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- 09/14/17--13:43: _New Poll: Removing ...
- 09/14/17--14:32: _A Federal Judge Is ...
- 09/14/17--17:14: _Judge Questions If ...
- 09/16/17--14:25: _Here's Why Some Tru...
- 09/18/17--10:36: _More Than Seven Law...
- 09/18/17--15:47: _Donald Trump And Hi...
- 09/19/17--20:30: _The US Government-I...
- 09/20/17--06:10: _Trump Is Using Targ...
- 09/20/17--09:57: _With Popular Single...
- 09/20/17--16:04: _Proposed White Hous...
- 09/22/17--13:59: _Black Washington Is...
- 09/22/17--16:14: _The Health And Huma...
- 09/24/17--13:20: _Donald Trump's Alli...
- 09/25/17--11:06: _The Supreme Court H...
- 09/25/17--19:10: _Mike Pence Makes Th...
- 09/26/17--07:31: _John Kasich Wonders...
- 09/26/17--08:58: _Alabama Picks Betwe...
- 09/26/17--18:37: _Neither Money Nor T...
- 09/28/17--04:01: _Trump-Inspired Cand...
- 09/28/17--13:03: _A Group Of NFL Moms...
- 09/16/17--14:25: Here's Why Some Trump Supporters Are Now Burning Their Trump Merch
- 09/18/17--10:36: More Than Seven Lawyers Working On Michael Flynn's Defense Team
- 09/19/17--20:30: The US Government-In-Exile Has A New President
- 09/22/17--13:59: Black Washington Is Ready For Kamala Harris
- 09/24/17--13:20: Donald Trump's Allies Join His Crusade Against The NFL
- 09/26/17--07:31: John Kasich Wonders What’s Become Of Fox News
- 09/26/17--18:37: Neither Money Nor Trump Worked In Alabama
- 09/28/17--13:03: A Group Of NFL Moms Has Written A Letter To Donald Trump
The Ku Klux Klan protests the planned removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee in July in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Chet Strange / Getty Images
In a new poll, registered voters of color in Virginia say removing Confederate statues and memorials from public spaces is only “somewhat important” compared to other issues.
Conversely, those voters ranked access to quality education, safety for people of color, and standing against the rise of white nationalism as matters of “extreme importance.”
The poll, conducted by two Democratic-leaning groups, BlackPAC and brilliant corners strategies, comes amid a broad and fraught debate about how to handle and when to remove Confederate memorials — especially in Virginia, where a man who attended a white supremacist rally rammed a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, ultimately killing a woman. The debate has also entered into the state’s upcoming governor’s race.
The groups surveyed about 1,000 voters of color registered in Virginia, including 600 black voters, and 200 Latino voters, and 200 Asian American-Pacific Islander voters, respectively. Voters were asked to rate a set of issues based on race and identity — with 10 being “extremely important,” 5 being “somewhat important” and a 0 being “not important at all.”
Forty-three percent of black voters (the highest percentage) put the removal of Confederate monument at or near the top of their personal priorities; 31% of Hispanic and 35% Asian-American Pacific Islander voters ranked removing Confederate monuments that high. All told, the removal of Confederate statues and monuments had an average score of 5.8-level importance among groups participating in the survey.
Confederate symbols have become a flashpoint in national politics: On the left, symbols like the Confederate flag are held up as relics of white supremacy that represent a legacy of violence against black people over whose freedom the Civil War was fought. Their supporters, meanwhile, largely describe the symbols as an ode to heritage. That debate has been shadowed by violence: both in Charlottesville and in places like Charleston, South Carolina, Dylan Roof killed several members of a black church. He had been photographed with the Confederate flag, which the state subsequently removed from the statehouse grounds after the shooting.
Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence, in which he described “very fine” people among white supremacists who had rallied around a statue of Robert E. Lee, was widely criticized, especially by black Americans.
But according to the poll, voters of color say they are less likely to respond to specifically anti-Trump messages, and far more likely to be motivated to cast a vote that sends a strong message about their feelings on racism. People who say they are concerned about the protection of voting rights are most likely to vote, according to the poll.
Cornell Belcher, the Democratic pollster who conducted the poll, told BuzzFeed News he wasn’t surprised that the issue of the Confederate monuments was such a low priority.
“When you think about communities of color feeling literally threatened and unsafe in this current environment, issues like the statues are important, but clearly they’re not going to rise to the issue of some of the other issues around racial profiling and community safety where it is a life and death situation in these communities,” he said.
Adrianne Shropshire, BlackPAC’s executive director, said she found the response to the issue of the removal of Confederate monuments and statues “a little bit surprising” but that it was important to look at voter attitudes through the lens of responses to questions about ending white supremacy and fight racism and discrimination. “Ultimately, the visuals of Nazis marching in the street in Charlottesville took precedence over the monument issue. [The responses] didn’t center necessarily on the monuments but instead on the potential for racialized violence,” said Shropshire.
Belcher said that Latino voters in particular are “much more interested” in elections than in years past, but that you “don’t see the same some voter intensity” with black Americans, particularly younger voters. Belcher said that the way to engage is to hammer a compelling message on fighting against discrimination, alluding tangentially to a fear that black voter turnout — black women, for instance, trail both Latino and AAPI women in vote likelihood, according to the survey — could be returning to pre-Obama era levels.
“That’s really problematic for Democrats and progressives if there's a pre-Obama reversion,” he said.
Virginia’s elections take place Nov. 7. Ralph Northam, the Democratic candidate for governor, is trailing Terry McAuliffe's 2013 performance with voters of color. Justin Fairfax, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor who is black, leads in popularity over Republican Jill Vogel with voters of color. A July Virginia Commonwealth University poll had Fairfax with a six point lead over Vogel, but the pollsters recommended Fairfax and Democrats take action increase his name ID.
The federal courthouse in Akron, Ohio
Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress
A federal judge in Ohio is suing the federal judiciary, claiming that other judges violated his constitutional rights in ordering him to undergo a mental health screening — and threatening his position on the court if he refused — after finding he committed misconduct.
US District Judge John Adams, who sits in Akron, faced disciplinary action last month after a panel of judges found that he mistreated another official in his courthouse and refused to cooperate with an investigation into his behavior by undergoing a mental health exam.
Adams, represented lawyers from the conservative government watchdog group Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit on Thursday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, naming the panels of judges who issued orders against him as defendants.
For a federal judge to file a lawsuit, let alone to sue his colleagues and the court system that he works in, is unusual. Federal judges filed a lawsuit several years ago against the US government seeking pay raises, but that didn't involve judges accusing each other of violating the law, as Adams has done.
Adams could not immediately be reached. His lead attorney, Paul Orfanedes, litigation director at Judicial Watch, did not immediately return a request for comment. Judicial Watch is best known for filing Freedom of Information Act lawsuits seeking documents from federal agencies, but Orfanedes has represented Adams during the misconduct proceedings.
Adams was nominated by President George W. Bush in 2003. Before he was confirmed, he was a state court judge and a prosecutor in Ohio, and also worked in private practice.
According to a public document issued in his misconduct case in August, Adams was accused of committing misconduct in his dealings with a magistrate judge in his court. Federal magistrate judges are not Senate-confirmed like US district judges, but often take on significant roles in managing cases, including ruling on whether recently arrested criminal defendants should be released before their next court appearance and managing the exchange of evidence in civil lawsuits.
After a magistrate judge missed a deadline that Adams had set for completing work on a case in February 2013, Adams issued an order that the magistrate judge explain why that magistrate judge should not be held in contempt. The magistrate judge submitted an explanation, and Adams accepted it.
