Texans have already cast more ballots in the presidential election than they did during all of 2016, an unprecedented surge of early voting in a state that was once the country’s most reliably Republican, but may now be drifting toward battleground status.
More than 9 million ballots have been cast as of Friday morning in the nation’s second most-populous state, exceeding the 8,969,226 cast in 2016, according to an Associated Press tally of early votes from data provided by Texas officials.
Texas is the first state to hit the milestone. This year’s numbers were aided by Democratic activists challenging in court for, and winning, the right to extend early voting by one week amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas also offers only limited vote-by-mail options when compared to the rest of the country, meaning casting in-person, early ballots is the primary way to vote for people who don’t want to line up and do so on Election Day.
Voters in Texas do not register by party affiliation, so no one can be sure until the ballots are counted whether one party or the other will benefit from the surge in turnout.
Still, the fact that the state exceeded its entire vote total for the past presidential cycle with hours still to go in its early voting period which ends Friday, and before millions more people are likely to vote on Election Day, hints at a potential electoral sea change.
For Democrats, anything different is likely positive. The party hasn’t won a state office in Texas since 1994 — the nation’s longest political losing streak — nor seen one of its presidential nominees carry the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. The party now believes it has a chance to seize control of the state House, flip as many as six congressional seats and a Senate seat.
President Donald Trump carried Texas against Hillary Clinton in 2016 by a comfortable 9 points, even though that was the smallest margin since Republican Bob Dole beat Democratic President Bill Clinton by 5 points in 1996.
Friday, October 30, 2020
Federal agents on Thursday arrested two men, including the self-proclaimed leader of the Base, a white supremacist group, as part of a continuing crackdown on extremism in Michigan three weeks after the FBI said it thwarted a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
A team of FBI agents arrested Justen Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, the self-proclaimed leader of the Base, and Alfred Gorman, 35, of Taylor, during a pair of raids Thursday, including at a rural farmhouse in Bad Axe, 100 miles north of Detroit.
According to Michigan Attorney General Dana, the 3 1/2-acre farm was being converted into a “hate camp” for members of the group to prepare to overthrow the government, according to the criminal case, which also accused Base leaders of encouraging others to harass a Washtenaw County family online.
Watkins and Gorman are linked to a December incident in Dexter in which a local family was terrorized by the men, who tried to intimidate a husband and wife and shared their address with members of the Base, Nessel said in a statement.
The developments continue a string of arrests, raids and operations targeting far-right, anti-government extremists and white supremacists this month. That includes accused members of the Whitmer kidnapping plot and a shootout in suburban Detroit between FBI agents and a Madison Heights man who died 28 years after his family became embroiled in the infamous Ruby Ridge standoff in Idaho.
“I think this shows the range of bad actors that are operating in the United States, which should be a cause of concern,” said Jon Lewis, a research fellow at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
Nessel's office charged the men with several felonies, including gang membership, a 20-year felony, using a computer to commit a crime and unlawful posting of a message. The charges were filed in Washtenaw County District Court, the location of the alleged Dexter incident.
Both suspects were lodged in the Washtenaw County Jail pending arraignment.
“Using tactics of intimidation to incite fear and violence constitutes criminal behavior,” Nessel said. “We cannot allow dangerous activities to reach their goal of inflicting violence and harm on the public. I am proud to work alongside law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels to safeguard the public’s safety from these serious threats.”
Donald Trump didn't just do millions in foreign business with Russia and Saudi Arabia, he did it with Turkey as well, and the "illegal and immoral quid pro quo with a foreign leader" angle that got Trump impeached from Ukraine is even more obvious with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially since the NY Times got a hold of Trump's taxes.
Geoffrey S. Berman was outraged.
The top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, Mr. Berman had traveled to Washington in June 2019 to discuss a particularly delicate case with Attorney General William P. Barr and some of his top aides: a criminal investigation into Halkbank, a state-owned Turkish bank suspected of violating U.S. sanctions law by funneling billions of dollars of gold and cash to Iran.
