Member of Trump's voter fraud panel pushed to exclude all Democrats, moderate Republicans, academics
After falsely claiming that 3-5 million people voted illegally for his opponent in the 2016 election, President Trump announced his intention in late January to set up a commission to investigate voter fraud, a decision he formalized with an executive order in May. On Feb. 22, a Heritage Foundation employee wrote an email to Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying he'd heard the "disturbing" news that the commission's chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, planned to make the panel bipartisan and urged that only like-minded conservatives be appointed, according to a copy of the email obtained by the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center (CLC) through a freedom-of-information request.
The Justice Department redacted the name of the Heritage Foundation's self-proclaimed vote-fraud expert, but the conservative think tank effectively confirmed to Gizmodo that the author was Hans von Spakovsky, who was later appointed to the commission and is identified by the CLC as "widely considered the architect of the voter fraud myth." At the commission's second public meeting on Tuesday, before Heritage confirmed that Spakovsky wrote the email, Pro Publica's Jessica Huseman asked him "point blank" if he'd "authored this document, he said no." She posted audio of the exchange.
In the email, the Heritage Foundation employee presumed to be Spakovsky argued to Sessions that "there isn't a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud" and claim that the commission "is engaged in voter suppression," and that "mainstream Republican officials and/or academics" would also make the commission "an abject failure." The author also complained that none of the "real experts on the conservative side" had been appointed "other than Kris Kobach," the committee's vice chairman, Kansas secretary of state, and Breitbart News columnist.
Pence and Kobach eventually appointed seven Republicans and five Democrats to the commission, though one Democrat resigned. But the CLC said that the email adds "to the mounting evidence that the commission has no interest in true bipartisanship or an open discussion of how to solve the real problems in our elections." CLC president Trevor Potter, a former GOP chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said that Kobach's "farcical meetings" continue "to validate the worst suspicions about the commission: that it is designed to shrink the electorate for partisan advantage." He suggested they focus on "a true issue of election integrity" like Russians buying political ads on Facebook.
UPDATE: Spakovsky said in a statement that the email was sent to "private individuals who were not in the administration" and "was unaware that it had been forwarded" to Sessions. He added that he now believes the commission is "committed to uncovering the truth about election integrity and the other issues present in our election system." Peter Weber
Instead of using their discretion, two police officers in Roswell, Georgia, chose in April to let a coin-flip app decide whether to arrest a woman stopped for speeding.
WXIA-TV obtained body camera video of the incident, and Officer Courtney Brown can be heard asking Sarah Webb if she knows how fast she was going. Webb said she was sorry for speeding, but was late for work. Brown asks Webb to hand over the keys, and then walks to her patrol car, where she asks other officers if she should arrest Webb or give her a ticket.
Brown is heard saying she did not record Webb's speed, and then says, "Hold on," proceeding to open a coin-flip app on her phone, CBS News reports. Officer Kristee Wilson pipes up, and says if it's heads Webb should be arrested, and if it's tails, she should be free to go. The app gives Brown tails, but Wilson suggests she be arrested anyway, and Webb is detained, charged with going too fast for conditions and reckless driving. Those charges were ultimately dropped.
Police Chief Rusty Grant told CBS News on Friday he was "appalled" that any officers would "trivialize the decision making process of something as important as the arrest of a person," and said as soon as heard about the incident, an investigation was launched and the two officers were placed on administrative leave. Webb, who said she didn't know about the use of the app until she was contacted weeks later by WXIA, called the incident "degrading." Catherine Garcia
Throughout his campaign, Mexico's president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, vowed to fight corruption and cut down on perks for government officials, and on Sunday, he announced his plan to slash his own salary in half.
López Obrador said that he will earn 108,000 pesos, or about $5,707, a month, less than half what President Enrique Peña Nieto makes now. He also said no public official will earn more than he does during his six-year term. "What we want is for the budget to reach everybody," López Obrador told reporters.
