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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Congressional negotiators announced on Monday night that they had reached a tentative deal on spending legislation that would avoid another partial government shutdown when current funding expires on Friday. The group hopes its compromise, which includes $1.375 billion for physical barriers and a 17 percent reduction in beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will satisfy President Donald Trump’s immigration policy demands while still maintaining enough Democratic support to pass the House of Representatives.

The negotiators represent both parties and both houses of Congress and say they received approval from congressional leaders and consulted with the White House throughout the process. But they did not run the proposal past the president’s influential Fox News cabinet, and now several of Trump’s leading propagandists are publicly weighing in and urging him to scuttle the deal. Their pleas could determine the response from Trump, who has yet to indicate whether he will support legislation that gives him much less in barrier funding than he has demanded.

Shortly after news of the deal broke, Sean Hannity briefly cut away from airing Trump’s rally in El Paso, TX, to issue a stern warning to congressional Republicans. Denouncing the proposal for providing too little funding for a border wall, he said that “any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.”

The Fox host holds enormous sway over the president, who consults with him so frequently that White House aides have termed the Fox host his shadow chief of staff, leading conservative commentator Charlie Sykes to describe this response as “the Hannity veto.”

Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, another favorite of the president who, like Hannity, reportedly advised Trump on his shutdown strategy, has also denounced the proposal. “Radical Dimms refuse to protect America, their ‘Deal’ is an insult to [Trump] and the American people,” he tweeted late Monday night.

Dobbs and Hannity have for weeks been urging Trump to declare a national emergency in order to obtain funding for the border wall, even as Republican congressional leaders warn him away from the tactic. The White House is reportedly still considering ways to divert appropriated but unspent funds to the border wall, whether Trump takes the deal or not and with or without an emergency declaration.

Fox host Laura Ingraham, an anti-immigration hard-liner whom the president reportedly considered for a White House job, has also criticized the “pathetic” deal.

Trump’s Fox advisers are not universally opposed to the spending proposal. The hosts of Fox & Friends opened Tuesday’s show by suggesting that the president accept it, spinning the deal as a win for Trump. Co-host Steve Doocy also said, “I bet he’s got something else up his sleeve,” adding that Trump could “legally reprogram” other funds to build the wall without declaring a national emergency.

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Trump craves validation from the people he watches on TV most days, giving these propagandists an outsized impact over whether the government shuts down again this week.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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