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By Dartunorro Clark

Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp’s campaign on Monday said a concession is “long overdue” from Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams, arguing that his lead in the unsettled race is insurmountable.

“Stacey Abrams and her radical backers have moved from desperation to delusion,” said Ryan Mahoney, Kemp’s communications director, in a statement. “On Saturday, military, overseas, and provisional ballots were reported throughout Georgia. The counts are in line with publicly available tracking reports. This is not breaking news and does not change the math. Stacey Abrams lost and her concession is long overdue.”

As of Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET, Kemp leads with 1,976,270 votes, or 50.3 percent. Abrams has 1,918,213 votes, or 48.8 percent, according to NBC News. Under state law, if no candidate gets a majority of votes, a runoff is required.

NBC News has yet to make a call in the race.

The Kemp campaign’s push for a concession comes after the Democratic Party of Georgia and Abrams’ campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court on Sunday challenging rejected votes. The lawsuit, filed against interim Georgia secretary of state Robyn Crittenden and various county election officials, aims to make election officials accept rejected provisional ballots that have incomplete or missing information if they can verify voter information through additional means.

It also challenges the rejection of more than 1,000 absentee ballots for missing or mismatching information, such as birth dates or addresses. Finally, the lawsuit asks a federal judge to delay the certification deadline a day — from Tuesday to Wednesday — to allow more time to fully count the votes.

Abrams’s campaign is hoping that once all the votes are counted, Kemp’s lead will drop below the 50 percent threshold and trigger a Dec. 4 runoff election. If Abrams is able to gain slightly more than 23,700 votes, the race would be pushed into a mandatory recount.

Kemp has claimed that there are not enough outstanding provisional ballots to narrow his lead and force a recount or a December runoff. Kemp’s campaign has said that 21,190 provisional ballots are still outstanding, which is in line with the unofficial numbers reported by the secretary of state’s office.

Kemp, who served as Georgia’s secretary of state until abruptly resigning last Thursday, declared victory shortly after Election Day and began preparing his transition.



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Think President Trump seems rattled now? There may be more to come

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By Ken Dilanian and Tom Winter

If President Donald Trump appears to be rattled by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation now — and his extraordinary tweets on the subject suggest that he has — just wait.

Over the next few weeks, a series of court filings are due that may shed substantial light on what Mueller has learned from people who once sat in Trump’s inner circle.

That could happen as soon as Tuesday, when Mueller is scheduled to file a detailed memo in support of the sentencing of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That memo would include information about any “bad acts” Flynn committed for which he was not charged, and details about his cooperation with the special counsel.

It’s possible that filing will be sealed, which means the public won’t see it until later. But on Friday, another filing is expected that legal experts say probably will not be sealed — a detailed explanation of why Mueller’s office is withdrawing a plea agreement with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, including the “crimes and lies” Mueller alleges Manafort committed while he purported to be cooperating with the special counsel.

And then, on Dec. 12, former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is expected to be sentenced in federal court in New York, in a hearing during which his other “bad acts,” and his cooperation with Mueller, are likely to be further detailed.

“If these submissions are not filed under seal, I would expect to learn much more about the special counsel’s investigation into the election of 2016 campaign than we know to date,” said former federal prosecutor Daniel Goldman, an NBC News analyst.

Trump continued to appear to be distracted — and infuriated — by the Mueller investigation. In a series of tweets Monday, the president called for prison time for Cohen and appeared to praise his former associate Roger Stone, in a move that many legal experts said shattered presidential norms and raised the specter of witness tampering.

Stone “will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump,'” Trump tweeted. “Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!'”

Trump added in another tweet: “Bob Mueller (who is a much different man than people think) and his out of control band of Angry Democrats, don’t want the truth, they only want lies. The truth is very bad for their mission!”

Attorney George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, replied to Trump on Twitter with a link to the federal statute on witness tampering, which prohibits any effort to “influence, intimidate, or impede,” a witness in a criminal proceeding.

Trump may have reason to be concerned, given that in a late-night court filing in Manhattan Friday, Cohen’s lawyers revealed that their client, a former Trump fixer, has been cooperating with four separate law enforcement groups: Mueller, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, the New York attorney general’s office, and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Cohen’s attorney Guy Petrillo said in the filing that his client should get more credit for coming forward despite withering denunciations of the Mueller investigation by the president.

