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Mueller deputy briefed on anti-Trump dossier research months before 2016 election: testimony

Newly confirmed congressional testimony reveals that Andrew Weissmann, now a top deputy in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, was briefed in August 2016 on the opposition research behind the anti-Trump dossier – underscoring how early and widely the Democrat-funded research was shared among senior FBI and Justice Department officials.

DOJ official Bruce Ohr was asked about such briefings during a closed-door interview with House lawmakers in August 2018. In the interview, details of which have only recently emerged, Fox News has learned that Ohr revealed he met with Weissmann and other DOJ officials shortly after a July 30, 2016 breakfast meeting with former British spy and dossier author Christopher Steele, in the run-up to the presidential election. Ohr told congressional investigators that his contact with Steele included “specific information related to the Russian Government’s attempt to interfere in the Presidential election,” as well as specific allegations “related to members of the Trump campaign and allegations of colluding with Russia.”

Question: “You’ve identified at the Department of Justice folks as early as August of 2016 or folks at the Department of Justice and FBI being aware of your involvement. At the Department of Justice, Mr. [Bruce] Swartz, Mr. [Andrew] Weissmann, and the third name, I didn’t get, Zainab [Ahmad]?”

Ohr: “Ahmad, Ms. Ahmad.”

Ohr was then asked about meeting with then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, as well as lawyer Lisa Page and agent Peter Strzok, all three of whom have since left the bureau.

Question: “Again, so the record is clear with respect to what the Department of Justice and the FBI knew about your involvement, those are the folks that were aware as of August 2016 that you had an involvement with Christopher Steele?”

Ohr: “Those are the people that I knew that I had told.”

Fox News previously reported Ohr told House investigators as part of the Republican-led probe that shortly after the July 30, 2016 meeting, his “first move” was to reach out to senior FBI officials McCabe and Page. He then shared the information with other DOJ officials including Weissmann, he said.

Question: “The information that Mr. Steele relayed to you in 2016, did you share this information with Federal law enforcement officials?” 

Ohr: “Yes, I did.” 

NEW DETAILS OF 2016 MEETING WITH TRUMP DOSSIER AUTHOR CONFLICT WITH DEMS’ TIMELINE

It’s not clear from the transcript exactly what information was shared and the timing. In his transcribed interview, Ohr seemed careful not to rule out the likelihood the Russia information went further. As for the substance, Ohr said Steele had provided him with information related to Russia’s attempts to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

Weissmann is now a lead prosecutor on Mueller’s team handling the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. At the time in 2016, he was chief of the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. According to online bios, Swartz was deputy assistant attorney general at the time. According to a May 2017 New Yorker profile, Ahmad worked at the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York and took leave to work at the Justice Department’s Washington headquarters. Ahmad is now assigned to the special counsel’s investigation.

Fox News recently asked the FBI, Justice Department and special counsel’s office whether the meetings with Ohr over Steele and the dossier were consistent with — or in conflict with — existing DOJ or FBI rules, including chain-of-custody procedures for handling evidence. In addition, the special counsel’s office was asked whether Weissmann and Ahmad had fully disclosed their contacts with Bruce Ohr and others over the dossier. The FBI and special counsel declined to comment; the DOJ did not immediately respond.

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The Ohr testimony and timing, meanwhile, seem to conflict with a 2018 memo from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, on the surveillance warrant application for Trump campaign aide Carter Page, which relied heavily on the dossier. While Ohr’s testimony indicated he met with senior FBI leadership in August 2016 shortly after his meeting with Steele, the Democrats’ memo stated “the Majority mischaracterizes Bruce Ohr’s role, overstates the significance of his interactions with Steele, and misleads about the timeframe of Ohr’s communications with the FBI,” saying Ohr told the bureau in November 2016 about his earlier communications with Steele.

During his testimony, Ohr said he stressed during the 2016 meetings — many of which took place before the Page surveillance warrant was obtained — the potential bias and conflicts associated with Steele and the dossier, which was commissioned by the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign and handled by opposition-research firm Fusion GPS. The surveillance warrant application drew on the unverified Trump dossier.

IUD insertions went up after Trump’s election, research shows

women iud trump cohen pkg ac_00010905

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(CNN)There was a significant increase in women with commercial insurance getting long-acting reversible contraception, or LARC, in the month after the 2016 presidential election, according to a new research paper.

