October 11, 2018

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is both the state's top election official and the Republican nominee for governor, and his aggressive "voter roll maintenance" has become an issue in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams, who is black, says Kemp is suppressing minority votes. Kemp has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, including about 670,000 in 2017 alone, The Associated Press reports, and his office is sitting on more than 53,000 voter registration forms that ran afoul of the "exact match" system he put in place.

The "exact match" system, codified by the state's Republican legislature last year, sidelines a voter application if it doesn't exactly match the information on an applicant's driver's license or Social Security data. "If even an accent or a hyphen is missing from a name, the application gets blocked," reports Cameron Joseph at Talking Points Memo. Voters don't always know that their registration is blocked, AP says, and an analysis of records obtained through a public records request "reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black."

Kemp says he is fighting voter fraud and has made voting easier for all Georgians, pointing to an online registration system and expanded mail-in voting. He blames the "exact match" racial disparity on the voter-registration organization Abrams founded in 2014.

On MSNBC Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow noted that 53,000 votes could decide a neck-and-neck race like the Abrams-Kemp one. "Honestly, this is outrageous enough that it seems almost impossible that the courts will allow this to stand," she said.

Kemp and Abrams have been sparring for years over voting rights, and you can read more about their history — and the 214 polling places shuttered with Kemp's encouragement, disproportionately in rural and blacker counties, since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 — at Talking Points Memo. Peter Weber

2:36 p.m.

Republicans weren't the only ones displeased with the address House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) gave to the Senate during Tuesday's impeachment proceedings. Democrats were also hoping for a little more decorum, The Washington Post reports.

Several Democratic senators, while much tamer in the criticism of Nadler, indicated they think his accusations that Republicans were participating in cover-ups and treachery took things too far. "When I make an argument, it's about the fundamentals — witnesses, documents, and the evidence," said Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D-Pa.). "I think that's better."

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) agreed that tensions were running high on both sides (Democrats also thought President Trump's defense team went overboard) Tuesday, adding that it was "necessary" and "appropriate" for Chief Justice John Roberts to remind "us that we have to maintain decorum and respect for one another throughout this process."

In comparison to Nadler, House Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) shone in the eyes of Democratic lawmakers. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), for example, didn't respond directly to a question about Nadler, instead opting to praise Schiff, while Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) said Schiff's words were "the most insightful."

On Wednesday, Schiff appeared to make a concerted effort to keep the peace during his opening remarks, and he even jumped in and answered a question directed at Nadler during a pre-trial exchange with reporters. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

2:35 p.m.

Try as he might, Trump just can't reinvent the facts on this one.

Somehow, Trump stuck a very incorrect notion into a question about Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk in a Wednesday interview with CNBC's Squawk Box. After praising Musk because he "does good at rockets," Trump suggested "he's one of our great geniuses" who "we have to protect." After all, Trump said, we have to "protect Thomas Edison" and "people who came up with the light bulb and the wheel and all of these things."

One wouldn't think it has to be said, but the wheel was invented thousands of years before the United States existed and it's not exactly clear who did it. The oldest wheel dates to at least 3000 B.C. and was found, coincidentally, in modern-day Slovenia. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:19 p.m.

Democrats officially kicked off their opening arguments in the impeachment trial of President Trump Wednesday with a bit of a shift in tone after one particularly contentious late-night exchange.

Near the end of an impeachment trial session beginning Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on the Senate floor accused Republican senators of "voting for a cover up" as he argued in favor of an amendment to subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton, per The Wall Street Journal. Nadler also suggested Republicans were engaging in "treacherous" behavior, The Washington Post reports.

Republicans throughout the day on Wednesday slammed Nadler for his statement; Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told CNN it was "insulting and outrageous," while Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said the comment "offended her" and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a press conference, "To my Democratic colleagues, you can say what you want about me but I am covering up nothing."

Following this criticism, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) began Democrats' opening arguments Wednesday with a less combative tone, thanking senators for having "paid attention to every word and argument you heard from both sides" the day before.

"I want to begin today by thanking you for the conduct of the proceedings yesterday and for inviting your patience as you go forward," Schiff added. "We have some very long days yet to come."