“In the context of this raw, full-bore attack by the most powerful person in the United States, Michael, formerly a confidante and adviser to Mr. Trump, resolved to cooperate, and voluntarily took the first steps toward doing so even before he was charged in this District,” Petrillo wrote.

He added that Cohen “could have fought the government and continued to hold to the party line, positioning himself perhaps for a pardon or clemency, but, instead — for himself, his family, and his country — he took personal responsibility for his own wrongdoing and contributed, and is prepared to continue to contribute, to an investigation that he views as thoroughly legitimate and vital.”

Cohen and his attorneys also cited the payments he made to women who allegedly had affairs with Trump, strongly implying in their filing that President Trump is the person referred to as “Client-1″— which had widely been assumed.

Petrillo wrote, “We respectfully request that the Court consider that as personal counsel to Client-1, Michael felt obligated to assist Client-1, on Client-1’s instruction, to attempt to prevent Woman-1 and Woman-2 from disseminating narratives that would adversely affect the Campaign and cause personal embarrassment to Client-1 and his family.”

The filing included 37 letters from friends and family of Cohen to Judge William Pauley, imploring the court for a reduced sentence or a sentence with no jail time.

One of the letters was from Cohen’s father, Maurice Cohen, an 83-year-old surgeon and Holocaust survivor.

He wrote, “So please where Michael is, let me be with him, and where he goes let me go. He is the oxygen in the air that I breathe.”

Trump, in a highly unusual intervention by a president into a pending criminal case, tweeted Monday that Cohen “lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence.”

Mueller’s investigation is still progressing, despite the elevation to acting attorney general of Matthew Whitaker, who has been openly critical of the probe.

MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace reported last week that Whitaker had not assumed day-to-day supervision of the Mueller probe, leaving that task to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec did not dispute that but said that nothing had changed since the DOJ released a statement saying that Whitaker is in charge of all Justice Department matters.

If Mueller is allowed to proceed unimpeded, the public may learn a lot more about what he has uncovered in the coming weeks. Some legal experts believe he will use the court filings to inform the public about the progress of his investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with the 2016 Russian election interference operation.

“My best sense is there will be a lot of details” in the Manafort filing,” former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg told NBC News. “He’s sort of depositing a few different important chapters in a few different courts where they would be in the reach of either Whitaker or anyone in Congress” to suppress it.

Former federal prosecutor Harry Littman, an NBC News contributor, said the Manafort filing promises to “give chapter and verse to really explain his real detail how he was lying.”

Whether that reveals a lot or a little about the Mueller investigation, he said, depends on what Manafort is alleged to have lied about. For his part, Manafort denies lying.

The submission by Friday’s lawyers made it apparent that Cohen has no plans to waffle, as Manafort allegedly did — he is all-in on cooperating with the government. He apparently believes it’s his only chance to get a break on sentencing for his crimes, and get on with his life.



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Trump says he wants ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to serve ‘full and complete’ prison sentence

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By Allan Smith

President Donald Trump said Monday that he didn’t think a federal judge should afford his former longtime attorney Michael Cohen any leniency, saying that Cohen should serve a “full and complete” prison sentence.

The president tweeted his thoughts in response to reports that Cohen was hoping to avoid any time behind bars after pleading guilty in federal court last week to a new charge brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On Thursday, Cohen pleaded guilty to a single count of making false statements to Congress about a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, marking the first time that Trump and his private business dealings were named in open court as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign.

Mueller wrote in a charging document that Cohen lied to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to minimize links between the president and the Moscow project, and to give the false impression that the project had ended before the Iowa caucuses in February 2016. In fact, the document states, Cohen briefed “Individual 1,” who he identified in open court on Thursday as Trump, about the status and progress of the Moscow project “on more than the three occasions Cohen claimed” to the Senate committee, in addition to briefing the president’s family members within the Trump Organization.

In addition, Cohen admitted, he continued to pursue Russian approval for Trump’s Moscow project as late as June 2016. Cohen was a vice president of the Trump Organization at the time.

In a sentencing document filed Friday, Cohen’s attorneys asked U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley to spare him prison time for both his guilty plea last week, and for the separate guilty plea he entered in August in which he admitted to eight felony counts, including tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.

The president’s mention of “all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things” in his tweet Monday seemed to be a reference to that original August plea. Many of the counts, including tax evasion and bank fraud, were not connected to the president.

However, the campaign finance violations Cohen pleaded guilty to in August were related to hush-money payments made to women during the 2016 campaign. Cohen said in open court at the time that he made the payments “at the direction of a candidate” for president, meaning Trump.

