ELECTION FEVER: Record Number of New Voters Head to Polls As Election Day Draws Near

WASHINGTON (The Hill) — More than 16 million voters who did not cast a ballot in 2016 have already voted this year, a sign that record-high enthusiasm in November’s elections will lead to an unprecedented turnout across the country.

There are indications that the surge is being fueled by younger voters who have been targets of turnout operations funded by Democratic groups, and by minorities who are motivated to vote like never before, data experts keeping tabs on the early numbers say.

Already this year, more than 4 million people between the ages of 18 and 29 have cast a ballot after sitting out 2016. They represent about two-thirds of all voters in that age bracket who have voted already. In states where voters can register by party, registered Democrats among those youngest voters outnumber registered Republicans by a nearly three to one margin.

“The central through thread from all of our conversations with young people throughout the year and the polls, whether ours or anyone else’s, [is that] they are more motivated to vote than ever before,” said Ben Wessel, executive director of NextGen America, a group funded by Tom Steyer that works to turn out younger voters. 

In Florida, more than 335,000 voters between 18 and 29 who did not vote in 2016 have voted so far. Half of those voters are registered Democrats; about a quarter are registered Republicans.

In Texas, which does not register voters by party, more than 2 million people who didn’t vote in 2016 have already voted this year. That includes more than 430,000 Hispanic voters, 140,000 African American voters, and 600,000 people under age 30.

More than 700,000 Georgia voters who did not vote in 2016 have already cast ballots. Almost a third of those voters are African American, and nearly 30 percent are under 30 years old. 

Across the nation, 4.7 million voters have voted for the first time this year. Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost half a million, though nearly two-thirds of that group are not affiliated with a party or live in states that do not register by party. Forty percent of those first-time voters are under 30 years old, Bonier’s data show.

“You see younger voters make up a larger share of the early vote electorate than they did in 2016 just about everywhere,” said Tom Bonier, chief executive at TargetSmart Consulting, which tracks early vote data.

There are anecdotal signs of a younger voter surge, too: One precinct in San Marcos, Texas, that covers the campus of Texas State University, surpassed the total number of votes cast in 2016 over the weekend, nine days before Election Day. Half of all registered voters in Johnson County, Iowa, home of the University of Iowa, have already voted. 

But, Bonier said, it is not only younger voters who are turning out in higher numbers. Millions of seniors who did not vote in 2016 have cast ballots; to date, more seniors who have college degrees have voted in nine battleground states than voted in all of 2016, either before or on Election Day.

Black seniors have been an especially strong growth market this year. More Black voters over the age of 65 have voted in Texas and Georgia than voted in all of 2016.

“There are actually a lot of seniors who stayed home in ’16, which is not something we really focused on,” Bonier said. “When you look at the non-2016 seniors who have voted already, they’re more Democratic than the inverse, seniors who have voted already who did vote in 2016.”

If there are warning signs for Democrats, they may come from the huge number of non-college white voters who are casting ballots, a group at the core of President Trump’s base. Like other groups, those voters have turned to early options in record numbers.

Nationally, more than 29 million non-college whites have cast their ballots. They represent a lower share of the electorate, 46 percent, than at this point in 2016, 52 percent. But in raw numbers, those voters are still the largest cohort in the electorate, edging college-educated white voters by a margin of nearly 9.5 million.

Some Democratic strategists warned that minority communities, and especially the Black community, is lagging behind in a key state like Florida. Several groups, funded or run by luminaries like the actor Tyler Perry and 2018 gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum (D), are running special drives to get those Black voters to the polls.

Four years ago, President Trump won Florida on the strength of unprecedented turnout among rural white voters who rarely cast ballots. This year, those voters are showing up again, a promising sign for Trump’s hopes of keeping his adopted home state.

“There’s a disparity when you start cutting the data by race. You’ve got new and sporadic white voters who are turning out on both an absolute and percentage basis more than communities of color,” said Josh Mendelsohn, who runs Hawkfish, a political technology firm founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “African American and Hispanic, Latino turnout just isn’t tracking with the same positive momentum. That’s an area of concern, and I don’t think it can be avoided.”

The pandemic coupled with both parties’ campaigns to get their most ardent supporters to vote early has led to a surge in early votes across the nation, and across demographic groups. Through Wednesday morning, more than 74 million Americans had already cast their ballot, according to the United States Elections Project, run by University of Florida political scientist Michael McDonald. 

That represents more than half the 138.8 million ballots cast during the entirety of the 2016 election cycle.

