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The push in Michigan extends beyond Antrim County. The board of commissioners of Cheboygan County, Mich., voted 4-3 last week to request an audit of the county’s results, asking the state elections director to approve it. Trump won the country overwhelmingly.

“There is no information or gain that can be made from this audit. Things will stand as they are,” Cheboygan Commissioner Michael Newman, a Republican and one of the three commissioners who voted against requesting an audit, said in an interview.

The commissioners who voted for an audit did not respond to interview requests.

Newman, who said he believes Biden was duly elected, said there was a local pressure campaign to push for an audit, but that constituents in his district urged him to vote against it.

“They want to see us all changed so we’re not seated anymore, and they want to go after our county administrator,” Newman said of activists pushing for the audit.

And in the state legislature, freshman Republican state Rep. Steve Carra recently filed legislation calling for a “forensic audit” of the results. Carra, who said he believed there was substantial fraud during the 2020 election, is primarying Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), one of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. He said the election results are an animating factor among Republicans.

“I think it is the number one issue from people in my community. And I also think it’s the number one issue for all of my conservative colleagues around the state,” Carra said. “So if they vote against this, I think that’s something that people from their communities would not appreciate.”

Similar pushes have materialized elsewhere. Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano has boosted his political profile by becoming one of the vocal proponents of Trump’s lies about the election, and is considering a run for governor in the state. Mastriano, who visited the Arizona site, has pushed for an audit in his home state — and Trump has attacked Republican leaders in Pennsylvania who have not backed him, even name checking Republican state Senate leader Jake Corman.

“Other State Senators want this Forensic Audit to take place — immediately,” Trump said in a mid-June statement. “I feel certain that if Corman continues along this path of resistance, with its lack of transparency, he will be primaried and lose by big numbers.”

In Georgia, conspiracy theories about Trump’s loss persist, despite the fact the state saw its votes recounted twice in 2020. Republican State Party Chair David Shafer, who also toured the Arizona site, has praised the calls for an audit in his home state.

“The vast majority of Republicans believe that there were irregularities in the last election that have not been fully investigated,” Shafer said on the sidelines of the state party convention earlier this month.

A Georgia state judge also recently dismissed most of a lawsuit that sought to review absentee ballots in Fulton County, home to Atlanta. The suit was by plaintiffs who were trying to find fraud in the state.

And in Wisconsin, state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has hired retired police officers to investigate “potential irregularities and/or illegalities” in the election. Two Assembly Republicans who traveled to Arizona have also said they’d like to see a similar undertaking in their state, and Trump has recently attacked Vos and other Republicans in the state for “actively trying to prevent a Forensic Audit,” although backlash to Vos at the state convention was muted.

A Trump adviser recently told POLITICO that the former president remains “adamant about doing audits” and “is going to keep up pressure on Republicans to have the courage to do it.”

The particularities of the process in Arizona have also concerned election experts, who fear that activists elsewhere will try to mirror or copy a flawed approach from the state.

The so-called audit has crossed deep into conspiratorial territory. Workers had checked for bamboo fibers in ballots (a nod to a baseless theory that ballots may have been sent from Asia) and used UV lights on ballots, potentially for (non-existent) watermarks. Cyber Ninjas itself is owned by a man who has promoted

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the #StopTheSteal conspiracy theory, which is based in the belief that Trump actually won, and recently appeared in a conspiracy-filled film about the election.

“It was clear they had no idea how elections are administered,” Morrell, who served as an observer, said. “That’s the concern, is that we’ve suddenly left this place where we follow the rule of law, and it’s like the Wild Wild West.”

The effort, or at least its first stages, appears to be winding down. The pseudo-official Twitter account tweeted that the “paper examination and counting” of the nearly 2.1 million ballots concluded on Friday. But Ken Bennett, a former Arizona Republican secretary of state who has served as a liaison for the effort, told the Associated Press that a report is still weeks to months away.

(A request for an interview sent to Bennett and a second email address associated with the effort was acknowledged repeatedly by a staffer, but nobody was made available.)

Elections experts are already warning that any conclusion drawn from the Arizona review will be untrustworthy. A report from the nonpartisan States United Democracy Center, co-authored by former Kentucky Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson and Barry Burden, the director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, ripped into the Arizona effort as being poorly run and not transparent.

Grayson also said fixation on 2020 will hurt Republicans in the long run. “I want to be involved in this [report] because I’m worried,” he said, noting he is an active party member and just recently attended a fundraiser for a Republican senator. “I want Republicans to see, ‘Here’s one of us who’s telling you don’t waste your time, don’t waste your money. You’re undermining confidence. It’s backfiring.’”

Trump and his supporters have also glommed on to legitimate efforts elsewhere, quickly abandoning them when they did not turn up evidence of fraud the former president wanted.

A bipartisan group of New Hampshire lawmakers authorized an audit of a state House of Representatives race after a recount showed a Republican candidate actually received hundreds more votes than initially tallied. The New Hampshire audit was extremely unusual, election experts say, because it took place well after the election, and there were no established laws for how to conduct a post-election audit in the state. The major difference between Arizona and New Hampshire? This audit was run by well-respected election professionals.

Trump initially praised the audit as part of the “incredible fight to seek out the truth on the massive Election Fraud which took place in New Hampshire and the 2020 Presidential Election.”

But the actual culprit was not a conspiracy of fraud, but instead a likely combination of tabulators that incorrectly read poorly-made folds in ballots, voters casting too many votes in certain races, and dusty machinery. Trump did not issue a public proclamation when a more innocuous explanation was laid out.

“That’s kind of why I did this crazy thing, because I felt someone had to,” said Mark Lindeman, who helped run the New Hampshire audit and is the acting co-director of Verified Voting, citing threats to election workers that have stemmed from conspiracy theorists.

