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US Senator Graham Says Supports Mueller Bill, Urges Vote

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday he supported a bill that would protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller from any politically motivated firings and would urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on it.

“I would certainly vote for it,” Graham told reporters of the bill, which he supported when it passed the Senate Judiciary in April.

“I don’t see any movement to get rid of Mueller. But it probably would be good to have this legislation in place just for the future,” he said.

McConnell told reporters in Kentucky last week he did not think legislation was necessary because he did not think Mueller was in danger.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said he also supported the bill but would not lobby McConnell to allow the measure to move forward.

“Every bill that comes out of my committee, I’d like to see a vote. But whether it comes up will be up to the leader and I’m not going to lobby the leader,” Grassley told reporters on Tuesday. “If it comes up, I’ll vote on it. And I think it ought to pass.”

Trump last week forced out Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general in charge of overseeing Mueller and his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.

Whitaker has described Mueller’s probe as being too wide-ranging. Trump denies that he or his associates colluded with Russia, and Moscow says it did not interfere in the election.

Graham, who said last year that there would be “holy hell to pay” if Sessions was fired, predicted that Trump would move to oust Sessions after the midterms and appoint someone with whom he had a better relationship.

Democrats and some Republicans worry Trump’s firing of Sessions means he is maneuvering to fire or significantly restrain the special counsel.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who is retiring, and Democratic Senator Chris Coons have pledged to seek a floor vote on a bill to shield Mueller as soon as Congress resumed this week after a recess for the Nov. 6 elections.

The Justice Department said on Monday night that Whitaker would consult with ethics officials about any matters that could require him to recuse himself.

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Trumps to Skip Kennedy Center Honors for 2nd Straight Year

For the second straight year, President Donald Trump will not be attending the Kennedy Center Honors celebrating cultural achievement.

 

Neither Trump nor first lady Melania Trump will be at the Dec. 2 event, Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s director of communications, said Tuesday.

 

Grisham also told The Associated Press it was “not likely” any new winners of the National Medal of Arts, National Humanities Medal or National Medal of Science would be announced before the end of the year. She said the remaining weeks of 2018 are “the busiest time of the year for the East Wing.”

 

Tuesday’s announcements continue the Trump administration’s unprecedented distance from the arts and science communities. No arts or humanities medals have been announced or handed out since September 2016, when Barack Obama was president — the longest gap by months since the awards were established in the mid-1980s. No science medals have been given since May 2016.

A former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, which oversees the nominating process for the arts medal, said he was dismayed.

 

“The current administration’s disregard for culture and scholarship, as well as presidential tradition, is an embarrassment,” Dana Gioia, chairman of the NEA from 2003 to 2009, told the AP.

Other presidents, including Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, have missed Kennedy Center ceremonies. Trump is the first to miss them twice.

 

Grisham cited scheduling conflicts: Trump is scheduled to attend the G20 summit in Argentina at the end of the month. Had he come to the Kennedy Center, it’s unlikely he would have been warmly welcomed by at least some of the honorees, who include Cher and “Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, both sharp critics.

 

Last year, honoree Norman Lear said he would boycott the event if Trump was there. The White House then announced the president and first lady would not be going “to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.”

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US Acting AG Will Consult With Ethics Officials on Possible Recusals

Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker will consult with ethics officials about any matters that could require him to recuse himself, the Justice Department said on Monday, after critics called on him to step aside from overseeing a Special Counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“Acting AG Matt Whitaker is fully committed to following all appropriate processes and procedures at the Department of Justice, including consulting with senior ethics officials on his oversight responsibilities and matters that may warrant recusal,” spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

Whitaker became the acting attorney general last week after President Donald Trump ordered Jeff Sessions to resign following months of criticizing him for recusing himself from the Russia investigation, which Trump has repeatedly called a “witch hunt.”

Sessions’ recusal paved the way for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Special Counsel Robert Mueller in May 2017.

The investigation has already led to criminal charges against dozens of people, including Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

With Whitaker’s appointment, Rosenstein is no longer in charge of the Russia probe. Democrats in Congress have said they fear Whitaker could undermine or even fire Mueller after he expressed negative opinions about the probe before joining the Justice Department as Sessions’ chief of staff in October 2017.

