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MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin appeals court on Tuesday put on hold an order to immediately remove up to 209,000 names from the state’s voter registration rolls, handing Democrats who had fought the move a victory in the battleground state.

The appeals court sided with the bipartisan state elections commission in putting the brakes on removing any voters while the court fight continues. It also put on hold a ruling from Monday in which a judge found the commission and its three Democratic members in contempt for not proceeding with removing the voters.

The orders effectively hit the pause button on the fast-moving case and means there will be no immediate change to the state’s voter registration rolls. There are a number of elections coming soon, including a February primary for a state Supreme Court seat, a primary in the special election to fill the 7th Congressional District seat and races for a host of local offices. Wisconsin’s presidential primary is on April 7.

The issue is unlikely to be resolved in court before the presidential election. The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin also filed a federal lawsuit to stop deactivation of the targeted voters.

A conservative law firm that brought the case — the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty — had wanted the purge to happen immediately, even though the elections commission raised concerns about the accuracy of data used to identify voters who would have their registrations deactivated.

The law firm’s president, Rick Esenberg, didn’t directly address the court’s order in a statement.

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“What is true yesterday is true today,” he said. “The Wisconsin Elections Commission isn’t following state law and we look forward to making that case in the Court of Appeals.”

The case is being closely watched, as Wisconsin is among a group of swing states being targeted by both Democrats and President Donald Trump this year. Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 by fewer than 23,000 votes, putting even more of a focus on every voter in the state.

Trump was back in the state on Tuesday night for a rally in Milwaukee, kicking off what is expected to be an intense fight to win Wisconsin.

The voter purge lawsuit argued that the state elections commission broke the law when it did not remove voters from the rolls who did not respond within 30 days to a mailing in October indicating they may have moved.

The commission wanted to wait until after the November 2020 presidential election before removing anyone because of inaccuracies found while previously attempting to identify voters who may have moved. Even if a voter has their registration deactivated, they can register again later or on Election Day when they show up at the polls, assuming they have the required documentation.

Republican commissioners at the Tuesday meeting voted to send another mailer to the targeted voters in May, telling them they would have their registrations deactivated if they didn’t respond within 30 days. It failed on a deadlocked 3-3 vote, with all Democrats against.

“It’s terrible and terribly disgusting the other commissioners won’t do anything to clean up this list,” said Republican commissioner Bob Spindell.

But Democratic member Mark Thomsen said no voter should be targeted for removal until next year, as the commission originally planned.

“We’re making a mockery of ourselves,” he said of the commission’s renewed discussion of removing voters.

Because voters who moved were concentrated in more Democratic parts of the state, liberals argued that the lawsuit was meant to lower turnout on their side. Republicans countered that it was about reducing the likelihood of voter fraud and making sure that people who have moved are not able to vote from their previous addresses.

A judge last month sided with conservatives and ordered the removal of the voters. When the bipartisan elections commission deadlocked on proceeding with the purge, the judge on Monday found it and its three Democratic commissioners in contempt, and again ordered the voters’ names removed.

Hours later, a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court declined to take the case. That shifted the fight back to the appeals court, which sided with the elections commission on Tuesday and put the judge’s original ruling on hold.

A three-judge panel in the 4th District of the appeals court — Michael Fitzpatrick, JoAnne Kloppenburg and Jennifer Nashold — issued the ruling. They said they would have a follow-up order later that explains their reasoning, but that they wanted to act quickly given the contempt order and the commission’s meeting.

Nashold was elected to the court last year after running unopposed. Fitzpatrick also ran unopposed and was first elected in 2017. Kloppenburg has been on the appeals court since 2012 and also ran unsuccessfully twice for the state Supreme Court with Democratic support.

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First 3 women to be impeachment managers say public will see trial as ‘rigged’ if Trump is acquitted



The first three women to serve as presidential impeachment managers in U.S. history told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Thursday that if the Senate votes to acquit President Donald Trump, the American public will view it as a “rigged trial.”

Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California, Sylvia Garcia of Texas and Val Demings of Florida also spoke about the need for witnesses in the trial, and added that even an acquittal won’t amount to an exoneration of the president.

“It seems to me, if there’s not a full, fair trial with witnesses, he may get an acquittal, but he’s not going to get an exoneration,” Lofgren said in the interview, in response to a question about whether an acquittal would be touted by the administration as a victory. “It’s going to be seen for what it is, just a rubber stamp to get him off the hook.”

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“And so that’s yet unknown, whether we’ll have a full trial, but clearly, he engaged in serious misconduct that upended the Constitutional order, really threatens our freedom,” Lofgren said. “Because it’s the Constitution that has protected our freedom as Americans for over two centuries. That’s what the stakes really are.”

Garcia added that she felt it was “important that we emphasize that he’s been impeached. That is done. He can’t erase it. He will always be an impeached president.”

“If they don’t convict and they don’t decide to remove, then the public will see that it was rigged, that it wasn’t fair,” Garcia added. “Because everyday Americans know what a fair trial is. And that includes witnesses, it includes testimony, it includes both sides having a fair shot at presenting their case. And if they don’t see that, then they’ll say, well, yeah, he got off, but it’s because it was rigged. You know, it was a done deal. And I think that will also last forever, and it might hurt him in anything he does in the future.”

Full coverage of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial

Lofgren said the aim of the trial isn’t to hurt Trump, but to “stop the misconduct.”

“It’s not just about hurting him, that’s not the object,” she said. “The object is to stop the misconduct, and to make sure future presidents don’t do this. It’s not about Donald Trump as a guy. It’s about our government. It’s about our Constitution.”

As the first of the three to appear on the Senate floor, Lofgren made history Tuesday when she became the first female manager of a presidential impeachment. Demings is the first African American to serve in the role. And Garcia is the only Latina among the seven impeachment managers prosecuting the case against Trump.

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SNP and Nicola Sturgeon savaged by Tory MP for ‘fatal flaws’ in Scottish independence plan



NICOLA STURGEON has come under brutal attack for her demands to Boris Johnson for a second referendum on Scottish independence, with a Conservative MP warning of “fatal flaws” and accusing the SNP of “creating their own self-fulfilling prophecy”.

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Judge sets high bar for former Trump adviser Flynn to withdraw guilty plea



Federal District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan made clear Friday that Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, has a high hurdle to overcome in persuading the judge to let Flynn withdraw his guilty plea.

Flynn pleaded guilty two years ago, admitting he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the Trump transition. A year ago, the government said he deserved credit for admitting his misconduct and cooperating with prosecutors in investigating Flynn’s former business partner. But prosecutors said recently that he failed to live up to the bargain and no longer deserves leniency.

Flynn’s lawyers have accused the FBI of misconduct in how it has handled his agreement. That culminated in a motion filed earlier this month seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, which has delayed his sentencing.

In a brief order Friday, Judge Sullivan said Flynn’s lawyers should file legal briefs addressing whether the court should hold a hearing “where the parties would present all testimony and evidence concerning the issue of whether Mr. Flynn can show that there is good cause to set aside his guilty pleas.”

Such a hearing, the judge said, might include “testimony from Mr. Flynn and other witnesses under oath, subject to cross-examination, to show any ‘fair and just reason’ for this court to grant his motion to withdraw.”

The judge’s order cited a 1995 ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals that set a very high bar for withdrawing a plea. In that case, the appeals court said a defendant “must show either an error in the taking of his plea or some ‘more substantial’ reason he failed to press his case rather than plead guilty.”

If a judge refuses to allow a defendant to withdraw a guilty plea, the appeals court said it would be “extremely reluctant” to overrule such a ruling unless a defendant can show that the judge clearly made a mistake. A defendant “has to shoulder an extremely heavy burden if he is ultimately to prevail.”

Flynn’s sentencing is now set for Feb. 27. Under federal guidelines, he could face zero to six months in jail, and federal prosecutors have said his sentence should be in that range. Flynn’s lawyers have urged the judge to sentence him to probation with no jail time.

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