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Alabama Republicans Will Pick Between Roy Moore And Luther Strange In Senate Runoff


Sen. Luther Strange and Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this year.

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who have feuded over the failure to pass a health care bill, were a united front in Tuesday’s special election in Alabama.

Both want appointed incumbent Luther Strange to keep Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old Senate seat. And their efforts helped Strange secure second place and emerge from a nine-candidate primary.

But Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was poised to finish first — short of the 50% threshold he would have needed to head straight to the December general election. Moore and Strange now will compete one-on-one in a September runoff.

Going into Tuesday, the suspense centered on whether Strange could clinch the second spot — polls showed Moore in the lead, but below 50% — despite the presence of a third prominent candidate: Rep. Mo Brooks.

On the Democratic side, former US attorney Doug Jones won his party's nomination outright after leading a seven-candidate field.

For all the talk this year of House races in Kansas, Montana, and Georgia being referendums on Trump — Trump-backed candidates won all three — the Alabama race is a test of something different: Can a political marriage of convenience between Trump’s anti-establishment brand and McConnell’s insider brand ultimately produce a winner?

A super PAC aligned with McConnell has spent about $4 million to boost Strange. Trump joined the fray in the closing days, tweeting out his surprise endorsement of Strange last week — some expected he would stay neutral — and taping a Monday robocall. A Trump-approved super PAC also has chipped in with a $200,000 digital advertising push.

“Senator Strange has already proven himself to be the best possible candidate in this race to stand beside our President and make America great again,” Erin Montgomery, a spokesperson for America First Action, said in an email announcing the pro-Trump group’s support.

Moore and others discounted the significance of Trump’s endorsement. "I think the people are not voting for President Trump," Moore said last week while campaigning in Montgomery, according to AL.com. "They're voting for his agenda, which I firmly believe in.”

Moore has a controversial history nationally: He was suspended from Alabama’s state Supreme Court after he issued guidance to probate judges in the state to ignore federal court rulings on same-sex couples’ marriage rights. That was actually the second time he was relieved of duty on the state Supreme Court; about a decade before, he was removed after a federal standoff over a monument to the Ten Commandments. His defiance in both cases has earned him admiration on the right. He recently announced endorsements from more than 50 religious leaders.

Alabama is one of the minority of states in which Trump’s approval rating is above 50% — and he remains immensely popular among Republican voters who will decide the Senate race.

Strange’s allies, laser-focused on Brooks, attempted to paint the congressman as anti-Trump and pro-Nancy Pelosi, despite Brooks’s embrace of the president’s agenda. The McConnell forces dredged up remarks Brooks made during last year’s primaries, in which he referred to Trump as a “serial adulterer.”

Brooks also was criticized for airing a TV ad that featured audio of gunshots fired at a baseball practice for congressional Republicans in June. Brooks was on the field at the time of the shooting, which critically injured Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican. The ad reaffirmed Brooks’s support for the Second Amendment, even after the attack.

“This makes my stomach turn,” Scalise’s chief of staff tweeted after seeing the spot.

Strange, Alabama’s former attorney general, eventually could pay for his ties to Robert Bentley, the former governor chased from office by scandal and threats of impeachment earlier this year. Critics have questioned Strange’s handling of an investigation into Bentley’s conduct, and linked it to Bentley’s eventual appointment of Strange to the Senate seat Sessions vacated when Trump tapped him to lead the Justice Department.

"I asked the team I put together to follow the truth wherever it led,” Strange told the Associated Press this month. “They did. So the governor resigned.”

Other Republicans who competed in the Tuesday primary include state Sen. Trip Pittman; Randy Brinson, head of the Christian Coalition of Alabama; and lesser-known candidates James Beretta, Joseph Breault, Bryan Peeples, and Mary Maxwell.

The GOP runoff will be Sept. 26, with a general election between the Republican nominee and Jones scheduled for Dec. 12. Given Alabama’s deep-red Republican status, the GOP nominee will be heavily favored.

In another special election contest Tuesday, John Curtis won the Republican nomination to fill the seat vacated by retired Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Curtis, the current mayor of Provo and a former Democrat, faced an onslaught of attacks from his two GOP rivals, who attempted to cast him as insufficiently conservative, but managed to maintain an early lead in a race that has largely stayed off the national radar. The result makes him the overwhelming favorite to replace Chaffetz, in a district where Republicans outnumber Democrats 5-to-1.

He now goes on to face Democratic nominee Kathryn Allen, as well as several third-party candidates, in November’s special election.

Jim Dalrymple II contributed reporting to this story

A California Sheriff's Office Says It Was An Accident They Retweeted Richard Spencer


@ACSOSheriffs / Twitter / Via Twitter: @ACSOSheriffs

As the fallout from this weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that left three dead led to anti-racism protests and rallies across the country, a retweet of white nationalist Richard Spencer on Monday night led to questions about what exactly was going on at the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.

The person responsible told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday that the move was an accident resulting from the department's attempts to prepare for a white nationalist rally scheduled to take place in the county at Berkeley on Aug. 27.

"We absolutely oppose bigotry and hate speech. I do not support it in any way," Alameda County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ray Kelly told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday, noting that the department "does not condone" discrimination of any type.

"It was an honest mistake," Kelly said of the retweet. "I am sorry that it happened."

@ACSOSheriffs / Twitter / Via Twitter: @ACSOSheriffs

"We are preparing for the upcoming rally at the university," Kelly said. The county has dealt with several rallies over the last year, including the April 15 rally at Berkeley that involved violence between the alt-right and antifa.

"Given the recent events in Charlottesville … our media people, myself included" have been examining social media, he said, and trying to understand better what is being planned.

"My job is to stay current on what’s being said," Kelly said. "When we know what people are saying; we know what to expect."

@ACSOSheriffs / Twitter / Via Twitter: @ACSOSheriffs

He said that's why the Alameda County Sheriff's Office account began following "Based Stickman," the account of Kyle Chapman, an alt-right figure allegedly involved in violence at prior Berkeley protests who has supported efforts to militarize elements of the alt-right.

@BasedStickman_ / Twitter / Via Twitter: @BasedStickman_

"We were going to follow them briefly to keep up with what they were saying," Kelly said. After criticism, he said the office decided to use other methods to handle tracking.

As to the Spencer retweet specifically, Kelly said, "Yesterday, we were looking at Richard Spencer’s account … it led to a Periscope press conference." In trying to close the video, he accidentally retweeted it to the sheriff's office account. "It was not a two-step. It was just a one-step retweet."

(While an ordinary retweet takes two steps, Kelly is correct that if the video in Spencer's tweet was open on the Twitter application, touching the retweet button below it automatically sends the retweet to the person's own account without a second confirmation step necessary.)

Once he was told what had happened and was able to figure out how to undo it, Kelly said he took the retweet down. It took more than a half-hour for the account to remove the retweet — with one tweeted reply addressing the issue in the meantime.

@ACSOSheriffs / Twitter / Via Twitter: @ACSOSheriffs

Acknowledging that others may have handled the situation better, Kelly said, "I am not so savvy."

Liberal Groups Said They Wanted Three White House Advisers Fired — But Then Only Named Two


Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

As progressives and liberals decide where to direct their attention in the nonstop news cycle that is the Trump era, civil rights groups have focused on two people: Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.

Initially, leaders from the civil rights groups also included Stephen Miller with the other two in a news release — but, oddly, he was not included after that.

Early Sunday afternoon, in the midst of white supremacist protests in Charlottesville that sparked counterprotests and violence, some top liberal and progressive advocacy groups announced a call urging action from President Trump.

The news advisory about the call — sent out at least by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund — made clear the groups would be calling on "Trump to fire White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, White House Deputy Assistant Sebastian Gorka and White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller."

When the call took place about two hours later, however, the aim had been reduced by one name.

"President Trump should remove Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who have stoked hate and division, from his administration," the head of the Leadership Conference, Vanita Gupta, said.

"Firing Mr. Bannon and Mr. Gorka would be a sign that he’s serious about changing direction," said Richard Cohen, the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Discussing white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, Muslim Advocates' Farhana Khera said, "He must rid his administration of those who give comfort and support to these groups. Specifically, I’m talking about Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka."

None of the advocates who spoke even mentioned Miller's name in their statements made during the call.

In the past, liberals and others have pointed to Bannon's work as the head of Breitbart, and his statement that the site is a "platform" for the alt-right, and to reports that Gorka belonged to Historical Vitézi Rend, a far-right Hungarian group that had ties to the Nazi party and a complicated history. Gorka has denied he belonged to the group and denied holding anti-Semitic beliefs.

A petition launched by the Leadership Conference in the aftermath of the call similarly only named Bannon and Gorka.

Via petitions.moveon.org

The same focus appears to be coming from liberals in Congress as well.

On Wednesday, BuzzFeed News reported that a planned censure resolution being introduced by Democrats would include censure for, according to the resolution, "employing people with ties to white supremacist movements in the White House, such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka."

Asked about why Miller's name was included in the news advisory but not the call, a Leadership Conference spokesperson initially provided a statement condemning all three men — but drawing a distinction between Bannon and Gorka, and Miller's policy work.

"The Leadership Conference strongly believes that supporters of white supremacy and white nationalism, including the so-called ‘Alt right’, violent extremism, racial bigotry, and neo-Nazism should not serve in the White House or at any level of government. That includes people like Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who have clear ties to organizations that promote hate, and Stephen Miller, an architect of policies like the Muslim ban and the curb on legal immigration that stoke hate and division," according to the statement.

Asked for further clarification, the spokesperson acknowledged that the call on Sunday focused on Gorka and Bannon, but still maintained that the group continues to oppose Miller's continued employment in the White House: "The Leadership Conference urges the president to fire Stephen Miller, who creates and pushes policies that seek to divide us, like the Muslim ban and the latest anti-immigrant policies."

As to the censure resolution, a spokesperson for one of the leaders of the effort, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, said the language wasn't limited to them, in effect, and called Bannon and Gorka just "the most obvious" names.

Donald Trump Just Raised Expectations That He’ll Campaign Against Jeff Flake


President Donald Trump

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Expectations are now sky-high that President Donald Trump will endorse a Republican primary challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona — perhaps as soon as next week.

The buzz has been out there for months: Flake has been one of Trump’s most persistent critics in the GOP, and the White House political team has spoken with potential rivals.

The buzz grew this week, when Trump announced plans for an Aug. 22 campaign rally in Phoenix. And it will grow even more after a Thursday morning Twitter missive in which Trump encouraged the candidacy of Kelli Ward, who for now is Flake’s only declared opponent.

“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate,” Trump tapped out to his followers. “He's toxic!”

Flake has been unabashed in his criticism of Trump. His recently published book, Conscience of a Conservative, is a scathing repudiation of the president’s brand of Republican politics.

Asked for a response to Trump’s tweet, Flake spokesperson Will Allison replied: "You don't serve Arizona by cutting backroom deals in Washington, D.C. That's why Senator Flake will always fight for the people of our state.”

And the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which backs incumbents, responded with a strong statement of support for Flake: "The NRSC unequivocally supports Senator Flake in his reelection bid," said the group's chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.

Republican sources have told BuzzFeed News that the White House is showing increased interest in the race. But Arizona operatives aren’t sold on Ward. Her failed primary challenge last year against Sen. John McCain is not fondly remembered — and she since upset party leaders by raising doubts about McCain’s prospects for recovery after a recently diagnosed brain tumor. (She also suggested she should succeed McCain if he can’t finish his term.)

There are at least two other GOP prospects being mentioned as alternatives: State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, and former Arizona Republican Party chairman Robert Graham.

The Washington Times, citing unidentified sources, reported on Wednesday that Trump was leaning toward declaring his support for DeWit at next week’s rally. A spokesperson for DeWit, who had a national role in Trump’s campaign last year, would not comment on the record but pointed BuzzFeed News to Phoenix-area reports in which DeWit called the Times story “fake news.”

