Lost in the showdown between President Trump and James B. Comey that played out this past week was a chilling threat to the United States. Mr. Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testified that the Russians had not only intervened in last year’s election, but would try to do it again. “It’s not a Republican thing or Democratic thing — it really is an American thing,” Mr. Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee. “They’re going to come for whatever party they choose to try and work on behalf of. And they’re not devoted to either, in my experience. They’re just about their own advantage. And they will be back.” What started out as a counterintelligence investigation to guard the United States against a hostile foreign power has morphed into a political scandal about what Mr. Trump did, what he said and what he meant by it. Lawmakers have focused mainly on the gripping conflict between the president and the F.B.I. director he fired with cascading requests for documents, recordings and hearings.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress on Saturday that he would testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday about issues related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Sessions had been scheduled to testify before other committees about the Justice Department’s budget that day, but he will instead appear before the intelligence panel. Mr. Sessions said he would send Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to testify about the department’s budget before the House and Senate appropriations panels. Mr. Sessions noted that several lawmakers on those panels had said they intended to ask him about the Russia investigation, after testimony by James B. Comey, who was fired last month as F.B.I. director by President Trump, before the intelligence committee on Thursday.
National: A brief history of Russia’s digital meddling in foreign elections shows disturbing progress. | WIRED
Just when the cybersecurity world thinks it’s found the limits of how far Russian hackers will go to meddle in foreign elections, a new clue emerges that suggests another line has been crossed. Even now, nearly a year after news first broke that Russian hackers had breached the Democratic National Committee and published its internal files, a leaked NSA document pointing to Russian attempts to hack a voting-tech firm has again redefined the scope of the threat. Taken with the recent history of Russia’s digital fingerprints on foreign elections, it points to a disturbing trend: Moscow’s habit of hacking democratic processes has only gotten more aggressive and technically focused over time. … As revealed in the Intercept’s leaked NSA report, hackers believed to be working for Russia’s GRU military agency—the same agency tied to the group known as Fancy Bear or APT28—sent phishing emails to VR Systems, the makers of hardware and code used to handle voter sign-ins at polling places in eight US states. Senate Intelligence committee vice chairman Mark Warner followed up by telling USA Today on Tuesday that the extent of the attacks were in fact much broader than anyone has yet reported. And US intelligence agencies had already implicated the Kremlin for breaches of the websites of the boards of election for Arizona and Illinois.
It was a breezy, surprisingly pleasant summer week in Washington as the frenzy around potential Trump-Russia revelations reached near-carnival levels. On Thursday, brightly clad groups scattered across the lawns of Capitol Hill could almost have been picnickers — if not for the mounds of cable leashing them to nearby satellite trucks. Every news studio in D.C. seemed to have spilled forth into the jarring sunlight, eager for the best live backdrop to the spectacle that awaited. Bars opened early for live viewing of former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee. Political ads against Comey — who isn’t running for anything — aired during coverage of the hearing, often back-to-back with vibrant ads praising President Trump’s first foreign trip, where he “[united] forces for good against evil.” Only D.C.’s usually opportunistic T-shirt printers seemed to have missed the cue, forced to display the usual tourist “FBI” fare in rainbow spectrum but offering no specialty knitwear for the occasion. The conversion of America’s political arena into a hybrid sporting event/reality show was nonetheless near complete.
Editorials: I was an FBI agent. Trump’s lack of concern about Russian hacking shocks me. | Asha Rangappa/The Washington Post
Reactions to former FBI director James B. Comey’s testimony Thursday mostly seemed to follow predictable, partisan lines. To many Democrats, Comey appeared to be describing a clear case of obstruction of justice by President Trump. To Republicans who support the White House, Comey’s recounting of “leaking” his memos about conversations with Trump showed that he deserved to be fired. But as a former FBI counterintelligence agent, what I saw as the most explosive aspect of the testimony didn’t involve any legal violation of the U.S. code or questions about whether Comey had broken established Department of Justice protocols. Instead, it was the prima facie evidence that Comey presented that Trump appears unwilling to uphold his oath “to preserve, protect, and defend” the country — which puts the security of our nation and its democracy at stake. In the nine times Trump met with or called Comey, it was always to discuss how the investigation into Russia’s election interference was affecting him personally, rather than the security of the country. He apparently cared little about understanding either the magnitude of the Russian intelligence threat, or how the FBI might be able to prevent another attack in future elections.