On Sunday, top Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate sent a letter to the Justice Department’s chief ethics officer to ask whether Whitaker had received any guidance on possibly recusing himself from the Russia probe.

“Allowing a vocal opponent of the investigation to oversee it will severely undermine public confidence in the Justice Department’s work on this critically important matter,” the letter said.

Democrats have also raised questions about whether Whitaker’s appointment was legal under the Constitution because Trump ignored a statutory line of succession and deprived senators of their “advice and consent” role.

San Francisco’s city attorney said on Monday his office may take legal action if the Justice Department does not provide a legal justification for Whitaker’s appointment.

The city has four cases proceeding in court that name Sessions as a defendant, including one which led to an injunction blocking a Trump executive order over “sanctuary cities” that the administration claims are protecting illegal immigrants from deportation.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that the Justice Department expects to publish a legal opinion supporting Whitaker’s appointment.

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Liz Cheney Poised for Ascent into Republican Leadership

Liz Cheney has had a quiet first term as congresswoman, but that’s about to change. She’s seeking a House Republican leadership post that’s key to her party’s strategy against next year’s Democratic majority.

 

If she succeeds, Cheney will be the only woman in House Republican leadership — and follow in the footsteps of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who won the same post more than 30 years ago.

 

She is seeking the position of GOP conference chair, which would put her at the forefront of the House GOP’s communications strategy when Democrats take over the chamber in January. House Republicans are looking for a more forceful approach to communications.

 

“We’ve got to change the way that we operate and really in some ways be more aggressive, have more of a rapid response,” Cheney told The Associated Press in an interview.

 

The Republican leadership elections are set for Wednesday. The conference chair is the third-ranking position and comes with several duties, including organizing regular weekly meetings and developing the GOP’s message to voters.

 

Cheney is running unopposed after the current chair of the conference, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, declined to continue in the post.

 

Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, won the conference chair position more than 30 years ago after four terms as Wyoming’s congressman. By landing the position after just one term, Liz Cheney would leave little doubt that she’s a rising political star in her own right.

 

Back home in deep-red Wyoming, most quit questioning Cheney’s political chops a while ago.

 

She won re-election last week with 64 percent, beating a little-known Democrat. It was the widest margin in Wyoming’s congressional race since 2014, when Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis beat a Democrat living in Arizona whose campaign consisted of YouTube puppet and stuffed animal shows.

 

“She’s just been gathering strength as she goes on,” said one of Cheney’s primary opponents this year, Rod Miller, a retired ranch manager from the southeast Wyoming high country.

 

Since winning office by a wide margin in 2016, Cheney has served on the Armed Services and Natural Resources Committees. More remarkably for a freshman member of Congress, she landed a seat on the Rules Committee, which sets the terms for floor debate on legislation.

 

“That kind of is an indication that she has a constituency within the Republican conference — that she would be considered knowledgeable on issues, someone who is going to help advance the party’s leadership agenda,” said University of Wyoming political science professor Jim King.

 

The Republican conference chairmanship will be especially important now that Republicans look to rebrand themselves after losing the House majority, or at least improve their messaging to voters.

 

Deregulation, such as rolling back parts of the Dodd-Frank banking reform law, and federal income tax cuts are important accomplishments that Republicans can sell to voters, Cheney said.

 

“I think now the American people will have a chance to compare what we accomplished and what the Democrats do now that they’re in the majority,” Cheney said.

 

Cheney would give a fresh face to the party in the No. 3 role. The top two jobs will likely by filled by Kevin McCarthy of California and Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who are already in leadership. Yet having the Cheney brand at the forefront of the GOP communications apparatus could set a mixed tone.

 

Cheney’s ascent will likely prove popular with GOP voters who recall fondly the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney years, especially those who favor a hawkish defense posture.

 

And as a woman in leadership, she’ll face questions about what Republicans acknowledge is a yawning gender gap as their side of the aisle is made up of mostly white men. After the midterm elections, the ranks of Republican women in the House declined.