It was long speculated that women were rushing to get LARC methods — such as intrauterine devices, often called IUDs, and implants — because of President Trump, but the paper, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday, provides new evidence.
Women may have been on the hunt for reversible birth control that could last through a Trump presidency because throughout his campaign, Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA mandates that insurers in the health insurance marketplace provide coverage for all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods with no copayment or coinsurance when provided in-network.
    In November, the Trump administration issued two final rules providing employers more flexibility with exemptions to deny women insurance coverage for birth control. Then, in January, a Pennsylvania district court judge issued a nationwide injunction preventing the administration from implementing the changes, which would have allowed more employers to get exemptions from the ACA’s requirement to provide insurance coverage for birth control with no copay.
    “Our findings could reflect a response to fears of losing contraceptive coverage because of President Trump’s opposition to the ACA or an association of the 2016 election with reproductive intentions or LARC awareness,” the researchers wrote in the new paper.
    When it comes to the increased rate of LARC insertions they saw, they wrote, “If our findings were projected to the approximately 33 million women in the United States aged 18 to 45 years in 2016 with employer-sponsored health insurance, this rate would correspond to approximately 700 additional insertions per day in association with the 2016 election.”
    The new paper included health data on 3,449,455 women in 2015 and 3,253,703 women in 2016. The data came from an IBM/Truven MarketScan Analytics database on commercial claims and encounters.
    The researchers took a close look at women 18 to 45 who were enrolled in commercial insurance during the 30 business days before and after November 8 in 2015 or 2016. The women had at least 12 months of continuous enrollment.
    The researchers also used billing codes to calculate daily insertion rates of long-acting reversible contraception during the 30 business days before, including on, and after November 8 in 2015 and 2016.
    In 2015, the researchers found that the average adjusted daily insertion rate of long-acting reversible contraception during the 30 days before November 8 was 12.9 per 100,000 women, versus 13.7 per 100,000 in the 30 days after.
    Yet in 2016, the average daily rate during the 30 days before the November 8 presidential election was 13.4 per 100,000 women, versus 16.3 per 100,000 women during the 30 days after — a 21.6% increase, according to the paper.
    The paper had some limitations, including that it used data only on women with commercial insurance, so the findings may not generalize to women with public insurance or no insurance. Also, the study did not examine whether the increase in LARC insertions continued over a longer time period or resulted in any public health significance.
    The researchers also noted conflicts of interest in the paper, including that some have provided public comment, participated in a legal brief or provided written expert testimony on proposed regulations or legislation relating to reproductive health care.
    Overall, the new findings seem to support what has been surmised. For instance, in 2017, Cecile Richards, then-president of Planned Parenthood, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the number of women trying to get into Planned Parenthood to get an IUD had gone up 900% since the election.
    “They are desperately concerned that they might lose their access to health care,” Richards said, but she didn’t give the exact number of women who called before and after election day.
    In general, 64.9% of women ages 15 to 49 in the United States were using some type of contraception between 2015 and 2017 in the month they were interviewed for a national survey, according to a report published in December by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among them, 10.3% of respondents were using long-acting reversible contraceptives.
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    Sign up here to get The Results Are In with Dr. Sanjay Gupta every Tuesday from the CNN Health team.

      Long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as IUDs, don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections. Users still need a condom to reduce the chance of getting or spreading an STI.
      IUDs can be expensive up front. Some insurance and Medicaid cover them completely or at a low cost to users, but others may not. On the high end, an IUD can cost up to $ 1,300. That price includes the medical exam and a follow-up visit, and because they can last so long, the price spreads out over time.

      El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele wins presidential election

       Nayib Bukele will be El Salvador's next president.

       Nayib Bukele will be El Salvador's next president.

      (CNN)Nayib Bukele will be El Salvador’s next president after garnering the majority of votes in Sunday’s election, according to the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

      Though not all votes have been counted, opponents of the 37-year-old populist and social media star acknowledged his victory, according to TSE.
      TSE said most of the votes, almost 90%, have been counted and Bukele won 54% of the vote.
      The future of the gang and poverty-ridden country may have an impact on the flow of migrants — many of whom come from El Salvador — to the US-Mexico border.
      Leaders of other Central American countries took to social media to congratulate
      Bukele.
        Panama’s president, Juan Carlos Varela, wrote he will “work hand in hand with this sister nation,” and praised Bukele’s win after a “democratic and peaceful electoral feast.”
        Carlos Alvarado Quesada, the president of Costa Rica, also sent his congratulations vowing to deepen the country’s friendship with El Salvador as well as a “common agenda of values and purposes for our region.”
          Venezuela’s self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido also chimed in, calling the election day “exemplary.”
          “Our country is ready to realize soon a new stage of relations, based on collaboration and observation of the highest democratic values,” he wrote on Twitter.