Other sources who spoke to BuzzFeed News before Thursday’s tweet were skeptical that Trump would issue an endorsement next week, though they also noted that the president is known for doing the unexpected. (An endorsement of DeWit or Graham before either has a campaign infrastructure ready to handle donations or respond to inquiries would be unusual, too.)

There’s also the Mercer factor: GOP mega-donor Robert Mercer, a major Trump backer, recently donated $300,000 to Ward’s super PAC. And Eric Beach, the founder of a pro-Trump super PAC, is advising Ward’s campaign.

The Times story reported that Trump had soured on Ward — a notion that Ward emphatically denied to BuzzFeed News. “Our private discussions with the White House have been extremely positive and any report that say otherwise is utterly false, or fake news,” she said in an emailed statement on Wednesday. “I will defeat Senator Flake next year and make sure the president has a conservative ally from Arizona who is committed to moving his America First agenda forward.”

Graham has not returned telephone calls seeking comment. Arizona-watchers believe DeWit, Graham, or any other potential primary challenger will be hesitant to jump into the race if Ward remains a candidate. Trump’s tweet, combined with Mercer money, is hardly discouraging for Ward, and could make the primary less appealing for other prospects.

Alexis Levinson contributed reporting.

Steve Bannon's Fantasy, Donald Trump's Reality


Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Perhaps the only surprising thing about Steve Bannon’s self-immolation is who he handed the match to: a bearded liberal editor he’d never met named Robert Kuttner.

But Kuttner isn’t just a generic liberal Washington editor — liberals come in various stripes — he’s a leading figure of the labor left, an enemy of Bannon’s neoliberal enemies, and a voice of what’s long been a losing stream of Democratic policy: the Bernie-Warren-Brown camp, the ones who believe that the harm trade has done American workers outweighs the growth that cheap Chinese labor has given the American economy.

Bannon called Kuttner as part of what Kuttner paraphrased as a strategy “to battle the trade doves inside the administration while building an outside coalition of trade hawks that includes left as well as right.”

Bannon, who talks to people you wouldn’t expect him to talk to all the time, isn’t on some quixotic mission to make new friends. He’s playing for — or at least fantasizing about — a major realignment of American politics. He’s been saying the same thing for years to anyone who will listen: that trade and manufacturing are the core issues for working Americans, who also want their sons and daughters back from foreign wars; and that a president who can deliver that will “get 60% of the white vote, and 40% of the black and Hispanic vote and we'll govern for 50 years,” as he told Michael Wolff in the heady days of mid-November.

If you squinted at Trump, as Bannon — who only joined the campaign a year ago — seems to have been doing, you could see him as that candidate. He had been popular, once, with working people of all races. His views on trade, industry, and foreign policy roughly aligned with that new coalition. His own exploitative business and deference to the prerogatives of wealth didn’t, but, well, that’s why you had to squint.

This dream of realignment helps explain Trump’s total inability to work with Congress. In that model, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are the sworn enemies of most of his agenda; Senate leftists like Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown are his likeliest friends. Trump was, Bannon believed, going to reshape congressional politics to his will. "It's everything related to jobs. The conservatives are going to go crazy. I'm the guy pushing a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. With negative interest rates throughout the world, it's the greatest opportunity to rebuild everything. Shipyards, ironworks, get them all jacked up. We're just going to throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks.”

“It will be as exciting as the 1930s,” Bannon said.

Well, everyone is talking about the 1930s these days. But they’re not talking about the New Deal. They’re talking about the last time American Nazis felt ascendant. And Bannon has become just the latest American political figure to dream of a class-based politics, and then to founder on the thing that really makes American politics exceptional: its deep racial divisions. Virtually every other industrialized nation developed that politics of class, represented by a powerful Labo(u)r or Socialist party.

Bannon’s rhetoric, if you listen to it right, sounds at times like the Democrats’ European-style dream. The labor wing of the Democratic Party has always sought — with mixed success — to create those cross-racial coalitions. I heard a particularly blunt version of this in West Virginia in 2008: "I'd rather have a black friend than a white enemy," the legendary United Mine Workers president Cecil Roberts said as part of the Democrats’ failed pitch for Barack Obama in the state.

Non-presidents like John Kerry and Walter Mondale and their old-line union allies talk less bluntly. Indeed, through the years the words at AFL-CIO rallies grew halfhearted and wooden — about uniting working people across racial lines, around their shared interests. The modern Republican Party is shaped in part by Richard Nixon’s almost effortless response to that goal, a “Southern Strategy” that appealed to the racial, rather than class, resentment of whites. And before the center-left of the second half of the 20th century looked to elevate class over race, the Communists gave it their best shot, emerging in the 1930s Popular Front era as key civil rights allies — which helped doom their appeal to white workers.

Trump showed, arguably, a flicker of this appeal in his election. He did better last November with Latino voters than most observers suspected he would, and his presence on the ballot didn’t drive black turnout the way the Clinton campaign had hoped. His appeal to them was the same as to white workers: Competition with new immigrants is lowering wages; he’d put America back to work.

But Trump grew up in a New York politics in which class was a sideline, race always the main game. He may have blustered about China here and there, but his formative political gambit was a breathtakingly cynical campaign to execute five black boys falsely accused of raping a white woman, the most archetypal race-baiting America can offer. That’s To Kill a Mockingbird, not The Jungle.

Bannon has a bizarre dual role as Trump’s ideologist: He’s the guy selling a new cross-racial coalition; and he’s the chief arsonist of that coalition, using racism as a kind of cultural token for anti-elite politics. The congressional coalition he imagines, in which Democrats cross the aisle to join Trump under the red flag of socialism, is now laughable. Trump has lost Ryan and McConnell without gaining Schumer and Pelosi. And the notion, after Charlottesville, of a cross-racial coalition requires imagining a president so deeply and dexterously committed to reconciliation that you are imagining a different human being.

Bannon likes to excuse Breitbart’s race-baiting as a kind of footnote — white supremacists are “a collection of clowns,” and the issues of race seem to him to be less about their actual substance than about how he can piss off progressives.

Kuttner left his conversation with Bannon wondering about this particular point. “More puzzling is the fact that Bannon would phone a writer and editor of a progressive publication … and assume that a possible convergence of views on China trade might somehow paper over the political and moral chasm on white nationalism,” he said. Bannon might be forgiven by being puzzled that liberals who spent their careers fighting the class war would let a little thing like white nationalism get in their way.

But this is where class-based movements in American politics have always washed up. For race has trumped class. And what Bannon used to talk about as a strategy can probably better be seen now as the excuse, explanation, or diagnosis for a presidency that’s failing.

Arkansas Paid Cash To Secure New Supply Of Execution Drug, Seeks New Execution Date


Jack Gordon Greene

via Arkansas Department of Correction

Arkansas has obtained a new supply of a key execution drug and officials are preparing to use it in the near future.

The state, which tried to carry out eight executions in April before a key execution drug expired, succeeded in carrying out four of those death sentences. Others were halted by state and federal courts.

On Thursday, though, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked the state's governor, Asa Hutchinson, to set an execution date for Jack Gordon Greene.

"We've received the letter from the Attorney General's office," Hutchinson spokesperson JR Davis told BuzzFeed News. "The Governor will set a date, but there is no specific timeline."

Greene is on death row as a result of the 1991 murders of his brother and a retired preacher, whose home he had gone to in the aftermath of the first killing. He received a life sentence for the killing of his brother, but a death sentence for killing the preacher, Sidney Jethro Burnett.

"The ADC acquired a supply of Midazolam on August 4, 2017. Once the Governor issues a warrant, the ADC will be prepared to carry out the sentence," Solomon Graves, a spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Correction, told BuzzFeed News.

via Arkansas Department of Correction

According to documents provided to Greene's lawyer, the director of the Department of Correction, Wendy Kelley, paid $250 cash for the new supply of midazolam at 5:40 p.m. Aug. 4.

via Arkansas Department of Correction

A week later, Kelley submitted a "miscellaneous expense reimbursement form" to recoup the expense.

via Arkansas Department of Correction

Greene's lawyer criticized the state's move in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News.

"Today the Attorney General has requested an execution date for a severely mentally ill man. Jack Greene has well-documented brain damage and mental illness," John C. Williams, assistant federal defender, said in the statement. "Capital punishment should not be used on vulnerable people like the severely mentally ill. We hope Governor Hutchinson will refrain from setting an execution date for Mr. Greene since he is not competent for execution."

Before the last set of attempted executions, Kelley drove to obtain a supply of potassium chloride, one of the other drugs used in the state's protocol.

Stacey Abrams Wants To Be The First Black Woman Governor. But First She Has To Win The Nomination.


Former House Minority Leader for the Georgia General Assembly Stacey Abrams in her office in Atlanta in 2016.

Melissa Golden / Melissa Golden/Redux

On a recent sleepy afternoon inside the Georgia State Capitol, Stacey Abrams was wearing a meticulous twist-out and standing near the well of the house. She was speaking to 35 black students, mostly teenagers.

The 43-year-old legislator had the students participate in a mock debate over a bill she named “HB1,” which proposed to outlaw peanut butter from school grounds. Abrams slow-walked through the particulars of the bill, halting when floor procedure was broken. (A complicated sequence confused one of the young students, and Abrams leaned her six-foot frame leaning down to tell her not to worry. “You've got people who have been here for four years who still don't understand that.”) The “bill” was killed on the floor and the kids applauded.

“OK, questions,” she said. No, she doesn’t have kids. She likes reading and pasta, yes. Has she passed any bills? Abrams slipped into a version of her stump speech, and when she got to “and now I'm running for governor of Georgia” they cheered louder than when the peanut butter bill died. Pleased, her smile was visible for a moment.

Someone asked who she was running against. Abrams pointed to a spot elsewhere in the chamber: “She sits right there.”

A mere 11 black women have been independently elected to statewide executive office in the history of the United States — Abrams wants to be the 12th. In recent years, Georgia has become a state perpetually on the verge of theoretically turning blue on the strength of the state’s influx of affluent, diverse, and college-educated voters. If Republicans continue to win in Midwestern states like Wisconsin and Michigan, Democrats will need to reliably win states like North Carolina and Arizona to stay competitive. Under this vision for Georgia, Abrams seems like a potentially strong candidate: National progressives like her but she has an ability to work with state Republicans (until she stepped aside a few weeks ago to run for governor, she was the minority leader of the Georgia Assembly, a body dominated by Republicans), along with a vision for the state and a history of helping register hundreds of thousands of minority voters.

Her colleague and challenger for the nomination, Stacey Evans — the pair share the same first name in a parable-like twist about the short-term direction of Democratic politics — represents a slightly different vision for the party’s future. Evans, who is white, is less experienced than Abrams. But a powerful rendering of her life story got the attention of prominent Democrats, and decisively shifted the trajectory of the primary, once considered Abrams’s to lose. Titled “16 Homes,” the ad features Georgia-born Evans sitting alone and explaining that she'd grown up poor, and once experienced the trauma of watching her mother be physically abused. Her life changed when she received the state’s HOPE scholarship, and now, she explains, she simply wants to make her story possible in Georgia again. The Democratic strategist Paul Begala watched, then tweeted, “This. This. This. This is why I'm a Democrat.”

The race between the Staceys comes at a tense time for the party. After an unexpectedly raw presidential primary and Hillary Clinton’s stunning defeat, Democrats are still sorting out the party’s ideological and organizational direction, on everything from whether supporting abortion rights should be a candidate requirement to whether white-working-class voters or suburbanites should be targeted. The Georgia primary is a microcosm of that existential crisis, bringing delicate but explosive questions about race and party politics to the fore. What kinds of candidates should the party favor? What kinds of voters should they seek? Abrams is banking on an outpouring of black voters inspired by the possibility of making history, and Evans on the prospect of peeling off moderate, and some conservative, whites. How, exactly, should Democrats in Georgia be trying to win statewide elections?