Georgia: Judge dismisses paper-ballot lawsuit in Georgia’s 6th District | Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Voters in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District will continue to cast ballots on electronic machines after a Fulton County judge dismissed a lawsuit trying to force the use of paper ballots. Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams’ ruling late Friday night came after an eight-hour hearing earlier this week over the suit’s insistence that Georgia’s reliance on voting machines was endangering the vote. The machines, it said, are too old, unreliable and vulnerable to malicious cyber attacks without a forensic review to verify they had not been compromised. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp celebrated Adams’ decision, which came two weeks into the state’s mandatory three-week early voting period for the nationally watched June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.
Indiana: Voter registration group, employees charged with falsifying applications | The Washington Post
Twelve employees of the Indiana Voter Registration Project, which focused on registering black voters in the run up to last year’s presidential election, were charged Friday with submitting falsified voter registration applications. The voter registration group also faces criminal charges. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said officials did not find any evidence that fraudulent ballots were cast in last November’s election or that the group and its employees committed voter fraud. “These allegations pertain to voter registration applications provided to county officials before the November election,” he said in a news release. “Let me be clear that these are not allegations of voter fraud nor is there any evidence to suggest that voter fraud was the alleged motivation.”
Massachusetts residents could have their voter registration information automatically updated whenever they renew their drivers’ licenses or interact with other state agencies. A bill working its way through Beacon Hill would help ensure that more of the state’s nearly 700,000 eligible citizens who are not registered to vote are able to cast ballots on Election Day. “Massachusetts can lead the way toward giving all citizens a voice in their government,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a backer of the bill, which was the subject of a public hearing Thursday.
If North Carolina legislators really want to end the legal quagmire that redistricting has become, they have plenty of options at their fingertips. A half dozen bills submitted this session in the state House and Senate offer pathways to what their sponsors depict as a less politicized process, capable of eliminating the alleged racial gerrymandering that has caused so much heartburn during the last six years. Choices on the table include turning the process over to nonpartisan bureaucrats, computer programmers and former judges. Or legislators could crank up a study commission to chart their escape from redistricting purgatory. But the potential remedies are all languishing in committee while successful lawsuits by aggrieved voters and activist groups force legislators to redraw voting maps dating to 2011, even as the decade’s end lurks just around the corner … when it’s almost time to begin a whole, new round of redistricting linked to the outcome of the next U.S. Census in 2020.
North Carolina: Federal court leaves open possibility for special elections this year | News & Observer
The three federal judges who could decide whether North Carolina will have special elections this year in state legislative races issued notice Friday that they plan to act quickly. The memorandum comes four days after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling unanimously affirming that 28 of North Carolina’s districts used to elect members to the state Senate and state House of Representatives are illegal racial gerrymanders that diluted the overall power of black voters. The challengers of the 2011 redistricting plan submitted a request on Thursday to the three-judge panel asking for quick resolution to fix the gerrymandered districts.
Ohio: Supreme Court Ruling On Ohio Voter Purge Will Have Long-Range Impact on Black Votes | Atlanta Black Star
The United States Supreme Court’s decision to review a challenge to Ohio’s voters roll purge policy brings the question of voter discrimination to the forefront again. In a case brought by Black trade unionist organization the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and Larry Harmon, an Ohio voter, Ohio’s “Supplemental Process” is being challenged as a violation of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
Puerto Rico: 23% of Puerto Ricans Vote in Referendum, 97% of Them for Statehood | The New York Times
With schools shuttered, pensions at risk and the island under the authority of an oversight board in New York City, half a million Puerto Ricans voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to become America’s 51st state, in a flawed election most voters sat out. With nearly all of the precincts reporting, 97 percent of the ballots cast were in favor of statehood, a landslide critics said indicated that only statehood supporters had turned out to the polls. Opposition parties who prefer independence or remaining a territory boycotted the special election, which they considered rigged in favor of statehood. On an island where voter participation often hovers around 80 percent, just 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Voting stations accustomed to long lines were virtually empty on Sunday.
Overcoming bitter opposition from Republican lawmakers, Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia has largely rectified an enormous, archaic injustice: the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of former felons — about half of them African Americans — whose debt to society has been paid, in many cases decades ago. After prevailing in state courts, Mr. McAuliffe, a Democrat, was able to assert his power under the state constitution and has so far restored the vote to more than 156,000 ex-convicts. By the time his four-year term in office ends in January, he is on pace to have restored rights (including the right to serve on juries) to at least another 5,000 former felons. It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the governor’s action, which he himself called his “proudest achievement” in office. His recent predecessors, all recognizing the injustice of indefinite suspension of civil rights for people who had completed their sentences, had each taken steps to expand rights restoration — particularly the man who immediately preceded him, former governor Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican former prosecutor.