          Start your Monday smart: State of the Union, El Chapo, El Salvador election, Pope in UAE

          People give their take on the State of the Union

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          (CNN)Whether it’s at the National Civil Rights Museum or lesser-known sites, Black History Month is a great time to gain a deeper understanding of who we all are. Here’s what else you need to know to Start Your Week Smart.

          (You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. You give us five minutes, and we give you five things you must know for your weekday, plus a Sunday edition to get your week started smart. Sign up here.)

          TODAY

            It’s Super Bowl Sunday! The New England Patriots face off against the Los Angeles Rams, right here in the 5 Things stronghold of Atlanta. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. ET. Tune in (or don’t) on CBS. And here’s how to watch (and actually keep up).

            The Super Bowl LIII experience

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            The Pope visits the Muslim world. Francis flies to the United Arab Emirates for a three-day visit. He’s expected to meet privately with Muslim leaders, visit a mosque and celebrate the first Mass by a pope on the Arabian Peninsula.

            Why Pope Francis' UAE visit is so historic

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            El Salvador’s election could have a US impact. Voters choose a new president in the Central American country, where gangs and poverty have contributed to the flow of migrants to the US-Mexico border. The front-runner is Nayib Bukele, a 37-year-old populist and social media star.

            Stories of the year: Crossing borders

            Stories of the year: Crossing borders

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            The day the music died. Rock ‘n’ roll pioneers Buddy Holly, 22, and Richie Valens, 17, along with J.P. Richardson Jr., aka “The Big Bopper,” and their pilot perished on this date 60 years ago when their small plane crashed in Iowa. (Click here to listen.)

            MONDAY

            The “El Chapo” jury is set to deliberate. They’ve heard 200 hours of testimony. Listened to 56 witnesses over 38 days. Now their instructions are about 60 pages long. Federal jurors deciding the fate of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán are expected to get to work this week. He faces a sentence of life in prison if convicted.

            El Chapo's wife accused of helping him escape

            El Chapo's wife accused of helping him escape

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            Facebook marks a milestone. In case you miss the auto-reminder, the social media giant is celebrating a birthday. As Facebook turns 15, it boasts more than 1 billion users — and what seems like a billion headaches, from fake ads that may have influenced the 2016 election to hacks that exposed users’ personal information.

            It took Facebook 15 years to take over the world. Here's how

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            Americans take to the slopes. Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn headline a US team of six women and seven men in the Alpine World Ski Championships in Sweden.

            Lindsey Vonn exclusive on her final season

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            TUESDAY

            The State of the Union is back on. President Donald Trump will deliver his State of the Union address after it was postponed during the partial government shutdown. Tension over border wall talks is sure to be front and center. Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, who almost became the first African-American woman governor, gives the Democratic response.

            Democrats select Stacey Abrams to deliver State of the Union response

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            Happy 4717! Celebrate New Year’s Day on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. To mark the Year of the Pig, you can set off fireworks, eat dumplings or clean the house.

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            Oprah goes one-on-one with Beto O’Rourke. The Queen of Talk sits down with the former US Democratic congressman from Texas as he mulls a White House run in 2020. The event, in New York’s Times Square, airs live at 2 p.m. ET on OWN.

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            THURSDAY

            “Black Panther” for free. It’s the last day for free screenings of the Oscar-nominated blockbuster as part of Black History Month. For nearly a week, there have be two shows daily at 250 participating AMC theater locations.

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            FRIDAY

              Key Trump figures go to Capitol Hill. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is set to testify before a House panel. He’s likely to get grilled about special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which he once publicly slammed and now oversees.

              Senate intel subpoenas Michael Cohen to testify

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              Meanwhile, the President’s former “fixer,” attorney Michael Cohen, agreed to appear behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee. He’s expected to talk about Russia and to correct testimony from 2017 that led to his guilty plea for lying to Congress.

              Israel’s election is a race to the right

              The left has become the favorite punching bag of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

              The left has become the favorite punching bag of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

              Jerusalem (CNN)In one of the most memorable scenes in the 1993 American coming-of-age movie “The Sandlot,” Ham and Phillips are hurling insults back and forth, upping the ante with each verbal assault and raising the stakes between the rag-tag bunch of baseball misfits and the organized local team.