CNN's Kaitlan Collins noted Schiff appeared to be addressing Republican criticism with his opening comments, although Republicans weren't the only ones not thrilled with the tone of Tuesday night's debate. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), for instance, conceded to The Washington Post that Nadler "could have chose better words." Brendan Morrow

1:39 p.m.

You have to be somewhat wily to enjoy a successful career in politics, and several senators put those street smarts on display during Tuesday's impeachment proceedings.

The lawmakers are subject to a lot of rules over the course of the lengthy trial days — no coffee, no technology, no talking — but they were able to maneuver around some of them anyway. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and David Perdue (R-Ga.) harkened back to their elementary school days by passing notes to each other, eliciting some stifled laughter.

Others stuck to 21st century methods by wearing their smart watches, including an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Smart watches, of course, have cellular capabilities, so theoretically some of the lawmakers could have been shooting off text messages, although there's no evidence anyone took things that far. The Supreme Court's electronics ban includes such watches, but they're admittedly harder to notice than other devices.

Not everyone was sneaky, though. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) was reportedly caught dozing off during a presentation from Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), but he swears he was just resting his eyes. Tim O'Donnell

1:18 p.m.

President Trump probably should've kept quiet on this one.

After the first day of impeachment arguments in the Senate, Trump told a press conference at the World Economic Forum that he's pretty sure he'll end up being acquitted. "Honestly, we have all the material. They don't have the material," Trump said of his impeachment defense team and of the House Democrats prosecuting him, making it clear there's some information he's holding back.

Beyond Rep. Val Demings' (D-Fla.) callout, her fellow impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) addressed Trump's comments in a press conference before the impeachment trial resumed Wednesday. "Well, indeed they do have the material — hidden from the American people," Schiff said of Trump's team. "That is nothing to brag about." Kathryn Krawczyk

12:46 p.m.

President Trump backtracked Wednesday on his 2016 campaign promise to protect funding for entitlements like Medicare and Social Security, suggesting in an interview with CNBC that he would be open to slashing "at some point" them since they're "the easiest" thing to cut.

Well, unsurprisingly, that didn't sit well with his Democratic opponents, who quickly pounced on the comment.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is one of the leading candidates in the Democratic presidential primary, used Trump's words to call for an expansion of such programs, while the House Ways and Means Committee called the suggestion "unacceptable." Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) thinks it's a warning from Trump that people should take seriously.

Trump's reasoning for possibly cutting entitlements is that the trajectory of the country's economic growth could one day allow for it. But don't expect that to change any minds on the other side of the political aisle. Tim O'Donnell

12:44 p.m.

Oprah Winfrey is facing mounting criticism after withdrawing from a documentary about the sexual misconduct allegations against Russell Simmons, a decision activists are slamming as "callous."

Winfrey was originally attached as executive producer of the upcoming documentary focusing on the Simmons allegations, On the Record, but she removed her name from it earlier this month. Although Winfrey said in a statement she "unequivocally believes and supports the women," she says she had concerns about "some inconsistencies in the stories." Simmons has denied the allegations against him.

"This latest turn of events has been extraordinarily disorienting and upsetting," domestic violence activist Sil Lai Abrams, who has accused Simmons of rape, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Equality Now global director Yasmeen Hassan also criticized Winfrey, telling the Reporter her decision was "callous" and saying, "There needs to be a lot more explanation given to these women, at the very least. This feels mind-boggling and is very bad for the #MeToo movement."

Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein additionally described the situation as "one of the saddest moments for the #MeToo movement," adding, "Just think how hard it is going to be for women, particularly women of color, to come forward next time when they have been thrown under the bus by none other than Oprah."

The Reporter notes that although Winfrey has cited alleged inconsistencies, especially in the account of the film's central accuser Drew Dixon, the Times' report on Dixon's allegations "was well vetted." Winfrey reportedly had additional issues with the film, including concerns over whether "the two filmmakers, who are white, captured the nuances of hip-hop culture and the struggles of black women," the Times writes. On the Record is still scheduled to have its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25. Brendan Morrow

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