President Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey on Tuesday, at the recommendation of senior Justice Department officials who said he had treated Hillary Clinton unfairly and in doing so damaged the credibility of the FBI and the Justice Department. The startling development comes as Comey was leading a counterintelligence investigation to determine whether associates of Trump may have coordinated with Russia to interfere with the U.S. presidential election last year. It wasn’t immediately clear how Comey’s ouster will affect the Russia probe, but Democrats said they were concerned that his ouster could derail the investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Comey’s deputy, Andrew McCabe, would be the acting director of the FBI. As a presidential candidate, Trump explicitly criticized Comey and McCabe for their roles in the Clinton probe while at other points praising Comey for his “guts.”
President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey throws a cloud of doubt over the bureau’s investigation into allegations of Trump campaign ties to Russia. The FBI and three congressional committees have been investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible Trump connections. As head of the FBI, Comey had been leading the complex counterintelligence investigation that has dogged the Trump White House since Inauguration Day. The White House said Tuesday its search for a new FBI director had already begun. And the person Trump appoints will likely have a huge impact on how the investigation moves forward and whether the public will accept its outcome. But given concerns by members of Congress in both parties over Comey’s dismissal, it’s unlikely a permanent director will be in place soon. A new director chosen by Trump could decide to drop the FBI investigation altogether, or not pursue it as aggressively as Comey has. He or she could also decide not to fully cooperate with the congressional investigations, which rely on information from the FBI.
National: Democrats Call for an Independent Investigation Into the Election After Trump Fires FBI Director | The Atlantic
Democrats are calling for an independent investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election following the news that President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. The White House announced Comey’s dismissal on Tuesday evening. So far, reaction in Congress to Comey’s removal has split along partisan lines. Some high-ranking Republican lawmakers appeared supportive of the president’s decision to dismiss the head of the nation’s top law enforcement agency, which has been investigating potential connections between the Trump campaign and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. A number of Democrats, on the other hand, expressed shock and outrage over the dismissal, renewing calls for an independent investigation into the matter. Comey’s exit raises questions about the future of the FBI’s politically charged investigation into the 2016 election, since Trump has the power to nominate the director’s replacement, and thus the official charged with overseeing that inquiry.
National: ‘Terrifying, Nixonian’: Comey’s firing takes democracy to dark new territory | The Guardian
Donald Trump’s decision to fire the FBI director, James Comey, who was investigating links between the president’s associates and the Russian government, has taken US democracy into dark and dangerous new territory. That was the assessment of Democratic leaders, legal observers and security experts last night, with some drawing direct comparisons to Watergate and tinpot dictatorships. FBI directors are given 10-year terms in office, precisely to insulate them from politics. It is very rare to fire them. The last time it happened was 24 years ago, when Bill Clinton sacked William Sessions, who had clung to office despite a damning internal ethics report detailing abuse of office, including the use of an FBI plane for family trips. Comey’s sacking has taken place in very different circumstances. It came on a night when CNN reported that a grand jury had issued subpoenas in the investigation of the Trump camp’s contacts with Russian officials, and after had confirmed to Congress that more than one person connected to the Trump campaign was the subject of an FBI counter-intelligence investigation. He had also indicated that he was investigating leaks from inside the FBI to the Trump campaign in the course of the election.
President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey amid the agency’s investigation of Russian interference in last year’s election, saying the bureau needed new leadership to restore “public trust and confidence.” Trump’s decision Tuesday means that he will get to nominate Comey’s successor while the agency is deep into the Russia inquiry, including whether any of Trump’s associates colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election. Democrats condemned Comey’s dismissal, calling it an effort to cut short the Russia probe and demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to carry it forward. According to the White House, though, it wasn’t the Russia investigation that led to Comey’s dismissal. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Comey was fired because of his handling of the probe into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s private email server — even though the facts of that inquiry were well-known at the time Trump took office and asked Comey to stay on the job.
Federal prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas to associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn seeking business records, as part of the ongoing probe of Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people familiar with the matter. CNN learned of the subpoenas hours before President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey. The subpoenas represent the first sign of a significant escalation of activity in the FBI’s broader investigation begun last July into possible ties between Trump campaign associates and Russia. The subpoenas issued in recent weeks by the US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, Virginia, were received by associates who worked with Flynn on contracts after he was forced out as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, according to the people familiar with the investigation. Robert Kelner, an attorney for Flynn, declined to comment. The US Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, the Justice Department and the FBI also declined to comment.