              The two lob volleys, each egged on by his own team, until Ham fires off the most dreaded insult of all, fueled by the chauvinism of young male adolescents in the early 90s.
              “You play ball like a girl!”
              It’s a slap in the face combined with a kick in the gut, leaving Phillips hurt, fuming, and speechless all at once.
                Welcome to my movie analogy for the Israel’s upcoming elections on April 9.
                In modern Israeli politics, the equivalent of telling someone they play baseball “like a girl” is calling them a leftist.
                “Smolani,” as it’s said in Hebrew, has become the most common — and perhaps the most feared — insult across the political landscape.

                Favorite punching bag

                Israeli politics has become a race to the right, and no one is looking back. Politicians fall over themselves to reject a Palestinian state, vow to expel tens of thousands of African migrants, demolish a Bedouin village near Jerusalem that was deemed illegal, and boast of harsher measures against Hamas in Gaza. Just as long as they’re not accused of being leftists.
                Not every party identifies as absolutely right-wing — there are centrist parties — but nearly every party wants to avoid the left-wing moniker. The entire field of Israeli political parties — historically a solid bell curve with Labor representing center-left and Likud representing center-right — has shifted dramatically to one end of the spectrum.
                The left has become the favorite punching bag of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who blames it — and the media — for putting pressure on the Attorney General to indict the Israeli leader. Netanyahu has accused the left of being involved in a conspiracy with the media to topple his right-wing government at all costs.
                Only Iran gets nearly as much of Netanyahu’s time and Twitter feed.
                The way Netanyahu has painted it, if Iran is Israel’s greatest external enemy, the left is the most serious internal one.
                When former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz launched his campaign on Tuesday night, Netanyahu — who included left-wing parties in his government from 2009 to 2015 — attacked Gantz immediately as a leftist.
                One hour before his first speech, Netanyahu’s Likud party tweeted an attack on Gantz saying, “Benny Gantz is left. Weak left.”
                Benny Gantz -- who may become the main challenger to Netanyahu -- has tried hard to position himself as a centrist but his language is hardly leftist.

                Benny Gantz -- who may become the main challenger to Netanyahu -- has tried hard to position himself as a centrist but his language is hardly leftist.

                Gantz — who may become the main challenger to Netanyahu in the April elections — has tried hard to position himself as a centrist.
                “The struggle between left and right rips us apart. Quarrels between religious and secular split us. The tension between Jews and non-Jews threatens us. The mutual guarantee of a shared society is crumbling. Politics is ugly, and the public arena has become poisoned,” said Gantz in his campaign speech.
                “A strong government governs to unite and doesn’t govern in order to separate, to rule.”
                Gantz spoke of a united Jerusalem, strengthening the settlement blocs, holding on to the Golan Heights, and maintaining a security presence in the Jordan Valley — hardly the words of a leftist.
                His first campaign video shows a bombed-out neighborhood in Gaza and boasts of “1,364 terrorists killed” in the 2014 war when he was the IDF Chief of Staff. An investigation by the United Nations found that approximately 2,200 Palestinians were killed in the war — more than half of them civilians.
                His campaign jingle — and yes, Israel apparently has campaign jingles — even begins with “There is no more right or left. There is just Israel. Israel before everything.”
                The last line is even reminiscent of President Donald Trump’s “America First,” but the similarities did little to save him from the attacks branding him a member of the left. Perhaps because others had come even closer to Trump’s language.
                Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has tried to keep his party's image away from the left.

                Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has tried to keep his party's image away from the left.