 

Less certain is whether Cheney’s style will appeal to those voters in suburban districts, particularly women, who flipped Republican-held seats to Democrats this year. Republicans will need those voters if they hope to win back the House majority in 2020.

 

Cheney has seen little notoriety lately compared with five years ago, when she launched an ill-fated campaign to oust Wyoming’s popular Republican senior senator, Mike Enzi. Labeled a carpet-bagger for having moved to Wyoming from Virginia barely a year earlier, Cheney made things worse by publicly feuding with her openly gay sister about gay marriage.

 

She bowed out eight months before the primary but didn’t give up on politics. She continued touring Wyoming, forming — and in some cases mending — the relationships she needed to dominate a crowded U.S. House primary two years later.

 

Her past experience as a Fox News commentator and State Department employee now give her valuable media and policy experience for the conference chairman job, Cheney said.

 

“It’s an opportunity that’s going to be focused on what it takes to get the majority back,” she said.

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No ‘Blue Wave,’ But Democrats’ Midterm Success Sinking In

No, it wasn’t a blue wave. But a week after the voting, Democrats are riding higher than they thought on election night.

As vote counting presses on in several states, the Democrats have steadily chalked up victories across the country, firming up their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives and statehouses. The slow roll of wins has given the party plenty to celebrate.

President Donald Trump was quick to claim victory for his party on election night. But the Democrats, who hit political rock bottom just two years ago, have now picked up at least 32 seats in the House — and lead in four more — in addition to flipping 7 governorships and 8 state legislative chambers. They are on track to lose perhaps two seats in the Senate in a year both parties predicted more.

In fact, the overall results in the first nationwide election of the Trump presidency represent the Democratic Party’s best midterm performance since Watergate.

“Over the last week we’ve moved from relief at winning the House to rejoicing at a genuine wave of diverse, progressive and inspiring Democrats winning office,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director of the liberal group MoveOn.

The blue shift alters the trajectory of Trump’s next two years in the White House, breaking up the Republican monopoly in Washington. It also gives Democrats stronger footing in key states ahead of the next presidential race and in the redrawing of congressional districts — a complicated process that has been dominated by the GOP, which has drawn favorable boundaries for their candidates.

Trump and his allies discounted the Democratic victories on Monday, pointing to GOP successes in Republican-leaning states.

“Thanks to the grassroots support for (at)realDonaldTrump and our party’s ground game, we were able to (hash)DefyHistory and make gains in the Senate!” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel tweeted, citing Senate wins in Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee, among others.

Indeed, just once in the past three decades had a sitting president added Senate seats in his first midterm election. But lost in McDaniel’s assessment was the difficult 2018 Senate landscape for Democrats, who were defending 10 seats in states Trump carried just two years ago.

Says Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez: “I believe in facts. And the fact of the matter is, the Democratic Party had a historic night at the ballot box — and we are not resting,”

Perez said in an interview, “Our goal was to compete everywhere, to expand and re-shape the electorate everywhere — and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”

Historic diversity

The Democrats found success by attracting support from women, minorities and college-educated voters. Overall, 50 percent of white college-educated voters and 56 percent of women backed Democrats nationwide, according to AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of the electorate.

Democrats featured historic diversity on the ballot.

Their winning class includes Massachusetts’ first African-American female member of Congress, Ayanna Pressley, and Michigan’s Rashida Talib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, along with Kansas’ Sharice Davids, the first lesbian Native American.

They also won by running candidates with military backgrounds who openly embraced gun ownership, such as Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb and Maine’s Jared Golden, who is poised to win his contest because of the state’s ranked-choice voting system.

The Democrats needed to gain 23 seats to seize the House majority. Once all the votes are counted, which could take weeks in some cases as absentees and provisional ballots are tallied, they could win close to 40.

Democrats have not lost a single House incumbent so far. Yet they defeated Republican targets such as Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Carlos Curbelo of Florida and Dana Rohrabacher of California.

They could win as many as 19 House races in districts carried by Trump two years ago, according to House Democrats’ campaign arm.

Ten House races remained too close for the AP to call as of Monday evening.

