongdoing, it’s following the facts where they lead so that American people can know what may or may not have taken place,” Issa said.

Voting Blogs: New EAC Chair Matt Masterson on Priorities in 2017 and Beyond | Election Academy

Last week, Matt Masterson became the new Chair of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. On Friday, Chairman Masterson posted a blog entry at the EAC website (with a similar but shorter op-ed in the Hill) that lays out the priorities for the EAC in 2017 and beyond:

Today I was elected Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission. This is an honor and responsibility I do not take lightly. In their respective terms as Chair, both Commissioners McCormick and Hicks propelled the EAC towards fulfilling our mission set forth by HAVA, to better serve election officials and American voters. I hope to build on the momentum they created and push the EAC even further. In my year as Chairman, much of the EAC’s work will be influenced by two key things. First, the lessons learned and feedback from election officials as a result of the 2016 Presidential Election. The EAC’s #BeReady16 campaign received a great deal of praise from election officials from around the country and I want to build off that success with a new effort, #GamePlan17. The focus of #GamePlan17 will be to provide election officials with tangible planning strategies and information for the 2018 mid-term election and then to help turn those planning strategies into concrete actions to be taken heading into 2018. The goal being to help election officials protect their most valuable resource… time.

Arkansas: Bill assigns election board to secretary of state | Arkansas Online

The state Board of Election Commissioners would be shifted to the secretary of state’s office under legislation that cleared an Arkansas Senate committee on Tuesday. The board would be under the direction and supervision of the secretary of state’s office but would exercise its powers, duties and functions independently of the office under Senate Bill 368 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest. The board would no longer be allowed to appoint a director, who could hire staff. The board’s mission is to improve the conduct of elections by promoting fair and orderly procedures through education, assistance and monitoring, according to the board’s website. The board is chaired by Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin and composed of six other members — two appointed by the governor and one each appointed by the chairman of the state Democratic Party, the chairman of the state Republican Party, the Senate president pro tempore and the House speaker. King told the Senate Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee that his bill would make state government more efficient by saving money while still getting the election duties executed.

Colorado: US Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Political Ad Disclosure Rules | Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld federal disclosure rules for political advertising, rejecting an appeal by a Denver-based libertarian think tank that wanted to run an ad without being forced to divulge its major donors. The Denver-based Independence Institute sued the Federal Election Commission, arguing the law requiring such disclosure violated its free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s ruling last year in favor of the commission. It was the latest in a decade-long series of cases brought by conservatives aiming to roll back federal campaign finance restrictions.

Georgia: License Bill Tweaked: ‘Noncitizen’ Becomes ‘Ineligible Voter’ | WABE

A Georgia House committee approved a measure Monday that would require the phrase “ineligible voter” printed on licenses issued to people who don’t have U.S. citizenship. The bill originally required the term “noncitizen,” but the bill’s sponsor state Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, said he reconsidered after the legislation faced backlash. “A driver’s license is the first form of an ID that people have, and obviously I just didn’t take into account for political correctness,” Powell said.

Iowa: House panel debates elections bill | Quad-City Times

Iowa is one of the top states in the nation when it comes to elections and the Republican-controlled House State Government Committee approved an Election Modernization and Integrity Act its sponsor said will make it even better. The committee, which convened briefly at 3 p.m. Tuesday but didn’t begin discussion until after 7:30 p.m., continued debating past 11 p.m. whether the bill would, as Chairman Ken Rizer, R-Cedar Rapids, said, “make it easier to vote, harder to cheat and nobody will be turned away.” In the end, the committee voted 14-9 along party lines to approve the bill, making it eligible for consideration by the full House.

Mississippi: Early voting, online registration die in committee | Jackson Clarion-Ledger

House bills to allow early voting and online voter registration died without a vote in a Senate committee on Tuesday, frustrating House Elections Chairman Bill Denny. “They didn’t even take them up in committee,” said Denny, R-Jackson, who also authored both bills. “The Senate Elections chairwoman had said they were DOA. To me that’s almost insulting, to have our committee in the House pass these out two years in a row, then have them pass the full House with no more than two to four dissenting votes, and then the Senate committee not even discuss them, to announce that they are DOA before they even get them.”

New Mexico: A less automatic voter registration bill clears committee | The NM Political Report

An automatic voter registration bill lost a bit of what made it automatic, but moved on from the House committee that previously blocked it. State Rep. Daymon Ely, D-Albuquerque, was one of two Democrats to previously vote against the legislation in the House Local Government, Elections and Land Grant Committee. He explained after that vote that he voted against the bill initially so he could bring it off the table, citing a parliamentary rule, and reconsider the matter. The bill was previously tabled in the same committee. Ely brought the bill back Tuesday. After a very brief discussion, the committee passed the bill unanimously. “It looks complicated but it’s not,” sponsor Patricia Roybal-Caballero, D-Albuquerque, told the panel of the amendment.