                Labor in disarray

                Right-wing leader Naftali Bennett’s New Right party has “Making Israel Win Again” as its campaign slogan. Bennett didn’t even wait for Gantz to begin speaking. In a video he retweeted two days before Gantz’s speech, Bennett provides viewers with two options. His New Right party or Gantz’s weak left. (It rhymes in Hebrew.)
                Beyond simply campaign rhetoric, fear of being branded a leftist has had profound policy impacts. In April, Netanyahu came to an agreement with the UN High Council on Refugees over the roughly 35,000 African migrants in Israel. Half would be absorbed by Israel while the other half would be moved to Western countries that would accept them. The agreement made everyone happy… except the right wing, who wanted all of the migrants expelled. Within hours of reaching the agreement, Netanyahu canceled it under pressure from the right, who call the migrants infiltrators. Instead, Israel is now left with no agreement and all of the migrants.
                Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has tried to keep his party’s image away from the left.
                The Labor party, which was for decades the stalwart of Israel’s left-wing political parties, is in shambles. Two different polls conducted by the Israel News Company and Channel 13 — the country’s two major broadcasters — show the party shrinking to less than a third of its current size in the next elections, from a healthy 24 seats to a barely relevant six seats. Its leader, Avi Gabbay, refuses to step down and still insists he’s going to be the next Prime Minister, a boast that seems less likely by the day.
                Historically, the Labor party ran on a platform of continuing the peace process with the Palestinians. But with a moribund peace process and few believing Trump’s mysterious Deal of the Century will succeed in moving the needle from clinically dead to even mostly unconscious, the peace process is simply not a key voting issue.
                “In the last 10 years, it has become increasingly difficult to sell to the Israeli public that there is a peace partner, there is a peace process, and that people should vote for the left and it will make Israel more secure,” said Reuven Hazan, a professor of politics and diplomacy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
                Hazan added that Israeli voters are most concerned with security instead of the economy or social issues, an emphasis that favors right-wing parties. Since 2008, Israel has been through three wars with Gaza. Israel has sworn enemies on its northern border and in Gaza; rarely a day goes by when the country’s leaders don’t mention Iran. Consequently, all of Israeli politics has shifted away from the left.
                Tzipi Livni's Hatnua party is left-wing, but the former foreign minister is unlikely to win seats in the Knesset.

                Tzipi Livni's Hatnua party is left-wing, but the former foreign minister is unlikely to win seats in the Knesset.

                “The fact that the center is growing and that it can hold [multiple] parties happens not because they are sucking voters from the right or the religious, but they are emptying out the left,” said Hazan.
                Only one party is openly and proudly on the left, and that is the Meretz party.
                “Left left left,” tweeted party leader Tamar Zandberg recently. “The fact that the word left has become the imaginary demon of the right, to the point that even the center is afraid of it, is exactly the reason to vote left. And left is Meretz.”
                Perhaps it’s not surprising Zandberg is the only party leader embracing the left. She is one of the only female leaders of a major political party in Israel.
                Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party is left-wing, but the former foreign minister isn’t expected to garner enough votes to win seats in the Knesset, according to the latest polls. And Orly Levy-Abekasis’s new party, named Gesher, runs the same risk as she tries to position the party in the center.
                  Zandberg is perhaps the only political leader in the country who is loudly and proudly left. It’s a lonely place to stand in Israeli politics today, but she’s not afraid to be there.
                  And she’s probably not afraid to play ball.

                  2020 will be the least white election ever

                  Washington (CNN)In the 2020 election, white voters will make up less than 67% of all eligible voters, according to projections made by the Pew Research Center and released this week.  It marks the first time in American political history that white voters are less than seven in 10 of all eligible voters in a presidential election.

                  That’s a significant moment in the changing face of America — and has potentially massive consequences for our politics. White voters have long been a bulwark of the GOP coalition in national races while nonwhites have become increasingly Democratic over the years. At the same time, the white vote has been shrinking as a percentage of the overall electorate while the nonwhite vote has been growing.
                  According to the Pew calculations, those demographic changes will only continue in 2020. (Here’s a detailed explainer of how they arrived at their estimates.)  This is what the composition of eligible voters will look like in 2020 via Pew:
                    White: 66.7%
                    Hispanic 13.3%
                    Black 12.5%
                    Asian: 4.7%
                    And here’s the racial breakdown of the last two presidential elections:
                    2016
                    White: 71%
                    Black: 12%
                    Hispanic: 11%
                    Asian: 4%
                    2012
                    White: 72%
                    Black 13%
                    Hispanic: 10%
                    Asian: 3%
                      The big caveat in looking at those three sets of numbers: The 2020 projections are based on eligible voters, not actual voters. And history has shown that simply because you are eligible to vote does not mean you a) register to vote or b) actually vote.
                      The Point: If the 2020 electorate looks anything close to how Pew thinks it will, the demographic challenge before Donald Trump is massive. He would either need to win white voters by a considerably larger margin than he did in 2016 (Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 20 points among whites) or find a way to make inroads into the nonwhite vote, which seems like a massive task given his first two years in office.

                      Here’s why Republicans don’t want an Election Day holiday

                      (CNN)Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, dismissed a House proposal for sweeping election reform by attacking the specific proposal in a much larger bill that would make Election Day a paid federal holiday as a “power grab that’s smelling more and more like what it is.”