Far more of the Senate landscape was decided early, although contests in Arizona, Florida and Mississippi remain outstanding.

Republican control

While there were notable statehouse Democratic losses in Iowa and Ohio, the party flipped governorships in seven states: Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada, Kansas, New Mexico and Maine.

Republicans now control 25 governorships nationwide compared to 23 for Democrats. High-profile contests in Florida and Georgia remain outstanding, although Republicans hold narrow leads in both states.

Overshadowed perhaps by the higher-profile statewide elections, Democratic gains in state legislatures could prove deeply consequential.

Overall, they flipped state legislative chambers in eight states this midterm season, including Washington state’s Senate in 2017. The others include the state Senates in Maine, Colorado, New York, New Hampshire and Connecticut in addition to the state Houses of Representatives in New Hampshire and Minnesota.

With hundreds of races still too close to call, Democrats have gained at least 370 state legislative seats nationwide, according to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. The pickups include surprises in West Virginia, where Democrats knocked off the GOP majority leader-designate in the House and the majority leader in the Senate.

“We have elected a new generation of inspiring leaders and we know that a new era of democratic dominance is on the horizon,” said the committee’s executive director Jessica Post.

Still, Republicans will control the majority of state legislative chambers, governorships, the U.S. Senate and the White House. And even before the new Democrats take office, attention has begun to shift toward 2020.

Many Democrats have yet to shake off the stinging losses of 2016. Publicly and privately, Democrats are lining up for the chance to take down Trump in two years.

“This is step one of a two-step process to right the ship,” Guy Cecil, chairman of the pro-Democrat super PAC Priorities USA, said of the midterms. “Democrats have every reason to be optimistic.”

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After Wave of Teacher Activism, Some Fall Short in US Midterms

After falling short in her race for the state legislature, high school history teacher Jenny Urie returned to her central Kentucky classroom, suddenly doubtful of just how far a grassroots uprising to bolster public education could go.

As massive walkouts over teacher salaries and school funding inspired many teachers to run for office, Urie was among at least 36 current and former educators on the ballot for the legislature in Kentucky. Two-thirds of them lost.

“Maybe,” she said, “people are not as concerned about the future of public education as we might have thought they were. Maybe it hasn’t hit them in their homes yet.”

For educators who ran for office in states including Kentucky, Arizona and West Virginia that saw teachers converge on capitols this year, there were some successes but also disappointments. Still, advocates say, the movement will have lasting effects after pushing education onto the agenda of many midterm campaigns.

Many candidates who won held themselves out as champions of public education, and the teachers union will be watching to ensure they live up to their pledges, said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association.

“Promises were made to the public about commitments to those public school students, and we will be keeping score on who was for kids and who was just kidding, and that is going to make a huge difference in 2020,” she said.

Advocates pointed to bright spots in the election results.

Wisconsin state schools Superintendent Tony Evers ousted Gov. Scott Walker, on whose watch teachers and other public workers lost nearly all collective bargaining power. Connecticut elected 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes to Congress. Democrat Tim Walz, who spent 20 years teaching and coaching high school, won the Minnesota governor’s race, and math teacher Julie Blaha, a Democrat, was elected that state’s auditor.

Also, Arizona voters rejected a Republican-backed measure to expand the state’s private school vouchers program, criticized as a move to drain money from public schools. And several funding measures passed, including a $500 million bond for school safety and water infrastructure in New Jersey and a constitutional amendment in Maryland to require casino revenue be set aside for schools.

The (hash)RedforEd protests, in which teachers clad in red shirts converged on statehouses in conservative states including Oklahoma, had raised hopes of a groundswell of support for candidates who favored increased education spending and teachers who were inspired to run themselves.

Nationwide, polls showed education was not any more of a priority for most voters than in previous years, according to Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at American Enterprise Institute.

“We were awestruck by the energy and the passion that arose in spring. We were awestruck by how successful the teachers were in states like West Virginia, and Oklahoma and Arizona, but if you look simply at the data in terms of what voters were thinking about and saying was a big issue going into the voting booth, there’s little evidence education played a big role,”

Hess said Friday during an Educators Writer Association panel discussion at the National Press Club in Washington.

