Woman Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Voting in 2016 Presidential Election While on Probation
Featured, Politics

Woman Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison for Voting in 2016 Presidential Election While on Probation

(FORT WORTH, Texas) — A Texas woman was sentenced to five years in prison for voting in the 2016 presidential election when she was ineligible because she was on probation.Crystal Mason, 43, will appeal the punishment handed down this past week in Fort Worth, according to her attorney. Mason is a former tax preparer who was previously convicted in 2012 on charges related to inflating refunds for clients.

She testified that she didn’t know people convicted of felonies can’t vote until they complete their sentence, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported . She told the newspaper last year following her indictment that she had gone to vote at her mother’s encouragement and wasn’t told when released from federal prison that she could not cast a ballot.

Mason’s illegal voting case was prosecuted in Tarrant County, the same place where a Mexican national last year was sentenced to eight years in prison over illegal voting. Voting illegally in Texas is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Mason used a provisional ballot to vote, and it was not counted. She has said that she believes she was being targeted for prosecution because she voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican Donald Trump for president. Tarrant County leans Republican.

Mason’s attorney, J. Warren St. John, did not immediately return a phone message Saturday.

Voter fraud convictions are rare, but Texas Republicans leaders have zealously pursued a crackdown on illegal voting in recent years. A federal judge has twice blocked Texas’ voter ID law, including a revised version last year that was backed by the Trump administration.

At the time of the 2016 election, Mason was on probation after pleading guilty to defrauding the federal government in 2011. She served nearly three years in prison on a five-year sentence. After her prison release, she was put on a three-year term of supervised release. She also had to pay $4.2 million in restitution, according to court documents.

Mason testified that when she voted in November 2016, she signed a provisional ballot affidavit stating that she had not been convicted of a felony. Prosecutors said she signed the form with the intent to vote illegally, but Mason’s attorney called it a mistake.

image: getty images

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Private: The Supreme Court just gave Democrats a much better chance of retaking the House in 2018
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The Supreme Court just gave Democrats a much better chance of retaking the House in 2018

“For Democrats, it means a likely pickup of additional 4-5 seats,” said Marc Elias, a noted Democratic elections lawyer. “Democrats only need 23 to retake the majority in the House, so this is one big chunk.”

At issue was a map put in place by Republicans at the state level in Pennsylvania following the 2010 census.

Despite the state’s demonstrated Democratic lean (President Donald Trump was the first Republican to carry the state at the presidential level since George H.W. Bush in 1988), the map usually advantaged the GOP. Republicans currently control 12 seats. Democrats will control six, assuming that Conor Lamb’s victory in the 18th district special election stands.

Democrats filed suit and the state Supreme Court, where Democrats seized majority control in 2015, sided with them, ordering that the map drawn by Republicans in the state legislature and the governor’s office was motivated too much by political concerns and needed to be redrawn.

Inside the Democrats' efforts to elect more Conor Lambs

After the governor — now a Democrat — and the still-Republican state legislature deadlocked on a new map, the state Supreme Court drew one that made districts in the state far more compact and contiguous.

The new map, which now almost certainly will be the lines under which candidates will run in 2018, also handed Democrats a series of opportunities including at least three seats in southeastern Pennsylvania and several more improved opportunities in places like Allentown and southwestern Pennsylvania.

(For much more on the map fight,check out my Q&A with the Philly Enquirer’s
Jonathan Tamari.)

 

For Democrats, the Supreme Court order is good news on top of good news. The national political environment — as signaled by Lamb’s likely victory in a district that Trump won by 20 points in 2016 — suggests that a large-ish Democratic wave is building in advance of November. Trump’s unpopularity, historic trends against the party in power in midterms and the tremendous energy within the Democratic base (again, thanks to Trump) are creating a political climate where Republicans who never thought they would have to worry about a challenge in the general election now have to start worrying.

Onto all of that lands this ruling in Pennsylvania, which, according to neutral observers is likely to net Democrats three seats minimum this fall. If, say, Democrats could raise that to five seats, then more than 20% of all the seats they need to pick up to retake the majority might come from Pennsylvania alone.

 

Then there is the broader import of the Supreme Court declining to hear the redistricting appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans. Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states with ongoing battles over how much partisanship and politics is too much partisanship and politics when it comes to redistricting.

The Court is currently considering redistricting cases in Wisconsin and Maryland — the first was brought by Democrats, the second by Republicans — that deal with this same topic, but are in federal court as opposed to state court.

