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Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

Donald Trump on Friday said he is mulling moving an election night party planned to be held at his Washington, D.C., hotel to the White House in order to avoid city coronavirus-related restrictions that ban large gatherings.

"So we have a hotel. I don't know if it's shut down, if you're allowed to use it or not," Trump told reporters Friday morning. "But I know the mayor has shut down Washington, D.C. And if that's the case, we'll probably stay here or pick another location. I think it's crazy. Washington, D.C., is shut down. Can you imagine?"

The New York Times reported the same day that Trump would not make an appearance at his campaign's party at the Trump International Hotel. The campaign raised money from donors by promising he would appear at the event.

"November 3rd will go down in history as the night we won FOUR MORE YEARS. It will be absolutely EPIC, and the only thing that could make it better is having YOU there. Join us on election night," read a fundraising letter containing a photo of Trump and his wife Melania and the words "Join us on election night."

If Trump does move the event to the White House, it would be yet another instance of him using government property for partisan political purposes, a violation of ethics laws. As Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, tweeted after Trump accepted the Republican Party nomination for reelection at an event on the White House lawn in August: "This abomination may be the most visible misuse of official position for private gain in America's history. It is an abuse of the power entrusted to this man, the breach of a sacred trust. It is the civic equivalent of a mortal sin—maybe a religious one too. And it is a harbinger."

It would also be yet another event at which Trump ignores public health guidelines aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Cases of the virus are currently skyrocketing across the country, with the number of deaths from the virus also on the rise.

Several events held at the White House in the past few months, including an event to announce Amy Coney Barrett as Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, were followed by many attendees receiving positive coronavirus tests. The White House refused to follow up the events with contact tracing.

There would be irony in Trump holding an election night party at the White House that runs afoul of safety restrictions, as his failure in responding to the pandemic and his refusal to adhere to public health guidelines are currently imperiling his reelection bid.

Polls show voters disapprove of Trump's virus response, and blame Trump's lax adherence to safety guidelines for his own infection with the virus earlier this month.

Meanwhile, if current polls are right, Trump will not be celebrating a victory on election night.

Polling averages currently show Trump losing to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by 9 points nationally, including in critical swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

Those states alone voting for Biden would be enough to sink Trump's reelection bid. However, Trump is also behind in Arizona and Florida, and is at risk of losing Georgia and Texas — an outcome that would amount to an Electoral College blowout that hasn't been seen in decades.

If Trump were to keep his election night party at his D.C. hotel but didn't make an appearance, he would still personally profit from it, raking in fees for space rental and catering costs.

Over the course of the last four years, Trump has pocketed a combined total of at least $8.1 million in Republican donor and taxpayer money for events at and visits to his properties, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

For example, when Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in April 2018, Trump billed the federal government "$13,700 for guest rooms, $16,500 for food and wine and $6,000 for the roses and other floral arrangements," the Post said.

Democrats have been able to use ongoing accusations of grift against Trump and his family in campaign messaging, and polling shows voters care about the issue.

A YouGov survey released on Wednesday showing 56 percent of likely voters view Trump and his family as "corrupt."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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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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