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Activists urge voters to stay registered after Trump commission's data request

Activists urge voters to stay registered after Trump commission's data request

President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on July 19 in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

By Diamond Naga Siu

07/19/2017 06:53 PM EDT

Liberal activists are urging people to stay registered to vote after President Donald Trump’s new election integrity commission’s request for voter data spooked some Americans and caused them to cancel their registrations.

Colorado got a burst of publicity after more than 3,700 residents canceled voter registrations, according to media reports . And while that’s a tiny percentage of total voters in the state, activists said it’s the wrong response to the federal government’s request for state voter information.

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“We don’t want people to be afraid of registering — not to do so is to play into the hands of the voter suppressors,” said Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado. “To the thousands of people who have deregistered: go reregister and bring two others.”

The voter fraud commission, which held its first public meeting on Wednesday, came under criticism from state officials when it asked for data as personal as the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. Critics said the group might use the information to block people from voting, while others questioned the commission’s security procedures.

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Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams has said he would provide the commission with data that’s already in the public record . Woodliff-Stanley said the commission requested information that is not normally part of the public record: military status, information about felonies and more.

Nicole Melaku, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said her group is urging Williams to make public statements to assure Colorado voters that their information is safe and that they should continue registering to vote.

But even one person deregistering is too many, Let America Vote’s president Jason Kander, a Democrat who ran an unsuccessful race for the U.S. Senate in 2016, said in an interview. He released a video via social media Friday that urged voters to stay registered, saying if the “data draft” intimidated voters from registering, the commission would have accomplished its goal.

“This is the first time that a president is going to create what looks like a public, national database of who voted for which party,” Kander said. “Never before could a private business with one request get this much data. But now, there’s an opportunity to hand over information to them, whether it’s a business, a criminal or a foreign government.”

He thinks states refusing to comply made the right decision. Other secretaries of states said they would provide the information if the federal government purchased their data.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill

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Trump Jr., Kushner, Manafort scheduled to testify in high-stakes hearings next week

Donald Trump Jr. is pictured. | Richard Drew/AP

Should he attend the July 26 hearing, Donald Trump Jr. is certain to be asked about his role in arranging a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with officials connected to the Russian government. | Richard Drew/AP

Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner are scheduled to face lawmakers next week in the highest-stakes hearings yet on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Kushner, identified in a string of news reports as having multiple contacts with Russian officials and Kremlin surrogates during the 2016 campaign and transition, will testify in a closed-door hearing of the Senate intelligence committee on Monday, his lawyer confirmed.

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“As Mr. Kushner has been saying since March, he has been and is prepared to voluntarily cooperate and provide whatever information he has on the investigations to Congress," said attorney Abbe Lowell. "Working with and being responsive to the schedules of the committees, we have arranged Mr. Kushner's interview with the Senate for July 24. He will continue to cooperate and appreciates the opportunity to assist in putting this matter to rest.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee intends to call Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to testify on a panel about foreign influence in elections. The panel is also scheduled to include Glenn Simpson, the co-founder of the firm that commissioned the salacious — and disputed — dossier on President Donald Trump’s connections to Russia.

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The requests to testify were received on Wednesday, according to a person familiar with the matter, and include a broad request for documents from players such as recent Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

It is unclear whether the men will actually testify. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni said the former Trump campaign manager's attorney got the Judiciary panel's letter late Wednesday and they were still reviewing the request.

Taken together, the hearings are the riskiest and potentially most explosive confrontations between lawmakers and Trump allies on the issue of Russian meddling in the election on behalf of Trump. The president himself has dismissed the inquiry — the subject of two congressional probes and a special counsel investigation — as a hoax concocted by political enemies.

The hearings — especially Wednesday's public session scheduled to include Trump Jr. and Manafort — are likely to be the most intensely watched since since former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last month and described his closed-door interactions with the president.

Should Trump Jr. attend the public hearing, he is certain to be asked about his role in arranging a meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with officials connected to the Russian government, which he says he had hoped would result in the delivery of incriminating information about Hillary Clinton.

Those revelations,

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Congratulations, Jon Huntsman (Or Condolences)

It feels like dog years since the foreign policy rumor mill churned out the chatter that Jon Huntsman was President Donald Trump’s pick for Moscow. In the 138 dizzying days that followed, the president has seemingly done everything in his power to make the job of the next U.S. ambassador to Russia more difficult. He failed to affirm America’s commitment to Article 5 at his first NATO meeting; fired James Comey over the Russia investigation, leading to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller; denied and then confirmed Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 campaign meeting with Russian operatives; and held—unreported until this week—another hourlong one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Only after all of this did the Huntsman nomination finally become official—in a news release that misspelled his first name.

That job offer must have looked very different on March 2, when it was first reported, than it does today. But what was true then may still be true now: Jon Huntsman could be the brightest star in a Trump foreign-policy constellation that’s otherwise barely twinkling.

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Huntsman’s résumé is long and impressive. He’s been an ambassador under Democratic and Republican presidents, a two-term governor, the chairman of one of America’s leading think tanks and even a presidential candidate. He’s a moderate by temperament, a conservative by ideology and a pragmatist by approach. And he’s also the right pick to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, so long as he goes to Russia with clear eyes.

Not since Averill Harriman during World War II or Llewelyn “Tommy” Thompson amid the Cuban Missile Crisis has an ambassadorial posting in Moscow had such potential to be pivotal. And certainly not in recent memory would there be so many compelling reasons to give that ambassador such running room to shape the relationship with Moscow in his or her image.