Adams' district court colleagues objected to how he had handled the situation, however, and four judges filed a judicial misconduct complaint against him. A special committee of judges — publicly available records about the case don't specify who those judges were — led the initial investigation, and eventually expanded the probe to include whether Adams was suffering from any emotional or mental instability. The committee hired a forensic psychiatrist to examine him, but Adams refused to undergo testing or provide any documents to the psychiatrist.
In July 2015, the special committee gave its report to the Judicial Council of the Sixth Circuit — the body of judges that handle judicial complaints against judges who serve within the Sixth Circuit, which covers Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The committee concluded that Adams' behavior suggested he might have a disability that prevented him from having a relationship with his colleagues and handling his work as a judge.
In February 2016, the Sixth Circuit council issued an order finding that Adams had committed misconduct in his treatment of the magistrate judge and his refusal to undergo the mental health exam. The council ordered that Adams be reprimanded and undergo the mental health screening. It ordered that he also not handle cases for two years — a limitation that could be suspended if Adams took the exam and was found to be able to do his job. If Adams continued to refuse the testing, the council said that it intended to recommend that Adams voluntarily retire.
Adams challenged that order before the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which can review circuit-level decisions in judicial misconduct cases. That committee largely upheld the Sixth Circuit council's order in August, although it said that Adams could continue to handle cases.
According to committee's August memorandum, the investigation showed that the incident with the magistrate judge "was the culmination of an increasingly strained relationship between Judge Adams and his colleagues that began in 2008," when Adams' preferred candidate for a magistrate judge position was not selected. Adams had also stopped participating in court events and administrative business and had generally refused to interact with other judges, the conduct committee noted.
In his lawsuit against the Sixth Circuit council and the Judicial Conference committee, Adams is claiming that forcing him to go through an involuntary mental health screening violates his constitutional rights to due process — he said he wasn't given notice about what judicial duties he was allegedly unable to perform as a result of any suspected mental disability — and against unreasonable searches. He's also challenging the constitutionality of the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, the federal law that lays out the authority of federal judges to mete out discipline.
Adam's lawsuit is unusual, but not unprecedented, according to Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University School of Law and an expert on judicial ethics. He cited the case of the late Oklahoma federal judge Stephen Chandler, who in the late 1960s went to the US Supreme Court when the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit temporarily barred him from handling cases. He was eventually reinstated, according to a 1989 obituary by the Associated Press, and the Supreme Court never ruled on the merits of his claim.
"Adams claims the Judicial Counsel and the Judicial Conference are violating his constitutional rights. He has nowhere else to go now but court and he’s entitled to seek relief there," Gillers said.
Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images
A federal judge isn't convinced she can vacate former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's criminal contempt conviction in the wake of President Trump's pardon and instead asking for more briefing on the effect of the presidential action.
The move doesn't mean US District Judge Susan Bolton is still seeking to sentence Arpaio for the conviction, but it does signal that she is considering simply dismissing the case while leaving the guilty verdict on his record.
The controversial Arizona sheriff was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for refusing to stop traffic patrols targeting suspected undocumented immigrants. After the pardon in August, Trump's first as president, Arpaio asked Bolton to vacate the conviction and dismiss his case.
Bolton was set to sentence Arpaio on Oct. 6 for his conviction until Trump's pardon. Now, she is scheduled to consider his request to vacate the conviction on Oct. 4.
In response to Arpaio's request, the Justice Department agreed, calling it "just and appropriate" for the judge to vacate her orders and dismiss the case.
Bolton did not directly address that issue, instead focusing in Thursday's order on the effect of the pardon.
Arpaio has asked Bolton to vacate the "verdict and other orders in this matter," she wrote, and the Justice Department "appears to agree with" that request. The cases cited by Arpaio and the Justice Department, Bolton wrote, focus on vacating the final judgment in a case before dismissing it — not the more broad request of vacating all of the orders in the case.
Because Arpaio had been convicted, but not sentenced, for criminal contempt due to his repeated refusal to follow federal court orders in a case challenging his policies for detaining people based solely on their perceived immigration status, there was no final judgment. As such, Bolton wrote that the cases cited "suggest that dismissal with prejudice is all that remains to be ordered."
She continued, however, noting that "U.S. Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit case law suggest that a presidential pardon leaves intact the recipient’s underlying record of conviction. ... The Government’s Response does not sufficiently address this issue. Therefore, supplemental briefing is appropriate."
The Justice Department is to file a five-page brief on the question by Sept. 21. Arpaio can also file a reply, per the order.
“You have become the swamp.”
As President Trump flirts with making a deal with Democrats on DREAMers, some of his hardcore supporters are turning on him by burning their iconic "Make America Great Again" hats.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Wednesday that they had reached an agreement with President Trump on DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Trump said Thursday that no deal had been made, but appeared to embrace the Democrats' goals in crafting legislation to protect undocumented people brought to the United States as children.
"Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?" he tweeted Thursday. "Really!"
@realdonaldtrump / Via Twitter: @realDonaldTrump
Carlos Barria / Reuters
Michael Flynn's family has set up a legal defense fund and is now soliciting donations as multiple investigations scrutinize the actions of the former Trump national security adviser.
The family is setting up the fund because "[t]he enormous expense of attorneys' fees and other related expenses far exceed their ability to pay," according to a statement from Joe Flynn and Barbara Redgate, Flynn's brother and sister, respectively.
A source familiar with his legal representation said Flynn's "core team" is seven attorneys from Covington — including partners, counsel, and associates — with "numerous" others involved at certain points. The fees will "certainly be into the seven figures," according to the source.
Flynn, who played key roles in Trump's campaign and is a retired Army lieutenant general, has been under scrutiny in the various investigations relating to Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election, including special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Flynn tweeted out the news about the legal defense fund first thing Monday.
@GenFlynn/Twitter / Via Twitter: @GenFlynn
"The costs of legal representation associated with responding to the multiple investigations that have arisen in the wake of the 2016 election place a great burden on Mike and his family," the website reads. "They are deeply grateful for considering a donation to help pay expenses relating to his legal representation."
Flynn's personal business dealings and his actions during the Trump transition have been an enormous source of coverage. There have been questions about foreign payments to Flynn, as well as other Flynn meetings with foreign officials.
Flynn turned over more than 600 pages of documents to congressional investigators in June in connection with their investigations. He has not, however, personally testified — earlier citing fear of prosecution.
In addition to Robert Kelner, the Covington partner who has been Flynn's lead counsel throughout the investigations, the primary attorneys representing Flynn include partner Stephen P. Anthony and counsel Brian D. Smith. Anthony is a white-collar criminal trial lawyer who previously worked in the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section. Smith, a former lawyer in the Clinton White House counsel's office, currently advises clients on investigations — including matters involving the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The three of them have signed various congressional correspondence, the source told BuzzFeed News.
In addition to the core team, "numerous" other Covington attorneys have been involved from time to time — when documents have needed to be reviewed, for example — the source told BuzzFeed News.
Alabama Sen. Luther Strange shakes hands with his predecessor, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on June 13 in Washington, DC.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
A political nonprofit loyal to President Donald Trump will spend nearly $500,000 to boost interim Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in a high-stakes Republican runoff election next week.
America First Policies will pay for pro-Strange digital ads, direct mail pieces, and get-out-the-vote phone calls between now and next week’s vote, a spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
“From repealing Obamacare to building the wall, Luther Strange is a proven ally in the U.S. Senate who's working with our president to make America great again,” the spokesperson, Erin Montgomery, wrote in an email that referenced the Trump campaign slogan. “We at America First are proud to continue to support him ahead of the September 26 runoff.”