The American people — not to mention the credibility of the world’s oldest democracy — require a thorough, impartial investigation into the extent of Russia’s meddling with the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump and, crucially, whether high-ranking members of Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded in that effort. By firing the F.B.I. director, James Comey, late Tuesday afternoon, President Trump has cast grave doubt on the viability of any further investigation into what could be one of the biggest political scandals in the country’s history. The explanation for this shocking move — that Mr. Comey’s bungling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server violated longstanding Justice Department policy and profoundly damaged public trust in the agency — is impossible to take at face value. Certainly Mr. Comey deserves all the criticism heaped upon him for his repeated missteps in that case, but just as certainly, that’s not the reason Mr. Trump fired him.
Alabama House Democrats on Tuesday used a procedural maneuver to delay a vote on proposed new legislative districts they argue are racially gerrymandered to maintain Republican control of the state’s largest county. Republicans, who hold a majority in both chambers of the Legislature, have the numbers to ultimately approve the new map. But Democrats delayed a vote until Thursday by asking for the 539-page bill to be read aloud, a process that will take 13 hours. Federal judges in January ordered lawmakers to redraw some lines before the 2018 elections. The ruling came after the Legislative Black Caucus and the Alabama Democratic Conference filed a lawsuit arguing African-American voters were “stacked and packed” into designated minority districts to make neighboring districts whiter and more Republican.
California: Voting rights groups file a new DMV lawsuit, saying it’s still too hard for Californians to register to vote | Los Angeles Times
A two-year dispute over California’s Department of Motor Vehicles voter registration procedures has again landed the agency in court. On Tuesday, a coalition of voting rights groups filed a federal lawsuit alleging DMV officials still require drivers renewing their registration by mail to fill out a separate card if they also want to register to vote. That separate step, the lawsuit said, violates the 1993 “Motor Voter” law passed by Congress. “It’s an embarrassment that in 2017, more than 20 years after the law was enacted, California DMV is still violating the law by making millions of people jump through hoops to become voters,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause.
A measure to implement Colorado’s new open primaries cleared the Colorado Senate and a House committee in rapid succession Monday, after lawmakers reached a late deal tweaking a controversial provision that would ask independent voters to declare a party preference. With the changes, the path now seems clear for Senate Bill 305 to become law. But it would retain a few key, disputed pieces from the original measure: unaffiliated voters still will be asked before the election if they prefer one party’s ballot to the other, and the party primary they choose to vote in still will be a matter of public record. When the measure was introduced, it immediately was assailed by supporters of open primaries, including the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Let Colorado Vote, who complained that it would undermine what Colorado voters intended when they passed two ballot measures opening the state’s party primaries to unaffiliated voters.
Illinois: House expected to amend automatic voter registration bill to address elections board concerns | Illinois News Network
The state House is expected to amend a measure to automatically register people to vote when they interact with a state agency because of concerns shared by the Illinois State Board of Elections. State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said his legislation, Senate Bill 1933, which has been in the works for a couple of years, shows bipartisan solutions are possible. “Democrats and Republicans can work together on an issue that oftentimes just goes right down the partisan hole of the legislature,” Manar said. The bill passed unanimously Friday.
Nebraska: Legislature votes to kill voter ID resolution, but sponsor says he isn’t giving up | Omaha World Herald
A controversial voter identification measure died quickly Tuesday on the floor the Nebraska Legislature, but not before its sponsor vowed to start working on its resurrection. Lawmakers voted 25-17 in favor of a motion to end a filibuster, but that was well short of the 33 votes needed to overcome the delay tactic used by opponents of the voter ID resolution. State Sen. John Murante said he remains convinced that a strong majority of Nebraskans would support a law requiring voters to show photo ID before casting their ballots. He pledged to spend the next eight months working on a new bill or another proposed constitutional amendment to enact voter ID next year.
Around the state, advocates and frustrated Pennsylvanians are pushing lawmakers to change the rules governing how district lines are redrawn every ten years. The current process lets politicians the skew districts in their political favor–a process known as gerrymandering. But it’s going to take some serious legislative might to make changes. On Tuesday, a crowd of protesters nearly filled the Capitol’s front steps–many holding up green signs that read “end gerrymandering in PA.” They’re supporting bills in the House and Senate that aim to do just that, by amending the state constitution to make redistricting more impartial.
New accusations surfaced Tuesday about hundreds of Dallas County mail-in ballots set aside by a judge over questions about voter fraud. Counting of votes from the 776 ballots began Monday but did not include complete signature authentication, according to election officials and campaign people watching the process. “Yesterday’s work, we don’t know if those were true and authentic,” said Jose Plata, an observer for City Councilwoman Monica Alonzo’s campaign. “If I was a judge I’d be very upset.”
A bill that would have prevented Wisconsin’s presidential election recount is gaining momentum in the state Legislature. The Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections voted 6-3 to send to the full Assembly a Republican proposal that would limit who can request recounts in state and local elections. Under the bill, only candidates who trail the winner by 1 percentage point or less in statewide elections could petition for a recount. The bill would also tighten the deadline to request one.