“We’re a black party, that’s kind of the deal. But you don’t put [Ossoff’s] number up without white folks voting for you.”

The primary is already causing anxiety in the party at places like Manuel’s Tavern, a Democratic watering hole where it’s considered impolite not to go drink-for-drink, and the conversation often goes back to old campaigns. (One recent afternoon, Jon Ossoff, the young candidate who lost a close special election in the state’s sixth congressional district, ambled in and had a few with Evans’ campaign chairman.) Lots of these Georgia-based Democrats still long to reach white voters that abandoned them. Georgia last went blue in a presidential election in 1992, when southerner Bill Clinton ran the first time (but not the second); the state’s last Democratic governor, Roy Barnes, left office 14 years ago.

“I think there's a debate about Democratic base turnout versus persuasion, but that's a false debate because we have to do both,” said Jeff DiSantis, one of the state’s top Democratic strategists. “I don't see how you [win] without both increasing the Democratic base turnout and winning over some people that we’ve lost over that last few decades.”

At Manuel’s, people are quick to note the silver lining in Ossoff’s loss: He swung the Republican-leaning district by 20 points, months after Hillary Clinton improved on Barack Obama’s performance there by double digits. “We’re a black party, that’s kind of the deal,” one strategist who asked not to be named so he could speak freely told BuzzFeed News. “But you don’t put [Ossoff’s] number up without white folks voting for you.”

Some in the white liberal political class here worry about something they would never say publicly: If Abrams wins the nomination, they think she’s going to lose some of the 23% to 25% (Democrats vary on this number) of white voters who vote Democrat every election. National progressives watching the state argue that number isn’t going to budge — and that Abrams could improve on previous Democrats’ performance with especially black voters, but also Latino and Asian voters. After all: Georgia is one of the most diverse states in the country: Statewide, nearly 45% of Georgians are people of color, and the states’ 1.5 million black people make up a third of the total population (and more than half of those people of color live in suburban or rural areas).

The fraught tensions around the primary, and the feelings among some black progressives that Democrats aren’t giving Abrams enough support, bubbled up last weekend at Netroots Nation convention. The event has become a landing place for protest; at Phoenix’s 2015 gathering, protesters famously interrupted and challenged appearances by Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, pressing the candidates on the recent death of a black woman, Sandra Bland, in prison following a routine traffic stop.

This year, in Atlanta, as Evans took to the lectern, protesters shouted “Trust black women” and “Support black women” as Evans attempted, unsuccessfully, to address the audience. The protesters distributed fliers comparing Evans to Betsy DeVos; they argued that Evans was moderate speaking at a progressive conference; and said that Evans’ views on education are harmful to black children. (A specific point of contention is that Evans has voted in support of charter schools and backed a plan that would have given the governor more power to make dramatic changes to troubled schools.)

Evans asked the protesters to let her talk, asking for a dialogue with anyone who would listen as they shouted her down. She eventually chose to power through her speech, and at one point even chanted back, “HOPE! HOPE! HOPE!”

Protesters disrupting a speech by Stacey Evans at the morning plenary session at the Netroots Nation annual conference.

Christopher Aluka Berry / Reuters

In response to a series of questions regarding the protest and whether the Abrams campaign supported the action or knew about it in advance, a spokesperson said, “The campaign received a call on Friday night from Netroots staff indicating that a protest against Evans might take place. Regarding participants, as we were not present, we know what was publicly reported.”

The Evans campaign declined to comment further, referring to remarks she made to the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the protesters deserved to heard, and so did she. In a series of tweets, Abrams defended the protest, saying her commitment to public education and opposing privatization “stands in stark contrast to all my opponents” without naming Evans. “My parents were civil rights protestors [sic], and taught me to lead peaceful demonstrations against apartheid, the Confederate flag, and in support of the LGBT community. I will not condemn peaceful protest. From what I observed from Savannah, activists in Atlanta peacefully protested this morning on the critical issue of preserving public education for every family in our state. The mantra of ‘trust black women’ is a historic endorsement of the value of bringing marginalized voices to the forefront, not a rebuke to my opponent's race.” On Aug. 14, she wrote on Facebook, "I will never engage in any form of campaigning designed to ostracize my opponents based on race."

“I don't look like what people expect. And that expectation often is transmuted into whether they think I can be successful.”

Meanwhile, Patrick Husbands, the vice president of the Young Democrats of Atlanta, said matters of race won’t matter, at least as much as everyone thinks. “In Georgia, they’re ready to have real people run for office,” he said. Husbands thinks it's a narrative being pushed by the national media — and members inside Abrams camp agree. “We’ll let the press do that,” said Marcus Ferrell, a former Bernie Sanders hand who drove his Jeep to Atlanta from Phoenix to help Abrams. “Building a new coalition is what excites us, and I think if you ask anyone on our campaign, if we execute the plan to the best of our ability it won’t matter what the press says.”

Even if everyone says they don’t want to talk about it, it’s clearly weighing on Democratic minds here in Georgia. And for her part, Abrams has thought a lot about the role race plays in chatter surrounding the primary. “I am always aware both internally and often externally that I don't look like what people expect,” she said in July. “And that expectation often is transmuted into whether they think I can be successful.”

Abrams urges people to vote during a visit to a Piccadilly Cafeteria at the Gallery at South DeKalb in Decatur, Ga., Oct. 26, 2016.

Kevin D. Liles / The New York Times

Over the last decade, the “rising star” label has been attached to Abrams possibly more than any other Democrat in American politics. In some ways, she’s emerged as progressives’ answer to, say, Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger: accomplished, charismatic, and possessing at a young age the quality of having A Future in politics, even if what that future in American politics should be wasn't quite clear.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, to parents who were then a library sciences student and a shipyard worker, Abrams grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi. She gets laughs when she says that her mother, Carolyn, called their family the “genteel poor” — “We had no money, but we had class. We watched PBS and read books.” Carolyn and Robert emphasized public service for their children.

Their daughter jokes she got tricked into going to Spelman by her mother, but was convinced to stay when she saw cute boys at Morehouse. Her career at Spelman, though, belies her drive: Either unable or unwilling to decide on a major, she became the school’s first ever interdisciplinary studies major in school history, all while clashing with the administration as student body president. She convinced the school’s president, Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, to sit in on one board meeting with CEOs and prominent alumni. “The person next to me just slid their materials over,” she said. Soon she was going all the time. They helped shape her understanding of how an enterprise needs funding. (Amid her political career, Abrams has also pursued business in consulting, finance, and bottled water — and is an accomplished novelist under the pen name Selena Montgomery.) She once barged into a meeting of the school’s board of directors. The University of Texas, a Truman Fellowship, and Yale Law School followed.

By 29, she was deputy city attorney for the city of Atlanta under then-mayor Shirley Franklin. When state Rep. JoAnn McClinton decided not to run past 2006, Abrams’ decided to jump in. She ran and won against a pair of opponents. “She was a little bit fearless,” Columbus Rep. Carolyn Hugley recalled, saying that Abrams cared little for deference to the House Speaker. “Everybody knows that it’s not a good idea to challenge the ruling of the chair even if you are correct, but she was all business.” Abrams quickly built a reputation of a legislator who worked harder than most.

Along the way, she also began playing in wider Georgia politics, something that may be causing her some real problems now: She endorsed a candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race then refused to change alliances when Barnes, the last Democratic governor, decided to run, too. She also backed a challenger to Kasim Reed, the Atlanta mayor who still holds a lot of sway in Georgia politics. (So angered was Reed at Abrams, one source said, that Abrams believed he was using his connections in Washington to keep her out of fundraising networks. Reed, who himself had designs on statewide office, views her as a rival, “and, accordingly, hates her,” a Georgia insider said. “Plus, she's not ‘of’ the Atlanta Black establishment, so they’re sniping and backbiting.” After asking BuzzFeed News about this story, Reed’s office did not return requests for an interview.)

“I am tired of being first. I want to be last.”

Regardless, Democrats elected Abrams to lead their caucus in 2011, and she does have support in the party in Georgia. John Lewis recently endorsed her, for instance — a big time endorsement. In general, though it’s been a tough time to be a Democrat. The party has been slaughtered in state elections — Republicans nearly hold a supermajority. Abrams, however, has made noise on both ends: trying to compromise to hold ground on priorities with Republicans, while leading efforts to protect voting rights through the courts and in registration efforts. Abrams was the chief architect and founder of a plan, the New Georgia Project, that registered thousands of the estimated 800,000 eligible voters of color who lived in Georgia but were not registered to vote.

These kinds of efforts, her role in the assembly, and her appeal have garnered national attention, the kind that can help a state politician become a national politician: The activist Ben Jealous, a notorious networker who is running for governor of Maryland, asked the Democratic activist and donor Steve Phillips to meet with Abrams about four years ago. “It was clear to me that she had the most detailed and sophisticated understanding of her state’s politics and how to win in her state than anyone I’ve ever met in any other part of the country,” said Phillips, who is among the national progressives helping Abrams. “The level of depth and strategic sophistication was a higher level than you find for people in politics.” EMILY’s List — the fundraising group that aims to elect pro-choice women — awarded her the first Gabby Giffords Rising Star Award in 2014. During her acceptance speech, Abrams posited that acquiring power means that you can be the “last” woman to deal with a laundry list of political, sexist, or racist shit. “I am tired of being first. I want to be last,” she said. “We will populate the heavens and we will all become last! And the first to say thank you.” (In July, Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List said that Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi had all spoken that night but all that anyone remembers or talks about is Abrams. “She stole the night.”)

And now she’s running for governor.

Both of Abrams’ parents later became ministers, and Abrams often speaks with the cadence of the ministry. On a recent visit to Columbus, about 90 minutes southwest of Atlanta, she recounted a story about once when she and her older sister had gone searching for their father, who had a habit of walking or even hitch-hiking home, along a highway in the middle of winter. They found him, coat-less, on the side of the highway. No, he hadn’t lost his jacket. He’d given it to a homeless man on the highway. “My dad said, ‘That man was alone and I knew that he'd be alone when I left.’ But he said, ‘I knew y'all were coming for me.’ I'm running for governor because I'm coming for Georgia.”

Too many families are left behind who have what it takes to succeed but “because they're the wrong color or they live in the wrong zip code or they make the wrong mistakes,” things don't always go their way, Abrams said. And though some Georgians have seen progress, “it has not seen them.”

Abrams, she said, wants to be “the governor of the whole state of Georgia.”

Stacey Evans, who is running for governor of Georgia, addresses Netroots.

Christopher Aluka Berry / Reuters

Planned Parenthood Wants To Build Volunteer Armies Around 600 Clinics


Planned Parenthood canvassers go door to door about the Zika virus in Florida last month.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Planned Parenthood wants to put the next health care fight in the hands of its volunteers.

Over the next 12 months, the 100-year-old women’s health and abortion rights group will build a corps of 600 volunteer-led community organizing teams across the country, each one located near a Planned Parenthood health center, officials said this week.

The new organizing project, seeded with an initial $500,000, begins in September with four regional “bootcamps,” where 1,000 hand-picked volunteers will undergo intensive training, return home with new organizing tools, and form the basis of an effort that Planned Parenthood officials believe is “unlike any other than we’ve ever made.”

That’s how Planned Parenthood’s national organizing director Kelley Robinson described the decision to invest in a nationwide network led entirely by volunteers, focused on building “intersectional” local campaigns to “protect and promote” women’s health. (The $500,000 will be a joint investment made by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its linked political arm, Planned Parenthood Action Fund.)