The last-minute assistance comes as Strange, who was appointed earlier this year to the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, faces a tough fight from Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore finished first in last month’s primary, has been leading in recent polls, and is presenting himself as the candidate friendliest to Trump and his agenda. He also has received help from a key Trump ally: former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who is using his perch at Breitbart to boost Moore.
But Trump announced on Twitter over the weekend that he planned to attend a Saturday rally for Strange in Huntsville. (The event actually is scheduled for Friday, according to an advisory the Strange campaign sent Monday.) And Politico, citing unidentified sources, reported that Vice President Mike Pence will hold a get-out-the-vote-rally for Strange next Monday in the state.
Trump’s reinforcement of support — he endorsed Strange in last month’s primary — has been a bit of a surprise, given the polling trends in the race. Trump had done little since the primary, and his silence was interpreted as a sign that he didn’t want to tie himself too closely to Strange in the event of a loss. A week ago, those close to the White House spoke of the race pessimistically and doubted that Trump would do any more on Strange’s behalf.
Aligning with Strange also puts Trump in a unique position: on the side of the GOP establishment. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies are heavily invested in Strange’s bid.
Now Trump and Pence, having agreed to spend more time on Strange, risk political embarrassment if Moore prevails. So it makes sense that America First, which exists in part to provide cover for the White House’s political moves, is spending more money.
“I think they feel it's winnable,” a source familiar with America First’s plans told BuzzFeed News when asked what changed between last week and this week.
Clinton and Bloomberg share a stage in 2009.
Chris Hondros / Getty Images
The annual Manhattan conference hosted for a decade by the Clinton Global Initiative became a kind of shorthand for what some hated about the Clintons: a mix of worthy and venal motives, a slosh of money and shady rich people around their world, and flashy and enduring relationships with autocrats in the Gulf.
Tomorrow, Bill Clinton will hand what used to be CGI's main event off to Mike Bloomberg. And Bloomberg is reviving part of the event’s original role as a kind of US government in exile. The conference was created during the worst of the Iraq war and amid intense American isolation. European and Middle Eastern allies loathed George W. Bush, and turned instead to the open and sympathetic face of Bill Clinton's America.
Bloomberg’s move to take over the conference (renamed the Bloomberg Global Business Forum) hasn’t drawn much attention, but it’s worth seeing in that context: The former New York mayor is inheriting not a conference, but a platform for an alternative American diplomacy. (Bloomberg, Axios wrote on breaking the news, is "the new Clinton.")
Bloomberg is formalizing the posture that brought him to Paris in June. After Donald Trump announced that he was canceling the climate accord, Bloomberg said he'll rally American businesses to meet its targets anyway.
"Nations are bound together by trade and investment, and while chief executives are not diplomats, they can be voices for cooperation on issues where the private sector can be constructive — from infrastructure to climate change,” he said in an emailed comment Tuesday. “Actions taken by the private sector, while not replacing official diplomatic channels, can often carry more weight than words spoken (or tweeted) by public officials."
Bill Clinton’s power at the event was always his personal ability to convene giant figures, something that made CGI a delight to cover. The halls of the Sheraton New York were filled with people you’d never get on the phone. I once cornered (a displeased) Carlos Slim to grill him about his financial relationship with the New York Times. The main stage featured people with real power — King Abdullah, Tony Blair, Kofi Annan, Condoleezza Rice.
And Clinton could cajole his array of connections onto stages that their PR handlers should not have allowed. In 2005, after Clinton had painstakingly mended fences with Rupert Murdoch — part of a long dance that ended abruptly in 2012 — he somehow persuaded the irascible right-wing media baron to appear on a panel with the CNN chairman Richard Parsons on a Friday afternoon in a dimly-lit hotel basement, moderated by Clinton himself.
When Parsons boasted that CNN was “the best and best-positioned global news media company in the world,” Murdoch simply couldn’t take it.
“I don’t watch CNN International, and I doubt that anyone else does,” he snapped. The channel is “unwatchable… and it’s so anti-American."
Both Barack Obama and John McCain spoke at CGI in 2008, and it lost its place as the alternative government in 2009. Instead, CGI built a not unfriendly relationship with the new White House. They stopped putting media moguls on stage to trash one another, started locking the press in a basement hold room, and political reporters like me stopped enjoying it quite as much.
It also grew over time to be a bit better organized, and directed millions to a dizzying range of charities. It will continue in some smaller forms, and many of the grants it facilitated have long-term implications — an emblematic one was the decision by a Minnesota hearing aid company, Starkey, to donate a million hearing aids to people in the developing world.
Bloomberg’s version has some of CGI’s trappings, with the added polish of the kind of government in exile he represents. This isn’t the former governor of Arkansas, balancing his pro-business policies with folksy populism. This is pure anti-Trumpism, globalist on the big issues of trade and climate, firmly progressive on social values. The global figures Bloomberg has been able to attract to this Trump-free safe haven reads like a wish list for (now collapsed) Trump advisory panels: Tim Cook and Jack Ma, Macron and Erdogan and Trudeau, Blankfein and Schwarzman. The hotel is a little fancier than CGI’s and the guests need some qualification other than a simple willingness to give millions at Bill Clinton’s say-so.
Clinton will open the Bloomberg event tomorrow, formalizing the handoff. This isn't the first project Clinton has passed off to Bloomberg; that was the Clinton Climate Initiative. And while the men are very different, the partnership reflects what they share, which is a kind of relentless ambition.
Bloomberg's new stage is a sign that on the issues on which he's already begun to dog Trump — climate change, in particular — the former mayor is likely just getting started.
President Donald Trump is using targeted Facebook ads to reassure supporters that he still plans to build the border wall after his recent public comments caused many to question whether he would keep his promise.
"There's been a lot of noise and a lot of rumors," reads the text of a Facebook ad from Trump's personal Facebook page that was targeted to specific users in recent days. "....WE WILL BUILD A WALL (NOT A FENCE) ALONG THE SOUTHERN BORDER OF THE UNITED STATES..." The ad concludes with a pitch for donations.
That all caps declaration is in contrast to a widely discussed tweet last week in which the president said the wall was already underway "in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls." That led supporters such as Fox & Friends' Steve Doocy to ask "has the wall almost become symbolic?"
The personal Facebook page of Vice President Mike Pence is also running a version of the ad. One difference between the Pence and Trump ads is the VP's refers to "Fake News media," while Trump's calls out the "mainstream media." Both ads include a dig against "liberals in congress."
A White House spokesman told BuzzFeed News the ads are being run by the Trump campaign, and referred all questions to it. The Trump campaign did not respond to emails or phone messages about the ads.
The ads are not visible on the timelines of the Trump or Pence Facebook pages. They are, therefore, so-called "dark post ads" because they can only be seen by people the campaign chose to target with the message. This is the same type of ad Facebook recently acknowledged was purchased by a Russian troll factory in order to target Americans during the election. That revelation has caused lawmakers such as Sen. Mark Warner to discuss the need to regulate online political ads.
"An American can still figure out what content is being used on TV advertising. ... But in social media there's no such requirement," Warner said, according to CNN.
The Trump and Pence ads also highlight how politicians can use targeted ads to push a message to supporters that walks back or contradicts a public statement.
"If candidates (and outside groups) can say different things to different voters, it is harder to hold them accountable for campaign promises," Erika Franklin Fowler, director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political ads aired on broadcast television during state and federal elections, previously told BuzzFeed News.
