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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 will hold a hearing Monday 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 (one)

CA-21 (NBC retracted its call of Republican 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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Pence renews criticism of U.S. allies, urging action on Iran and Venezuela in Munich speech



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By Linda Givetash

Vice President Mike Pence chastised European leaders over Iran and Venezuela Saturday, renewing his criticism of U.S. allies in a speech to a security conference in Munich.

Europe should follow Washington’s lead in pulling out of the nuclear pact with Tehran and recognizing Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president, Pence said at the annual conference attended by top global defense and foreign policy officials.

“The Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it,” said Pence, who visited the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz earlier in the week.

“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal and join with us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure.”

Pence’s latest speech reiterated remarks made in Poland on Thursday where he accused Britain, France and Germany of breaking American sanctions on Iran.

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DNC chair Tom Perez faces blowback over convention city pick — no matter where he goes



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By Jonathan Allen

WASHINGTON — Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez could face serious pushback from his members if he chooses to hold next year’s party nominating convention in Milwaukee.

And for reasons as parochial as Perez’s family ties to the state and as national as Democrats’ need to win back Midwestern swing voters, Democratic insiders say they think he prefers that city over Houston and Miami, which are the other finalists.

They also note that Perez may want to appeal to billionaire donor Marc Lasry — a Milwaukee convention would be held at Fiserv Forum where the Milwaukee Bucks, co-owned by Lasry, play, and his son, Alex, is in charge of the city’s bid.

“I think Perez is leaning more toward Milwaukee,” said Marcus Mason, a former DNC member who remains close to the organization.

The decision, due this month, is his to make — with the advice of a site-selection committee — but he can ill afford to rankle large numbers of his membership.

The tension point is a view among some DNC members that Milwaukee might not be equipped to handle the needs of delegates in terms of hotel rooms in close proximity to the center of the convention action and easy transportation.

For now — with information about the bids hard to come by — some skeptics are publicly still open to Milwaukee making its case that the concerns are overblown.

“The logistics are a little hard,” Deb Kozikowski, a DNC member from Massachusetts said while she attended the party’s winter meeting here Friday. “Some people are going to be like an hour out. Some people might even be in another state for all I know. It’s not that I’m against Milwaukee. They’ve got to show me their stuff.”

But there’s a significant faction within the ranks — and the leadership — that prefers Houston.

Karen Carter Peterson, a vice chair of the DNC and the chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party, said she has told Perez her primary concern is the experience of the delegates — including getting to hear from top figures at delegation breakfasts, particularly “if we have not settled on a nominee at that point.”

“For example, if I want Doug Jones and Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris and Cory Booker to all come at some point in my three days to one of my breakfasts, those folks are making stops for multiple delegations, so it needs to be convenient for them to move around and hit five or six breakfasts in a two-hour span,” she said. “If the hotels are 15, 25 miles apart, it makes it less likely.”

Asked whether Houston was her preference, Peterson noted that she is from the South and then acknowledged, “I wouldn’t disagree.”

A DNC official close to Perez said that all three cities remain in the running and that they were all chosen as finalists because they could handle a major party convention.

The official said Perez will face disappointment from DNC members who wanted other cities no matter which one gets the convention.

“It’s not going to be because one city is ill-equipped,” the official said. “It’s going to be because their city didn’t get picked.”

Milwaukee has its supporters in the ranks, too.

Mahlon Mitchell, a DNC member who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in Wisconsin last year, said he’s lobbied Perez on behalf of his home state.

“Wisconsin’s a state that’s going to be a huge play when it comes to a presidential race, so I think we’ve got to have it in Wisconsin,” he said.

Mitchell said he’s heard the concerns about Milwaukee’s ability to pull off a convention but said that it shouldn’t be a problem.

And Nancy Monacelli, a DNC member from Walla Walla, Wash., said there are practical and political reasons to pick Milwaukee over Houston or Miami.

“I think being in the Midwest is kind of where we need to be,” she said, noting that she got beer-can salt-and-pepper shakers as some of the swag provided for DNC members by the team lobbying for Milwaukee. “I think we need to show the flag and I think we need to demonstrate that we really do care about the issues facing middle America.”

As for Houston in July, she said, “I start perspiring just thinking about it.”

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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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