“I thought either someone, if I may say this about myself, responsible would do the work,” he continued. “Or deeply irresponsible people — and, in fact, the same people who have done the work in Maricopa County — would have done it.”

Maya King, David Siders and Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.




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Garland pauses federal executions as DOJ reviews policies

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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday paused federal executions as the Department of Justice reviews its death penalty policies and procedures.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guar anteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in a statement. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

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Legal battles over the traditional three-drug protocol for carrying out execution by legal injection, and a shortage of sodium thiopental — one of the drugs — led to a two-decade lapse in federal executions. But then-Attorney General Bill Barr ordered federal prisons to resume executions in 2019, after making changes to the federal execution protocols.


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New York Assembly OKs subpoenas in Cuomo impeachment probe

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Additionally, members have taken the technical step of issuing a commission to the law firm of Davis Polk, which the Assembly has retained to handle much of the probe. That step “allows our independent counsel to take testimony under oath,” Lavine said.

The Assembly launched its investigation of Cuomo in March. It is probing a litany of allegations made against Cuomo on subjects ranging from sexual harassment to the governor’s $5.1 million book deal.

State Attorney General Tish James is examining several similar issues. She started issuing subpoenas in March.

James said last week that she does not “share information” with the Assembly investigators. But Abinanti said on Wednesday that the granting of a commission to Davis Polk opens up that possibility, “because now they are authorized to subpoena the same information the attorney general’s office is subpoenaing … so I would assume the attorney general’s office would feel more comfortable cooperating with our counsel.”

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Wednesday’s meeting was notable as the Assembly’s first mostly in-person committee meeting since state government shut down in March 2020. Since Cuomo ended New York’s state of emergency last week, the Legislature is now fully subjected to the Open Meetings Law, and the public was allowed into the room in the state Capitol for five minutes. The remainder of the roughly two-hour gathering took place in executive session.

Does the issuing of subpoenas mean that the investigation of Cuomo is nearing an end?

“Oh no, not yet, no no,” Abinanti said. “Let’s face it, we’ve given [Davis Polk] a huge task. There’s a lot of issues for them to look at.”


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Opinion | Republicans Shouldn’t Sign on to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

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The conventional wisdom is that the Senate has to prove that it can work, and the test of its functioning is how much of Biden’s spending Republicans endorse.

This is a distorted view of the Senate’s role, which shouldn’t be to get on board a historic spending spree for which Biden won no mandate and which isn’t justified by conditions in the country (it’s not true, for instance, that the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling).

Besides, if bipartisan spending is the test, the Senate just a few weeks ago passed a $200 billion China competition bill by a 68-32 vote. It used to be that $200 billion constituted a lot of money, but now it doesn’t rate, not when there’s $6 trillion on the table.

The infrastructure deal lurched from gloriously alive to dead when Biden explicitly linked its passage to the simultaneous passage of a reconciliation bill with the rest of the Democratic Party’s spending priorities in it.

Then, it revived again when Biden walked this back, and promised a dual track for the two bills.

The fierce Republican insistence on these two tracks doesn’t make much sense and amounts to asking Democrats to allow a decent interval before going ahead with the rest of their spending—Democrats are going to try to pass a reconciliation whether the bipartisan deal passes or not.

At the end of the day, then, there’s only one track: Democrats are going to spend as much money as they possibly can. The bipartisan deal might shave some money off the hard infrastructure priorities (according to Playbook, the White House says it doesn’t want to double dip, on say, electric cars or broadband by getting some money for them in the deal and then getting yet more in the reconciliation bill). But the emphasis is going to blow out spending across the board.

The calculation of Republicans supporting the bill is that a significant bipartisan package can take some of the heat off of Sen. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in their resistance to the filibuster.

A deal that passes and is signed into law will certainly be a feather in their caps, but it’s hard to believe they’d change their minds on the filibuster if the deal fell apart.

They are both so extensively and adamantly on the record in favor of the filibuster that a climb-down would be politically embarrassing and perilous. They may be sincere in believing that the filibuster is important institutionally to the Senate. But the politics also work by allowing them to brand themselves as a different breed of Democrat.

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If they flip-flip on the filibuster, they release the brake on the left-most parts of the Democratic agenda and find themselves taking a lot of tough votes on priorities dear to the Democratic base.

Republicans supporting the deal also think that it will make passing the subsequent reconciliation bill harder. First, the parts of infrastructure that have the widest support—roads and bridges—will be in the deal and not in the reconciliation bill. Second, the unwelcome tax increases excluded from the bipartisan deal will be in the reconciliation bill.

This isn’t a crazy calculation, although it’s not clearly correct, either. The higher the top-line number is for the reconciliation bill, the harder it is to pass. By allowing Democrats to cleave off some of their spending into a bipartisan deal, the overall number for the reconciliation bill gets smaller. In other words, the bipartisan deal could make the partisan reconciliation easier rather than harder to pass.

If this is true, the deal is bipartisanship in the service of a partisan end.

It not as though Biden is fiscally prudent on all other fronts, except in this one area which he considers a particularly important national investment with unmistakable returns. No, he’s universally profligate. His reckless spending on all fronts (except defense) makes it more imperative for Republicans to stake out a position in four-square opposition.

It’s not as though the bipartisan bill is exemplary legislation, by the way. It resorts to all the usual Beltway gimmicks to create the pretense that it’s paid for, when it’s basically as irresponsible as the rest of the Biden spending.

Bipartisanship has its uses, but so does partisanship. Joe Biden wants to be known for his FDR- and LBJ-like government spending, believing that it’s the key to political success and to an enduring legacy. Fine. Let him and his party own it.


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