These ads are also an example of how targeting can miss its mark. Nancy Levine, an author of books about pugs, was shown both ads in her News Feed and provided them to BuzzFeed News. She said she is far from a Trump supporter or potential donor.
"I wonder how was I targeted? Most everything I post on FB is of the 'Fuck Trump' variety," Levine said.
At BuzzFeed News' request she visited the ad preferences page on her Facebook profile, where anyone can view the interests the social network has identified for a user based on their behavior on and off the platform. To her surprise, Levine discovered her interests included "Donald Trump" and "Conservatism," as well as other outliers such as "Chainsaw."
"I don't even rake my leaves, much less use a chainsaw," she said.
Sanders speaks during an event to introduce the "Medicare for All Act of 2017" on Capitol Hill.
Yuri Gripas / Reuters
When he introduced his Medicare-for-all bill last week, Bernie Sanders also put down on paper the idea he’s been talking about, sometimes loudly, sometimes with caution, other times not publicly at all, for more than 20 years: a “wealth tax” in the United States.
In 1997, in his book, Outsider in the House, he declared it “high time to establish a tax on wealth similar to those that exist in most European countries.” Nine years later, during his first race for U.S. Senate, his opponent quoted the passage online, printed it on brochures, and pushed it in statements: “Sanders’ European-style wealth tax,” on “everything they own every year. Every tractor, cow, and acre.” In response, the Sanders campaign argued that he had never formally proposed a wealth tax, just floated the idea.
During the Democratic primary in 2016, the Sanders campaign did consider an official wealth tax, two former officials said, but the idea died over concerns about the reality of implementation and that the tax plan would be perceived as far out of the mainstream.
Now, nearly a year after the election, the 76-year-old Vermont senator is one of the most popular politicians in America. Ahead of his Medicare-for-all announcement last week, a total of 16 senators backed the bill, putting about one third of the chamber’s Democrats behind single-payer health care, an almost real-time shift in the party’s baseline.
But few American lawmakers have embraced a wealth tax — an annual federal tax on the net assets of the very rich — though economists and academics, both liberal and conservative, have made the case for one before. Others have argued that any wealth tax would be dauntingly complicated, and potentially unconstitutional. Sanders has described it as one way to spread the concentration of wealth.
Last week, he outlined a wealth tax policy for the first time in a white paper released alongside the single-payer bill, with a list of 10 ideas for how to pay for such a program.
“This is something that he's always given some consideration to,” said Warren Gunnels, a policy adviser who has worked for Sanders for 18 years, served on his presidential campaign, and helped craft the new bill.
As outlined in the six-page fact sheet, titled “Options to Finance Medicare-For-All,” Sanders’ federal wealth tax would establish an annual 1% levy on net worth exceeding $21 million. (For a family with $21.5 million in assets, that would mean paying a 1% tax on $500,000, or $5,000. For the wealthiest man in the United States, Bill Gates, whose net worth is speculated to be valued around $86 billion, the annual 1% tax would likely apply to all but a sliver of his net assets, and potentially total hundreds of millions of dollars.)
In the white paper, Sanders claims that a tax on net worth would raise $1.3 trillion in 10 years. Implementing a federal wealth tax is untested and would involve complexities. Sanders officials said the IRS could be responsible for assessing net worth annually. The Treasury Department could handle items not easily appraised, using average appreciation rates and appraisals every 5 years instead of one.
The idea, more broadly, is to level the distribution of wealth. During the presidential campaign, young and progressive voters gathered in massive numbers to hear Sanders punctuate his stump speech with dire statistics on the state of inequality. He is quick to tell voters that the 160,000 families in top 0.1% hold about the same share of wealth as the 144 million families in the bottom 90%; that the wealthiest 20 families, own more than the bottom 50%; and that just one family, the Waltons of Wal-Mart, owns more than the bottom 40%.
“If you know anything about Sen. Bernie Sanders, reducing the extreme amount of wealth inequality in America has been a very strong concern of his. One of the most obvious ways to reduce this extreme wealth inequality in our country is to impose a tax on wealth,” Gunnels said, citing the French economist Thomas Piketty as a reference point on their own tax.
Piketty's 2013 international bestseller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, makes the case for an annual “global” wealth tax of up to 2% for rich households, adopted by cooperating governments across the world (a “utopian” ideal, he says, for a tax that might first be tried regionally). The book, a 700-page theory-of-the-case on the history and trajectory of wealth inequality, describes a widening gap in private capital “even more worrisome” than the widening gap in income — with accumulated and inherited wealth growing at a higher rate of return than the economy. The result, Piketty says, is “indefinite” wealth concentration, a threat to “meritocratic values” and “social justice.”
In the U.S., the book generated a months-long debate among economists, academics, and columnists. But in Washington, even as Democratic lawmakers praised his work, they steered far from the words “wealth tax.” When questioned about the idea in a 2014 interview, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the biggest star in progressive politics at the time, didn’t engage. “We need to take a hard look overall at our approach to taxation,” she replied.
Sanders’ embrace of a federal wealth tax, even as merely an “option,” puts him in a tiny group of national politicians who have voiced support for the idea.
In 2012, the left-leaning Green Party proposed a tax of 0.5% on assets exceeding $5 million in its official platform. (Though when asked about the plan at the time, their candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, stressed the room for “distinction” between her positions and the platform.) And before that, in 1999, there was Donald Trump. The business mogul, exploring a presidential campaign at the time, pitched a one-time tax of 14.25% on individuals with net assets of more than $10 million. (In a line that could have come from Sanders, Trump said the tax would, and should, affect the “1 percent of Americans who control 90 percent of the wealth in this country.”)
As Democrats sidle up to Sanders, some planning their own presidential campaigns, they now face the question of paying for these programs, and with that, how closely they will or will not align with Sanders when it comes to tax and economic policy.
Among the 16 Democratic senators backing the Medicare-for-all bill alongside Sanders, spokespeople for just four replied when asked if they would consider the wealth tax option: Sens. Patrick Leahy of Vermont (“This was a white paper for discussion and not part of the bill or the plan going forward”), Al Franken of Minnesota (“The financing isn’t part of the bill”), Jeff Merkley of Oregon (“There are multiple paths to get to Medicare for All”), and Kamala Harris of California (“She is open to discussing a host of different options to pay for the guarantee of health care for all Americans”).
"As Sen. Sanders said, this is the beginning of the debate: Let's have a debate on the revenue options, let's have a debate on Medicare-for-all,” said Gunnels.
“They're options. If somebody has a better idea then we'll look at those."
Manigault-Newman and Trump
Pool / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — A planned reception at the White House in recognition of the Annual Legislative Conference of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation has been canceled for now.
Would-be guests were told on Wednesday that it wasn't clear if the White House was going to send out an official invite or not, in an email sent to people who RSVP’d. That email was shown to BuzzFeed News.
A second email, which was also shown to BuzzFeed News, delivered the news that the event would be “postponed.”
“Mrs. Omarosa Manigault-Newman was instructed by the president to discuss women's issues at the UN event taking place in New York City,” the email read. “Being that she was the event sponsor she would have to be present in order to have the event.”
Broadly, the annual conference here in Washington took on a particularly sharp anti-Trump bent Wednesday, as black lawmakers lamented the current state of the country. Reps. Cedric Richmond, Robin Kelly, Marc Veasey, and Sheila Jackson Lee opened a press conference highlighting the meeting’s importance and the need for more advocacy related to civil rights, voting rights, and additional aid for the victims of recent hurricanes that have devastated areas in the South. Rep. Al Green of Texas told a small gathering he was going to continue to push for impeachment.