Wisconsin: Supreme Court could tackle partisan gerrymandering in watershed case | The Washington Post
With newly elected Scott Walker in the governor’s office and a firm grip on the legislature, Wisconsin Republicans in 2011 had a unique opportunity to redraw the state’s electoral maps and fortify their party’s future. Aides were dispatched to a private law firm to keep their work out of public view. They employed the most precise technology available to dissect new U.S. Census data and convert it into reliably Republican districts even if the party’s fortunes soured. Democrats were kept in the dark, and even GOP incumbents had to sign confidentiality agreements before their revamped districts were revealed to them. Only a handful of people saw the entire map until it was unveiled and quickly approved. In the following year’s elections, when Republicans got just 48.6 percent of the statewide vote, they still captured a 60-to-39 seat advantage in the State Assembly. Now, the Supreme Court is being asked to uphold a lower court’s finding that the Wisconsin redistricting effort was more than just extraordinary — it was unconstitutional.
The French president Emmanuel Macron’s new centrist party looks set to take an overwhelming majority in parliament after the first round of elections held on Sunday. Official final results released early on Monday showed Macron’s one-year-old La République En Marche (Republic on the Move) and ally MoDem winning 32.32% in the first round, ahead of Les Républicains and its allies on 21.56% and the far-right Front National on 13.20%. The Socialist party – the party of Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande – took just 9.5% of the vote with its allies. The result was however marred by a record low voter turnout of just 49%.
Germany should consider imposing a “quiet period” immediately before the federal election in September, similar to a media policy in place in France, election director Dieter Sarreither said, amid concerns about possible meddling by Russia. “We should discuss it and examine whether such steps are necessary,” Sarreither told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in an interview published on Saturday. France has a 24-hour ban on media reports that could affect a French election before polls open. The measure helped to prevent more widespread reporting of a massive hack that released emails, documents and financing information just before campaigning ended ahead of the May election.
Italy will not hold elections until the natural end of the legislature in spring next year, former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who leads the ruling Democratic Party (PD), said on Saturday. Renzi said he saw little hope of reforming the electoral system after a deal between the four largest parties broke down this week, meaning Italy will probably vote with a system considered inefficient and unlikely to produce a majority. In an interview with daily Corriere della Sera, Renzi denied that he wanted to go to the polls this autumn, as was widely believed, and when asked when he expected the election he replied: “in 2018, at the end of the legislature.”
A coalition led by the ruling centre-right Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) came first in Kosovo’s snap parliamentary election on Sunday, but it will have to find a coalition partner to form a stable government, results based on a partial vote count showed. With 70 percent of votes counted, the PDK-led coalition had 34.3 percent of votes, the opposition Vetevendosje (VV) party 26.3 percent, and a coalition led by the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) 25.8 percent, the Democracy in Action non-governmental organization said About 1.9 million Kosovars, nearly half a million of whom live abroad, were registered to vote in the third election since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
Several thousand people took part in demonstrations across Moldova on Sunday, protesting both in favor of and against proposed changes to the electoral system that European rights experts see as “inappropriate”. The pro-European ruling coalition has been seeking to change the voting system in time for a parliamentary election next year, when its parties will be in a tough fight with pro-Moscow rivals who reject closer integration with Europe. Chanting “We will not surrender!”, some 4,000 protesters gathered in central Chisinau, appealing to the Venice Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the United States to prevent the changes coming into force.
It would be three days before the fierce Kremlin critic Aleksei A. Navalny would bring his against-all-odds presidential campaign to the provincial city of Vladimir, but officials at the local university were taking no chances. About 100 students were ordered into the main auditorium to watch two short films attacking the opposition leader as both a United States State Department stooge and a would-be Nazi-saluting Hitler. When several students accused the lecturer of fear-mongering and suggested screening Mr. Navalny’s latest, wildly popular anticorruption video to broaden the discussion, she scolded them, saying, “You have no respect!” “It was nonsense, a smear against Navalny,” one sophomore who attended the lecture said in an interview, not wanting to use his name, given the implicit threats. “The government talks all the time about what it is doing, but it really does not function. Its only real activity seems to be fighting the opposition.”