The payments, Cohen told the court, were made for the “principal purpose of influencing” the outcome of the election.

Trump has spent the past few days pushing back on his former attorney’s most recent guilty plea, claiming his efforts to build a Trump Tower in Russia during his campaign for president were “very legal” and “very cool.”

He also derided Cohen as a “weak person” who is “lying about a project that everybody knew about” in order to get a reduced sentence.

“I was running my business while I was campaigning,” Trump told reporters Thursday. “There was a good chance that I wouldn’t have won, in which case I would have gone back into the business and why should I lose lots of opportunities?”

Top Democrats raised alarms about the new timeline surrounding Trump’s Russian real estate dealings, with Jerry Nadler, the likely incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, telling NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the business negotiations gave Russia “leverage” over Trump.

“Well, whether it was legal or not remains to be seen,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the likely incoming House Intelligence Committee chairman, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “It certainly wasn’t very cool. More than that, it was compromising of our country.”

Cohen’s plea agreement indicated that he is cooperating with Mueller’s office. The attorney first formally offered information to Mueller in early August and went on to speak with the special counsel’s office six additional times.

A source familiar with Cohen’s thinking told NBC News last week that Trump’s former fixer is “happy to be cooperating with Mueller” and “has no personal animus toward President Trump.”

However, the source said Cohen believes Trump “has changed” since being elected president.

In August, prosecutors recommended a sentence of 46 to 63 months for Cohen. It is not yet clear whether they will decrease that recommendation following Cohen’s most recent guilty plea.



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Sore losers? Wisconsin GOP seeks to strip powers of elected Dem governor

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — Less than a month after losing the state’s races for governor and attorney general, Wisconsin Republicans are trying to strip the powers of the incoming Democrats, representing a brazen partisan power grab in this important battleground state.

State GOP lawmakers today will hold a hearing on their package of efforts to weaken Gov.-elect Tony Evers — who beat Republican Scott Walker in November, 49.6 percent to 48.4 percent — and could approve the measures as early as Tuesday, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The Republicans proposals in this lame-duck session include, the paper adds:

  • making it difficult for Evers and incoming Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, to withdraw from the GOP lawsuit challenging Obamacare;
  • eliminating Evers’ ability to choose a leader of the state’s Economic Development Corporation;
  • limiting early voting in elections to just two weeks (a similar effort was found unconstitutional in 2016);
  • moving the state’s 2020 presidential primary from April to March, to potentially reduce the turnout for a state Supreme Court contest set for April;
  • and requiring Evers to get permission from state lawmakers to ban guns in the state Capitol.

Evers has cried foul. “I view this as a repudiation of the last election. I will take any steps possible to assure the people of Wisconsin that I will not invalidate those votes,” the governor-elect told the Journal Sentinel over the weekend.

Republicans maintain they’re correcting giving outgoing Gov. Scott Walker too much power. “Maybe we made some mistakes giving too much power to Gov. Walker and I’d be open to looking at that to see if there are areas we should change that,” the Assembly’s GOP speaker told reporters after the election.

No matter the rationale, what Wisconsin Republicans are trying to do isn’t a good look for American democracy — changing the rules after you lose. (The essential question to ask: Would they be making these moves if they won in November?) Indeed, it’s similar to what we saw two years ago in North Carolina, where Republicans worked to curb the powers of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper

And it would be quite the political epitaph for Scott Walker, who came into power in 2011 by taking away collective-bargaining power from public employees, who survived a recall in 2012, who was re-elected in 2014, who ended his 2016 presidential bid prematurely and who lost his re-election race last month.

Today’s GOP isn’t Bush 41’s party anymore

The big political news over the weekend, of course, was the passing of former President George H.W. Bush; he was 94 years old.

His remains will travel from Houston to Washington D.C, where he will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol and where a funeral ceremony will be held at the National Cathedral on Wednesday. After that, his remains will return for Houston for another funeral service at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church on Thursday, and then he will be taken to Texas A&M University.

Politically, what stands out about Bush’s passing is how different his party – and his presidency – looks from the current GOP and current president. He raised taxes to help balance the budget (despite his “read my lips” promise), while the current GOP continues on its tax-cutting course.

He separated campaigning (which he did in brutal fashion in 1988) from governing, while the current president launched his re-election campaign as he was being inaugurated.