For the volunteer leaders that Planned Parenthood trains next month, that could mean building local campaigns around legislation in Washington, or sexual-assault awareness on campuses, or ballot initiatives in the state. The idea more broadly, said Nilofar Ganjaie, a lead Planned Parenthood field organizer based in Seattle, is “to actually put this the hands of activists” and “scale up in a way that we haven’t been able to do.”

Looking ahead after the Republican health care defeat, officials see that kind of self-organizing network as the key to more “long-term power” — and the next step in a recommitment to grassroots organizing at Planned Parenthood first set off by last year’s election.

The organization spent millions to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including a $30 million push targeting millennial voters in the final stretch to Election Day. When they lost, said Robinson, “the strategy for our organization was called into question.”

“It was time for us to start going back to our block and tackle, meaning it was time to go back to the basics — the things that we’ve always done well to survive in the last 100 years,” she said. “We started thinking about our grassroots first.”

Over the next nine months, as Republicans worked to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and cut or redirect federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the organization developed new organizing tools and added 226,000 volunteers and 1 million total supporters.

In the lead-up to last month’s vote, they held 2,400 marches, meet-ups, phone banks, and rallies, and collected 1 million petition signatures, according to the group. They made 200,000 phone calls to members of Congress, followed by calls to people who live in the same state to tell them to call their members of Congress (including 20,299 to tell Nevadans to call Sen. Dean Heller). They drafted 90,000 supporters to a “Defenders” program, with tools for “real-world actions” and an “Emergency Guide” to the latest “urgent action to focus on.”

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s single largest abortion provider, has been at the center of flare-ups in Congress over abortion, health care, and federal funding since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives seven years ago.

Their work during the health care debate this year, said Robinson, reaffirmed the “grassroots-first” mentality set in November, but left the group seeking more long-term organizing.

“Now we’re ready to turn to a different phase,” she said.

The training work itself won’t exactly be a departure for Planned Parenthood. The group has trained thousands of “patient advocates” to deploy personal testimony in support of the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood clinics, and hosted “Power of Pink” trainings for supporters. The “curriculum” they plan to use next month will be an updated version of one used they’ve used before, though never at a program of this scale.

“We’ve always had local organizers, activists, supporters, but not 1 million new supporters who are ready to come out and do the organizing work,” said Kersha Deibel, the group’s director of constituency organizing.

The 600 volunteer leaders, able to collaborate with local Planned Parenthood staff, will be autonomous, said Ganjaie, the Seattle-based field organizer, who has been helping plan the bootcamp trainings and identify top-tier volunteers to attend.

At each of the four gatherings, planned for Seattle, Phoenix, Charlotte, and Kansas City, around 250 hand-picked volunteers will undergo three days of trainings, covering digital programs, protests, congressional town halls, and the more basic work of building volunteer structures. Planned Parenthood will equip volunteers with online tools like phone banks and webinars, an official said, as well as “lots of pink materials, including shirts” — uniform of the “pink army” known to appear at rallies and protests.

As it stands, 600 of the 1,000 expected attendees will be chosen as volunteer leaders.

“We’re looking to pick out volunteer leaders who have naturally demonstrated leadership, folks who are already organizing on their own time,” said Ganjaie.

And after that, she said, they go home and “continue organizing.”

White House Going Ahead With HBCU Conference After Charlottesville


Pool / Getty Images

A White House official said that a Trump administration-backed conference for historically black colleges and universities will go ahead as planned next month.

In recent days, a Democratic lawmaker and prominent nonprofit donor to the schools recommended to the White House that the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference be postponed because of concerns “related to recent national events.”

Omarosa Manigault-Newman, assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, said in an email to BuzzFeed News that the conference was still on for its original date, and that the administration remained committed to the mission of HBCUs.

“President Trump’s commitment to the HBCU community remains strong and unwavering,” Manigault-Newman told BuzzFeed News. “Registration is currently at capacity and we are looking forward to welcoming HBCU presidents, students, and guests.”

The conference is to be held Sept. 17–19 in Northern Virginia. But after President Trump seemed to defend some white supremacists as “very fine people,” leaders in the HBCU world began to reconsider whether it was still a good idea.

The White House had already been engaged in conversations about appointing leaders to the board, finding an executive director for its HBCU initiative, and naming a chairman to lead, all before Trump’s troubled week on race, two sources close to the White House said.

Johnny C. Taylor and Rep. Alma Adams, a North Carolina Democrat, were among the voices who tried to get the White House to halt the planning. Taylor, the outgoing president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, wrote a letter to Manigault-Newman, dated Aug. 18, saying that there was a “pretty strong consensus” in the HBCU leadership community that the White House should hold off until good faith measures — such as appointing an executive director and advisory board — showed that the White House had a “commitment to advancing the HBCU agenda.”

Additionally, he noted that fears that the event would be counterproductive would cause some who had registered to not attend.

Adams, making a case for postponement, said in a statement that she had this month asked for an update on the progress of Trump’s executive order. “It has become painstakingly clear that these promises are not being kept,” she said.

“In this current environment, and with zero progress made on any of their priorities, it would be highly unproductive to ask HBCU presidents to come back to Washington," Adams said.

Neither Adams nor Taylor spoke in explicit terms about Trump’s handling of matters of race following the death of 31-year-old Heather Heyer, a counterprotester at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Trump’s assertion that there were “very fine people” among the white supremacists, and that there was violence “on both sides,” has sparked a national debate about the president’s moral authority on racial issues.

Two sources close to national HBCU leaders, and another familiar with the process, said it was unclear if Trump's rhetoric would produce a similar situation to Trump's strategic policy and manufacturing councils, both of which Trump ended with no warning after members quit. Though Manigault-Newman's statement indicated that the White House would roll out announcements on the board and advisory committee during the conference, a source advising the White House on HBCUs said he's talked to "multiple people" in HBCU circles who have privately slammed Trump's comments with disgust.

HBCUs rely on critical funding from the federal government, and few, if any, presidents would risk angering Trump with a public display. Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck, who is black, recently quit an administration council — and in return was the object of a vindictive tweet from Trump. Sources in the HBCU sphere said they wouldn’t put it past the administration to cut off funding in revenge.

The HBCU group isn’t a new creation of the Trump White House; Obama's board was chaired by William R. Harvey, the president of Hampton University. Wayne A.I. Frederick, the president of Howard University, and Beverly Wade Hogan, the president of Tougaloo College, were also on the board.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in July that the White House was having problems finding an executive director, adding that it had tapped Jarrett L. Carter Sr., but that he withdrew from the running, citing organizational issues. "I didn’t want to be in that position, because once you say yes, and once they announce you, the White House is hands-off on answering anything," he said. "If you’re not ready with an answer, or at a least a timetable for when you’re going to have an answer, you’re at a disadvantage."

Paris Dennard, a staunch defender of the president’s positions on race and white supremacists in the wake of Charlottesville, said that rumors swirling that he was being considered for the position were not true.

Former State Officials Urge Trump Not To "Equivocate" On "The Voice Of Hate"


Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

A bipartisan group of more than five dozen former state attorneys general on Monday issued a call for leaders — including the president — not to "equivocate" when faced with "the voice of hate."

In a statement, 66 former state and territorial attorneys general, including former Senators Joseph Lieberman and Slade Gorton, call for a strong response to groups like the Ku Klux Klan and others who espouse white supremacist views.

The statement comes as President Trump faces continued questions about his response to the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville earlier this month, leaving one counter-protester dead. Over the weekend, Jerry Falwell Jr., for example, defended Trump's comments this past week that some "very fine people" were with the white supremacists during a Friday evening rally.

"There are times in the life of a nation, or a president, or a state attorney general when one is called upon to respond directly to the voice of hate," the statement reads. "As former state attorneys general, we take the liberty of reminding Americans — as we remind ourselves — that events can call out the worst in us — and the best."

The signatories include Democrats like Jennifer Granholm of Michigan and Bill Lockyer of California, and Republicans like Betty Montgomery of Ohio and Grant Woods of Arizona, as well as include longtime attorneys general like William Sorrell of Vermont and Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma. While the group includes Republican officials, people like Gorton, Montgomery, and Woods are longtime Trump critics.

By way of example, the group points back to the 1970s and a young state attorney general in Alabama, Bill Baxley. When he "began his quest to bring justice to the perpetrators of the Birmingham church bombing which killed four little girls" by reopening the 1963 case, they write, he "faced political furor" and "threats of physical violence and death."

In February 1976, in the midst of his efforts, the grand dragon of the KKK, Edward Fields, wrote a "threatening letter" to Baxley, demanding a response.

"My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is — kiss my ass," Baxley wrote back the next day. He continued forward, and, in 1977, Baxley prosecuted and secured the conviction of Robert Chambliss in connection with the bombing.

"We commend his response to the attention of all who seek to equivocate in times of moral crisis," the former attorneys general wrote in their Monday statement.

Via snopes.com

The effort was headed up by James Tierney, the former Democratic attorney general of Maine and a lecturer at Harvard Law School on the role of state attorneys general, with support from Jeff Amestoy and John Easton, both of whom are former Republican attorneys general from Vermont.

The Full List of Signatories:

  • Robert Abrams, New York
  • Ronald Amemiya, Hawaii
  • Jeff Amestoy, Vermont
  • Bruce Babbitt, Arizona
  • Thurbert Baker, Georgia
  • Paul Bardacke, New Mexico
  • Steve Beshear, Kentucky
  • Bruce Botelho, Alaska
  • Margery Bronster, Hawaii
  • Charlie Brown, West Virginia
  • Richard Bryan, Nevada
  • Charles Burson, Tennessee
  • Bonnie Campbell, Iowa
  • Steve Clark, Arkansas
  • Walter Cohen, Pennsylvania
  • Robert Cooper, Tennessee
  • J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Maryland
  • Fred Cowan, Kentucky
  • Frankie Sue Del Papa, Nevada
  • Jerry Diamond, Vermont
  • Richard Doran, Florida
  • John Easton, Vermont
  • Rufus Edmisten, North Carolina
  • Drew Edmondson, Oklahoma
  • Tyrone Fahner, Illinois
  • Lee Fisher, Ohio
  • Karen Freeman-Wilson, Indiana
  • Terry Goddard, Arizona
  • Chris Gorman, Kentucky
  • Slade Gorton, Washington
  • Jennifer Granholm, Michigan
  • Scott Harshbarger, Massachusetts
  • Peter Harvey, New Jersey
  • Hubert H . Humphrey III, Minnesota
  • Drew Ketterer, Maine
  • Oliver Koppell, New York
  • Peg Lautenschlager, Wisconsin
  • Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut
  • Michael Lilly, Hawaii
  • Alicia Limtiaco, Guam
  • Bill Lockyer, California
  • David Louie, Hawaii
  • Robert Marks, Hawaii
  • Brian McKay, Nevada
  • Jeff Modisett, Indiana
  • Betty Montgomery, Ohio
  • Mike Moore, Mississippi
  • Jeffrey Pine, Rhode Island
  • Warren Price III, Hawaii
  • Hector Richard, Puerto Rico
  • Clarine Nardi Riddle, Connecticut
  • Dennis Roberts, Rhode Island
  • Stephen Rosenthal, Virginia
  • Stephen Sachs, Maryland
  • James Shannon, Massachusetts
  • Mark Shurtleff, Utah
  • William Sorrell, Vermont
  • Rbert Spagnoletti, District of Columbia
  • Robert Stephan, Kansas
  • Mary Sue Terry, Virginia
  • James Tierney, Maine
  • Anthony F. Troy, Virginia
  • Jim Guy Tucker, Arkansas
  • Paul Van Dam, Utah
  • Bob Wefald, North Dakota
  • Grant Woods, Arizona

Trump Didn't Announce A Pardon — But Sheriff Joe Arpaio "Should Feel Fine"


Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President Trump did not announce a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio on Tuesday night — but he may as well have.