“Some have said we have to make America great again,” said Richmond, the chair of the CBC. “The problem is they forgot what made this country great in the first place.”
It wasn't clear if black lawmakers were among the invitees. Informed about the proposed event, a senior aide to a member of Congress snickered, “We’re not going to that.”
“We never announced this reception you're referencing,” a White House official told BuzzFeed News on Wednesday evening.
Kamala Harris earlier this year.
David Mcnew / Getty Images
There was some nervous energy late Thursday night inside a self-described “industrial chic venue” near the Washington Convention Center, where this year’s Congressional Black Caucus Foundation conference is being held.
Guests mingled and waited alongside the jumbo-sized covers of Ebony Magazine that adorned the walls. Then Senator Kamala Harris emerged from a corner and started straight toward everybody.
“Oh shit,” someone said, struck by how she had seemed to appear out of nowhere. “There she is.”
The electric response inside the room — a joint event between Ebony and Universal Music Group, sponsored by Airbnb, meant to celebrate Harris, and attended by a warm and receptive group of Democrats — is just how it is in Washington this week for the junior senator from California. Black Democrats want to talk to you about Kamala Harris.
Former Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake thinks this popularity is because she already has the profile of a national leader — and one who, Rawlings-Blake says, has an understanding of the problems women and a broader set of people face.
“I'm very optimistic that we have someone who is so grounded in the community who wants to seek higher office,” she said. Asked if she’d support a Harris run for president, Rawlings-Blake said, “I'm encouraged.”
The CBC Foundation conference this year is marked by outright aversion to Trump and some loose but tangible anxiety about the 2018 midterm elections. (“I think,” one black Democratic strategist told BuzzFeed News, “there's a pretty good chance we get our fucking clocks cleaned if we don't figure this out.”)
But the conversation about Harris here, however, has none of that pessimism. People are willing to talk openly about why the reasons they liked her in the first place are the same reasons they hope she runs for president.
“I think Kamala is an exciting possible candidate. ... She is taking her role in the Senate seriously and putting issues like health care and immigration at the forefront,” said Gregory Cendana, a Democratic strategist with California roots. “She's the kind of leadership that the Democratic Party should be lifting up at all levels of government.”
“I think she's phenomenal,” said Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, who was warmly greeted by Harris. “I think she represents America’s future and she has a message. I think it's always time to talk about pushing back against this administration’s destructive policies. So whoever’s on the horizon we as a party have to gear up and prepare for warfare. I think Kamala represents that promise for America.”
On Friday, at another event, while receiving an award from the Black Women’s Agenda, Harris said she was a “proud graduate of Howard University” and received thunderous applause from an audience full of women she addressed as “sista girls.” She addressed a young woman on the dais, and said that when she's the only one in the room who looks like her, to remember that “we are all in that room with you.”
The enthusiasm for Harris, and a Harris presidential run, among black Democrats is already palpable, as the party continues to sort out its ideological and messaging direction after the divisive Sanders–Clinton primary and shocking November defeat.
“There's going to be a lot of buyer’s remorse” in 2020, Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore told BuzzFeed News. “People are going to be looking for someone who is authentic, genuine, and who's smart and someone who they can rally around.”
Moore, who attended the Thursday event with two of Harris’s constituents who were also Ready for Kamala, said that she thinks Trump got elected because people who felt dispossessed and left out of the political process. She said she sees in Harris an ability to draw those types of voters because of the genuineness she channels in the public eye.
“Certainly women should be disappointed in the president they got, and Kamala is someone who is not just a woman, but being from California represents an amalgam of people,” she said. “She's not bourgeois and her rallying cry is for people who are disenfranchised. She's not afraid to address the plight people face or injustice. I love her.”
This week, all employees at the Health and Human Services Department were required to complete a training session about the dangers of leaking information.
That request, outlined in an email obtained by BuzzFeed News that included a link to a 30-minute video on leaks, was just how one agency fulfilled the Trump administration's latest and broadest crusade against leaks.
Federal agencies and departments held training sessions warning employees about leaks, following guidance from President Trump's national security adviser earlier this month. How many agencies have actually held the trainings is unclear, but the Sept. 8 memorandum from H.R. McMaster — taking aim at both classified and controlled unclassified information — stated that training sessions should take place this week. The memo was first reported by BuzzFeed News.
The Education Department, Commerce Department and, as reported by E&E News, Environmental Protection Agency officials also planned efforts instructing employees about leaks, and the Associated Press confirmed that EPA training sessions were taking place.
HHS instructed employees to complete training in an email, BuzzFeed News has learned.
"We all come from diverse backgrounds, but we need to be unified in our commitment to safeguarding federal information and data," John Bardis, the HHS assistant secretary for administration, wrote in the email announcing his department's program.
Bardis' email announced a "mandatory 1 hour training session for all employees to be completed by" Friday. The email provided a link to the "training session" — a 31-minute, 30-second video. HHS spokespersons did not immediately respond to a question about what constituted the other 30 minutes of the "1 hour training session."
"Allowing all employees the ability to obtain this training will support our efforts to decrease unauthorized disclosure of classified and controlled but unclassified information," Bardis wrote.
The 30-minute video begins with an introduction from Bardis and then jumps into an "insider threat" video — think an 8-minute after-school special about the dangers of leaks.
From the "insider threat" video:
The "insider threat" video appears to have been produced under the auspices of the National Insider Threat Task Force — a program that came out of an executive order signed by President Obama.
The remainder of the video is framed in a question-and-answer format. Bardis uses one question to introduce a video from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) about "marking requirements" for controlled unclassified information (CUI).
In a sign of how caught off-guard agencies were by McMaster's directive, the video then poses this question:
The answer Bardis gives in the video suggests that there isn't currently much department-specific guidance about how to handle controlled unclassified information: "While the HHS CUI policy is being finalized, please see the NARA CUI training on the NARA website."
The final 10 minutes of the video include further NARA-produced videos about "decontrolling CUI" and "controlled environments."
Here's the full video:
President Donald Trump
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
A political group with close ties to President Donald Trump is amplifying his attack on professional athletes who kneel during the national anthem as a form of protest.
“Turn off the NFL,” reads a digital ad produced by the nonprofit America First Policies, which planned to begin spreading the message on social media Sunday afternoon.
The ad includes a photo with Trump, hand over his heart, and a #TakeAStandNotAKnee hashtag. It follows Trump’s recent remarks, first delivered during a Friday night speech in Alabama, aimed at football players who have protested police brutality and other causes.
America First Policies
While campaigning for Luther Strange, who is locked in a tough Republican primary to keep the Alabama Senate seat he was appointed to earlier this year, Trump asked those in the audience if they would "love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'get that son of a bitch off the field right now.'" He added that such players should be fired.
Trump continued the attack over the weekend on Twitter.
“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect … our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump posted in a series of tweets. "If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
NFL team owners and players reacted strongly and disapprovingly to Trump’s push. “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL, our great game and all of our players, and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Saturday.
A draft of a Facebook version of the ad shared with BuzzFeed News included the text: “Rather than watch the NFL disrespect our country … turn on something that honors the great men and women who make sacrifices to protect our freedom and what our Great American Flag stands for. Thank you to our great Veterans!”
America First Policies has typically backed Trump by supporting his policy agenda or his preferred candidates. The group recently spent money to boost Strange in Alabama.
Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images
The US Supreme Court on Monday canceled arguments scheduled for Oct. 10 on President Trump's second travel and refugee ban executive order, less than 24 hours after Trump signed a new set of travel restrictions and the previous travel ban expired.
The justices ordered the lawyers in the case to file briefs on the significance of Trump's latest directive, as well as the upcoming expiration of sections of the earlier executive order that concerned refugee admissions to the United States.
The presidential proclamation that Trump signed on Sunday largely bans travel to the United States by nationals of seven countries — including five that were covered under the earlier travel ban that was the subject of the Supreme Court case. The new proclamation also places travel restrictions on certain Venezuelan government officials and their families.
US Solicitor General Noel Francisco notified the Supreme Court of the president's new directive late Sunday, and suggested that the court have the parties in the case file briefs about what they think should happen by Oct. 5. In the order issued on Monday, the justices adopted that deadline.
The court has asked for briefs, no longer than 10 pages, that address whether the new proclamation and the upcoming expiration of refugee-related sections of the earlier executive order make the case moot. A suspension of the US refugee program under the second executive order is set to expire on Oct. 27.
Several organizations involved in the court fight over the second travel ban have already signaled that they believe the new directive is still rooted in unconstitutional anti-Muslim discrimination. Although the proclamation Trump signed on Sunday adds two non-Muslim-majority countries to the list of nations subject to travel restrictions, North Korea and Venezuela, civil liberties and immigrant advocacy groups say that isn't enough to fix the problems that prompted them to sue over the president's previous orders.
"Six of President Trump's targeted countries are Muslim. The fact that Trump has added North Korea — with few visitors to the US — and a few government officials from Venezuela doesn't obfuscate the real fact that the administration's order is still a Muslim ban. President Trump's original sin of targeting Muslims cannot be cured by throwing other countries onto his enemies list," ACLU Director Anthony Romero said in a statement Sunday evening.
The new directive largely bans travel to the United States by nationals of five Muslim-majority countries that were covered under the second travel ban — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and adds restrictions on three new countries, Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela. Chad is also a Muslim-majority nation.
The administration removed travel restrictions on Sudan, which had been covered under the previous ban.
Sen. Luther Strange during last week's rally with President Donald Trump.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
Vice President Mike Pence’s campaign visit for endangered Alabama Sen. Luther Strange was just about everything President Donald Trump’s was not.
It was a sober, smaller affair Monday night in Birmingham — a wholesome pep rally inside a half-empty airport hangar compared to the monster truck rally vibes Trump brought to a Huntsville arena last week. It was short, too, clocking in at about 25 minutes.
A dark curtain divided the hangar in half. Pence and Strange spoke from a tiny stage, in front of several rows of chairs and a generous standing-room only section that had room to accommodate dozens more. A huge “Stand With Trump” sign hung on one side, an equally huge “Vote for Luther” sign on the other.
Pence never worried aloud, as Trump did, if he was making a mistake by throwing his support to an establishment favorite — but that was the undertone on Monday night, where Strange seems likely to lose and the case in his favor is the exact kind of establishmentarian, vote-with-the-majority, conservative principles case that traditional Republicans often make.
“Luther Strange is a real conservative,” the vice president told the several hundred in the audience. “He’s a leader. He’s been a real friend to President Trump. So I’ve got to tell you, Big Luther is making a big difference in Washington, DC, and he’s just getting started.”
Pence did offer a quick aside about NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. But even that was far milder than Trump’s surprise rant — complete with a “son-of-a-bitch” curse — on the subject Friday in Huntsville.
“I stand with Luther,” Pence said. “I stand with President Donald Trump. And I will always stand for our national anthem. We’ve all got a right to our opinions, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask the players in the National Football League to stand for our national anthem.”
The big political theatrics were happening right around the same time Monday, more than 250 miles downstate, in Fairhope. Roy Moore, the frontrunner in Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff for the seat Strange was appointed to earlier this year, celebrated election eve with a cavalcade of right-wing celebrities: former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson, and Nigel Farage of Brexit fame.
Moore vs. Strange has become a race of national importance that will test Trump’s political capital and the strength of an anti-establishment movement Trump once thrived in but has split with in Alabama.
On Monday night, Pence, after dispensing with some boilerplate kind words for Strange, launched into a recap of what the Trump administration has been trying to accomplish. One big piece of unfinished business: legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. The effort hit yet another snag Monday, when more Republican senators came out against the latest bill. Pence vowed a deal could be done. But he couched the promise around a need to return Strange, whose loyalty to the White House is what helped clinch Trump’s support, to the Senate.
“Obamacare has failed, and Obamacare must go,” Pence said. “The good news is as we speak, with the strong support of Sen. Luther Strange, the Senate is close to moving forward with legislation.”
Strange was tapped by former Gov. Robert Bentley to succeed now–US Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies have made Strange’s election a priority. They’re particularly concerned that Moore, a twice-removed Alabama Supreme Court justice with controversial opinions on same-sex marriage and other hot-button issues, will make the seat competitive in December’s special general election against Democratic nominee Doug Jones, a former US attorney. But Trump and Pence are not making that case, at least not publicly. Trump at his Friday rally pledged to campaign for Moore should he prevail.
“We’re not here because we’re against anybody,” Pence emphasized Monday.
At a rally that screamed establishment, there was a glimmer of conservative grassroots support for Strange. Several members of Bikers for Trump, a group of leather-vested motorcycle enthusiasts loyal to the president, were on hand. Chris Cox, the group’s founder, told BuzzFeed News in an interview that he decided to stop on his way to Texas to deliver supplies to hurricane victims.
“We elected Donald Trump. Now we need to trust his judgment and give him the resources he asks for,” Cox said. “If Luther Strange is the guy he wants, who are we to disagree?”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich
Alex Wong / Getty Images
John Kasich doesn’t recognize Fox News anymore.
The right-leaning cable network, where Kasich once had his own show and occasionally filled in for prime-time star Bill O’Reilly, has become too one-sided, the Republican governor of Ohio said during an interview for AM to DM, BuzzFeed News’ new morning show.
“When I was at Fox, it was both sides,” said Kasich, who emphasized that his criticism includes other media outlets, including CNN, MSNBC, Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post.
“I can look at all this stuff, and I can point a finger at one group?” Kasich replied when BuzzFeed News editor-in-chief Ben Smith asked specifically about his former employer. “I think it’s a collective question that the media has to consider about what they’re contributing.”
“So everybody wants to point to Fox or whatever,” Kasich continued. “And, look, when I was there it wasn’t like … I’ve seen it lately, where, you know, it’s sort of like double down. It just wasn’t that way. And I don’t know how it got that way. And I wasn’t there.”
Kasich ran unsuccessfully for president in last year’s Republican primaries and very publicly refused to support Donald Trump. His subsequent book, Two Paths: America Divided or United, and his persistent criticism of the president, has fueled speculation that he might challenge Trump in 2020, either in a primary or as part of an independent or third-party ticket.
“You know, I’m done talking about Trump,” Kasich said when asked about Trump’s recent comments and tweets blasting NFL players for kneeling in protest during the national anthem. “I talked about him for eight months. What you see is what you get, OK?”
But Kasich did not completely shut down talk of a 2020 bid. When asked if he had any plans to return to New Hampshire, the key primary state where he finished second last year, Kasich said that he “might … if I have some reason to be there and something to say.” He cannot seek a third consecutive term as governor next year and is pondering his next move.