Tens of millions more people will still wait until Election Day to vote, the turnout experts said. Polls show Republican voters, especially, are more eager to vote on Election Day itself, perhaps a reflection of President Trump’s rants against mail-in voting — and in spite of his own campaign’s efforts to get Republican voters to vote early.

As Democrats build a lead in early votes, they are digging a hole from which Trump must extricate himself on Election Day. His path to a majority remains possible, but it becomes more complicated by the day.

“There is logically some level of election day turnout for Republicans that allows them to still win this thing,” Bonier said. “It’s just that as this early voting advantage continues to pile up, that becomes more and more implausible.”


The Hill’s Reid Wilson contributed to the contents of this report.

VICTIM CARD: Hillary says Benghazi to blame for loss to Trump

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Adding to her already lengthy list of those to blame for her loss to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton now says Benghazi is among the reasons she failed to become president.

Clinton’s poorly timed comments, which came just hours after the 5th anniversary of the date on which US ambassador Christopher Stevens, his state department colleague Sean Smith and former Navy Seals Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty lost their lives, occurred as Clinton was promoting her new book, “What Happened”.

“Take the Benghazi tragedy—you know, I have one of the top Republicans, Kevin McCarthy, admitting we’re going to take that tragedy—because, you know, we’ve lost people, unfortunately, going back to the Reagan administration, if you talk about recent times, in diplomatic attacks,” Clinton told Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday as she threw out examples on how she felt she had been “unfairly” criticized. “But boy, it was turned into a political football. And it was aimed at undermining my credibility, my record, my accomplishments.”

Clinton’s critics were quick to berate the former Secretary of State for her comments, with many calling them inappropriate and heartless.

“It is disgusting for her to downplay it, and I think the American people knew it. She did nothing about it at the time, and this tragedy was entirely preventable, except her State Department was inept in protecting Americans in Benghazi,” Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R)-Utah Chaffetz told Fox News. “I’m sure she can’t even look in the mirror and face the fact that, on her watch, they lost four Americans, and it’s disgusting she can’t live up to it, even today.”

Calling out Clinton for her comments on the Benghazi attack while giving testimony before a congressional panel in which she famously asked, “What difference does it make?” when probed on what led to the attack, Chaffetz said Clinton’s latest comments reveal her true colors.

“I think she really did believe that,” Chaffetz said. “She showed today that her comment about ‘what difference does it make’ was truly how she felt.”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, two security contractors in an interview with Fox News’ chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/09/13/clinton-state-department-silenced-them-on-benghazi-security-lapses-contractors-say.html) alleged that Hillary Clinton’s State Department silenced them on important security lapses at the Benghazi, which they clam had they been permitted to address, could have saved the lives lost during the September 11, 2012 attack.

“Was the State Department contract officer trying to silence you?” Herridge asked longtime special forces soldier and security contractor executive Joe Torres.

“Oh absolutely,” said Torres. “The U.S. ambassador is dead and nobody is held accountable for it.”

Herridge claimed a classified cable was received in October 2012 by the State Department that showed Libya ambassador Chris Stevens and his team were in trouble in mid-August and that they had begged the State Department for help because radical Islamist groups were everywhere.

“They were sending these cables back to the contracting guys and the decision makers back here and they weren’t responding,” said Brad Owens, a former Army intelligence officer. “It’s gross incompetence or negligence, one of the two.”

Worse, says Torres, nothing was done under the Obama administration to prevent similar attacks in the future or to make the situation any better.

Torres went on to say that this terrorist attack could happen again and ‘nothing [has] changed” in making the security safer.

“Nothing [has] changed,” he said.

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‘WASTE OF OUR TIME’: A DEFIANT JARED KUSHNER DENIES COLLUSION WITH RUSSIA IN RESPONSE TO CONGRESSIONAL PROBE

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jared Kushner on Monday denied colluding with Russian officials to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and called a congressional probe into his potential involvement in the matter a “waste of our time”.

President Trump’s son-in-law, who also serves as an advisor in the Trump administration, slammed allegations of wrongdoing in a statement released Monday morning as he met with congressional investigators.

“I am voluntarily providing this statement, submitting documents, and sitting for interviews in order to shed light on issues that have been raised about my role in the Trump for President Campaign and during the transition period,” the statement reads.

“I did not collude, nor know of anyone else in the campaign who colluded, with any foreign government,” the statement continues. “I had no improper contacts. I have not relied on Russian funds to finance my business activities in the private sector. I have tried to be fully transparent with regard to the filing of my SF-86 form [security clearance], above and beyond what is required. Hopefully, this puts these matters to rest.”

In his statement Kushner also provides specific details in regard to contacts he had with Russian officials during the course of the 2016 election and post-election transition:

“With respect to my contacts with Russia or Russian representatives during the campaign, there were hardly any. The first that I can recall was at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. in April 2016. This was when then candidate Trump was delivering a major foreign policy speech. Doing the event and speech had been my idea, and I oversaw its execution,” the statement reads.

“I arrived at the hotel early to make sure all logistics were in order. After that, I stopped into the reception to thank the host of the event, Dimitri Simes, the publisher of the bi-monthly foreign policy magazine, The National Interest, who had done a great job putting everything together. Mr. Simes and his group had created the guest list and extended the invitations for the event. He introduced me to several guests, among them four ambassadors, including Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. With all the ambassadors, including Mr. Kislyak, we shook hands, exchanged brief pleasantries and I thanked them for attending the event and said I hoped they would like candidate Trump’s speech and his ideas for a fresh approach to America’s foreign policy,” the statement continues.

“The ambassadors also expressed interest in creating a positive relationship should we win the election. Each exchange lasted less than a minute; some gave me their business cards and invited me to lunch at their embassies. I never took them up on any of these invitations and that was the extent of the interactions. Reuters news service has reported that I had two calls with Ambassador Kislyak at some time between April and November of 2016. While I participated in thousands of calls during this period, I do not recall any such calls with the Russian Ambassador. We have reviewed the phone records available to us and have not been able to identify any calls to any number we know to be associated with Ambassador Kislyak and I am highly skeptical these calls took place. A comprehensive review of my land line and cell phone records from the time does not reveal those calls. I had no ongoing relationship with the Ambassador before the election, and had limited knowledge about him then.”

Kushner is being grilled on what, if any, involvement he had in regard to Russian intereferance in the 2016 election in a closed door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday. A second meeting is expected to occur on Tuesday with the House Intelligence Committee.

His appearance before the committees marks a turning point in the investigations of Russian meddling, as he is the first of the president’s closest advisers to appear before them.

You can read Jared Kushner’s full statement by clicking on the link below:
https://app.box.com/embed/preview/4c3lig06934ua4hg2dayn5kj7vrxr6f3?direction=ASC&theme=dark

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DON COMES CLEAN: TRUMP JR RELEASES FULL TRANSCRIPT OF EMAIL INTERACTION WITH RUSSIAN LAWYER WHO SOUGHT TO STOP HILLARY

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Donald Trump, Jr on Tuesday released what he claimed was the entire email thread between himself and a Russian lawyer who claimed to have dirt on his father’s then presidential rival Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr., who on Sunday admitted to meeting with the lawyer in the Spring of 2016, released the chain of emails via social media on Tuesday morning.

The correspondence (https://twitter.com/DonaldJTrumpJr/status/884789418455953413/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.foxnews.com%2Fpolitics%2F2017%2F07%2F11%2Fread-donald-trump-jr-s-emails-on-russia-attorney-meeting.html), seemingly between Jr and publicist Rob Goldstone, documents an apparent offer to provide information that would “incriminate” now President Trump’s then Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

“The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” an email reportedly from Goldstone and the first in the chain released by Donald Trump, Jr. reads. “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump — helped along by Aras and Emin.”

During his initial disclosure on Sunday, Trump Jr. claimed that he first met “Emin” while working to organize the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia. She was later identified as Emin Agalarov, a member of the Russian elite whose billionaire father, Aras Agalarov, has reported ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Seems we have some time and if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replies.

According to the emails released, Goldstone scheduled a June 9 meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who is later identified in the emails as “The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow.” The meeting was also attended by then candidate Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, who he, as president, went on to appoint as senior aide.

Despite the effort the meeting turned out to be a waste of time, according to Trump Jr, who denied any wrongdoing in a separate statement released on Tuesday. According to the younger Trump, no usable information was obtained and the results of the meeting were not even worth mentioning to his father, who he claims had no knowledge of the event.

“The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was Political Opposition Research,” Trump Jr. said in the statement. “I first wanted to just have a phone call but when they didn’t work out, they said the woman would be in New York and asked if I would meet. I decided to take the meeting…As Rob Goldstone said just today in the press, the entire meeting was ‘the most insane nonsense I ever heard. And I was actually agitated by it.'”

Although Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner, who have both denied any wrongdoing, have backed Trump, Jr’s version of last summer’s events, the revelations have bolstered Democrats’ efforts to call for the president’s impeachment.

