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Politics

Report: State Election Systems Hacked

By Eric Garcia
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It’s so refreshing to know that Donald Trump cares about me. I was in that Charlotte crowd when he made one of his first outreach efforts to African-Americans. Because the supportive Trump fans gathered in the portioned-off section of the convention center included few actual African-Americans, he could very well have been talking just to me when he said Democrats and Hillary Clinton have totally taken African-American votes for granted. “What do you have to lose by trying something new?” he asked.

That appearance set the tone and backdrop for the Republican presidential nominee’s practice of talking about African-Americans to predominantly white audiences. Though I was joined by members of a local black church that has endorsed Trump, and we were all carefully watched by a diverse group of unsmiling security personnel whose glances I tried to avoid so I would not meet the same fate as an Indian-American Trump supporter tossed out of a rally when he was profiled as a potential troublemaker.

While Bryant Phillips, evangelist at that church, the Antioch Road to Glory International Ministries, said Trump “gave me my first job as an 18-year-old high school dropout in his casino,” African-Americans without so personal a connection might hear more of a mixed message from the man who has said he has a “great relationship with the blacks.”

In Michigan, Trump said of African-Americans: “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs. …” He has described urban areas as hell holes, worse than war zones. And when senseless violence touched the sometimes troubled streets, such as Friday's shooting death in Chicago of Nykea Aldridge, a cousin of NBA star Dwyane Wade, Trump’s pride in his own predictive powers preceded his condolences to the family.

[White House Sees Opportunity in Trump's Pitch to African-Americans]

Yet to come from Trump are any discussions of underlying policies that have helped create challenges as well as detailed solutions that would advance communities. That the clumsiness of this latest pivot lacked nuance, accuracy and a sense of history — the Republican Party’s and his own — was not so surprising. So much of what he is saying still basically means that African-Americans don't know what's good for them.

Does Trump want to scare black citizens into voting for him or merely convince white voters he isn’t racist while confirming all the worst stereotypes about black people some of his supporters may have? Good sense says the latter.

It has already been pointed out that most African-Americans, and Hispanics, whites and every other ethnic group, do not live in poverty. (In fact, the poverty number for African-Americans is just over a quarter — too high but hardly a majority.)

It only gets more complicated when Trump’s racial past is taken into account. Racially segregated neighborhoods, far from being accidental, became set in stone because of the U.S. government’s actions, and by discriminatory policies, such as those the Trump family organization was found guilty of, as detailed in The New York Times. Trump, who worked for his father’s Trump Management, has dismissed as baseless the lawsuits brought by the Justice Department in the 1970s after fair housing laws were passed. But the records and agreed-to settlements say otherwise.

While not as blatant as the now-unenforceable restrictive covenants that stained the deeds of the homes in my Charlotte neighborhood, the coded “C” for “colored” on applications for apartments at Trump properties in New York sent a definite message that the African-Americans Trump is courting get loud and clear. Those policies laid the groundwork for the residential segregation that still haunts America.

[Minority Democrats Dismiss Trump's Appeal to Blacks, Hispanics]

Trump also seldom mixes his outreach to minorities with his call for supporters to volunteer to search for “cheating” in urban polling places. At his Charlotte stop, he failed to mention North Carolina’s strict voting law, passed by a Republican-dominated legislature and struck down by a federal court for specifically targeting African-American voters. But he has aligned himself with the state’s GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican leaders who have supported the laws and are fighting to keep them even after court action.

Donald Trump could always show up in front of majority-minority audiences to turn his monologue into the dialogue with all Americans that any would-be president needs to have. But his campaign was a no-show at meetings of the NAACP, National Urban League and the diverse group of journalists gathered at the recent National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Washington, D.C., where Hillary Clinton gave a short speech and faced questioning. I was waiting for him since, in the past, Republicans such as George W. Bush have made the effort.

Surrogates such as reality show veteran Omarosa Manigault and vanquished opponent Ben Carson are not enough. The opening act of sisters "Diamond and Silk" don’t help. And folks such as Rudolph Giuliani and Breitbart News head Stephen Bannon, with their own racial baggage, actively hurt.

