Election 2016

President Trump defends Trump Jr.: 'I applaud his transparency'

President Donald Trump praised his son, Donald Trump Jr., who is under fire for meeting with a Russian lawyer who claimed to have compromising information about Trump's Democratic rival in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton. “My son is a high-quality person and I applaud his transparency,” President Trump said in a brief statement, which White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders read to reporters during an off-camera briefing.

President Trump had previously remained silent on the growing controversy surrounding the meeting at the height of the campaign. The revelation has shaken the White House, which for months has struggled to contain the fallout from a wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s election-meddling effort in 2016. Sanders acknowledged that, “the president is, I would say, frustrated with the process of the fact that this continues to be an issue.”

President Trump’s ‘Impenetrable Cybersecurity’ Is Pure Fantasy

Nothing connected to the internet is safe from hackers. And I mean nothing. Modern cybersecurity is a constant cycle of breaches and patches. Systems are compromised, security experts play catch up, and eventually hackers find a new way in. Each side tries to outwit the other. But at any given moment, one of them is always a step ahead. President Donald Trump doesn’t seem to understand that. “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded,” he tweeted July 9. Yes, Russia. Yes, really. Setting aside the question of what “many other negative things” Trump and Putin plan to guard, and how; and setting aside the absurdity of the idea that the United States would partner with Russia, of all countries, on a cybersecurity initiative, there is a basic question to answer: Is “impenetrable cybersecurity” even possible? No, it is not.

ACLU sues President Trump over voter fraud commission

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging President Trump’s voter fraud commission. In a lawsuit filed July 10 in the US District Court of the District of Columbia, the ACLU says the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity violated federal public access requirements by holding its first meeting in private, without public notice.

President Trump formed the 15-member commission with an executive order in May to investigate his claims of voter fraud in 2016’s presidential election. The group is expected to hold its first public meeting on July 19. The ACLU lawsuit notes that Vice President Pence, who chairs the commission, held a 90-minute telephone meeting with its members on June 28. During the call, the suit says Vice Chairman Kris Kobach told members the commission was sending a letter to the 50 states and the District of Columbia requesting information on registered voters, including full names and addresses, political party registration and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. In its complaint, the ACLU argues that the commission has violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires all advisory committee meetings to be open to the public and timely noticed in the Federal Register.

Putin denies election hacking after President Trump pressed him, Tillerson says

Eight months after an unprecedented US election — one that US intelligence agencies say the Russian government tried to sway — President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat for their first meeting on July 7, a friendly encounter that ended in confusion over whether President Trump accepted assurances that the Kremlin was innocent of any wrongdoing during the campaign.

President Trump, believed to be the intended beneficiary of the Russian meddling, emerged from the extraordinary meeting — which dragged so long that President Trump’s wife tried once to break it up — with a deal including Russia and Jordan on a partial Syrian ceasefire. The agreement would mark the first time Washington and Moscow had operated together in Syria to try to reduce the violence. But there were no grand bargains on US sanctions on Russia, the Ukraine crisis or the other issues that have divided the nations for years. The meeting, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit, opened with Trump telling Putin it was an “honor to be with you.” In the closed-door discussion, Trump pressed Putin “on more than one occasion” on Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential elections, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the two-hour-and-16-minute meeting, told reporters. Sec Tillerson said “President Putin denied such involvement” but agreed to organize talks “regarding commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process.”

Rachel Maddow’s urgent warning to the rest of the media

Rachel Maddow says someone tried to dupe her into airing a bogus scoop about collusion between President Trump's campaign and Russia, presumably intending to debunk the story later and tarnish Maddow's reputation in the process. Having avoided the trap, the MSNBC host hopes to serve as a cautionary tale for others in the media. “Heads up, everybody,” Maddow said on the air July 6. “Somebody for some reason appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump campaign in working with the Russians on their attack on the election. It is a forgery.”