“Honestly, I don’t know what’s going to come,” Kasich said. “I want to have a voice. I might have a future in something with television, I don’t know. ... In terms of politics, I really don’t know, except I want to continue to have organizations that allow me to have an impact. And you know what? I want to have a bigger impact about what I’m for — not having an impact because I’m against something that Trump is doing. You know, it gets tiresome.”
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
Over the last month, Donald Trump has done more to advance the cause of the Republican establishment than he ever has before: campaigning for Mitch McConnell’s chosen candidate.
But that effort, and all the prestige of the president, seems likely to come up short in Alabama’s special election primary.
On Tuesday night, Sen. Luther Strange — the man appointed to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat — will square off against Roy Moore, the nationally controversial former state Supreme Court justice.
If the polling is accurate, Moore is expected to win.
The winner of Tuesday's contest will face Democrat Doug Jones, a former US attorney, in a special election in December.
Moore has the unique history of being removed from the state Supreme Court not once but twice: first, over his refusal to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments on public land despite a federal court; and second, when he refused to enforce federal rulings on marriage equality. He’s also become known over the years for his complaints that the United States has “legalized sodomy” and for suggesting that 9/11 might have been a punishment for turning away from Christianity.
In the weeks before the runoff, the Breitbart universe rallied behind Moore, the anti-establishment candidate with a strong built-in base of support in the state. Over the last week, Steve Bannon, Sarah Palin, Brit Nigel Farage, and Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson all rallied behind Moore.
Republicans poured money, time, and the imprimatur of presidential endorsement behind Strange, whose time as attorney general in the state during a scandal dogged him throughout the campaign. Still, Republicans prioritized the race specifically with the idea of keeping enough party-line voters in the Senate as the White House tries to advance an agenda on health care and taxes.
Trump himself campaigned for Strange last week in Alabama, a state where the president remains popular. (The news out of the rally, of course, ended up being a lot more about NFL protests than Strange’s candidacy.) Vice President Mike Pence, too, campaigned with Strange.
“Luther Strange is a real conservative,” the vice president told the several hundred in the audience. “He’s a leader. He’s been a real friend to President Trump. So I’ve got to tell you, Big Luther is making a big difference in Washington, DC, and he’s just getting started.”
President Donald Trump, during a rally for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange.
Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images
Big Luther was a big loss for President Donald Trump and the Republican establishment.
Now they must prepare themselves for the outcome they spent so much time, so much money, and so many tweets trying to avoid: right-wing firebrand Roy Moore in the US Senate — and hope for other insurgent candidates looking to unseat GOP incumbents.
Moore beat Luther Strange, the interim Alabama senator favored by Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and other DC insiders, in Tuesday’s closely watched GOP primary runoff. McConnell and his allies together put more than $15 million on the race, based on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. And Trump surprised many by endorsing party-man Strange and then, despite polling that showed Moore headed for victory, flying to the state last week to headline a campaign rally.
Sitting senators don’t often lose primaries, especially when the president is for them. It happened in 2010, when Sen. Arlen Specter, a converted Republican, lost the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania despite then-President Obama’s support.
Strange whose 6-foot-9 frame earned him the nickname Big Luther, gathered with his supporters in the tiny lobby and bar area of a boutique hotel in Homewood. Guests were slow to trickle in, perhaps aware of the disappointing night that awaited. The Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned super PAC that invested heavily in Strange, conceded the race roughly 70 minutes after polls closed.
"While we were honored to have fought hard for Big Luther, Judge Roy Moore won this nomination fair and square and he has our support, as it is vital that we keep this seat in Republican hands," SLF President and CEO Steven Law said in an emailed statement.
Moore, who celebrated in Montgomery, will face Doug Jones, a former US attorney, in the December special election. Alabama is a deeply Republican state, but some in the party fear Moore, given his controversial background, will make that contest more competitive than it should be.
Moore’s win has deeper consequences for Trump, McConnell, and the Republican Party. Other outsiders, seeing that a Trump-McConnell alliance is beatable, could feel even more emboldened to take on incumbents in the 2018 midterms. Trump, who loves to please his base and hates to lose, might be reluctant the next time he’s asked to save an endangered sitting Republican. At the very least, they have lost a reliable vote at a time when passing major legislation has proved a major challenge with a slim majority in the Senate.
Though Moore cast himself as the candidate most attuned to Trumpism, he really is a wild card. He twice was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for defying legal rulings. His extreme views on gay rights and other polarizing cultural issues could make life uncomfortable for future Republican colleagues.
"Roy Moore's not conventional. He's Roy Moore,” said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who backed Strange. “He’s unique.”
Shelby said, before polls closed, that while he believed Moore would win in December, he believed Strange would have an easier time of it — and raised the issue of Moore’s potential unpredictability when it comes to passing the party’s agenda. “He would add into four or five [senators] that we already have here challenging everything.”
(One Republican operative who has worked on Senate races dismissed the worries about Moore. “A Republican vote is a Republican vote,” the operative told BuzzFeed News.)
But the predictability factor is, by many accounts, one reason why Trump was persuaded to campaign for Strange. He appreciated how Strange voted in lockstep with the White House agenda while never asking for special treatment in return. Trump also might have been looking for a way to mollify McConnell, with whom he had been feuding but whose support he needs.
Put another way: Trump became one with the GOP establishment he once railed against to great effect. Meanwhile, some of Trump’s most prominent populist allies (from Breitbart News executive and former White House strategist Steve Bannon to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin) backed Moore in a sort of surreal “We know what’s best for Trump” campaign.
“Trump corralled the angry masses for himself,” one national Republican strategist told BuzzFeed News as Moore’s victory became apparent Tuesday. “Other candidates, with or without the president’s endorsement, will also corral that mob for their needs.”
There is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster dynamic for Trump: The right-wing populist coalition he created a year ago was nontransferable to Strange. At Trump’s rally last week in Huntsville, several attendees professed themselves as likely Moore voters. One person in the crowd held a Moore sign as Trump spoke.
When Trump ticked through his applause lines — Rocket Man, Build the Wall, Make America Great Again — the arena erupted. But when he mentioned Strange, or urged attendees to turn out for him Tuesday, the applause was noticeably less loud, as though many people who had been wildly cheering for Trump moments before had opted to sit that one out.
The night before in Montgomery, at a debate watch party and rally headlined by Palin and former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, Moore’s supporters were polite in their disagreement with the president. Chu Green, wearing a “Make America Great Again” visor festooned with Roy Moore stickers, told BuzzFeed News she had driven 170 miles from Mobile to sit in the front row with her sign, which read: "Mr. President and Mr. V.P., I love you but you are wrong. America needs Judge Moore.”
“Truly from my heart, I do love Mr. Trump,” Green said. “I like Mr. Trump very much, I voted for him, and I cannot tell you how proud I've been of Mr. Trump. But I think he’s wrong this time. I think he got the wrong information about Judge Moore.”
Another Moore supporter, Bill Taylor, dressed in biker gear and standing with several other bikers, some wearing Bikers for Trump vests, said he admired Moore for having qualities similar to Trump’s. "He's got a set of balls on him," Taylor said.
Moore or Trump?
"Both of them do," Taylor replied.
Trump recognized he risk he was taking. At his event for Strange, he even acknowledged that he might have made a mistake and pledged he would be "campaigning like hell" for Moore if he advanced from the runoff.
How these factions of the GOP align — or not — will likely be determined in a number of Republican primaries in 2018, when efforts to protect a slew of incumbents from challenges could result in a costly Republican Civil War.
“When you send Judge Moore to DC, he’s going to be an inspiration for the rest of the country, for other candidates across the country to rise up and take on their own swamp creatures in their own states,” Palin promised at the Moore rally Thursday.