And he stood for world and international order after the collapse of the Soviet Union (“The restraint, the caution, the lack of spiking the football that they showed was, I think, an enormous achievement,” Barack Obama said of Bush and his presidency on “60 Minutes”), versus “America First.”

To be sure, all parties change from their past presidents. (Remember when Bill Clinton declared that the “era of big government is over”?) But the transformation of the Republican Party from Bush 41 to Bush 43 to Trump has been remarkable.

NYT: No “course correction” for GOP after big midterm losses

The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin: “With a brutal finality, the extent of the Republicans’ collapse in the House came into focus last week as more races slipped away from them and their losses neared 40 seats. Yet nearly a month after the election, there has been little self-examination among Republicans about why a midterm that had seemed at least competitive became a rout.”

“President Trump has brushed aside questions about the loss of the chamber entirely, ridiculing losing incumbents by name, while continuing to demand Congress fund a border wall despite his party losing many of their most diverse districts. Unlike their Democratic counterparts, Republicans swiftly elevated their existing slate of leaders with little debate, signaling a continuation of their existing political strategy.”

Last week, we asked where the pivot would be for Trump and GOP. Well, it looks like there’s been no pivot.

Investigation of voter fraud continues in NC-9 race

Here’s the latest on the allegations of voter fraud in that congressional election in North Carolina: “North Carolina officials voted Friday to continue investigating fraud in the 9th Congressional District election, potentially delaying certification of the results for weeks and leaving open the possibility that a new election could be called,” the Washington Post writes.

“The decision cast new uncertainty on the race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready, who are separated by only 905 votes out of 283,317 ballots cast, according to unofficial returns. The Associated Press on Friday announced it was revoking its projection that Harris won the southeastern North Carolina seat. The inquiry further roiled a state already divided over issues of voting rights, voter suppression and fraud.”

More: The State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement has collected at least six sworn statements from voters in rural Bladen County, near the South Carolina border, who described people coming to their doors and urging them to hand over their absentee ballots, sometimes without filling them out. Others described receiving absentee ballots by mail that they had not requested. Among the allegations is that an individual who worked for the Harris campaign coordinated an effort to collect and fill in, or discard, the ballots of Democratic voters who might have otherwise voted for McCready. Several of the affidavits come from elderly African American voters. It is illegal to take someone else’s ballot, whether to turn it in or discard it.”

The uncalled House races of 2018 (1)

CA-21 (NBC retracted its call of GOPer David Valadao as the winner)

Democrats are currently at +39 under NBC’s count, and they’d be at +40 if they end up winning CA-21.

Trade ceasefire with China boosts global markets

“A truce between U.S. and Chinese leaders on trade tariffs provided boosted global markets on Monday, fueling a nearly one percent surge on world stocks and pushing emerging currencies higher against the dollar,” per Reuters. “The gains came after China and the United States agreed at the weekend to halt additional tariffs on each other. The deal prevents their trade war escalating as the two sides try to bridge differences with fresh talks aimed at reaching a deal within 90 days.”

Nadler: Cohen revelations are proof that Russians had “leverage” over Trump

Meanwhile, “New York Democrat Jerry Nadler, the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that new revelations from one of President Trump’s allies amount to proof that Russia had ‘leverage’ over Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign,” NBC’s Ben Kamisar writes.

“In an exclusive interview on ‘Meet the Press,’ Nadler said that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s admissions last week related to his role in securing a Trump Tower in Moscow during the time of the GOP presidential primary raise the specter of a compromised presidential candidate, and now president, that should trouble the American people. ‘The fact that he was lying to the American people about doing business in Russia and the Kremlin knew he was lying gave the Kremlin a hold over him,’ Nadler said.”

Ex-Obama aides say Beto reminds them of the ex-president

And in 2020 news, here’s NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “Rep. Beto O’Rourke may have lost in Texas, but he’s winning in Obamaland. Aides to the former president and the man himself say O’Rourke’s campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, gave them flashbacks to Obama’s precocious political rise and has positioned the young white congressman as an early if unlikely heir to the first black president’s ‘hope and change’ mantle.”

“Obama and his coterie are personally closer to any number of other potential candidates, especially former Vice President Joe Biden, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a photograph of Obama and O’Rourke together. Obama didn’t even endorse O’Rourke in his Senate campaign. But in O’Rourke, Obama veterans see not only an inspiring political celebrity, but, like Obama, a tactical innovator who eschewed the political industrial complex of pollsters and consultants and used technology in new ways to connect directly with supporters and multiply the force of his fundraising and ground game.”



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