                      A power grab, he intimated, because more federal workers are Democrats.
                      But the issue is much larger than that — and the bill he opposed would strike at the electoral power structure Republicans have been able to build.
                      That the US votes on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November is a notable tradition, but it’s also a relic of a byogne agrarian era. Most other developed countries vote either on a weekend or have made Election Day a holiday, according to research by Pew.
                        One funny thing about his opposition to the idea of a paid federal holiday on Election Day is that in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, presidential Election Day is already a paid state government holiday. And civilians in Kentucky are entitled up to four unpaid hours by law to vote. Many states have similar laws.
                        Regardless, McConnell’s opposition keeps Democrats’ proposals off the Senate floor and thus nowhere near becoming law.
                        You can read McConnell’s full takedown of the bill, which he calls the “Democrat politician act” in The Washington Post. And check here for the Democratic side.
                        The bill also would have prohibited the purging of voter rolls, which was extremely controversial in Georgia this year as the Republican candidate for governor — Brian Kemp, then the secretary of state — sought to purge the rolls, which coincidentally could have helped him on Election Day. The courts got involved in the voter roll issue. Kemp won the election.
                        In Florida, another state where state leaders have worked hard over the years to purge voter rolls and make it harder for people to vote, voters went in the opposite direction on Election Day and chose to restore voting rights to people with prior felonies. That process, however, was slowed by state lawmakers.
                        The 2018 midterm election saw a higher portion of Americans participate than any midterm election in decades. More than 116.7 million people cast ballots. But that’s only about 46% of the voting age population, according to data from Edison Research.
                        More people will vote in next year’s presidential election, but not even close to everyone who can.
                        There’s no indication that making Election Day a holiday would markedly raise turnout. In fact, a large and growing portion of Americans don’t vote on Election Day at all. They voted early or absentee or, as a few states now require, by mail. The percentage of non-Election Day voting is not yet entirely clear for 2018, but to give a sense of how big that block is, it was 35% in 2014, 42% in 2016 and is expected to grow.
                        There has, however, been a movement among some corporations to encourage voting by giving their employees time to vote, albeit often not the whole day, meeting-free days to give employees flexibility or helping provide access to mail-in ballots.
                        What seemed to anger McConnell more than the Election Day holiday proposal was a provision in Democrats’ bill that would give federal workers multiple paid days to help at US polling stations.
                        “Just what America needs,” he said. “Another paid holiday and a bunch of government workers being paid to go out and work, I assume our colleagues on the other side, on their campaigns. This is the Democrat plan to restore democracy? A brand new week of paid vacation for every federal employee who’d like to hover around while you cast your ballot?”
                        Another provision of the bill would end gerrymandering, which both parties have employed to protect members of Congress, but which Republicans, controlling more state legislatures, have used it to greater effect.
                        William Adler, a computational research analyst at Princeton, wrote in The New York Times after the midterms that specially drawn districts in Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan and Texas helped mute the effects of increased Democratic turnout in 2018. The Supreme Court is set to consider the issue with regard to North Carolina.
                        That is of a piece with efforts over the years, mostly by Republicans, to enact new voter ID laws. Such laws have made voting more difficult for minorities, the federal Commission on Civil Rights said in a report issued in September.
                        Republicans are more likely to benefit when fewer people vote, and was even an alleged strategy of the Trump campaign in 2016, to make Hillary Clinton an unattractive candidate and drive down turnout.

                        That’s because people who don’t vote are generally more likely to support Democrats when they do. Fifty-one percent of nonvoters lean toward Democrats a Pew survey in 2014 compared likely voters to nonvoters compared to 30% who leaned toward the GOP.
                        Minorities, a strong constituency for Democrats, comprised 43% of the nonvoters and 22% of the likely voters.
                          White voters were about 66% of the adult population that year, but about 77% of likely voters and 55% of nonvoters. Latinos, in particular, are less likely to vote. They were 15% of the adult population that year, but just 6% of the likely voter population. They’ve grown as a percentage of the population, however and were 11% of the voters in 2016, according to exit polls.
                          A new Pew study projects the portion of nonwhite voters will grow to a third in 2020 and Latinos could overtake African-Americans as the largest nonwhite voting bloc. They voted 66% in favor of Clinton in 2016. The national demographics have been moving against Republicans for some time, but they have been able to maintain the majority of power in Washington despite that. The bill Democrats unveiled, with its assault on gerrymandering and enticements to bring more voters to the polls represented a challenge to that control Republicans have been able to maintain.