State Sen. Mary Lazich was adamant: The bill Republicans were about to push through the Wisconsin state Senate, requiring that voters present identification at the polls, would do no harm. “Not a single voter in this state will be disenfranchised by the ID law,” Lazich promised. Five years later, in the first presidential election held under the new law, Gladys Harris proved her wrong. By one estimate, 300,000 eligible voters in the state lacked valid photo IDs heading into the election; it is unknown how many people did not vote because they didn’t have proper identification. But it is not hard to find the Navy veteran whose out-of-state driver’s license did not suffice, or the dying woman whose license had expired, or the recent graduate whose student ID was deficient — or Harris, who at 66 made her way to her polling place despite chronic lung disease and a torn ligament in her knee.
Wisconsin: Democratic Plaintiffs Urge Supreme Court To Uphold Gerrymandering Ruling | Wisconsin Public Radio
A group of Democratic plaintiffs is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a ruling that struck down Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. In a brief to the court, plaintiffs wrote that Wisconsin remains sharply divided politically, with a Democratic president winning the state in 2012 and a Republican winning in 2016. Similarly, they wrote, Wisconsin is represented in the U.S. Senate by one Democrat and one Republican. But the state Legislature is a different story, where Republicans won 60 out of 99 Assembly seats in 2012 despite losing the popular vote and grew their majority to 64 seats in 2016, even as the statewide vote remained nearly tied. “Republicans thus wield legislative power unearned by their actual appeal to Wisconsin’s voters,” the plaintiffs told the court.
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials have invited hackers to prove whether or not the country’s proposed electronic voting machine (EVM) system can be manipulated. The new voting system is expected to be used for the country’s next general election in 2019. The IEC, along with a team of experts from the system’s supplier Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) of India, will demonstrate how the EVM (with the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)) works, amid calls for the government to abandon the project. BEL is a state-owned company of India that produces EVM internationally known as Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines because they record votes directly in electronic memory.
Two days before France’s recent presidential election, hackers leaked nine gigabytes of emails from candidate Emmanuel Macron’s campaign onto the web. Since then, the Kremlin has once again emerged as the likeliest culprit. But while public evidence can’t definitively prove Russia’s involvement, NSA director Michael Rogers suggested to Congress today that America’s most powerful cybersecurity agency has pinned at least some electoral interference on Moscow. In a hearing of the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee, Rogers indicated that the NSA had warned French cybersecurity officials ahead of the country’s presidential runoff that Russian hackers had compromised some elements of the election. For skeptics, that statement may help tip the balance towards credibly blaming Russia for the attacks.
India: Election Commission slams ‘so-called demonstration’ of electronic voting machine tampering, Kejriwal‘s party accepts hackathon challenge | Hindustan Times
The Election Commission on Tuesday trashed the Aam Aadmi Party’s claims of hacking an electronic voting machine (EVM) during a demonstration in the Delhi assembly, saying anyone can make a “lookalike” gadget to justify “magic or tampering”. The poll panel issued a strongly worded statement shortly after the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP claimed to have hacked a replica of an EVM to proved allegations that the system can be tampered with to favour a particular party. “The so-called demonstration of tampering of ‘look alike’ EVM cannot be exploited to influence intelligent citizens and electorate to assail or vilify the EVMs used by the commission in its electoral process,” it said. The commission, which is mandated to conduct elections to the state assemblies and the Lok Sabha, said it was possible for anyone to make any electronic gadget, which looks like the ECI’s EVM and demonstrate any “magic or tampering”.
Arthur Taylor and six other inmates claim they were unlawfully barred from voting in the 2014 general election. In 2010 Parliament passed a law preventing all sentenced prisoners from voting, regardless of the length of their sentence. However earlier electoral legislation allowed prisoners serving a jail term of less than three years to vote. At the time the legislation was being considered, the Attorney-General warned Parliament that a blanket ban contravened the Bill of Rights, but the law was passed anyway.
Russia: French Voters Defy Putin’s Meddling, but You’d Hardly Know It in Russia | The New York Times
The official tone from the Kremlin on Monday, the day after the pro-Europe Emmanuel Macron was elected France’s president, was that Russia can work with anybody. But the snow falling on Moscow was perhaps more reflective of the damp chill in the Kremlin’s relations with Europe after yet another fruitless attempt to influence an election abroad. For the last three years, since Europe slapped sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin has sought to undermine and weaken the Western, trans-Atlantic alliance arrayed against it. Elections in particular have been viewed as a prime moment to try to exploit Western weakness — and openness — to help bring to power leaders more sympathetic to Russia.