In West Virginia, where the national movement began with a statewide teachers’ strike in February, teacher Cody Thompson, a Democrat, was elected as a state legislator Tuesday, but at least four other current or retired teachers lost House races. Still, teachers unions declared victory in the ouster of Republican majority leaders they had opposed in the House and Senate.

In Kentucky, teachers rallied against the Republican-dominated legislature for passing bills allowing charter schools and making changes to the state’s retirement system. Protests in the spring shut down schools in more than 30 districts.

Special education teacher Tina Bojanowski was one of at least 10 educators to win seats in the Kentucky Legislature, defeating Republican state Rep. Phil Moffett after campaigning while teaching full time. She was surprised there were not more.

“The whole push for teachers running didn’t pull as many voters over as it did, kind of just public dialogue,” she said.

Urie said a few students told her they were sorry she lost. She said she worries teachers’ poor showing in the election will embolden lawmakers to pass more bills she does not like, but she is optimistic about seeing so many of her friends involved in the political process.

“I know people in my personal life who were never politically active, never really cared about it, that are just like so much more aware of what’s going on,” she said. “We’re all just kind of waiting to see what will happen. We’re ready to respond when it does happen. If it does, we’re ready to go back and fight for what we love.”

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US Vote Counting Continues in Close Races

U.S. election authorities counted and recounted vote totals in several too-close-to-call elections Monday, nearly a week after voting ended in national congressional contests.

Much of the attention centered on the southeastern state of Florida, where the outcome was in doubt in two races where Republicans hold narrow edges.

In a U.S. Senate election, Florida Governor Rick Scott is maintaining a 12,500-vote lead over the incumbent Democrat, Senator Bill Nelson, while in the governor’s race to succeed Scott, Congressman Ron DeSantis leads the Democrat, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, by nearly 34,000 votes.

Trump weighs in

U.S. President Donald Trump, who campaigned several times for Scott and DeSantis, contended on Twitter that the Florida recount of the two contests is fraudulent and ought to be called off, with the two Republicans declared the winners because they were ahead as the first results were announced last Tuesday.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump claimed. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Later, Trump blamed Monday’s 1-percentage point drop in stock market indexes on Democrats, saying, “The prospect of Presidential Harassment by the Dems is causing the Stock Market big headaches!”

As a result of the elections, starting in January, Democrats will retake control of the House of Representatives from Trump’s Republican colleagues and have vowed to launch investigations of Trump and his administration’s policies.

Gillum responds to Trump

Gillum, with his own tweet, rebuffed Trump about the Florida elections, telling the U.S. leader, “You sound nervous.”

Gillum, looking to become the state’s first African-American governor, had initially conceded the election to DeSantis, but over the weekend said, “I am replacing my earlier concession with an unapologetic and uncompromised call to count every vote.”

The contentious recount in both Florida races is statewide, but the Republican allegations of fraud center on two counties — Broward and Palm Beach — along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline. In both jurisdictions, Democratic voters are in the distinct majority. As absentee votes there have been counted in recent days, Scott and DeSantis election night leads have diminished.  

Scott warns ‘liberals’

Scott told Fox News on Sunday, “No ragtag group of liberal activists or lawyers from [Washington] will be allowed to steal this election.” Scott has filed three lawsuits contesting various aspects of the recount of his contest against Nelson, but the Florida state agency that oversees elections and is controlled by Scott has said it has not found evidence of fraud.

Florida Democrats compared Scott to a strongman striking out at foes.

“Rick Scott is doing his best to impersonate Latin American dictators who have overthrown Democracies in Venezuela and Cuba,” the state party said in a statement. “The Governor is using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core of our Democracy.”

Arizona, Georgia

Election officials are also still counting votes in several other undecided contests elsewhere in the U.S., including several close elections for seats in the House of Representatives, as well for a Senate seat in the southwestern state of Arizona and the governorship of the southern state of Georgia.

In the Arizona race, Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema has pulled ahead of Republican Martha McSally, another congresswoman, by 32,000 votes with tens of thousands of mail ballots yet to count.