The president teased the crowd with his support for the anti-immigration crusader, who is facing jail time on a criminal contempt conviction, saying “he should feel fine.”

Introducing the topic after a long rant against the media, Trump asked the amped-up audience, “Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?”

Trump didn't say the word "pardon," but left little doubt about his plans.

After the applause subsided, he continued: "Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He should have had a jury, but I'll make a prediction: I think he's going to be just fine. I'm not going to do it tonight because I don't want to cause any controversy … but he should feel fine."

In the days leading up to the rally in Phoenix on Tuesday night, there was talk of whether the president might use it to announce the issuance of the first pardon of his presidency.

Arpaio, who was defeated in his reelection bid in 2016, was one of the most outspoken officials opposing former President Obama’s immigration policies in favor of harsh immigration enforcement.

He is awaiting sentencing, scheduled for Oct. 5, after being found guilty of criminal contempt in July. The contempt conviction followed what US District Judge Susan Bolton called a “flagrant disregard” for an earlier court order barring Arpaio from enforcing immigration detention policies that the court had found were not legal.

Arpaio rose to national prominence for harsh treatment of prisoners and an overwhelming focus on undocumented immigrants. That approach on immigration put him squarely in line with Trump’s campaign promises of strict crackdowns on immigration — the now-president often refers to Arpaio simply as “Sheriff Joe” — and made Arpaio an important symbolic figure among immigration advocates and Democrats in Arizona.

In a story published on Aug. 14, Fox News reported that Trump said he is “seriously considering a pardon” for Arpaio.

That report, linked with Trump’s scheduled visit and his administration's aggressive posture on immigration enforcement policies — including Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent speech in Miami criticizing Chicago’s sanctuary city policies — led to talk that Trump might use the Phoenix rally to announce a pardon for Arpaio.

On Tuesday, however, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump would not be announcing any pardon for Arpaio at the Tuesday event or during the surrounding trip, telling reporters aboard Air Force One, “There will be no discussion of that today at any point, and no action will be taken on that front at any point today.”

Trump, however, has certainly shown a proclivity to act unilaterally when he feels that staff are holding him back or when he plays to a crowd, as he did on Tuesday night in Arizona.

In Sanders’ earlier statement, she clearly did not rule out the possibility of a future Trump pardon for Arpaio, which, functionally, the former sheriff wouldn’t need until sentencing.

As detailed by BuzzFeed News previously, the president’s pardon power is virtually unlimited when it comes to federal crimes — including criminal contempt.

In fact, it’s been nearly 100 years since Chief Justice William Howard Taft wrote definitively, “Nothing in the ordinary meaning of the words ‘offenses against the United States’” — the Constitution’s grant of the pardon power to the president — “excludes criminal contempts.”

To the extent such pardons continued to the point of — or with the aim of — preventing courts from enforcing laws, Taft was blunt: "Exceptional cases like this if to be imagined at all would suggest a resort to impeachment rather than to a narrow and strained construction of the general powers of the President."

Wednesday, speaking on Cavuto Coast to Coast on Fox Business, Arpaio said his "gut told [him] not to show up" to Tuesday's rally because of "possible danger."

"I didn’t want to be the cause of any demonstrations, riots, and that type of thing," he said. "I’ve been to all of his rallies, but safety was more important to me right now, public safety."

The former sheriff said that he "really appreciate[s] the President’s nice comments and support" and that his conviction was "strictly a political hit."

"My guys were doing their job," he said, claiming that they had legal authority before saying he didn't "want to get too much into this legal situation now."

Asked about the American Civil Liberties Union's criticism of President Trump for considering pardoning him, Arpaio called the legal advocacy group "part of the abuse of the process."

Asked whether the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville was a factor in his pardon being delayed, Arpaio said that Trump "wasn't ashamed."

“He really went out there and talked about it," Arpaio said. "That’s him. He’s still in charge. He’s the President. And I have a great deal of respect for him. I always will have, pardon or no pardon. I’m with him till the end. As long as he’s the President, I will support him.”

Arpaio said that he is "a little discouraged" over his conviction, but that his sore feelings were not just for himself.

“It’s for everybody," he said. "Because what they did they can do to everybody — and they can do to the President, which they're trying to do anyway. So it’s a bigger picture.”

Black Republicans Despair Over Trump's Response To Charlottesville


Trump responds to reporters' questions about Charlottesville earlier this month.

Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

President Trump’s handling of matters of race and penchant for equivocation on the subject of white supremacists is roiling tensions between black Republicans and members of the Trump administration.

Since the president first commented on the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, and the violence that followed, black Republicans have said publicly and privately that Trump has compromised his authority on race. In one case, a black operative outside the White House has argued with a black official inside the Trump administration, according to messages obtained by BuzzFeed News. Three sources, meanwhile, told BuzzFeed News that staffers have considered leaving the administration over the situation, but haven’t — for various reasons — followed through.

“When the moral fiber of a nation is at stake, the people cannot rely on a morally bankrupt leader to guide them out of darkness into light,” Shermichael Singleton, a former top aide to Ben Carson who was dismissed from the administration after he was found to have criticized Trump during the campaign, said, referencing an opinion piece he later published. “I think black Republicans should support the leader of our party, but in times when the president isn’t doing a great job we must take him to task, that is our obligation.”

Over the course of the last 10 days, Trump first issued a statement on the day of the violence in Charlottesville, condemning the actions of “many sides” at the rally — which was intended as a gathering of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, members of the alt-right, and others, and which drew a wide range of counterprotesters, from faith leaders and local residents to so-called "antifa." One man who marched with a white supremacist group killed a woman after ramming a car into other cars amid a crowd of protesters. BuzzFeed News reported on the ground from the event, where white supremacists came prepared for violence and disobeyed police orders. Days later, the president said, “You had people that were very fine people on both sides” — of a Friday night march that featured white men chanting things like “Jews will not replace us” while carrying tiki torches.

And on Tuesday of this week, Trump yet again attacked the media’s coverage of his remarks on the subject, at one point leaving out the “many sides” portion of his original remarks, and at another pretending to be the media: “Why did it take a day? He must be a racist! It took a day.”

His response hasn’t been satisfactory to many conservatives, especially those who are black. The black conservative movement’s unquestioned nonelected leader, J.C. Watts, a former Oklahoma congressman, electrified young black conservatives outraged by Trump in a pair of recent television appearance. Watts — in clear, no-nonsense terms — argued that silence from leaders on the issue amounts to agreeing with the Ku Klux Klan, and that he disagreed with how the president responded. One of the president’s favorite television shows, Fox & Friends, recently featured a segment in which multiple people criticized his response. “Last night, I couldn’t sleep at all because President Trump — our president — is literally betrayed the conscience of our country,” said an emotional Gianno Caldwell, a black Republican commentator.

Black Republicans have long scoffed at stereotypical characterizations casting them as Uncle Toms or as sellouts to their race, leaving them in a difficult position politically to begin with — something exacerbated by the last 10 days. Plenty of black Republicans once saw Trump’s inexperience as a path to fixing Washington: They imagined being able to advance long-championed conservative solutions to an executive who needed them. But that mostly Bush-era group of risk-averse activists and operatives — loath to publicly critique a president or aide — is baffled by the president’s behavior. And it doesn’t want any black Republicans defending it.

Prominent black Republicans like Watts, former RNC chair Michael Steele, strategist Elroy Sailor, and former Bush administration official Kay Coles James have been engaged in discussions related to Trump and Charlottesville over the course of the last week, two GOP sources said. Some have been involved in talks with congressional leaders on how to set policies and speak to the issues that created the environment in Charlottesville. A senior black Republican official declined to characterize the nature of the talks, saying only they were “strategic” and conducted with “a myriad” of Republicans “on the Hill and off.”

What emerged in interviews with nearly a dozen black Republicans was a keen sense of the division between these Republicans and a more pro-Trump wing. Within that ostensible Washington establishment, few were aligned with Trump during the campaign. Many are dismayed that someone close to Trump hasn’t been able to effectively tell him how what he’s doing is detrimental and offensive to black Americans. These sources often mean, specifically, Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the highest-ranking black White House staffer and a particular source of consternation among Washington's black Republicans, who largely feel she is not sensitive to their interests. One, Donald Scoggins, himself a party activist and longtime observer of Washington’s black Republican political class, described the White House adviser as having “sycophants, not party activists” around her. “She’s not seen as a committed Republican and perhaps even desires destroying us.” Manigault-Newman, another noted, was ready for Hillary in 2014 while black Republicans were strategizing at a Virginia retreat to elect a Republican president.

Leah Wright Rigueur, the Harvard historian who wrote the seminal work on the history of black Republicans in American politics, The Loneliness of the Black Republican, said tensions among black Republicans when the president is a divisive figure or takes a “hostile approach to civil rights and racial issues” are nothing new.

“In other words, the less power and influence black Republican loyalists and outsiders have, the more explosive the fights,” she said, adding that the 1976 National Black Republican Convention witnessed “knock-down, drag-out fights” among the 350 delegates, and that the period also saw a series of lawsuits filed by black Republicans looking to seize power control of groups organizing black Republicans. “When you're being squeezed out by the party mainstream and the White House, it's not surprising that you would turn your ire toward the target most clearly accessible.”

One senior black party activist said the current climate is clear: “You are in the J.C. Watts and Michael Steele wing of the party, or the Omarosa, Diamond and Silk wing,” they said, referring to Manigault-Newman and the two black women who sometimes provide comic relief at Trump rallies and frequently defend him on cable and the internet.

Since the Charlottesville rally, which came the day after her appearance at the National Association of Black Journalists conference in New Orleans, Manigault-Newman has been mostly silent in public.

Three sources described to BuzzFeed News an atmosphere inside the administration in which some staffers, both black and white, are considering resigning — or at least not ruling it out. One source, asking to speak anonymously to describe private correspondence, said people were “waiting” for the right moment to leave the administration as they expressed a singular difficulty: Who does the work when you’re gone? “They're between a rock and a hard place,” the person who spoke in private said. In a text message to BuzzFeed News, another young strategist lamented what he feels is a lack of courage. “None of them are willing to walk away on principle. It’s unprincipled as fuck.”

Trump arriving in Arizona on Tuesday.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Meanwhile, Trump family insider turned administration official Lynne Patton has exchanged terse words with Sean Jackson, the chairman of the Black Republican Caucus of Florida and a longtime Trump critic.

On Aug. 12, three sources confirmed, Patton addressed Jackson after he criticized the president’s statements about Saturday's “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” and also criticized Manigault-Newman. Jackson made the comments in what sources described to BuzzFeed News as a private forum for black Republicans.

“Those around POTUS could care less about the well being and interest of our communities and therein lies the problem,” Jackson said in a message obtained by BuzzFeed News. “So while we’re witnessing this nonsense of a spectacle take place, let this be a true moment of self-reflection.”

Patton declared, in a message reviewed by BuzzFeed News, that she offered to help in any way she could as the situation devolved in Charlottesville. But the exchange also turned to interpersonal issues: She described a comment, in a message also reviewed by BuzzFeed News, that Jackson made light of her own self-admitted past personal struggles. In turn, Patton referred to a cease-and-desist letter she said the Trump campaign sent Jackson, and a pitch he made to the campaign about hiring him to do black-voter outreach. (BuzzFeed News also obtained, from a Trump ally, a 2016 memo outlining a pitch for the Black Republican Caucus of Florida to do that outreach.) These were some of the reasons, Patton said, why Jackson wasn’t asked to join the campaign or administration.

Patton confirmed the messages. Jackson did not speak on the record regarding the exchange.

Patton said she felt the need to respond because of the combination of the events in Charlottesville, what she called the journalist Ed Gordon's “unprofessional” gesturing toward Manigault-Newman at a convention for black journalists, and criticism of Diamond and Silk's pro-Trump YouTube videos.

“I was saddened and infuriated, once again, to be subjected to disparaging language anything and personal attacks within an exclusive forum that was expressly created in the spirit of unity and mutual support [among] black conservatives during the Trump administration,” Patton told BuzzFeed News, adding that mistreatment has come from all corners on social media, “including from those ironically calling for peace and unity.”

“News flash,” she offered. “Hate is hate.”

An ally who spoke with BuzzFeed News suggested that she was frustrated that, after events like Charlottesville, people like Manigault-Newman, former Trump campaign national spokesperson Katrina Pierson, and even Ben Carson get thrown into a media spectacle because they’re black, but remain best-positioned to help advise the president on issues of race. This ally also said Manigault-Newman has been engaged with building a coalition of conservatives; in recent weeks, she invited a group of young black Republican staffers to the White House bowling alley for a team-building event. (According to what appears to be a photo from the event, Republicans inside and outside the administration attended.)

Against the backdrop of raw arguments and quiet considerations of those inside the administration, black Republicans’ main goals haven’t changed: encouraging black people to look at the GOP and advancing a conservative policy agenda, particularly on issues affecting urban areas and people of color. So far, Trump helps them do neither — and has only worsened the situation for them. Black Republicans hope they can provide a road map for minority engagement — there are a host of black Republican candidates weighing statewide races in 2018, and an RNC-backed two-day conference styled after the Conservative Political Action Conference is in the works — but everything is still in flux.

But what will they do about Trump? Prominent black Republicans are speaking out, but it’s unclear how much more they can take before completely turning their backs. Sen. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, told Vice News that Trump’s moral authority is “compromised” when he equivocates on white supremacy, but offered to work with Trump when they agree.

“I want the president to do well because he’s the president of the United States,” said Singleton. “But there are moments in time where you must say ‘Mr. President, this needs to change.’ That’s regardless of political party.”

Here's What The Pro-Kaepernick Protesters Are Asking From The NFL


Harry How / Getty Images

The NFL needs to institute a rule that protects players against retaliatory actions taken by owners and sponsors for protests like Colin Kaepernick's, the organizers of a rally in support of the quarterback write in a new letter to the NFL.

The letter, a copy of which was made available to BuzzFeed News, additionally calls on the league to establish — and fund — an independent race-focused watchdog inside the league office. “It is indisputable that long held racial beliefs are embedded in of the fabric of the NFL and many of these beliefs still govern who makes it to the field," the letter reads.

“We will not be silent as the NFL actively participates in the ostracization of Mr. Kaepernick," the letter reads. "This ostracization, we believe, is a retaliatory act of aggression against Mr. Kaepernick's protest of the American National Anthem during the 2016 NFL season.”

The NFL should push to protect players from "intimidation, ostracization, and exclusion by owners, sponsors, coaches, players, and staff," the letter reads. "Any team suspected of prohibiting or outright denying a player his rights shall be punished under the tampering guidelines set forth by the NFL,” under the proposal outlined in the letter.

Kaepernick remains unsigned — despite, as any number of commentators have pointed out, being at least worthy of a backup QB job in the NFL. ESPN recently published an instructive report: Using a scoring system to evaluate players, 50 NFL coaches and talent evaluators ranked the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback ahead of six potential starting quarterbacks this year. The report found, through anonymous conversations with nearly four dozen league officials at all levels, that there is an atmosphere around the league that Kaepernick would be signed if he were a similarly talented player playing a different position. The annual report also said people in the league are unsure if Kaepernick is serious about continuing his career, and that bringing in a player with starter-level talent to serve as a backup could complicate team dynamics.

In response to the overall situation, the group representing the coalition — Tamika Mallory, a co-chair of the Women’s March; Symone Sanders, political commentator and strategist; the activist and Women's March co-chair Linda Sarsour; and faith leaders Rev. Mark A. Thompson, Jamal Bryant and Rev. Stephen A. Green — organized the rally outside of the NFL's Park Avenue headquarters designed to put pressure on the league to act stand in support.

A poster for the protest.

The organizers of the protest say they have requested a meeting with Goodell.

A representative with direct knowledge of talks between the organizers and the league office said negotiations to meet with Goodell on Wednesday broke down. It's unclear if or when the meeting would happen.

"Our position is we represent a coalition of individuals and groups of sizable magnitude and have made a series of requests we believe merit their own meeting," a representative for the protesters told BuzzFeed News.

Reached by BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for the NFL Players Association said, "DeMaurice Smith has spoken with civil rights leaders from Spike Lee, to the head of the NAACP, to congressional staff and others about working with Colin’s representatives and we have reached out to Colin as well. Our position has not changed from when he defended and supported Colin on the first day and stand ready to help and assist him in any way."

The group noted in its letter that change in the 1940s, when the NFL became racially-integrated, was necessary then and now. "Today, we stand on the shoulders of Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Roger Jessup, and the activists and journalists who not only demanded but fought for change."

Federal Judge Bars Enforcement Of Texas's Voter ID Laws


Ron Jenkins / Getty Images

In an important win for opponents of voter ID laws, a federal judge in Texas permanently blocked the state from enforcing its laws addressing the topic — despite the Justice Department's decision to stop backing the challenge to the law earlier this year.

State officials, however, have already said they will appeal — meaning the case, which began in 2013, will continue onward.

US District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued a permanent injunction on Wednesday stopping Texas from enforcing its voter ID law or the more recent amendments to that law, finding that the changes made to the initial law were not enough to eliminate the law's discriminatory purpose or effects.

The litigation over Texas's voter ID law, SB 14, has resulted in courts repeatedly finding that the law was enacted with discriminatory purpose and/or discriminatory effects, but questions about the standards used to examine the legal questions and changes to the law have kept the issue in the courts.

Most recently, June amendments to the law — contained in SB 5 — led Texas to argue that a court decision against the law from earlier this year should be reconsidered.

The judge hearing the case disagreed.

"[A] large part of what makes SB 14 discriminatory—placing a disproportionate burden on Hispanics and African- Americans through the selection of qualified photo IDs—remains essentially unchanged in SB 5," Ramos wrote.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called Wednesday's ruling "outrageous" and said the state will appeal the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit — where the case has been previously. [Update: On Thursday, the state asked Ramos to put her ruling on hold pending the state's appeal.]

The Justice Department, which had backed the challengers to the law under the Obama administration, has backed Texas under the Trump administration — arguing in a July court filing that SB 5 "fully remedies any discriminatory effect in Texas's voter ID law."

In Wednesday's ruling, Ramos — in issuing the permanent injunction — held that SB 14 violates the Voting Rights Act and the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, echoing earlier rulings. Ramos had found that "several features of SB 14 ... alone or in combination unconstitutionally discriminate against African-Americans and Hispanics with respect to the right to vote," categorized as involving the type of ID able to be used, obstacles to obtaining an ID, exemptions, alternative proof for provisional voting, and education.

Texas had argued that the plaintiffs challenging SB 14 had not proven that changes within SB 5 burden minority voters, but Ramos ruled that it was the state that must prove that SB 5 remedies the Voting Rights Act violation found against the initial voter ID law.

In assessing whether the state met its burden, Ramos examined whether she believed SB 5 addressed the discriminatory problems of the five categories.

The ruling, however, focused on Texas's argument that SB 5's inclusion of a Declaration of Reasonable Impediment (DRI) permanently alleviated the issues the court had with SB 14. A DRI provision had been implemented as an interim remedy in the case in advance of the 2016 presidential election, allowing voters to fill out a form and cast a ballot (not a provisional ballot) if they were registered but lacked ID.

Via documentcloud.org

Ramos concluded that "the interim remedy [of the DRI] was never intended to be the final remedy and it did not address the discriminatory purpose finding. Additionally, SB 5 imposes some material departures from the interim remedy." Specifically, Ramos highlighted the associated perjury penalty under SB 5, the removal of an "other" explanation section in the DRI allowing voters to describe in their own words why they lacked a photo ID, and the possibility that these two distinctions could lead to voter intimidation.

Ramos went through the other categories as well, finding the changes insufficient to address the Voting Rights Act violations found in SB 14.

Via documentcloud.org

"SB 5 does not meaningfully expand the types of photo IDs that can qualify," Ramos wrote, "even though the Court was clearly critical of Texas having the most restrictive list in the country."

Via documentcloud.org

Similarly, Ramos found that "the provision for mobile EIC units does not appreciably ameliorate the discriminatory effects or purpose of SB 14 with respect to the obstacles to obtaining qualified photo ID."

Via documentcloud.org

"[T]he Court noted that SB 14’s sea change in the requirements for voting could not be accomplished in a fair and effective manner without widespread education for voters and training for poll workers," Ramos wrote, noting that the appeals court had said such education was necessary. "Yet SB 5 does not address this issue at all."

Via documentcloud.org

Although Ramos accepted that this addressed earlier SB 14 concerns, "its amelioration is dependent upon the DRI procedure, which has its own limitations."

In conclusion, Ramos wrote, "Not one of the discriminatory features of SB 14 is fully ameliorated by the terms of SB 5." Texas officials, she concluded, "have not shown that SB 5, together with SB 14, constitutes a constitutional and legally valid plan."

While the case was brought by local parties and is, at base, a Texas issue, the national overlay — of President Trump's and Attorney General Jeff Sessions' politics — could become increasingly relevant on appeal, at the 5th Circuit or at the US Supreme Court.

The Justice Department reversed the position it held during the Obama administration beginning in February, when it stopped backing the challengers to the voter ID law once Sessions became attorney general. In a late February filing, the department dismissed the claim it had been pursuing against the law. As the case proceeded, the department sided fully with Texas, arguing that the discriminatory purpose and effects had been addressed by SB 5.

Hillary Clinton Will Raise Money For A Clinton Foundation Still In Transition


The Clintons at the 10th annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in 2014.

Jemal Countess / Getty Images

She hasn’t returned to the Clinton Foundation in a formal capacity. But nine months after an election that left the charity smaller in size, scope, and funding, Hillary Clinton is stepping into a new supporting role — to raise money on behalf of the organization.

The fundraising plans, confirmed by foundation spokesperson Craig Minassian, bring the former candidate back into a nonprofit still adjusting to new and uncertain terrain, with Bill Clinton, 71, serving in a new role as chair, and Chelsea Clinton, 37, as vice chair.

The father and daughter, along with senior staff, spent much of last spring initiating a massive effort to scale down the 15-year-old global operation: Where funding might present a conflict of interest, those programs were spun off, shuttered, or absorbed by other nonprofits. The idea, to prepare for a possible move to Washington, led to a different reality: to retrenchment; to big, open questions about the direction of the work; and to frequent talk about the future. “I want to send a clear signal that we’re serious about continuing our work,” the former president told the Miami Herald this spring.

Funding has been a particular focus after revenue declined in 2016. In part, that was natural: Bill and Chelsea Clinton spent the year pulled between the trail and fundraising for the campaign, while the foundation became the target of attack ads, and self-imposed donor limits meant it could not solicit foreign grants. (A year later, the foundation is now applying for such grants again.) But more broadly, financial longevity at the foundation is also a source of discussion among longtime donors now that the Clintons have left electoral politics. Another lasting challenge will be the end of the annual Clinton Global Initiative event, a gathering that drew celebrities, politicians, foreign leaders, and corporate executives, and served as the foundation’s biggest platform.

Hillary Clinton’s renewed fundraising presence came without much notice earlier this month: At the bottom of an email from the Clinton Foundation, above a bright orange “DONATE” button, her name appeared in the signature line for the first time since she stepped down from the foundation to launch her campaign in the spring of 2015.

“Your support means so much to Bill (and to me),” she wrote, stressing what she cast as the promise of the future in spite of damage from an election of “unprecedented, ugly, and misleading or outright false attacks ... which incredibly still continue today.”

Whether Hillary Clinton, 69, will return to an official role at the foundation, where she served on the board after leaving the State Department in 2013, remains uncertain.

“We are not there yet even remotely now,” spokesperson Nick Merrill told the New York Times in February. Six months later, he and Minassian only confirmed that while Clinton holds no official role, she will help with fundraising, from appearances at foundation events to digital campaigns. (Her email this month raised more than any individual foundation fundraising email in the last five years, according to Minassian.)

In her two years at the foundation, she launched an early childhood development program, and partnered with Chelsea Clinton on a campaign to protect elephants (CGI Elephant Action Network) and a data study on women and girls (“No Ceilings”). After the election, Hillary Clinton also cofounded a political group, Onward Together, to fund and support a coalition of grassroots activist-led organizations on the left.

“Secretary Clinton strongly believes in the foundation, and we're grateful that she will continue to support its critical, life-changing work, including fundraising on the foundation’s behalf,” Minassian said in a statement

The foundation, formed in 1997 as a fundraising vehicle for the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, relaunched in 2001 as the basis for Bill Clinton's sprawling enterprise of programs across the world, powered by partnerships between businesses, governments, and nonprofits. The model made the Arkansas Democrat a pioneer in philanthropic circles for his work with public-private partnerships. The money and power around that model, meanwhile, made his work a long-running source of scrutiny, raising questions about influence, transparency, and the interests of foreign and corporate donors.

On the other side of 2016, officials are still looking at more basic questions, like what kinds of program to start, what kinds to expand, and to what scale.

Because of the changes made last year, much of the foundation’s work is now domestic-based, such as one three-year program, now growing, to provide schools with drugs to counter opioid overdoses. The flagship Clinton Global Initiative event survives in miniature, with smaller gatherings and forums (most recent: Caribbean leaders on local women’s health care). The yearly "commitments" that have been made at CGI also continue and some continue to grow, along with an offshoot for college students, the Clinton Global Initiative University.

Without the annual event, however, there is already a replacement on the calendar: Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, will host CEOs and government leaders, including Bill Clinton, at the first Bloomberg Global Business Forum — held around the same time that the CGI used to convene in the Sheraton Times Square.

The scale-down, Bill Clinton told staffers last year, “is like a root canal for me.”

Donald Trump’s Team Is Quietly In 2020 Mode


Trump listens to the cheering crowd at a campaign rally in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Joshua Roberts / Reuters

President Donald Trump is staging extraordinarily early re-election rallies, and his former pollster already is testing his strength against speculative primary challengers.

But the most tangible signs that Trump and his allies are dashing into 2020 mode are happening in a much quieter place: the Republican National Committee’s summer meetings here in Nashville.

Brad Parscale, a trusted adviser, served as the Trump family’s eyes and ears at a Wednesday budget session. He and Michael Glassner, the head of Trump’s campaign committee, were among the key aides seen chatting up RNC members in the halls and at the bars and restaurants inside the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross spoke at a Thursday lunch. Eric Trump, the president’s son, was scheduled to speak at a Thursday dinner.

In between, the new Presidential Nominating Process Committee convened for the first time — a committee led by RNC co-chair Bob Paduchik, who has a particularly adversarial relationship with potential Trump challenger John Kasich.

The panel can recommend changes to the primary calendar, delegate allocation formulas, and other rules. Many Republicans say Paduchik’s role leading the committee is a message: Trump challengers won’t have a sympathetic audience if they push for new rules. The inaugural meeting, like most events here, was closed to reporters. Attendees told BuzzFeed News that Paduchik outlined existing rules but that no proposals were heard.

“Nothing sexy,” said one Republican who was in the room for the meeting and, like others, requested anonymity to share details about a private discussion.

The bulk of the committee’s work is expected to happen during the RNC’s winter meetings in early 2018, with recommendations due next spring. The committee will take its cues from Trump, but the White House has not yet asked for new rules, several RNC members told BuzzFeed News.

That the president would receive deference is not surprising — “the RNC is always the political arm of a Republican White House,” one member said. But Trump’s falling poll numbers, his administration’s constant chaos, and his rejection of mainstream conservatism all have provoked early, unending talk of a contested primary.

“That talk is silly,” Bill Palatucci, the RNC committeeman from New Jersey, told BuzzFeed News. “It’d be pretty hard for someone to take on a sitting president, particularly here at the RNC. We’re in charge of the rules. The president is in real good standing with the members here.”

Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who worked for Trump last year, surveyed GOP voters this month on a hypothetical primary featuring Trump, Kasich, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse. Half of the respondents backed Trump, half favored of one of the other four or were undecided. (Cruz and Kasich, the governor of Ohio, were Trump’s last-standing rivals for the 2016 nomination. Kasich, Cotton, and Sasse were featured this month in a New York Times piece on those possibly angling for a 2020 bid.)

Kasich, who of the four represents a milder, moderate wing of the Republican Party, is seen by many as Trump’s likeliest challenger. He has branded himself as the anti-Trump, is term-limited next year, and, at 65, might not have another opportunity to run for president. Kasich has not ruled out running again. And his moves — a book critical of Trump and his GOP enablers, and careful attention to the critical first primary state of New Hampshire — fuel speculation.

Paduchik ran Trump’s winning campaign last year in Ohio, where Kasich refused to endorse Trump and publicly flaunted his decision to write in Sen. John McCain instead. After the election, Paduchik helped engineer a takeover of the Ohio Republican Party. The move served a dual purpose for Trump’s team: It installed a loyal donor as party chairwoman in a key electoral state while embarrassing Kasich by pushing out one of his closest political allies.

There was no mention of this tidbit when RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel announced Paduchik’s appointment to steer the process two weeks ago. (“Bob is a capable leader who will guide this critical committee heading into 2020,” she said.) But several Republicans joked to BuzzFeed News that Paduchik probably volunteered for the job so he could be in position to carry the grudge further if need be.

Paduchik declined requests to comment for this story.

Trump had been slow to staff up in Ohio, partially because many Republicans there were reluctant to cross Kasich and his Ohio GOP allies. Paduchik’s elevation to the RNC post was seen as a reward for breaking with the establishment and helping to deliver an important state. Before taking the Trump Ohio assignment, Paduchik already was known as one of Ohio’s most talented GOP operatives. He managed Rob Portman’s successful Senate run in 2010 and had high-level roles in both of George W. Bush’s victorious campaigns there.

Being selected RNC co-chairman, with Trump’s blessing, is “a testament to who Bob Paduchik is and what he’s done in his career, particularly in the last two years,” Jonathan Gormley, a GOP consultant and Paduchik admirer who has worked in Ohio, told BuzzFeed News.

Others who have worked with Paduchik point out that he is known for burning bridges.

“Basically, he’s perfect for Trump,” said one Republican, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “But Trump will either be in a position to be reelected or he won’t. And if he isn’t, rigging the nomination process won’t save him.”

Republicans in the anti-Trump movement tried but failed to block his 2016 nomination and then failed to win rule changes that might have made it easier for Cruz or someone else from their faction to win the 2020 nomination. Instead, the Presidential Nominating Process Committee now chaired by Paduchik was among the changes ratified before last year’s GOP convention in Cleveland.

“Of course Trump's enforcers will be out in strength to do his bidding on the committee prior to 2020, but it isn't deterring any planning,” said one Republican who has ties to stop-Trump efforts. “Actually it underscores the need for Trump and his ilk to go.”

Trump Orders An End To Open Transgender Military Service In 2018


Yuri Gripas / Reuters

President Trump issued a brief memorandum on Friday afternoon ordering a reversal of Obama administration policies that had been beginning to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military.

Trump wrote that "the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments' longstanding policy and practice [against out transgender military service] would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources."

The move is almost nearly a month after Trump issued a series of morning tweets announcing an end to open transgender military service, which was a policy implemented over the past two years by the Obama administration.

Trump's new policy — reverting to the pre-2016 policy that did not allow open transgender service — is not due to take effect until March 23, 2018.

In a move that could become important later on, the memorandum leaves significant discretion to the secretary of defense and, to a lesser extent, the secretary of homeland security. Notably, it states that "[t]he Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted."

The memorandum also orders a halt — again, effective March 23, 2018 — to the use of Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security funds for "sex-reassignment surgical procedures," except when necessary to "protect the health" of a person who already began such treatment.

Finally, the memorandum continues indefinitely the already-delayed plan on establishing standards for allowing transgender people to join the military. The decision, which the Obama administration had set for this summer, already was delayed once until Jan. 1, 2018. The Trump memorandum extends that "until such time as the Secretary of Defense, after consulting with the Secretary of Homeland Security, provides a recommendation to the contrary that I find convincing."

The Defense Department acknowledged receipt of the guidance.

"The Department of Defense has received formal guidance from the White House in reference to transgender personnel serving in the military. More information will be forthcoming," Dana White, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said in a statement.

Under the memorandum, the defense secretary is to submit an implementation plan for the three portions of the memo to Trump by Feb. 21.

At least two sets of lawsuits are expected, lawyers tell BuzzFeed News.

An update to one lawsuit, filed previously on behalf of a handful of transgender service members, is expected soon. National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) will be seeking a preliminary injunction to halt enforcement of the memorandum, NCLR's Shannon Minter told BuzzFeed News.

Additionally, Lambda Legal and OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network plan to file a lawsuit as soon as Monday on behalf of transgender people currently enlisted in the military and those seeking to join as soon.

“We will be filing suit very soon, and we believe it’s necessary because this memorandum currently causes harm,” Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal, told BuzzFeed News. "This memo makes clear that transgender people who want to join the military will not be permitted to do so.”

Trump Adviser Sebastian Gorka Exits The White House


Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Sebastian Gorka, an adviser to President Trump, has exited the White House — though how and why remains unclear.

Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, is known for his focus on Islamic terrorism and as a frequent presence on cable news. He previously worked as an international news editor at the right-wing outlet Breitbart, under the leadership of Steve Bannon — the onetime chief strategist to President Trump who has since returned to Breitbart.

Amid a series of breaking news stories on Friday night, Gorka's exit from the White House was first reported as a resignation by The Federalist, which a source confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

A White House official, however, disputed that account and suggested that he had been pushed out. "Sebastian Gorka did not resign, but I can confirm he no longer works at the White House," the official said in a statement to reporters.

The White House statement is unusual. A Republican source close to the White House noted in an email to BuzzFeed News, “First time I have ever seen surrogate operations send out something like this.”

A source with knowledge of the situation said Gorka was planning to resign on Monday, his first day back from vacation, during a planned meeting with White House chief of staff Gen. John Kelly, but the letter leaked before the meeting could take place.

Regardless, Gorka is the latest White House official to leave his post, after Bannon was ousted earlier this month by Trump's chief of staff John Kelly, and following a series of departures this summer.

Gorka has been a source of controversy as long as he had been in the Trump administration. Earlier this year, there were reports that Gorka belonged to Historical Vitézi Rend, a far-right Hungarian group that had ties to the Nazi party and a complicated history. Gorka has denied he belonged to the group and denied holding anti-Semitic beliefs.

More recently, after a bomb exploded at a mosque in suburban Minneapolis, Gorka said he was not convinced the attack was not “a fake hate crime.”

A number of progressive and liberal groups had called on Trump to fire Gorka and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon in the wake of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend.

Gorka, who was born in the UK, spent the 1990s and early 2000s in Hungary, where his parents were born, as a self-styled defense and intelligence expert. After moving to America and earning his citizenship, he became an increasingly prominent critic of Islam through his work at Breitbart and eventually as a television pundit. Gorka was a fierce critic of former president Barack Obama over what he saw as Obama’s unwillingness to properly call out radical slamic terrorism.