 

The broader point here is two-fold: 1) This is a major win for Democrats hoping to retake the House majority this November and 2) If the Court ultimately decides that extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, it will have a profound effect on how maps gets drawn — and who controls the House majority — in 2021 and beyond.

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Business, Trump

Trump blocks Broadcom’s $117 billion bid for Qualcomm out of national security concerns, a highly unusual move


Cristiano Amon, president of Qualcomm, makes a presentation during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, last month. Photographer: Angel Garcia/Bloomberg

President Trump Monday ordered Singapore-based Broadcom to abandon its $117 billion hostile bid for Qualcomm, blocking what would have been one of the biggest technology deals in history.

In his presidential order, Trump cited “credible evidence” that the takeover “threatens to impair the national security of the United States.” The merger would have put one of America’s largest mobile chipmakers in the hands of a company based in Asia, a region that has been racing against American companies to develop the next generation of mobile technology.

The administration moved with unusual speed in the matter that caught many involved in the negotiations off guard. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, an interagency panel led by the Treasury Department, had several more weeks to render a recommendation to the president. Trump’s order cannot be appealed, legal experts said.

The move demonstrates the high value that the administration places on maintaining the U.S. edge in developing micro technologies.

The administration did not detail its national security concerns, but CFIUS last week sent a letter to the attorneys of the two companies saying it was concerned research and development at Qualcomm might atrophy under Broadcom’s direction, according to a copy that was reviewed by The Washington Post. If that happened, China’s Huawei Technologies, a rival to Qualcomm and a major producer of mobile chips, might become much more dominant around the world.

The tiny computer chips embedded in smartphones, smart home gadgets, and a wide range of other connected devices are expected to become one of the most critical technologies in the coming years. These chipsets enable connected cars to speak to each other as well as stoplights. Almost every major business and consumer electronics manufacturer uses Qualcomm’s technology as brains for their devices.

Trump’s order is in line with the administration’s protectionist instincts. Last week, Trump also cited national security concerns in announcing a series of harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move that hit rivals such as China as well as allies such as Germany and South Korea. And several other technology deals fell apart, after CFIUS raised concerns. In September, Trump stopped the $1.3 billion acquisition of Portland-based Lattice Semiconductor by a private equity firm that had close ties to Beijing.

One factor that may have pushed CFIUS to move quickly was a unusual maneuver by Broadcom to relocate to the United States. The company had said in a recent corporate filing that it was finalizing its plans to become an American entity in early April. Deals between American companies fall out of CFIUS’ jursidiction.

A person familiar with CFIUS’s investigation, who requested anonymity to speak freely about the matter, said this strategy may have doomed the transaction. “If there is one lesson here, it’s don’t screw with the government,” the person said.

He described Trump’s executive order as “brutal.” ”It smacks of anger on the part of the government to me. This feels a little more personal to me.”

Qualcomm and Broadcom did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday night. In after hours trading, shares of Qualcomm sunk as much as 4 percent from its market close of $62.81. Shares of Broadcom rose less than 1 percent.

Qualcomm and a host of other big technology companies are racing to build a next-generation nationwide network known as “5G” with download speeds that could be 100 times faster than what most consumers experience now on their wireless service. Once deployed, a high-definition movie could load instantly on a smartphone. The capabilities of connected devices at work and home would vastly expand. Cable-quality service could even be provided over the air, instead of a wireline connected to a house.

Several analysts said the U.S. government is growing concerned that Huawei will develop such technologies almost as fast as their American counterparts, narrowing the gap between Chinese and U.S. companies.

But Rod Hunter, a partner at Baker McKenzie and a former senior director for international economics at the National Security Council, said it is not clear what exactly prompted CFIUS, a notoriously secret government body, to act so quickly

Hunter said it could reflect “an evolution in the thinking” of the committee, perhaps an indication that it’s going to approach transactions in which foreign people or entities seek to own 5G wireless technology with the same sensitivity and rigor that the feds currently “apply to military equipment traditionally.”

“Typically when you’re doing these CFIUS cases you look at what the business is and how sensitive it is,” Hunter said. “If it’s a Chinese investor the bar is going to be high. A Singaporean investor you would not normally have considered a high risk.”

Tony Romm contributed to this story.