Other changes he plans on making include cutting perks for elected officials like bodyguards, chauffeurs, and private medical insurance; forcing politicians to disclose their assets; ending pension plans for former presidents; and turning the presidential residence into a cultural center. He will take office in December. Catherine Garcia
On Monday, President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet one-on-one for 90 minutes in Helsinki, joined only by their interpreters.
The summit is taking place in Finland's presidential palace, with Trump and Putin also scheduled to have lunch with aides and attend a joint press conference. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have spoken out against the meeting, coming just days after the Justice Department announced it was indicting 12 Russians accused of hacking Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails in 2016.
Trump told CBS News on Sunday that he is going into the meeting with "low expectations," and while no major breakthroughs are expected, experts say just getting to talk with Trump is a win for Putin. "Russia has done nothing to deserve us meeting them in this way," Nina Jankowicz, a global fellow at the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, told The Associated Press. "Not only is this a P.R. coup [for Putin] no matter what happens, Trump could say nothing and it would help to legitimize his regime." Catherine Garcia
Retired music teacher Robert Moore has long dreamed of getting his students together for one more concert — little did he know that they also had the same idea.
Moore retired in 1996 after spending 30 years directing the Ponca City Chorale in Ponca City, Oklahoma. Moore taught about 900 students, and a small group joined forces to plan a huge concert to show their appreciation. Almost 300 former students were able to gather in Ponca City, coming from different states and countries, to perform for Moore inside the Poncan Theatre. They came up with an elaborate scheme to get Moore to the Poncan, and when he saw all those faces from the past, he was in shock.
Many told Moore they went into teaching and music because of him, including John Atkins from the class of 1976; he spent 25 years singing with the L.A. Opera and other groups, and "it wouldn't have happened with you," he said. Moore taught them discipline and the importance of hard work, several told CBS Sunday Morning, and they respected him. "No man deserves this," he said through tears. "I loved you then and I love you now. Thank you." Catherine Garcia
Wanting to pave the way for negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan, the White House has directed top U.S. diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, several American and Afghan officials told The New York Times.
The Taliban, which controls or has influence over 59 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, has long said it wants to first discuss peace with the United States, not the Afghan government, but the U.S. has always pushed back. There are about 15,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the Taliban continues to regularly launch deadly attacks.
Over the last few weeks, several high-ranking American officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to prepare for talks, with Pompeo briefly visiting Kabul and meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Catherine Garcia
Prince William and Prince Charles RSVP'd "no" to tea with President Trump last week at Windsor Castle, leaving Queen Elizabeth to go it alone, The Sunday Times reports.
Both men said they had no desire to meet with Trump during his visit to the U.K., a person with knowledge of the matter told the Times, and even the Queen's interaction with him was "kept to the bare minimum." Trump's trip was not an official state visit, but Prince Charles and Prince William not meeting with him "was a snub," the person said. "They simply refused to attend. It's a very, very unusual thing for the Queen to be there on her own." At 97, Prince Philip has retired from royal duties, with Charles often filling in for his father, but "he goes to what he wants to go to, and if he had wanted to be there he could have been."
Charles and William spent their Friday doing more than changing Prince Louis' diapers and flipping through the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding album; Charles attended a board meeting and a Gloucestershire police event, and William played in a charity polo match. Catherine Garcia
British investigators believe that current or former agents of the Russian military intelligence service G.R.U. were likely behind the nerve attack agent that poisoned an ex-spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England, this spring, The New York Times reports.
On Friday, the Department of Justice indicted 12 G.R.U. officers, accusing them of hacking internal documents from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Three current and former U.S. and British officials told the Times that British intelligence is very close to identifying the people they think carried out the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in March, although they have not entirely ruled out another Russian intelligence agency being involved.
Skripal was in the G.R.U. for nearly 15 years, spending some of the time as a spy for M16, Britain's foreign intelligence service. He was arrested in 2004 and pleaded guilty to espionage, but was released in 2010 as part of a spy swap, moving to England. G.R.U. is known for doling out harsh punishment to traitors, but Russia has denied any involvement in the attack. Catherine Garcia