For Tuesday’s contest, the majority of the spending in the race came from the McConnell-aligned SLF, which spent about $8 million. GOP heavyweights who gave to the group this year include Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, hedge fund manager Paul Singer, and Ultimate Fighting Championship CEO Lorenzo Fertitta.
Strange's own campaign spent $4.7 million and received additional help from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Rifle Association and a pro-Trump nonprofit America First Policies.
By comparison, Moore's campaign and allied groups spent only $2.3 million. Although a number of grassroots conservative and pro-Trump groups backed Moore, they didn't actually spend that much on him, pitching in a few thousand each.
The local dynamics surely favored Moore, a well-known figure with a strong base of support, over Strange, who was was appointed by a scandal-plagued governor who was weeks away from resigning under pressure.
Moore's win — despite being outspent significantly — could push other anti-establishment candidates to mount campaigns against well-funded incumbents, forcing some major donors to be more careful about where they put their money.
"There will be this enthusiasm and energy [among insurgent candidates], but I don't think it will be justified," said a GOP strategist with ties to big donors, who also said involvement from major donors and outside groups to protect incumbents will be more race-specific.
Donors won't necessarily continue to pump millions to protect all incumbents, the ally said, especially since that didn't work with Strange. "I don't know how anyone looks at it and says, ‘We needed more money.’"
Brian Baker, who leads Ending Spending Action Fund, a group funded by the Chicago Cubs owner, Joe Ricketts, also said the Moore win might not translate to a neat establishment GOP vs. grassroots GOP narrative this time. "It's too soon to say. With a Roy Moore win, does that mean Danny Tarkanian has more of a shot in Nevada? It might be more specific to the state," Baker said.
Tarkanian is taking on Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. Arizona Sen. Flake is already facing Kelli Ward and potentially more GOP primary challengers. Chris McDaniel, who ran against Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran in 2014, has hinted running again against Sen. Roger Wicker. Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker's retirement announcement Tuesday will likely also spur a battle between the GOP establishment and insurgent candidates in the primary for that open seat. At the very least, it could promise expensive primaries in a year when Democrats face an extremely difficult map.
The political network affiliated with billionaires Charles and David Koch has also been ramping up ahead of the 2018 election, but it's not yet committing to jumping into any primaries on behalf of challengers or incumbents. A lack of involvement, or withholding millions in ad spending for an incumbent facing primary challengers, could have a big effect.
James Davis, a spokesman for the network, said the group would make its decision based on the who the candidates end up being and where they fall on the issues the network prioritizes. If they see an opportunity to influence the race, they "will consider engaging."
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate and a former chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, shrugged off the idea that McConnell, even with an embarrassing loss in Alabama, might be a drag on Republicans in 2018.
"Being the spear catcher for the conference is part of the responsibility of being in leadership,” Cornyn told reporters Tuesday. “And Sen. McConnell, as he likes to point out, is a big boy. And he can take it.”
US Rep. Jim Renacci (center).
Matt Sullivan / Getty Images
The air campaign in Ohio's Republican primary for governor has begun. And it’s beginning on a combative note.
US Rep. Jim Renacci, who is positioning himself as a political outsider in the mold of Donald Trump, launched a six-figure ad buy Thursday with “Columbus Fat Cats.” The 30-second spot — the first from any candidate in the race — cartoonishly characterizes his three GOP rivals as state capital lifers.
“Meow,” a narrator begins as three cat-costumed actors, representing state Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, appear on screen. “They’re still lying around: the Columbus fat cats running for governor.”
There may be no better time to run as a Trump-friendly, anti-establishment candidate in a GOP primary. Roy Moore, a right-wing populist with a Trumpian flair, won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama this week by beating an appointed incumbent. That Trump backed the incumbent didn't much matter to voters. And the results there are likely to inspire similar insurgent primary challenges in next year's midterms, with or without Trump’s blessing.
The Renacci ad goes on to accuse his rivals of various conservative apostasies, such as siding with term-limited Gov. John Kasich on Obamacare. (Kasich expanded Medicaid under the program. Taylor, whom he endorsed, recently pledged to end expansion, while the others have been been careful in how they address the issue.) The narrator also calls the trio “scaredy cats” for not pushing for right-to-work legislation.
Renacci then appears on screen. “Hold it,” he says. “We deserve a change in Ohio. I’m Jim Renacci. I’m a businessman, not a career politician. … It’s time to clean out the fat cats and their litter box.”
A spokesperson for Renacci told BuzzFeed News that the initial statewide ad buy, focused on cable and digital, will cost more than $300,000.
Renacci would welcome Trump’s support. His "Ohio First" slogan is an obvious riff on Trump's "America First" message. And former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has helped Renacci raise money.
A wealthy former car dealer and Arena Football League franchise owner, Renacci is not a total outsider. He's a four-term congressman and a former mayor. But striking first on TV might be a necessity for him. Polls have shown Renacci is the least known of the four GOP gubernatorial hopefuls. And though Renacci is the first candidate on TV, a super PAC supporting Husted aired ads earlier this month.
DeWine, a fixture on Ohio's political scene, is seen as the early Republican front-runner, with Husted, Renacci, and Taylor all competing to establish themselves as the clear alternative.
Brian Spurlock / USA Today Sports
A group representing the mothers of NFL players directed an open letter to President Trump on Thursday, as the tense fallout over his remarks about the NFL continues.
The Professional Football Players Mothers Association (PFPMA) — whose self-stated purpose "is to be a support system for the mothers of professional football players and to serve, support, educate and strengthen our communities through charitable giving" — responded to Trump's comments during a rally that it'd be great to see an NFL owner say of a protesting athlete, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now."
In a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News, the PFPMA defended players, saying the group felt personally targeted by Trump's attacks, which have continued in the days since the rally.
"[We] believe in promoting a positive image of professional football players as athletes and young men of character," the letter reads. "It saddens the organization to know that President Donald Trump would make our sons — as well as their mothers — the target of inflammatory, offensive comments that are intended to promote anger and hatred, depleting them of their heritage and self-identity."
Since Trump's comments, scores of players have knelt, while others locked arms. Meanwhile, Trump has continued his campaign, calling on owners and the NFL to demand players stand and show respect for the anthem, attacking those who protest, and also attacking individual athletes in other sports as well.
The mothers group said their sons serve their communities to better the country, and joined a chorus of advocates who assert the protests are not meant to convey disrespect for either the American flag or the national anthem.
"Whether it be by kneeling or standing with their arms locked, our sons have chosen this platform to get the message out about social justice and unity, and they will always have our support," the letter reads. "Now that we obviously have your attention, let’s put a stop to the divisive language and start a productive dialogue for positive change."
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Michele Green, the president of the PFPMA and the mother of former NFL offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, said she was appalled at Trump's comments and knew she wanted to respond as a group of mothers in part because the remarks amounted to bullying. Green said they want to communicate to Trump that hate "just won't do."
They also felt personally attacked.
"We know our self-worth as mothers," Green told BuzzFeed News. "We're not what he said we were."
A National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that the NFLPA worked in tandem with the mothers' group over concern about Trump's rhetoric in the effort to defend their sons.
The mothers' group thanked the entire NFL community and its fans "for standing with our sons to affect change in America."
"We know the hearts of our sons and therefore, we know that they will continue to present themselves in a positive image that exemplifies professional sportsmanlike behavior, high moral values, and good character," the letter reads.
The letter also quotes scripture, from Proverbs: "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble."