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Two Asian Americans apparently elected to New York State Senate in historic first



By Chris Fuchs

Voters appear to have given the New York State Senate its first two Asian-American lawmakers Tuesday — one of whom would be the first Indian American to ever serve in either house of the state legislature.

John Liu, a Democrat and New York City’s first Asian-American city councilman, apparently defeated Republican candidate Vickie Paladino, conservative candidate Simon H. Minching, as well as incumbent Tony Avella, who lost the Democratic primary to Liu in September, according to unofficial results.

Avella, whose state Senate district encompasses neighborhoods in the New York City borough of Queens, still ran in the general election, though not as a Democrat.

Meanwhile, unofficial results out on Long Island showed that attorney Kevin Thomas, an immigrant from India, appeared to eke out a victory against Republican incumbent Kemp Hannon, whose district covers parts of Nassau County.

Come January, assuming the results stand, Liu and Thomas will join Democratic assembly members Ron Kim and Yuh-Line Niou as the state legislature’s four Asian-American lawmakers.

Asians make up around 9 percent of the state’s total population, according to census figures.

“The goal was to inject a voice that had been absent prior,” Liu said in a phone interview. “And the goal is also to vigorously represent the needs of this community that I’ve lived in my whole life, and grown up in, and am raising my own family in.”

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Trump snubs John McCain during bill signing intended to honor him



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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — Congress wanted to honor the ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. President Donald Trump did not.

In extended remarks during a visit to Fort Drum in upstate New York to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 — this year’s version of an annual bill that sets defense policy — Trump chose not to mention the former prisoner of war and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who is battling brain cancer. He even omitted McCain’s name when citing the title of the bill.

The two men have long been fierce critics of each other, with McCain calling Trump’s supporters “crazies” in 2015 and Trump retaliating by questioning whether McCain, who was subjected to torture in a Vietnamese prison camp, is really a “war hero” because “he was captured.”

The snub at Fort Drum, home to the combat aviation brigade of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, did not escape the notice of McCain’s allies.

“For those asking did I expect Trump to be an a—— today. No more than I expected it to be Monday,” Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime aide, wrote on Twitter.

McCain’s condition — dire enough that a recent HBO documentary on him was titled “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls” — has not stopped Trump from deriding the Arizona senator at political rallies. Though Trump does not use his name, he tells crowds that he would have been able to repeal Obamacare if not for a thumbs-down sign from one senator — McCain.

The senator’s own statement included Trump’s name in the headline and in a preamble written by staff. But the words attributed to McCain did not.

“I’m very proud that the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 has been signed into law,” he said.

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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker sets his Twitter account to private



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By Janelle Griffith

Matthew Whitaker, the new acting attorney general, has made his verified Twitter account private.

In so doing, he has protected his account and made it all but impossible for people who do not already follow him to see his tweets, which have come under scrutiny since his appointment on Wednesday. When someone protects their tweets, the user receives a request when new people want to follow them, which they can approve or deny.

Some of Whitaker’s tweets are available via the Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine.”

President Donald Trump announced Whitaker as acting attorney general on Wednesday after Jeff Sessions resigned at Trump’s request.

Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney in Iowa, has been vocal about his criticism of Robert Mueller’s probe into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, which in his new role, he will oversee.

Whitaker last year argued against legislation that would protect special counsel such as Mueller from White House pressure.

“This would be a mistake. Cannot have anyone unaccountable in executive branch. Already protected enough,” Whitaker tweeted on July, 27, 2017.

In an August 2017 op-ed for CNN, Whitaker wrote that “Mueller has come up to a red line in the Russia 2016 election-meddling investigation that he is dangerously close to crossing.”

He tweeted a link to the opinion piece on Aug. 6, 2017.

Hours later he also tweeted a link to an op-ed written by another lawyer that encouraged Trump’s attorney not to cooperate with Mueller.

“Note to Trump’s lawyer: Do not cooperate with Mueller lynch mob,” that tweet said, adding, “Worth a read.”

Twitter told NBC News on Friday it could not confirm when the account was last public.

“We don’t comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons,” a spokeswoman for Twitter said.

Once a Twitter account is protected, tweets from that account can only be viewed and searched on the social media platform by the account holder and his or her followers.

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Trump calls Florida vote count a ‘disgrace’ as recount looms in Senate race



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By Ali Vitali and Dartunorro Clark

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — President Donald Trump on Friday called the vote-counting process in Florida a “disgrace” and suggested federal authorities could get involved as the possibility of a recount looms in the Senate race.

“Well, it could be,” Trump said when asked if the federal government could get involved, “because if you look at Broward, and Palm Beach to a lesser extent, if you look at Broward County, they have had a horrible history.”

“All of the sudden, they’re finding votes out of nowhere,” Trump added, speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn.

A razor-thin margin of less than 0.5 percent separates Republican challenger Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

“What’s going on in Florida is a disgrace,” Trump added. When pressed for evidence of impropriety, he pointed to the past.

“Go down and see what happened over the last period of time, 10 years. Take a look at Broward County,” he said.

Moments later, as the president was en route to Paris for a meeting with world leaders, he tweeted, “You mean they are just now finding votes in Florida and Georgia — but the Election was on Tuesday?”

In a follow-up tweet, he said, “Don’t worry, Florida — I am sending much better lawyers to expose the FRAUD!” — again without providing evidence of any such malfeasance.

Scott’s lead in the Senate contest was reduced to just 15,000 votes over Nelson as of Friday, setting up the possibility of a recount. It’s unclear what role the federal government would play at this point in the regular vote counting process. Florida counties have a deadline of noon Saturday to deliver the first set of “unofficial returns” to the secretary of state after an election — a count that would occur even if the race wasn’t close.

Trump on Friday said Scott “won by a comfortable margin” before suggesting without evidence that Democrats were committing fraud in the election.

“Every couple of hours, it goes down a little bit,” Trump said of Scott’s margin.

Scott, the state’s governor, filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Democrats in Broward and Palm Beach counties of “rampant fraud” and of trying to steal the election — allegations for which he offered no proof.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also joined Scott on Thursday to file suit against both Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.

Scott alleges that the supervisors have violated federal and state laws by failing to provide information to officials. Scott also had harsh words for Nelson, who hired a lawyer after election night. Scott accused Nelson of bringing in an attorney to “try to steal the election and try to thwart the will of the voters of Florida.”

Scott declared victory Tuesday night, but the race is still too close to call, according to NBC News.

Trump later weighed in, tweeting Thursday evening: “Law Enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud in #Broward and Palm Beach. Florida voted for Rick Scott!”

At the press conference on Thursday, Scott told reporters that he was asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or FDLE, to investigate Democrats trying to “steal” this election in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

A spokesman for the FDLE confirmed to NBC News on Friday the agency is now investigating after the governor’s request.

Nelson blasted Scott’s accusations as “politically motivated and borne out of desperation” in a tweet on Thursday.

“The goal here is to see that all the votes in Florida are counted and counted accurately,” he said.

In a call with reporters Thursday, Nelson’s lawyer, Marc Elias, said that the race currently stands as a “jump ball” as counties around the state canvass their votes, but he believes Nelson will prevail in the end. He reiterated that sentiment on a second call Friday with reporters, while also hitting back at Scott.

“It is not appropriate for the governor of any state to suggest that he’s going to use the power of the state to interject,” Elias said.

The deadline for all 67 Florida counties to submit their first set of unofficial returns is Saturday at noon ET, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Ali Vitali reported from Tallahassee, and Dartunorro Clark reported from New York.

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