In Georgia, the Republican candidate, former secretary of state Brian Kemp, is holding a 58,000-vote edge over his Democratic challenger, Stacey Abrams, a state lawmaker who is trying to become Georgia’s first African-American governor. Abrams filed a federal lawsuit Sunday asking a judge to delay vote certifications in Georgia.

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Mishaps, Protests and Litigation Overshadow Florida Recount

Mishaps, protests and litigation are overshadowing the vote recount in Florida’s pivotal races for governor and Senate, reviving memories of the 2000 presidential fiasco in the premier political battleground state.

All 67 counties are facing a state-ordered deadline of Thursday to complete their recounts, and half had already begun. Many other counties were expected to begin the work Monday after a weekend of recount drama in Broward and Palm Beach counties, home to large concentrations of Democratic voters.

The developments make this a tumultuous political moment in Florida. This recount process is unprecedented even in a state notorious for settling elections by razor-thin margins. State officials said they weren’t aware of any other time a race for governor or U.S. Senate required a recount, let alone both in the same election.

In Broward County, the recount was delayed for hours Sunday because of a problem with one of the tabulation machines. That prompted the Republican Party to accuse Broward’s supervisor of elections, Brenda Snipes, of “incompetence and gross mismanagement.”

Broward officials faced further headaches after acknowledging the county mistakenly counted 22 absentee ballots that had been rejected. The problem seemed impossible to fix because dismissed ballots were mixed in with 205 legal ballots and Snipes said it would be unfair to throw out all the votes.

Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for Senate, filed suit against Snipes. He’s seeking a court order for law enforcement agents to impound all voting machines, tallying devices and ballots “when not in use until such time as any recounts.” The suit accused Snipes of repeatedly failing to account for the number of ballots left to be counted and failing to report results regularly as required by law.

The court didn’t immediately respond, though the outcry from Democrats was immediate.

Juan Penalosa, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, accused Scott of “using his position to consolidate power by cutting at the very core of our democracy.”

Meanwhile, in Palm Beach County, the supervisor of elections said she didn’t think her department could meet Thursday’s deadline to complete that recount, throwing into question what would happen to votes there.

The recount in other major population centers, including Miami-Dade and Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in the Tampa Bay area, has been continuing without incident. Smaller counties were expected to begin reviews between Monday and Wednesday.

Unofficial results showed Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis ahead of Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points in the governor’s contest. In the Senate race, Scott’s lead over Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson was 0.14 percentage points.

State law requires a machine recount in races where the margin is less than 0.5 percentage points. Once completed, if the differences in any of the races are 0.25 percentage points or below, a hand recount will be ordered.

Republicans urged their Democratic opponents to give up and let the state to move on.

Gillum and Nelson insist that each vote should be counted and the process should take its course.

Scott said Sunday that Nelson wants fraudulent ballots and those cast by noncitizens to count, pointing to a Nelson lawyer’s objection of Palm Beach County’s rejection of one provisional ballot because it was cast by a noncitizen.

“He is trying to commit fraud to win this election,” Scott told Fox News. “Bill Nelson’s a sore loser. He’s been in politics way too long.”

Nelson’s campaign issued a statement later saying their lawyer wasn’t authorized to object to the ballot’s rejection, as “Non-citizens cannot vote in U.S. elections.”

Gillum appeared Sunday evening at a predominantly African-American church in Fort Lauderdale, declaring that voter disenfranchisement isn’t just about being blocked from the polling booth. He said it also includes absentee ballots not being counted and ballots with mismatched signatures that “a volunteer may have the option of … deciding that vote is null and void.”

Both the state elections division, which Scott runs, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have said they have found no evidence of voter fraud.

That didn’t stop protests outside Snipes’ office, where a mostly Republican crowd gathered, holding signs, listening to country music and occasionally chanting “lock her up,” referring to Snipes. A massive Trump 2020 flag flew over the parking lot and a Bikers For Trump group wore matching shirts. One protester wore a Hillary Clinton mask.

Registered independent Russell Liddick, a 38-year-old Pompano Beach retail worker, carried a sign reading, “I’m not here for Trump! I’m here for fair elections! Fire Snipes!” He said the office’s problems “don’t make me feel very much like my vote counted.”