Federal ethics chief who clashed with White House announces he will step down

The director of the independent Office of Government Ethics, who has been the federal government’s most persistent critic of the Trump Administration’s approach to ethics, announced that he is resigning nearly six months before his term is scheduled to end. Walter M. Shaub Jr. repeatedly challenged the Trump administration, publicly urging President Trump to fully divest from his business empire and chastising a senior Trump adviser for violating ethics rules. His outspokenness drew the ire of administration officials and earned him near-cult status among Trump’s opponents. Fans started a Facebook page in his honor, and his name has occasionally appeared on posters at anti-Trump protests. Shaub made no reference to those clashes in a resignation letter he posted Thursday indicating he will step down July 19. Instead, he praised the work of federal ethics officials, pointedly noting their commitment to “protecting the principle that public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws, and ethical principles above private gain.” In an interview, Shaub said he was not leaving under pressure, adding that no one in the White House or the administration pushed him to leave. But the ethics chief said he felt that he had reached the limit of what he could achieve in this administration, within the current ethics framework.

Statement on Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

On June 28, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity issued a letter requesting that states provide publicly available voter data as permitted under their state laws. At present, 20 states have agreed to provide the publicly available information requested by the Commission and another 16 states are reviewing which information can be released under their state laws. In all, 36 states have either agreed or are considering participating with the Commission's work to ensure the integrity of the American electoral system. While there are news reports that 44 states have "refused" to provide voter information to the Commission, these reports are patently false, more "fake news". At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission's request for publicly available voter information. Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians, this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American's vote because the public has a right to know.

[Kris Kobach (R-KS) is Kansas Secretary of State and Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity]

Why almost every state is partially or fully rebuffing Trump’s election commission

Officials in nearly every state say they cannot or will not turn over all of the voter data President Trump’s voting commission is seeking, dealing what could be a serious blow to Trump’s attempts to bolster his claims that widespread fraud cost him the popular vote in November.

The commission’s request for a massive amount of state-level data last week included asking for all publicly available information about voter rolls in the states, such as names of all registrants, addresses, dates of birth, partial Social Security numbers and other data. It immediately encountered criticism and opposition, with some saying it could lead to an invasion of privacy and others worrying about voter suppression. The states that won’t provide all of their voter data grew to a group of at least 44 by Wednesday, including some, such as California and Virginia, that said they would provide nothing to the commission. Others said they are hindered by state laws governing what voter information can be made public but will provide what they can.

Investigators explore if Russia colluded with pro-Trump sites during US election

The spread of Russian-made fake news stories aimed at discrediting Hillary Clinton on social media is emerging as an important line of inquiry in multiple investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow. Investigators are looking into whether Trump supporters and far-right websites coordinated with Moscow over the release of fake news, including stories implicating Clinton in murder or paedophilia, or paid to boost those stories on Facebook. The head of the Trump digital camp, Brad Parscale, has reportedly been summoned to appear before the House intelligence committee looking into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election. Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) has said that at least 1,000 “paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia” were pumping anti-Clinton fake news into social media sites during the campaign.

What ever happened to Trump TV?

On a Wednesday night in June in Cedar Rapids (IA) it was just like old times for Right Side Broadcasting. Live on YouTube, hosts Steve Lookner and Liz Willis interviewed people sporting “Make America Great Again” hats, who waited eagerly in line to watch President Trump take the stage at a jam-packed, campaign-style rally. Some of the Trump fans doubled as Right Side fans, and asked Lookner and Willis to pose for selfies in their branded polos. After generating $1.1 million in advertising revenue and donations in 2016, Right Side entertained grand expansion plans. Founder Joe Seales told Business Insider last fall that he wanted to add news shows to his company's YouTube channel and build toward 24-hour programming. Instead, Right Side has been forced to cut back amid steep revenue declines. A staff of 12 is down to four. Shows hosted by Mike Cernovich, Wayne Dupree, Margaret Howell and Nicholas J. Fuentes have been canceled. Far from seeing a gusher of donations from energized Trump supporters, Seales said he has been propping up Right Side Broadcasting with money from his own pocket.

Teaming up with Right Side on webcasts before Election Day fueled speculation that former reality TV star Donald Trump might launch a television channel, if the vote didn't go his way. When CNN asked campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon about the prospect of “Trump TV” in October, the former Breitbart News chairman smiled and said, “Trump is an entrepreneur.” According to Seales, Right Side never discussed going into business with Trump in the event of a defeat.