“There’s no escaping it: the Trump Campaign’s inner circle met with an agent of a hostile foreign power to influence the outcome of an American election,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (D)-CA said in statement on Tuesday. “The American people face a White House riddled with shadowy Russian connections and desperate to hide the truth.”

In a statement on Twitter, The New York Times claimed Trump, Jr. released the email chain only after being advised that the Times had obtained a copy of the communications and were planning to release it to the press (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/07/11/us/politics/document-Donaldtrumpjr.html).

Trump, Jr. claims the release was done as part of an effort to prove that he had nothing to hide.

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‘WE WANT THE TRUTH’: TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DEMANDS ANSWERS ON SPYGATE; PUTS BLAME AT FEET OF FORMER OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump on Thursday directly accused the Obama Administration of improper surveilling of the American people and said he wants answers as to who was behind it.

“The big story is the ‘unmasking and surveillance’ of people that took place during the Obama Administration,” the president tweeted in response to the announcement that subpoenas had been issued seeking records from U.S. spy agencies about Obama officials’ direct requests.

According to a report published by The Wall Street Journal (https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-intelligence-committee-said-to-have-issued-seven-subpoenas-in-russia-probe-1496261435), The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas on Wednesday including one to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and another to President Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen in relation to its probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

According to the Journal report, the panel was seeking specifics on the agencies’ “unmasking” procedures amid revelations that American citizens were improperly identified as a bi-product of government spying. Other agencies reportedly subpoenaed were the National Security Agency, the FBI and the CIA.

A source close to the case says the NSA, FBI and CIA subpoenas directly relate to former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice, ex-CIA director John Brennan and former U.N. ambassador Samantha Power.

Rice, who has remained a central target of the investigation, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, but the president and his administration clearly disagree.

In addition to the subpoenas, the Intelligence Committee sent a letter to former White House press aide Boris Epshteyn asking him to voluntarily submit any and all information he is in possession of regarding the matter.

“Like many others, Mr. Epshteyn has received a broad, preliminary request for information from the House Intelligence Committee,” an attorney for Epshteyn told the Journal. “This is a voluntary request. Mr. Epshteyn has not been subpoenaed, nor do we anticipate that he will be.”

The expansion in the committee’s investigation comes after months of accusations by Democrats that president Trump and key members of his campaign staff colluded with Russia to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

To date, no evidence has surfaced to support the allegations and the president has repeatedly denied those claims.

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‘THE WALL OR ELSE’: RNC CHAIR WARNS VOTERS WILL WALK IF GOP DEFAULTS ON BUILDING OF WALL

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel is warning Republican leaders in Congress to okay funding for President Trump’s border wall or risk being voted out in the 2018 midterm elections.

McDaniel’s comments come as political insiders say some Republicans are backing down on their support of the wall, which then candidate Trump made the center of his presidential campaign, in the face of overwhelming pressure from their Democratic counterparts.

“Our base is going to walk away,” McDaniel warned her colleagues. “They’re going to feel like, ‘Hey, you said one thing on the campaign trail to get elected and you didn’t act on it.’”

McDaniel, the niece of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, also took her plea to the media in an effort to hold her fellow Republicans accountable.

“I was part of the Trump movement as a Michigan chair, and I know that our voters are going to hold us accountable in 2018 if we do not keep the campaign promises that were made,” McDaniel said during an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s radio show Wednesday.

“When you get to Washington, sometimes you forget what was said outside and it’s important that we bring that back to Washington and let them hear what the voters expect of this government and of the president.”

McDaniel also took the opportunity while on Inghram’s show to praise the president for the efforts he’s put forth during his first 100 days in office.

“You’ve seen jobs coming back. You’ve seen our national security standing rise in this country,” McDaniel said. “I mean, action after action that the president talked about on the campaign trail he has enacted in just a hundred days.”

“We have to make good on our campaign promises, and the president has already hit the ground running on that,” she added.

On the flip side, McDaniel said Republicans need to work harder than ever to get the long suffering ObamaCare replacement healthcare program passed and into action.

“They’re hurting. People are hurting under Obamacare,” said McDaniel. “It is a catastrophe what is happening to the American people right now. And they’re looking for help and relief and our party is the only party that is even focusing on that. The Democrats have walked away. But we’re going to have to find that for them.”

“We have to put people above politics,” McDaniel added. “We cannot become complacent as a party. Complacency will be our worst enemy. We won everything, but the Democrats have awoken and they’re coming back, and we have to fight just as hard.”

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