For months, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey had been pressing President Trump to quash the investigation, which threatened not only the bank but potentially members of Mr. Erdogan’s family and political party. When Mr. Berman sat down with Mr. Barr, he was stunned to be presented with a settlement proposal that would give Mr. Erdogan a key concession.
Mr. Barr pressed Mr. Berman to allow the bank to avoid an indictment by paying a fine and acknowledging some wrongdoing. In addition, the Justice Department would agree to end investigations and criminal cases involving Turkish and bank officials who were allied with Mr. Erdogan and suspected of participating in the sanctions-busting scheme.
Mr. Berman didn’t buy it.
The bank had the right to try to negotiate a settlement. But his prosecutors were still investigating key individuals, including some with ties to Mr. Erdogan, and believed the scheme had helped finance Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
“This is completely wrong,” Mr. Berman later told lawyers in the Justice Department, according to people who were briefed on the proposal and his response. “You don’t grant immunity to individuals unless you are getting something from them — and we wouldn’t be here.”
It was not the first time Mr. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, had fended off attempts by top Justice Department political appointees to disrupt the Halkbank investigation.
Six months earlier, Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting attorney general who ran the department from November 2018 until Mr. Barr arrived in February 2019, rejected a request from Mr. Berman for permission to file criminal charges against the bank, two lawyers involved in the investigation said. Mr. Whitaker blocked the move shortly after Mr. Erdogan repeatedly pressed Mr. Trump in a series of conversations in November and December 2018 to resolve the Halkbank matter.
The president’s apparent eagerness to please Mr. Erdogan has drawn scrutiny for years. So has the scale and intensity of the lobbying effort by Turkey on issues like its demand for the extradition of one of Mr. Erdogan’s political rivals, a Turkish religious leader living in self-imposed exile in the United States. Mr. Erdogan had a big political stake in the outcome, because the case had become a major embarrassment for him in Turkey.
At the White House, Mr. Trump’s handling of the matter became troubling even to some senior officials at the time.
The president was discussing an active criminal case with the authoritarian leader of a nation in which Mr. Trump does business; he reported receiving at least $2.6 million in net income from operations in Turkey from 2015 through 2018, according to tax records obtained by The New York Times.
And Mr. Trump’s sympathetic response to Mr. Erdogan was especially jarring because it involved accusations that the bank had undercut Mr. Trump’s policy of economically isolating Iran, a centerpiece of his Middle East plan.
Former White House officials said they came to fear that the president was open to swaying the criminal justice system to advance a transactional and ill-defined agenda of his own.
“He would interfere in the regular government process to do something for a foreign leader,” John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, said in a recent interview. “In anticipation of what? In anticipation of another favor from that person down the road.”
In the case of Halkbank, it was only after an intense foreign policy clash between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan over Syria last fall that the United States would proceed to lodge charges against the bank, though not against any additional individuals. Yet the administration’s bitterness over Mr. Berman’s unwillingness to go along with Mr. Barr’s proposal would linger, and ultimately contribute to Mr. Berman’s dismissal.
The Justice Department initially declined to comment, but after this article was published online, a department spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, provided a statement emphasizing that Mr. Barr had backed the decision last fall to indict the bank.
“The attorney general instructed S.D.N.Y. to move ahead with charges and approved the charges brought,” she said, referring to the federal prosecutors in Manhattan.
- More than 2 million households across the Deep South are without power as Hurricane Zeta came ashore over New Orleans as a Category 2 storm and ripped a path of heavy rain to New Jersey.
- In a 2-1 decision, the 8th Circuit tossed Minnesota's order to extend by-mail ballot deadline, ordering any ballots received after Election Day to be set aside.
- More than 80 million Americans have already voted as the election heads into the final weekend of early voting, total turnout could top twice that number nationally.
- The White House is not expected to renew a no-sail order for America's cruise lines Saturday as the industry says it will protect passengers from COVID-19, experts fear the industry is not ready.
- The Wisconsin GOP says hackers stole $2.3 million from the Trump campaign's state fund, state GOP chair Andrew Hitt says the party contacted the FBI last week to investigate.