Gorka and his wife, Katharine, who works at the Department of Homeland Security and previously served on the Trump transition team, were said to be major drivers of Trump’s foreign policy strategy focusing on Islamic terror. “Our pillow talk is the Islamic State and al-Qaeda,” he once said in a speech. Under Trump, DHS’s task force to counter violent extremism shifted to refocus specifically on Islamic terror groups while putting fewer resources toward combating far-right domestic terrorism, with the assistance of Katharine Gorka.

Gorka has been accused of exaggerating his intelligence bona fides, and his bid for security clearance was rejected by Hungarian counterintelligence.

In an interview on SiruisXM Gorka told Breitbart Washington editor Matthew Boyle he would be returning to the news outlet. A DHS spokesperson said in an email to BuzzFeed News that Katharine Gorka "remains an employee of DHS, in the policy office."

Miriam Elder contributed reporting.

Joe Arpaio's Pardon Did Not Go Through The Justice Department. It Didn't Have To.


Joe Arpaio

Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images

The US Department of Justice's pardon office did not review former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio's pardon, a DOJ official confirmed to BuzzFeed News late Friday.

It didn't have to.

The US Constitution gives the president broad power to issue pardons and commute sentences, and there is no law requiring the president to consult with the Justice Department. President Trump is not the first president to issue a pardon that didn't go through DOJ, but he now joins the ranks of presidents who made controversial clemency decisions outside of the standard pardon process. And he did so with his very first pardon.

People can apply to the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney for clemency — in the form of shortened sentences or full pardons — and the attorneys there can make recommendations to the White House after reviewing the cases. The regulations that govern that process don't bind presidents to go through the Justice Department when they want to exercise their pardon power, however.

The Justice Department official said that the Office of the Pardon Attorney did not receive a pardon application from Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt in July for failing to comply with a court order that his office stop detaining people based solely on the suspicion that they were illegally in the United States.

Shortly after the White House announced the pardon on Friday evening, a DOJ spokesperson said in a statement, "The President exercised his lawful authority and we respect his decision."

Arpaio would not even have been eligible to apply to the Justice Department for consideration of a pardon. The regulations say that petitioners have to wait at least five years from the date they're released from prison, or the date of their conviction if they aren't sentenced to any jail time. Arpaio had not been sentenced yet.

The majority of pardons and other grants of presidential clemency don't typically make headlines. But a few have proved controversial, spurring allegations of cronyism.

There was President Bill Clinton, who pardoned Marc Rich on Clinton's last day in office on Jan. 20, 2001. Rich, a billionaire financier, had fled the United States after he was indicted on a slew of charges, including tax fraud. Rich's ex-wife was a Democratic donor and had given money to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign and Bill Clinton's presidential library, spurring probes by Congress and the FBI. The FBI investigation, which was led for a time by former FBI director James Comey (then a senior Justice Department official) closed in 2005 with no charges.

News reports at the time indicated that Rich did not apply to the Justice Department for a pardon. Former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara drew a comparison between the Arpaio and Rich pardons, commenting on Twitter that he thought both were ill-advised.

In July 2007, President George W. Bush commuted the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney who had been convicted of perjury and other charges related to the investigation of the unmasking of a CIA operative. According to news reports, Bush did not consult the Justice Department on the commutation.

Cheney reportedly lobbied for a full pardon for Libby — Libby did not submit a pardon request to the Office of the Pardon Attorney — but Bush refused.

Trump was open about his desire to pardon Arpaio, who, like Trump, has been a proponent of hard-line immigration enforcement policies. At a rally earlier this week in Phoenix, Trump signaled that a pardon might be coming, saying that Arpaio is "going to be just fine." After the pardon was announced, Trump tweeted that Arpaio is a "patriot."

The White House statement announcing the pardon for Arpaio did not specify who Trump consulted with leading up to his decision.

That Trump had the power to issue the pardon did not stop the flood of criticism from Democrats and civil rights groups. ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecilia Wang said the decision amounted to a "presidential endorsement of racism."

Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Republican, said that although Trump had the power to issue the pardon, it undermined Trump's "claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions."

Chris Geidner contributed to this report.

9th Circuit Has Tough Questions On Trump Administration's Travel Ban Rules


Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Federal appeals judges appeared to be skeptical of Trump administration attempts to broadly interpret who is covered by President Trump’s travel ban during oral arguments on the topic Monday.

The arguments at the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Seattle on Monday focused on the current partial application of the travel and refugee bans since late June — a move the US Supreme Court allowed in a June 26 order.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will hear arguments this fall over the travel and refugee bans, but the arguments at the 9th Circuit are important because they are one of the last times before then that the government will get to make its case about how it believes Trump’s ban should be seen by courts. Moreover, a ruling from the 9th Circuit could shift the way the justices approach the Supreme Court case, scheduled for arguments on Oct. 10.

Moments after the Justice Department lawyer defending the government’s argument began on Monday, Judge Ronald Gould cut in with a question.

“How can the government say” a grandparent or aunt or uncle isn’t a close family member, Gould asked. “In what universe does that come from?”

In the June order, the Supreme Court barred enforcement of the 90-day travel ban from six Muslim-majority countries or the 120-day halt to the US refugee program against those with a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship” to a US person or entity.

Since then, the fight has, unsurprisingly, focused on what constitutes a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship.”

The administration announced its policy for interpreting that language hours before it was due to to go into effect. The arguments in the seventh-floor courtroom on Monday dealt with two main points of contention around that language.

First, the government excluded “siblings-in-law, cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and grandchildren” from the definition of those “close familial relationships” that would be exempted from the ban. The government also excluded refugees who have an “assurance” from a resettlement agency, rather than a scheduled relocation plan.

US District Judge Derrick Watson, however, barred the government from enforcing the ban against either of those groups.

The Justice Department subsequently asked the US Supreme Court to clarify its June order or take an appeal of Watson’s order and reverse that injunction. The court denied those requests, but it did put the resettlement agency part of the injunction on hold pending the outcome of the Justice Department’s appeal to the 9th Circuit — a move that allows the federal government to keep out refugees for now who only have assurances from resettlement agencies and no other US connections.

Monday’s arguments in Seattle, then, were over those two provisions of the district court’s modified injunction.

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The three judges hearing the case previously upheld most of the original district court injunction that put the bans on hold — a sign of their dissatisfaction with the executive order’s legality. A difference on Monday: The US Supreme Court partially reversed the 9th Circuit’s ruling, in effect, with its June order earlier this summer.

Hashim Mooppan, the Justice Department lawyer defending the government’s interpretation of that Supreme Court order, faced intense questioning from the three-judge panel hearing the case — particularly regarding the government’s exclusion of many people commonly thought of as close family members from the definition of “close familial relationship.”

“Could you explain to me what’s significantly different between a grandparent and a mother-in-law?” Judge Richard Paez asked via video conferencing. The question was a reference the Supreme Court’s order specifically stated that the mother-in-law of the plaintiff who joined in Hawaii’s lawsuit “clearly” has a close familial relationship with him. “One is in and one is out.”

Mooppan argued that the marriage “form[s] a spousal unit,” such that “[y]our spouse’s family becomes one family.” As such, he argued, there’s effectively no difference — in terms of deciding how close of a family member a person is — between a parent and a parent-in-law.

When pressed on the point that grandparents and grandchildren often have as big of a role in a family as in-laws, Mooppan pressed back. “Often extended family plays an important role,” but that doesn’t make it close family, he said.

The judges did not sound convinced. As Paez put it during Mooppan’s rebuttal arguments, if the Supreme Court wanted to limit those exempted from the ban to “immediate” family members, they would have done so.

On the other side was the lawyer for Hawaii, which sued the federal government over the executive order. Colleen Roh Sinzdak, the Hogan Lovells lawyer representing Hawaii, faced her toughest questions over whether refugee resettlement “assurances” should be seen as sufficient.

Mooppan had argued several points against exempting those with such assurances from the refugee ban. He argued, first, that the Supreme Court’s stay of the resettlement part of Watson’s order virtually resolved the question — because the standard for granting a stay means the Supreme Court considered whether the Justice Department is likely to succeed on its argument.

He argued further to allow refugees to come in with only “assurances” from a resettlement agency would render the Supreme Court’s June order “meaningless” — because it would allow almost all of those refugees who would have been able to come to the US during the time the 120-day ban is in effect to continue to come into the US in spite of the ban.

Sinzdak did not respond to that argument on Monday, but Hawaii’s lawyers had been dismissive of that argument in its court filing. “At bottom,” they wrote, “the Government’s complaint is that the District Court’s order will undermine its efforts to admit as few refugees as possible, but that policy argument is no basis for distorting the Supreme Court’s opinion to say what it does not.”

The Justice Department’s underlying argument, though, is that the resettlement agencies have a relationship with the federal government and not with the would-be refugees — which it argues means that the would-be refugees don’t actually have a relationship with a US entity.

Sinzdak countered that the Justice Department was arguing its case based on “new standards, not from the Supreme Court, but of the government’s own invention.”

Looking to the Supreme Court’s June order, she noted the court’s ruling exempted those whose relationships with US entities are “formal, documented and formed in the ordinary course.” This, she argued, meant they are “relationships that are formed in good faith, not to evade the executive order.” The resettlement agency “assurances” fit that definition, so they should be exempted from the ban.

The judges picked up on one point of the “invented” standards argument, getting into an extended back-and-forth with Mooppan over the question of whether it’s relevant whether the connection be “direct” or not.

“Where does it say a ‘direct’ relationship” is required in the Supreme Court’s order? Paez asked.

When Mooppan began to stumble a bit through an answer, Hawkins jumped in.

“So, nowhere,” the judge snapped from the bench.

Mooppan, though, attempted to press his point, arguing that it’s not just that it’s an indirect relationship between the resettlement agencies and the would-be refugees: “It’s nonexistent.”

Paez and Hawkins weren’t buying it, continuing to question Mooppan’s arguments on the point until he sat down to allow Sinzdak to argue.

During Sinzdak’s arguments, however, Judge Michael Daly Hawkins focused on a different issue altogether. Perhaps looking for a reason to explain the Supreme Court’s different treatment of the family portion and resettlement agency portion of Watson’s injunction modification, Hawkins asked about the distinction between the discretion involved in immigration law versus the refugee program.

Calling it “a basic difference,” he highlighted statutory rights relating to family-based immigration — which would require congressional action to change — and the largely “permissive” refugee program. Hawkins asked Sinzdak whether that distinction was important.

Although she initially pressed back somewhat on whether the president could totally halt the refugee program without congressional action, Sinzdak ultimately pointed to the Supreme Court’s June order to counter any view that the two sections should be seen differently. “The Supreme Court did not dwell on differences between immigrant and refugees,” she said. “They looked at who will experience concrete hardship.”

The court gave no signal as to its timeline for issuing a decision on the issues.

The arguments Monday were just the latest in the seven months of litigation since Trump first signed a travel ban executive order on Jan. 27.

After the 9th Circuit declined to put a Seattle federal district court judge’s injunction against that first executive order on hold, the administration narrowed the ban slightly, with Trump signing a revised version — that he later called a “watered-down” version — on March 6.

Before that version could go into effect, however, Watson put the main parts of the ban on hold. A federal judge in Maryland also issued an injunction, albeit a narrower one, of that second version of the ban. The administration appealed both injunctions, and both courts upheld the injunctions in large part — banning the administration from enforcing either the travel or refugee bans or the 50,000-refugee cap.

Those rulings led to the Supreme Court appeal, which led to the partial stays of the district court injunctions. The Supreme Court also agreed to hear the case itself — arguments over whether the travel or refugee bans violate laws or the Constitution. Those arguments are scheduled for October.

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