[The Deal Donald Trump Couldn't Close]

Saying “Hillary is a bigot” is not an answer or even a convincing argument. Sure, it’s great when anyone pays attention. But it might be nice if Trump gave any indication that he understands the work, hopes and dreams of African-Americans, the resilience and agency of black Americans such as my illiterate longshoreman grandfather or my father, a virtual orphan, or mother, who returned to college after raising five educated children, and became a teacher. That all happened in Baltimore, one of those cities often included in the litany of hellscapes, in circumstances limited by crushing racism.

African-Americans are listening to Mr. Trump, but what they are not hearing is understanding or solutions. It’s no wonder his poll numbers with black voters are low to nonexistent. The last thing most are looking for is a flawed savior, carrying little but promises.

Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

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Slap the handcuffs on. Lock Hillary Clinton up without trial! Maybe, as one Donald Trump ally suggested, just summarily execute her for treason.

What’s the charge? She had … (cover the children’s ears) … meetings! And some of them — fewer than two a month — were with Clinton Foundation donors.

There are private meetings between donors and officeholders? Right here in #ThisTown city? Someone tell members of Congress! They’ll want to act immediately to ban — er, take advantage of — this egregious system of pay for play.

Oh wait, they already do. They all meet with donors. That’s how they get their money. But rather than having meetings with people who also make philanthropic contributions to major international charities, they tend to insist that donors show up at fundraising events so that a campaign check can be handed over person-to-person. Some have even been known to pass each other checks on the House floor or in a little computer closet called the “red room” adjacent to the House floor.

[Trump the Degenerate Gambler]

Trump gave the Clinton Foundation money and then later said that he got Bill and Hillary Clinton’s attendance at his wedding — his third wedding for those keeping track at home — in return. So, his money for a meeting with the Clintons. Does that make him guilty of bribery or them guilty of charging too little to endure that?

If you’re still reading, you probably know all of this is in reference to this week's AP story about a study of Hillary Clinton’s private meetings with nongovernment entities during the four years she was America’s top diplomat. According to the AP, which didn’t release a list with its story, 85 of those meetings were with people who also donated to the Clinton Foundation or are employed by an entity that did so.

It’s inappropriate to fault the AP for reporting something none of us knew and that is worth understanding: People who have donated to the Clinton Foundation aren’t barred from meeting with Hillary Clinton, and it’s likely that it’s easier for a big donor to the foundation, her campaigns or her personal bank account (think Wall Street speeches) to get face time with her.

That’s a far cry from what Donald Trump, liberated from fear of slander statutes because he’s running against a public figure, said about Clinton on the stump Wednesday: “She sold favors and access in exchange for cash.”

[We're Underestimating the Donald Trump Debacle]

If Trump could prove that, he would. And maybe he thought he was buying favors and access for his cash, but no one has shown any evidence to this point that any action was taken in exchange for money or that Clinton’s policy was influenced by any of the people who also donated to the foundation.

Moreover, there are plenty of Clinton Foundation donors with whom any secretary of State would meet, and plenty of Foundation-backing companies whose help Clinton enlisted in diplomatic missions abroad. The question, aside from whether any special favors were done, is whether access was granted, based on a donation, to anyone who shouldn’t have had it. The AP didn’t release a full list, but there are counterexamples in its story — for example, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

What’s most mystifying about all of the attention to this story, though, is it’s not close to the most revealing connection between the Clinton State Department and the Clinton Foundation. In 2009, Hillary Clinton set up an office within the State Department that mirrored the Clinton Global Initiative and raised money for the American pavilion at the world’s fair in Shanghai, as my co-author, Amie Parnes, and I wrote in our book “HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton.”

That office, boasting a letter of support from Clinton, called Clinton Foundation donors and asked for money. There’s a pretty healthy intersection of companies that donated to both the Clinton Foundation and the Shanghai Expo pavilion, including Pepsi and Yum! Brands. Clinton cared about the pavilion because Chinese officials told her they would frown upon American abstention from the Expo. Her husband inscribed a copy of the Shanghai Expo program for one of her aides with the words “We did it, buddy.”