North Carolina: Bill to match jury excuses with voter lists raises concerns | WRAL

A bill that would require clerks of court to report to the State Board of Elections the reasons some people have been excused from jury duty has raised concerns from local officials and some senators who worry people could be improperly excluded from voting. Senate Bill 60, which was debated but not voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and a companion measure represent the latest effort to take people who are ineligible to vote off the state’s voters rolls. To demonstrate the need for the measure, Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, pointed to reports out of Ohio that non-citizens may have voted in recent elections. Her proposal is similar to bills that have been filed in prior sessions.

Texas: Voter ID law back in court after Justice Department pulls out | San Antonio Express-News

Lawyers for the state of Texas argued during a court hearing in Corpus Christi on Tuesday that the Legislature did not act with discriminatory intent when it passed a voter ID law that has since been struck down, but they also told a judge that lawmakers will make fixes to it in the current Legislative session. Critics, however, said the proposed changes, if passed in newly introduced legislation, are irrelevant to the discriminatory purpose behind the 2011 law’s passage. Plaintiffs that include civil rights groups asked U.S. District Judge Mary Nelva Gonzales Ramos to hold the state accountable. The groups argue that the Texas law has the potential to keep 600,000 voters, mostly African-Americans and Hispanics, away from the polls. They point, for example, to a provision that allows Texas voters to use hunting licenses as identification, but not student identification cards.

Washington: Senate OKs bill to add hundreds of ballot drop boxes in state | Everett Herald

A Monroe lawmaker’s bill that could more than double the number of ballot drop boxes in Washington is on its way to the state House after sailing through the Senate. On Monday, senators approved the legislation 49-0 with Republicans and Democrats predicting it will boost participation of voters by making it easier for them to return their ballots. “This is really important for people in the rural areas,” said Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe, the bill’s sponsor. Many constituents in his 39th Legislative District must travel a long distance to find a box to return ballots postage-free, he said. Otherwise they need to use a stamp to mail in their ballots and that is like a poll tax, Pearson contended.

France: ‘Oui on peut!’ French voters want Obama to run for president | France 24

Posters of Barack Obama have popped up around Paris in what started as a joke by four friends calling for the former US president to run for the Élysée Palace. The organisers say they began plastering Obama posters around Paris because they were disenchanted with the homegrown candidates in France’s forthcoming presidential election. While the posters read “Oui on peut”, the French translation of Obama’s “Yes we can” slogan, the US president cannot run in France’s presidential election as a foreigner. And yet more than 42,000 people have already signed an online petition linked to the poster campaign, calling for the 44th US president to become the 25th president of the French Republic.

India: Maha Civic Polls Show EVMs May Be ‘Easily Vulnerable Machines’ | The Quint

On the evening of 23 February, an unexpected development shocked Maharashtra as counting for local body polls in the state was ending. Violence erupted in Panchavati in the heart of Nashik city following complaints of tampering of EVMs (electronic voting machines). The city BJP chief’s son was declared the winner from the ward, but the Shiv Sena claimed that the total of the votes received by each candidate exceeded the total number of votes cast. This led to clashes between Shiv Sena and BJP workers in the streets. Soon, mobs began vandalising and burning vehicles. Police had to resort to lathi-charge and firing in the air to disperse the crowd of 800 people. Nine policemen, as well as some local residents, were injured in the rampage.

Macedonia: U.S. diplomats backing Balkan republics against suspected Russia meddling | Los Angeles Times

Even as President Trump seeks to improve relations with Russia, the State Department is countering overtures by Moscow in one of its former satellite regions, the Balkans. State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Tuesday called for Macedonia, one of the former republics of the now-defunct Yugoslavia, to urgently put together a government. This comes after the former prime minister of neighboring Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, accused Russia of meddling in the region and attempting to provoke a coup against Montenegro’s pro-Western government last fall. Macedonia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina have expressed strong interest in joining the European Union and possibly the NATO military alliance, but Russia has opposed those moves.

Russia: Pamfilova Takes Daghestan’s Leaders To Task Over Vote-Rigging | RFERL

Reporting to Russian President Vladimir Putin last September on the conduct of the State Duma elections, Ella Pamfilova, chair of Russia’s Central Election Commission, singled out Daghestan as one of the federation subjects where irregularities were most blatant and prevalent. Pamfilova elaborated on that assessment during meetings in Makhachkala two weeks ago with the republic’s leaders, journalists, and representatives of various political parties, publicly warning republic head Ramazan Abdulatipov that “we do not need inflated statistics” that undermine voters’ trust in the electoral process. Daghestan was one of several Russian regions where elections to the regional parliament and local councils were held concurrently with those to the State Duma. According to official statistical data, at all three levels voter turnout was significantly higher than for Russia as a whole, and candidates representing the ruling United Russia party won with a disproportionately large percent of the vote (88.86 percent in the State Duma election compared to 47.8 percent nationwide, and 75.51 percent in the regional parliamentary ballot.)