Investigators into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential elections are now authorized to probe whether White House officials have engaged in a cover-up, according to members of Congress who were briefed Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. A Justice Department official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the topic, confirmed that Rosenstein told members of the House of Representatives that the special counsel in charge of the probe, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, “has been given the authority to investigate the possibility of a cover-up.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein dropped two bombshells during a hotly anticipated appearance before the Senate on Thursday, less than 24 hours after he announced the appointment of a special counsel in the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election. According to lawmakers, Rosenstein confirmed that the bureau’s investigation is no longer strictly a counterintelligence investigation — a kind of probe that does not normally result in charges — but also a criminal one.
Editorials: ‘Pervasive’ election fraud and the man who’ll find it, even if it doesn’t exist | The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Amid a firestorm of controversy last week over President Donald Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, the administration announced formation of a new commission on “election integrity.” It seemed an amateurish attempt to deflect national attention from the president’s growing credibility problems regarding Russian influence on his presidential campaign and his reasons for firing the person in charge of investigating it. Doubly absurd was his naming of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to serve as the deputy head of the commission under Vice President Mike Pence. Republican Kobach’s record of attempting to suppress votes of minorities and young people in Kansas is legendary. Putting Kobach in charge of election integrity is like putting Russian President Vladimir Putin in charge of U.S. internet security.
Alabama’s GOP-dominated legislature redrew legislative maps Friday under court order to fix racial gerrymandering, punctuating a session rife with racial turmoil over issues such as the protection of Confederate monuments and an email that compared lawmakers to monkeys. The Senate on Friday approved new district maps and sent them to the governor despite objections from black Democrats who said the new ones are still gerrymandered to maintain white GOP dominance in the conservative state. In January, a three-judge panel in January ordered legislators to redraw lines before the 2018 elections, saying Republicans had improperly made race the predominant factor in drawing 12 of 140 legislative districts.
When Kris Kobach, Kansas’ aggressive secretary of state, convinced the state legislature to give him prosecutorial power to pursue voter fraud, he said it was necessary to root out tens of thousands of undocumented aliens who were voting as well as tens of thousands more who he claimed were voting in two states. Two years later, Kobach has produced exactly nine convictions. Most of them were not illegal immigrants but rather older registered Republicans. Who Kobach targeted, and the controversial homegrown computer program he used to find them, matter even more now that he has been selected by President Trump to lead a commission on voter fraud. Kobach’s boss has claimed on numerous occasions, without evidence, that millions of illegal ballots cost him the popular vote. Kobach, despite his sweeping pronouncements to Kansas politicians, hasn’t found anything resembling a fraud of that proportion. What he found was Lincoln L. Wilson.
The May federal election brought unexpected expenses for Montana counties. The election to replace Ryan Zinke comes just months after the statewide 2016 general election. There was a big push by county elections officials statewide to bring down that cost by having the option to conduct the election by all-mail ballots. “There was 169 out of 174 commissioners and probably 70% of them were republicans that supported this, all 56 clerk and recorders supported this and we just could not get them to take action on it,” said Cascade County Clerk and Recorder Rina Moore.
North Carolina: Despite high court’s decision on voting law, activists worry about chief justice | The Washington Post
The big win for voting rights activists at the Supreme Court last week came with an equally big asterisk, and provided new reason for jittery liberals and civil rights groups to continue to fret about Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The justices without noted dissent on May 15 said they would not consider reviving North Carolina’s sweeping 2013 voting law, which had been struck down by a lower court after years of litigation. A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had ruled that the state’s Republican legislative leadership had intentionally crafted the law to blunt the growing political power of African American voters.
With bill-killing deadlines looming, some Texas Republicans are trying to unstick legislation that would overhaul the state’s voter identification rules, saying failure to do so would torpedo the state’s position in a high-profile court battle over whether lawmakers disenfranchised minority voters. Inaction, they fear, would dramatically boost the odds Texas would return to the list of governments required to seek federal approval before changing their election laws.
A flurry of legislative activity Sunday night gave life to efforts to overhaul Texas’ voter identification rules — legislation Republicans call crucial to the state’s arguments in a high-profile legal battle over whether the state disenfranchised minority voters. After clearing the Senate in March, Sen. Joan Huffman’s Senate Bill 5, which in some ways would soften current photo ID rules, had languished in the House. But just an hour before the latest in a series of bill-killing deadlines, an emergency declaration by Gov. Greg Abbott helped push the legislation onto the House’s calendar. The bill will be eligible for a vote on Tuesday, the deadline for the House to approve Senate bills.
Just one day after Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced his date of departure from Congress, state officials released an expedited timeline to fill his soon-to-be-vacated 3rd Congressional District seat. Filing started Friday afternoon — and remains open for one week — with many candidates having already announced their bids in a mad scramble to join the race. The field will be set by June 30, the day Chaffetz steps down. A special election is scheduled for Nov. 7, aligning with voting for municipal offices. If needed — and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said it is “very likely” — a primary will be held on Aug. 15. The deadlines, Cox said, are meant to “mirror as closely as possible” the standard process. “This is an election,” he said. “It’s not an appointment.”
Albania’s president has decreed that a parliamentary election that was postponed as part of compromise among political parties will be held on June 25. The election had been scheduled for June 18, but was pushed back as part of the agreement mediated by U.S. and European Union officials. President Bujar Nishani moved the election back one week on Sunday to account for the compromise between the governing Socialist Party and the opposition-led Democratic Party.
Iran: Hassan Rouhani wins Iranian election by a landslide following near-record turnout | The Washington Post
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was reelected to a second term by a landslide, the interior minister declared Saturday, presenting him a resounding endorsement of his plans to end Iran’s pariah status and rejoin the global economy. With 57 percent of the vote, Rouhani defeated his hard-line rival, Ebrahim Raisi, who had the backing of the ruling clergy and allied security forces. He also won a clear mandate to push through domestic reforms and pursue talks with the West, building on the nuclear deal he negotiated with world powers. That agreement, which Rouhani and his cabinet clinched during his first term, constrains Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for international sanctions relief.
Last October, Lebanese politicians finally elected a new president to end a two-and-a-half-year power vacuum that had crippled the functioning of the government. But just over six months later, Lebanon is drifting into yet another political crisis that could leave the country without a functioning parliament. The parliament’s term expires on June 20, and it is extremely unlikely that an election will be held before then. The members of parliament were elected in 2009 for a four-year term but have extended their mandate twice, citing instability caused by the Syrian civil war and later the country’s lack of a president.
An ambivalent ruling coalition and a rigid main opposition, which looks buoyed by results of the first phase of local elections, have stoked some uncertainty over the second round polls, which are less than a month away. A promise by the Nepali Congress-Maoist Centre government that it would address the demands of the agitating Madhes-based parties, six of which have joined hands to form the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJP-N), had paved the way for local level elections in two rounds—first on May 14 and the second on June 14. With the first phase of polls over, negotiations have started on addressing the agitating party’s concerns which include constitution amendment and increasing the number of local units in some districts along the plains.