October 11, 2018

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is both the state's top election official and the Republican nominee for governor, and his aggressive "voter roll maintenance" has become an issue in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams. Abrams, who is black, says Kemp is suppressing minority votes. Kemp has canceled more than 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012, including about 670,000 in 2017 alone, The Associated Press reports, and his office is sitting on more than 53,000 voter registration forms that ran afoul of the "exact match" system he put in place.

The "exact match" system, codified by the state's Republican legislature last year, sidelines a voter application if it doesn't exactly match the information on an applicant's driver's license or Social Security data. "If even an accent or a hyphen is missing from a name, the application gets blocked," reports Cameron Joseph at Talking Points Memo. Voters don't always know that their registration is blocked, AP says, and an analysis of records obtained through a public records request "reveals racial disparity in the process. Georgia's population is approximately 32 percent black, according to the U.S. Census, but the list of voter registrations on hold with Kemp's office is nearly 70 percent black."

Kemp says he is fighting voter fraud and has made voting easier for all Georgians, pointing to an online registration system and expanded mail-in voting. He blames the "exact match" racial disparity on the voter-registration organization Abrams founded in 2014.

On MSNBC Wednesday night, Rachel Maddow noted that 53,000 votes could decide a neck-and-neck race like the Abrams-Kemp one. "Honestly, this is outrageous enough that it seems almost impossible that the courts will allow this to stand," she said.

Kemp and Abrams have been sparring for years over voting rights, and you can read more about their history — and the 214 polling places shuttered with Kemp's encouragement, disproportionately in rural and blacker counties, since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 — at Talking Points Memo. Peter Weber

12:49 p.m.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry is out with his 2020 pick.

Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee for president, on Thursday endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden, in a statement describing him as "the president our country desperately needs right now."

"I've never before seen the world more in need of someone who on day one can begin the incredibly hard work of putting back together the world Donald Trump has smashed apart," Kerry said.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Kerry said he likes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) "enormously," adding he also likes former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), but "I just think Joe is the person for the moment." He also said that "I'm not endorsing Joe because I've known him a long time. I'm endorsing him because I know him so well."

Kerry while speaking to the Post also dismissed moments during the Democratic presidential debates in which Biden has struggled to find his words, saying, "Who hasn't done that, over a lifetime?" In terms of advice for Biden, Kerry told the Post, "He needs to do exactly what he's doing now." Kerry is set to campaign with Biden in Iowa on Friday. Brendan Morrow

12:26 p.m.

The Treasury Department is sanctioning a Russian criminal organization whose name couldn't possibly be more on-the-nose.

The Trump administration on Thursday announced sanctions against a Russian organization that used malware to "infect computers and harvest login credentials from hundreds of banks and financial institutions in over 40 countries, causing more than $100 million in theft," CNN reports. That organization's name? "Evil Corp."

This absurd name, CNBC notes, seems to be a reference to a fictional organization from the TV series Mr. Robot.

"Treasury is sanctioning Evil Corp as part of a sweeping action against one of the world's most prolific cybercriminal organizations," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. "This coordinated action is intended to disrupt the massive phishing campaigns orchestrated by this Russian-based hacker group." Move aside, Fraud Guarantee. There's a new most hilariously incriminating name in town. Brendan Morrow

11:20 a.m.

The impeachment saga is far from over.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the next phase of impeachment on Thursday, saying she'd told House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to "proceed with articles of impeachment" against President Trump. But that doesn't mean everything just gets shipped off to the Senate.

As CNN's Manu Raju notes, Pelosi will keep talking with House members to find out whether they'll vote for or against impeachment. First the House Judiciary Committee will vote on advancing the articles, possibly as soon as next week, but after the House Intelligence Committee presents its findings for the judiciary. The whole House will then weigh in, and that could happen the week after. With most of the House supporting the impeachment inquiry in the first place, it's likely Pelosi will get a majority vote to send the articles beyond the House.

The House's Democratic leaders still have yet to write up those articles, and what's in them will largely be up to Nadler, Pelosi, and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). They'll consider whether to include Trump's alleged abuse of power and bribery, his obstruction of Congress by refusing to respond to subpoenas, or his obstruction of justice as alleged by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in the articles.