Florida also is conducting a recount in a third statewide race. Democrat Nikki Fried had a 0.07 percentage point lead over Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell for agriculture commissioner, one of Florida’s three Cabinet seats.

For some, the recounts bring back memories of the 2000 presidential recount, when it took more than five weeks for Florida to declare George W. Bush the victor over Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes, thus giving Bush the presidency.

Much has changed since then.

In 2000, each county had its own voting system. Many used punch cards – voters poked out chads, leaving tiny holes in their ballots representing their candidates. Some voters, however, didn’t fully punch out the presidential chad or gave it just a little push. Those hanging and dimpled chads had to be examined by the canvassing boards, a lengthy, tiresome and often subjective process that became fodder for late-night comedians.

Now the state requires all Florida counties to use ballots where voters use a pen to mark their candidate’s name, much like a student taking a multiple-choice test, and the process for recounts is clearly spelled out.

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Empowered, Emboldened House Democrats Chart Path Forward

Washington is adjusting to an impending power shift after Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in last week’s elections. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Democrats are promising to hold President Donald Trump accountable and protect the Justice Department’s Russia probe, but also stressing the need to deliver tangible results that address the American people’s everyday concerns.

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Democrats Vow to Protect Mueller’s Russia Investigation

Key U.S. Democratic lawmakers vowed Sunday they would try to protect the investigation of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign’s links to Russia from interference by his new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, who often attacked the probe before Trump named him to oversee it.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he would attempt to attach legislation to a must-pass government spending bill next month to keep the government from a partial shutdown to require that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation be permitted to be completed unimpeded.

“There’s no reason that legislation shouldn’t pass,” Schumer told news network CNN. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has opposed stand-alone legislation to protect Mueller, saying he has no reason to believe Trump will fire Mueller, even though the U.S. leader has often assailed the investigation as a “witch hunt,” a view echoed by Whitaker.

Schumer added, “I believe there are enough Republicans who will support us” in adding the Mueller protection measure to the budget legislation. Schumer said the Mueller legislation was needed because “there is every reason to believe there will be interference” by Whitaker, whom he called an “extreme partisan.”

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, set to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when Democrats assume control of the House of Representatives in January, said the panel’s first mission then would be to call Whitaker to testify at a hearing, via a subpoena if necessary, about his “expressed hostility to the investigation.”

Nadler called Whitaker “a complete political lackey” and said Trump appointed a “totally unqualified hatchet man to destroy the investigation.”

But Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway dismissed concerns about Whitaker’s past comments about the Mueller probe, saying “there’s no evidence to me” that he “knows anything about the ongoing Mueller investigation.”

Her husband, lawyer George Conway, wrote in a newspaper column last week that Whitaker had been illegally named, claiming that Whitaker needed Senate confirmation as does the head of any Cabinet agency. But Kellyanne Conway brushed off her husband’s contention, saying that “spouses disagree everyday.” Trump accused George Conway of trying to get “publicity for himself.”

The latest Democratic concerns about protecting Mueller arose last week when Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after criticizing him for more than a year for recusing himself from oversight of the Mueller probe. Trump then named Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff, to replace him, at least for the moment, as the country’s top law enforcement official.

Before joining the Justice Department last year, Whitaker said in commentary on CNN he could envision a scenario in which Trump might fire Sessions and replace him with a temporary attorney general, which is now what has happened. Whitaker, in the television remarks, suggested the replacement could then cut funding for Mueller’s investigation and his “investigation grinds almost to a halt.”

Whitaker suggested Mueller’s probe amounted to a “fishing expedition.”

But he has given no indication he plans to recuse himself from oversight of Mueller, saying he was “committed to leading a fair [Justice] Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans.” Sessions had handed Mueller oversight to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, recusing himself because of his support for Trump in the 2016 election and contacts he had with Russia’s then ambassador to Washington during the run-up to the voting two years ago.

Mueller has secured guilty pleas or convictions of several Trump campaign officials, but there is no deadline set for his conclusion of the investigation.

 

 

 

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