[Clinton Should Come Clean on Her Relationships With Donors]

But no one accused Hillary Clinton of doing anything in exchange for the contributions, nor is there any evidence of that. She was, however, able to get the U.S. pavilion built at the World’s fair with private money. Her allies would say her network came to life in support of a U.S. foreign policy imperative. Her detractors would say it was just another route through which she could be influenced by donors.

Here’s another ugly stat: Nearly 200 entities that lobbied the State Department during her tenure are also donors to the Clinton Foundation. She’s simply not above the appearance of potential conflicts of interests, and I’ve written before for Roll Call that I think she should tell the American public exactly what she intends to do to prevent donors past and present from influencing her if she’s president. And those steps need to be longer and stronger than the ones she’s taken so far.

But declining to ever shake hands, break bread or even talk policy with anyone who has ever given money to the Clinton Foundation isn’t the answer. Meetings are how things get done — not just bad things, but good things, too.

Roll Call columnist Jonathan Allen is co-author of the New York Times-bestselling Clinton biography “HRC” and has covered Congress, the White House and elections over the past 15 years.

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When Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio announced his decision to support marriage equality in March of 2013, he explained that his change of heart on the issue came after learning that his college-age son, Will, is gay. “It allowed me to think of this issue from a new perspective, and that's of a Dad who loves his son a lot and wants him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have," Portman told local reporters.

The immediate question at the time was how the Ohio freshman senator’s reversal on gay marriage would affect his re-election chances in 2016. Running in the battleground state of Ohio would guarantee a close race no matter what. Going it alone as the first Republican senator ever to support marriage equality meant Portman could be risking his seat, if not his career.

The National Organization for Marriage immediately said it would work to defeat Portman in either his Senate re-election or a potential run for the White House. A handful of local conservative groups in Ohio came out against him, too. The Citizens for Community Values said Portman should resign, while a county Republican committee said it would endorse his primary challenger over the issue.

But three years and a landmark Supreme Court decision later, Portman won his primary in March with 82 percent of the vote and is emerging as one of the few GOP senators in a battleground state to begin pulling away from a Democratic challenger. While Donald Trump has been a major issue in Ohio’s 2016 political scene, marriage equality has not.

[Will Pro-LGBT Stances Hurt GOP Senators?]

The latest Monmouth University poll shows Portman leading his Democratic opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, by 8 points, even as Trump trails Hillary Clinton by 4 in the state. Portman’s favorability rating is 28 to 20 percent. Not great, but better than Strickland’s 23 to 37 percent unfavorable result.

Analysts following the race closely say Portman has run an almost-textbook campaign so far to position himself to weather the Trump storm, even though Portman himself endorsed his party's nominee in May.

“If there’s anything Rob Portman’s campaign should be doing differently, I can’t think of what it is,” The Cook Political Report’s senior editor Jennifer Duffy said. “They’ve done everything they need to do.” Expecting a tough campaign, Portman assembled his campaign team very early — putting his manager, finance director and political director in place in January 2015. They have built tech-heavy infrastructure, along with a massive ground operation that included 500 summer interns.

Portman began the race with $5.8 million and has raised and spent millions to defeat Strickland since. And while outside groups are spending heavily in the state, including for Portman, Duffy said he has successfully kept his focus local, particularly on working to address misuse of prescription opioids in the state. Portman’s position on gay marriage has turned out to be a nonissue. “I have not heard it brought up in over a year,” Duffy said.

The issue has also not been a defining factor for the other three Republican senators who have come out in support of marriage equality since Portman made his announcement in 2013. Maine's Susan Collins easily won another term in 2014. Incumbent Lisa Murkowski’s GOP primary in Alaska just came and went without any surprises. And while Sen. Mark S. Kirk is trailing badly in Illinois to Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Kirk’s position on gay marriage has mostly been a nonissue in the race.

[Portman, Kasich Head in Separate Directions on Trump]

With Portman ahead or tied with Strickland in every poll since February, the senator is beginning to look as good as anyone in a battleground state could have hoped at this point in a presidential election cycle that has been nothing less than volcanic. But it’s important to add here that anything can still happen. Hillary Clinton’s emails could reveal something nobody expected. WikiLeaks could dump an unimaginable trove of damaging secrets. Donald Trump could burst into a ball of flames.