Next up, the articles head to the Senate Judiciary and potentially the whole Senate for a trial. The Senate seems well aware of this possibility, and has left its January calendar completely blank as impeachment looms. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:38 a.m.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has announced the next phase of impeachment in the House.

Pelosi announced Thursday that she would be asking House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to "proceed with articles of impeachment" against President Trump. "The president leaves us no choice but to act" after he "engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security, and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections," Pelosi said.

Pelosi's announcement was heavy on history, starting with a reflection of how America's founders included an impeachment power in the Constitution because they "feared the prospects of a king president corrupted by foreign influence." Trump's "actions are in defiance of the vision of our founders, and in the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States," Pelosi finished.

Pelosi's announcement came after weeks of public and closed-door testimonies from impeachment witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee, and a day after legal scholars testified for the House Judiciary Committee. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:16 a.m.

Why did world leaders including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau laugh about President Trump in a viral video? Because they're "jealous," White House counselor Kellyanne Conway suggests.

Conway spoke to Fox & Friends Thursday about a viral video showing world leaders including Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laughing about Trump and his lengthy press conference.

On Fox & Friends, Conway blasted the exchange as "childish" but said the world leaders were "hardly denouncing the president's policies" and suggested jealousy was really to blame.

"What was it really about?" Conway asked. "It was about the fact that President Trump commands a room, and he does. And maybe that makes a couple of people jealous."

After the video emerged Wednesday, Trump was "fuming" over it, CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports. He subsequently blasted Trudeau as "two-faced" and then was heard praising his own insult on a hot mic, saying, "that was funny when I called that guy two-faced." Conway doubled down on that characterization on Fox & Friends, saying with his "two-faced" description, Trump "said it best." Brendan Morrow

8:08 a.m.

NBC is formally investigating America's Got Talent after a meeting with Gabrielle Union, the former judge allegedly ousted after complaining about a toxic work environment.

Union announced on Twitter Wednesday that she had concluded a five hour, "productive" meeting with NBC, and "I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change." NBC also called the meeting "productive" in a statement, saying "there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts" and "we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution," Variety reports.

Reports emerged in Variety and Vulture last week that Union was not being brought back as a judge on America's Got Talent after she voiced concerns about the show's work environment, including complaining about alleged racist incidents like an offensive joke reportedly made by Jay Leno. She also complained about Simon Cowell smoking indoors, Vulture reports; she is allergic to cigarette smoke. Additionally, Union was told on numerous occasions that her hairstyles were "too black," Variety reports.

Deadline reports that NBC's further investigation "involves AGT creator and judge Cowell, who seems to be at the center of what went down during Union's one-season stint on the show," also reporting that "the next step in the process for NBC is to have an as yet undetermined independent investigator prioritize moving things forward." SAG-AFTRA has also launched an investigation into the allegations. Brendan Morrow

7:49 a.m.

Willie Nelson, one of the world's most famous proponents of marijuana and ganjapreneurs, surprised a lot of people when he told San Antonio's KSAT-12 TV last week that he has stop smoking weed. "I have abused my lungs quite a bit in the past, so breathing is a little more difficult these days and I have to be careful," Nelson, 86, told Paul Venema aboard his tour bus. "I started smoking cedar bark, went from that to cigarettes to whatever," he added. "And that almost killed me. ... I don't smoke anymore."

This is like "like Michael Jordan retiring from the NBA," said Page Six's Oli Coleman. "It's like Donald Trump quitting Twitter. It's like Lindsay Lohan forsaking drama. ... Nelson has allegedly smoked weed on the roof of the White House, has credited the drug with saving his life, and his personal stash was so powerful that it inspired the Toby Keith song, 'I'll Never Smoke Weed With Willie Again.' Neither, apparently, will anyone else."

But there are different ways to consume pot besides smoking it, Nelson spokeswoman Elaine Schock told The Associated Press on Wednesday, and Willie avails himself of such alternative forms of weed ingestion. "That said," she added, "Willie does what he wants, when he wants, when it comes to smoking."

Nelson told KSAT he has no plans to give up touring, and he his bothered by rumors of his imminent demise. "I don't give a sh-t — excuse me," he said. "I'm here, I'm glad to be here, I'm lucky to be here." Peter Weber

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