That may sound naive, at worst, or, at best, counterintuitive given the questions that continue to haunt Trump over the relationship between his 2016 campaign and Putin’s Russia. But consider the possibilities of an ambassador with as sterling a reputation and respected a background as Huntsman. Given Putin’s insularity, even a diplomat as skilled and experienced as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov never commands the portfolio for the nation’s thorniest issues, starting with Ukraine. The Kremlin calls the shots on the most sensitive matters. And for the U.S., Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—who has lamented the constraints of his job and his inability to appoint his own senior staff, while failing to persuade the president on key issues from Qatar to climate change—wouldn’t be best positioned as an interlocutor with Moscow. The distance from Spaso House, the U.S. ambassador’s fabled residence in Moscow, to the Kremlin is a lot shorter than the flight from Andrews Air Force Base, both literally and figuratively.

Most importantly, if only because the president’s burgeoning legal team will demand nothing less, this White House—more than any in history—must soon realize

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Ohio judge: Richard Cordray plans to run for Ohio governor

Richard Cordray is pictured. | Steve Helber/AP

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray (center) will run for governor in Ohio next year.

To run, he would have to leave the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before completing his term.

By Daniel Strauss and Lorraine Woellert

07/19/2017 04:41 PM EDT

Updated 07/19/2017 05:39 PM EDT

2017-07-19T05:39-0400

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray will run for governor in Ohio next year, according to his friends, a move that would inject a Democratic celebrity into a battleground-state campaign and remove a key Obama administration holdover.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill said a mutual friend called Cordray last week to ask if the bureau chief was considering a run for governor. O'Neill himself had considered running in the past but told the friend — whom he refused to name — that he wouldn’t if Cordray did. It was clear from the conversation that Cordray will launch a campaign, O'Neill said.

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"He's getting ready to run," O'Neill told POLITICO.

O'Neill's comments were first reported by Cleveland.com .

To mount a campaign, Cordray would have to leave the consumer bureau before his term expires in July 2018.

His departure would be a gift to Republicans in Washington, who have been moving to gut the bureau since its creation under former President Barack Obama. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling has called for Cordray to be fired and business groups have accused the independent regulator of running amok.

As Cordray mulls his departure, his agency last week lit a new fire in Congress, releasing a rule that would make it easier for consumers to bring class-action lawsuits against banks, credit card issuers and other financial institutions. The rule eats away at mandatory arbitration agreements commonly included in customer contracts.

On Thursday, Hensarling and other lawmakers are expected to file a resolution to overturn the rule under the Congressional Review Act. The looming fight over the resolution will be as much a political referendum on the agency itself as a battle over the substance of the regulation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is contemplating legal action against the rule and plans a massive grassroots campaign to rally votes in favor of the CRA.

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“This is not the first time we’ve seen them go out on a limb,” said Kate Larson, director of the Chamber of Commerce Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness. “It is the first time, however, that they’ve gone so far out and been this rogue agency.”

Under law, President Donald Trump can’t replace Cordray without firing him for cause, an act that carries its own political risk given the bureau’s popularity with the public — including among Trump voters. And Congress can’t rein in the agency with spending cuts because it’s funded through the Federal Reserve and not subject to appropriations.

“It’s a pretty sad day where

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Freedom Caucus to try to force vote on Obamacare repeal

Mark Meadows is pictured here.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows says that his group wants to delay the traditional August recess until work is accomplished on health care, the debt ceiling and tax reform. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House conservatives are launching a late effort to force their colleagues to vote on an outright repeal of Obamacare.

Leaders of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus on Wednesday evening will jump-start a process intended to force the measure — a mirror of the 2015 repeal proposal that President Barack Obama vetoed — to the floor as early as September.

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The idea, sources say, is to create pressure on GOP leaders in the House and Senate — ensuring Republicans don’t give up on their seven-year campaign promise.

“There's no reason we should put anything less on President Trump's desk than we put on Obama's,” said Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). "President Trump wants to sign repeal — it's time Congress send it to him."

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Their effort is unlikely to result in a bill landing on Donald Trump’s desk — many Republicans have rejected calls to eliminate the core of Obamacare without having a comprehensive replacement plan ready. But if the group garners enough signatures to trigger the floor vote, it would force many mainstream and moderate Republican lawmakers into the uncomfortable position of rejecting a repeal measure they backed just two years ago.

Meadows and Jim Jordan will have the backing of conservative outside groups, like Club for Growth and FreedomWorks. The Club and activist group Tea Party Patriots launched a website Wednesday called “Obamacare Repeal Traitors” to pressure senators who opposed the latest GOP efforts to replace Obamacare. The senators’ defections have all but derailed Republican efforts to replace the 2010 health care law.

The Freedom Caucus strategy begins with a technical push to force the 2015 repeal measure to the House floor. Meadows and Jordan are seeking a “discharge petition,” which would enable them to bypass House leaders to put the bill up for a vote. To begin that process, the lawmakers plan to file a special rule Wednesday evening to consider the proposal. That rule will sit in the Rules Committee for at least seven business days.

After seven days, lawmakers can file a discharge petition, which requires signatures from at least half the House – 218 members – to bring the bill to the floor. They’re unlikely to succeed, but the effort would quickly identify which Republicans rescinded their support for the 2015 bill.

The group could receive some support from conservatives in the Republican Study Committee, who talked during a Wednesday meeting about asking GOP leaders to allow them to vote on a repeal-only bill before recess.

The push by House conservatives has grown more urgent in light of the apparent failure

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