                          Pelosi: Roger Stone indictment shows ‘attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election’

                          House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, weighing in Friday on the indictment of ex-Trump adviser Roger Stone as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, appeared to question the president’s choices of whom “to surround himself with.”

                          “The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people,” the Democratic leader said in a statement. “It is staggering that the president has chosen to surround himself with people who violated the integrity of our democracy and lied to the FBI and Congress about it.”

                          Stone, 66, was taken into custody in Florida on Friday after being indicted by a federal grand jury the day before on charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering.

                          The allegations against Stone “constitute grave crimes,” Pelosi said, adding that anyone who carries out “these illegal acts” needs to be held accountable.

                          ROGER STONE VOWS TO FIGHT CHARGES IN MUELLER PROBE, CALLS INDICTMENT ‘POLITICALLY MOTIVATED’

                          “We cannot allow any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from appearing before Congress,” she said in the statement.

                          The indictment unsealed Friday does not charge Stone with conspiring with WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that published emails of Democrats during the 2016 campaign, or with the Russian officers Mueller says hacked the Dems. Instead, it accuses him of lying about his interactions related to WikiLeaks’ release during probes by Congress and Mueller’s team into Russian election meddling.

                          The indictment states that during the summer of 2016, Stone spoke to senior Trump campaign officials about WikiLeaks and information it might have had that would be damaging to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

                          It also said Stone was contacted by senior Trump campaign officials to inquire about future releases, and that Stone continued to communicate with members of the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks.

                          DEFIANT ROGER STONE POSTS PICTURE OF MUELLER’S ‘NOTHINGBURGER’ AS TRUMP COMES TO HIS DEFENSE

                          The 24-page indictment alleged that Stone worked to obstruct the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by making false statements to the committee, denying he had records sought by the committee and persuading a witness to provide false testimony.

                          Pelosi also accused Trump of trying to undermine Mueller’s probe, which she said “raise the questions” about potential ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

                          “In the face of 37 indictments, the president’s continued actions to undermine the special counsel investigation raise the questions: What does Putin have on the president, politically, personally or financially?” she said. “Why has the Trump administration continued to discuss pulling the U.S. out of NATO, which would be a massive victory for Putin?”

                          During an interview Friday on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Stone said the indictment is “thin” and is really “about silencing” him. He vowed to fight on.

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                          “I’m in for the fight of my life but I will not quit. I will not fold. I will not bend. I will not bear false witness against the president,” Stone said. “I intend to fight because this indictment is fabricated. This indictment is thin as can be.”

                          At a news conference earlier Friday, he said he would “plead not guilty to these charges” and would “defeat them in court.”

                          Fox News’ Alex Pappas and Adam Shaw contributed to this report.

                          Nigerian election thrown into chaos as Buhari suspends country’s top judge

                          President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari has been faced criticism from opposition leaders and on social media.

                          President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari has been faced criticism from opposition leaders and on social media.

                          Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has come under intense scrutiny for suspending his country’s Chief Justice just weeks before a general election, a move that critics have attacked as tyrannical and unconstitutional.

                          Buhari defended his decision on Twitter, saying corruption allegations against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen — who has been accused of failing to disclose bank accounts in foreign currencies — are “grievous.”
                          But the move was labelled a “coup against democracy” by the President of the Nigerian Senate, and prompted an outcry from the country’s major opposition party, which halted its presidential election campaign in protest.
                          Describing the action as a “dangerous and brazen assault on the constitution,” the Campaign Council of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) said Friday that there was no point in campaigning in an election whose basis has been so flagrantly undermined.
                            “When democracy comes under this kind of virulent attack, then the election itself becomes superfluous,” the statement said.
                            Buhari is seeking a second term as president in next month’s elections, but his party has been accused of vote-buying by political opponents.
                            As the country’s top judge, Onnoghen would have ruled on any legal challenge to the election.
                            That potential responsibility would now fall to Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, whom Buhari swore in as acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) following his suspension of Onnoghen.
                            But many Nigerians have used social media to criticize Onnoghen’s ousting, calling Buhari a tyrant and saying it’s the President who should go.
                            They have been joined by numerous politicians from opposition parties, who have launched a cascade of condemnation against Buhari and urged him to reverse the decision.
                            “President Buhari has sent a dangerous signal to the entire world that Nigeria is no longer a democratic nation and that we have returned to the old, jaded era of military dictatorship,” Senate President Bukola Saraki said in a statement, adding that he has “precipitated a constitutional crisis.”