But if anything emerges to keep Rob Portman from winning, it’s safe to say gay marriage won’t be the reason.

Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for The Daily Beast. Previously, she was the Capitol Hill bureau chief for Politics Daily and founder and editor of Citizen Jane Politics. Follow her on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.

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Opinion

Memo to Trump: It's Too Late to Pivot

By Walter Shapiro
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Election Guide
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Heard on the Hill

Exit Interview: Rep. Randy Neugebauer

By Alex Gangitano
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Policy

Despite Spending Feud, NIH Makes Do in Fight Against Zika

Development of a vaccine to combat the Zika virus is on track for at least the next three or four months, despite the bitter congressional standoff over funding a response.

But the scientist in charge of the effort said Wednesday the money is likely to dry up in December. Funding for vaccine research at the National Institutes of Health was part of a much broader $1.9 billion request from the Obama administration that's been the subject of much wrangling this year on Capitol Hill.

"We asked for $277 million, and if you do the math and you look at all the money that was reshuffled in different places, when you pay it back, we still need $196 million to go through 2017 and into 2018," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview.

Where Does the NIH Stand With Zika Funding?

Fauci's team has relied on reprogrammed dollars shuffled between government accounts, including last week's reallocation of some $34 million within the NIH by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Fauci said Burwell wanted to avoid the transfers because they will eat into research of conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

"We have to spend that money by the end of September," Fauci said. "We are going to be funding things that we're going to be doing starting in January and February. So, when you get to October, November, December, we're not going to be spending any additional money because we already put it into the contracts and the things to start."

[HHS to Transfer Funds to Help Fight Zika Virus]

He predicted the possibility of a funding drop-off unless Congress agrees on stopgap measures to keep federal agencies running.

"If we get a continuing resolution, we can still do what we're doing until like maybe December, and then, all of a sudden, we start to get into real trouble," Fauci said. "So, when we get to calendar year 2017, and we essentially run out of the money that we had forward funded into the areas to keep the vaccine going, we're going to be back in trouble again."

A stopgap appropriations measure that runs past Election Day would give Burwell some new spending to move around on October 1.

"The thought of that gives me a chill. It does," Fauci said when asked about further shifts. "I can tell you that would have so many negative effects — not only negative effects on the actual conduct of research in cancer and heart disease and diabetes. It would be very demoralizing to the biomedical research community to see that."

Fauci told Roll Call that a large-scale Zika outbreak such as those seen in Brazil and Puerto Rico is "extremely unlikely" in the continental United States, though not impossible. He warned against complacency, given that there's an expectation of additional localized outbreaks, particularly along the Gulf Coast.

[Republicans Shocked White House Won't Bite on Zika Funding]

Fauci said he understood public confusion about the severity of the threat. Zika presents "relatively mild" symptoms, except in pregnant women, whose babies are vulnerable to microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which the newborn can have an abnormally small head.

"That dichotomy of a mild illness on the one hand with potentially devastating consequences on another creates a bit of confusion about how serious is that and what should we be doing about it," Fauci said. "When we start seeing the devastation of even a handful or so of babies born with microcephaly or who have congenital abnormalities, that is going to have as profound an influence on 'Did we do the right thing?' as a less severe infection that has broad dissemination, like influenza."

Fauci seemed aware it could take only a small number of cases to generate even greater media and public attention for Zika, in contrast with a condition like the flu.

"People don't get excited about influenza except when there's the threat of a pandemic," he said.

The lengthy debate over funding to combat Zika devolved into a standoff where Senate Democrats blocked a GOP proposal that would deny family planning assistance from going to groups like Planned Parenthood. In places like Florida, the fight is spilling over onto the campaign trail.

[Zika Spending Stalemate in Congress Spills Over Into Campaigns]

But Fauci said being on the pivot point of the summer's biggest funding fight doesn't make him feel like a politician.

"There's a lot of back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans about how much should be funded, what the mechanism of the funding [should be]. I don't get involved in that and have never gotten involved in that because I have to maintain, as I do, my credibility as a scientist," he said. "The decision about how that's going to come about, you leave it up to things that are well beyond any control I can have. I can only give the scientific information as I know it."

Contact Lesniewski at NielsLesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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