                            ‘Brazen dictatorial act’

                            Chief Justice Onnoghen was charged on 12 January with breaching a rule that public officials disclose foreign bank accounts.
                            He had secured a temporary injunction to his hearing on Thursday, which seemingly prompted Buhari’s move.
                            “One expected that with his moral authority so wounded, by these serious charges of corruption, more so by his own written admission, Mr. Justice Onnoghen would have acted swiftly to spare our Judicial Arm further disrepute by removing himself from superintending over it while his trial lasted,” the President wrote on Twitter.
                            “Unfortunately, he has not done so,” he wrote, adding: “If Justice cannot be done and clearly seen to be done, society itself is at risk of the most unimaginable chaos.”
                            But the President’s critics argued that due process had not been afforded to Onnoghen, and painted Buhari’s move as a flagrant attempt to influence the outcome of the upcoming vote.
                            “This brazen dictatorial act is the latest action in the ongoing rape of our nation’s hard earned democracy,” PDP challenger and former Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar wrote on Twitter.
                            “The case involving the legality or otherwise of the charges against Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen is in court, as it should be,” he added. “Why not allow the court to adjudicate on the matter?”
                            The European Union (UN), which had been asked to observe the elections by the National Electoral Commission, said it was “very concerned” by the judge’s suspension.
                            “The decision to suspend the Chief Justice has led to many Nigerians, including lawyers and civil society observer groups, to question whether due process was followed,” a spokeswoman for the EU’s Election Observation Mission said in a statement.
                            “The timing, just before the swearing in of justices for Electoral Tribunals and the hearing of election-related cases, has also raised concerns about the opportunity for electoral justice,” she added.
                              Next month’s election is seen by many as a two-horse race between Buhari and Abubakar.
                              But Bring Back our Girls activist Oby Ezekwesili, who withdrew her candidacy on Thursday, promised to build a coalition capable of defeating both parties in order to “disrupt the politics of failure” in Africa’s most populous nation.

                              Belarusian model who offered to trade US election info is released from jail

                              Detained Belarusian model Anastasia Vashukevich arrives at Thai immigration in Bangkok on January 17.

                              Detained Belarusian model Anastasia Vashukevich arrives at Thai immigration in Bangkok on January 17.

                              Moscow (CNN)A Belarusian model who claimed to have insider knowledge of Russian attempts to meddle in the US elections has been freed from police custody in Moscow, state media reported.

                              The model, Anastasia Vashukevich, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport last Thursday on prostitution allegations after being deported from Thailand, where she had spent nearly a year behind bars for soliciting. She remains a suspect in a prostitution case, TASS reported.
                              Vashukevich, along with seven others, pleaded guilty to charges of solicitation and conspiracy at a court in the Thai resort town of Pattaya, where they were arrested in February 2018 while running so-called sex training sessions. They were each sentenced to 18 months in jail but they were released to serve the remainder of their sentence on parole.
                              The 28-year-old self-styled “sex expert,” who also goes by Nastya Rybka on social media, made international headlines last year when she offered to swap secret audio recordings allegedly shedding light on President Donald Trump’s links to Russia for asylum in the United States.
                                Vashukevich claimed to have obtained the recordings during her affair with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, an ex-business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. She told CNN from the Thai detention center last March that she witnessed meetings in 2016 and 2017 between Deripaska and at least three unnamed Americans.
                                Deripaska — who denies any affair — is a subject of political intrigue in US political circles, owing to his links with Manafort.
                                Appearing in court on Saturday, Vashukevich apologized to Deripaska for hurting his reputation.
                                Travel restrictions have been placed on Vashukevich so that she can attend future court hearings.
                                Vashukevich had planned to return home to Belarus after arriving in Moscow last week. She and the seven others arrested with her were put on a commercial flight to Moscow from Bangkok on Thursday, Thai immigration chief Lt. General Surachate Hakparn said.
                                The Belarus-born model was part of a group led by author and free sex advocate Alexander Kirillov.
                                  It is not known whether Russian officials are interested in speaking to Vashukevich or Kirillov, who told CNN in 2018 that after stumbling upon evidence of Russian government meddling in the 2016 US election, they were in danger of knowing too much.
                                  “They can kill me here or in Russia,” Vashukevich said at the time, speaking through the bars of the Bangkok Immigration Detention Center.