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Private: Lieu mocks DeVos: She wasn’t asked the ‘airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow’
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Lieu mocks DeVos: She wasn’t asked the ‘airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow’

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) mocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosAmerican women will decide who wins and loses in 2018 elections Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week House Dems call for first Education Committee hearing on school shootings since Sandy Hook MORE for her interview on “60 Minutes” in which she struggled to answer questions on education policy and schools.

“Betsy DeVos wasn’t asked what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. She was asked basic questions about education and had trouble answering them,” he tweeted.

“Also, saying that we shouldn’t invest in school buildings is stupid. Dilapidated & unsafe buildings affect learning.”

DeVos — an outspoken advocate of school-choice who has pushed for policies that allow students to leave public schools and take public funding to charter or religious schools — had trouble during the interview with “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl explaining what happened to the schools and students left behind if students chose to leave public schools.

“In places where there is a lot of choice that’s been introduced, Florida for example, the studies show that where there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually, the results get better as well,” DeVos said during the interview.

“Now, has that happened in Michigan?” Stahl responded. Michigan is DeVos’s home state, and the Education secretary as a private citizen spent millions to back school-choice efforts in that state.

“Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?” Stahl asked.

“I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better,” DeVos responded.

She was mocked by several journalists and Democrats, who pointed to her difficulty in answering questions.

DeVos faced fierce opposition in her confirmation process, with senators in both parties criticizing her lack of experience with public and rural education.

She was confirmed, despite two GOP senators voting against her nomination. Vice President Pence cast the tie-breaking vote for her confirmation.

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Private: Trump’s Abrupt ‘Yes’ to North Korea: The 45 Minutes That Could Alter History
Featured, Trump

Trump’s Abrupt ‘Yes’ to North Korea: The 45 Minutes That Could Alter History

Mr. Trump brushed them off. I get it, I get it, he said.

Where others see flashing yellow lights and slow down, Mr. Trump speeds up. And just like that, in the course of 45 minutes in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump threw aside caution and dispensed with decades of convention to embark on a daring, high-wire diplomatic gambit aimed at resolving one of the world’s most intractable standoffs.

The story of how this came about, assembled through interviews with officials and analysts from the United States, South Korea, Japan and China, is a case study in international relations in the Trump era. A president with no prior foreign policy experience takes on a festering conflict that has vexed the world for years with a blend of impulse and improvisation, and with no certain outcome. One moment, he is hurling playground insults and threatening nuclear war, the next he is offering the validation of a presidential meeting.

Whether the high-stakes gamble ultimately pays off, no one can know. Given two unpredictable and highly combustible leaders, it seems just as likely that the meeting will never take place. If it does occur, the challenges are so steep, the gulf so wide and the history so fraught with misunderstanding, suspicion and broken promises that the prospect of an enduring resolution to the impasse seems remote.

But Mr. Trump has staked his reputation as a deal maker on the presumption that he can personally achieve what no other president has before him.

A Thorny Road

The path to a possible meeting led through a thicket of hostility and feints.

Throughout his first year in office, Mr. Trump ratcheted up economic sanctions while rattling his nuclear saber at “Little Rocket Man” and threatening to “totally destroy North Korea.”

Mr. Kim could match the president he called “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard” bombast for bombast. In a New Year’s Day speech, he said he had “a nuclear button on the desk” that could launch missiles capable of reaching the United States. Mr. Trump responded with a tweet saying that “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his.”

But South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, focused on the other part of Mr. Kim’s speech, when he declared that he would send athletes to the Winter Olympics, which would be held the next month in South Korea. A flurry of negotiations ensued at Panmunjom, the “truce village” inside the Korean demilitarized zone, that, by the standards of inter-Korean talks, went unusually well.

Photo

At the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence made a point of refusing to greet Kim Yo-jong, the sister of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.

Credit
Odd Andersen/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

For the opening ceremony, on Feb. 9, Mr. Kim sent his sister, Kim Yo-jong, while Mr. Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence. The vice president was told of a possible meeting with North Korean officials at the Games if he would tone down his message, not talk about sanctions, not meet with defectors and not bring along Fred Warmbier, whose son, Otto, an American student, died soon after being released from captivity in North Korea.

Mr. Pence opted to do all of those anyway to show resolve, and the North Koreans canceled the meeting at the last minute. Taking the hard-line position he believed the president wanted him to take, a grim-faced Mr. Pence refused to stand for the entry of the joint Korean team that included athletes from both North and South and made a point of refusing to greet Mr. Kim’s sister, who was just 10 feet away.

Mr. Pence’s failure to stand was taken as an insult to Mr. Moon and the South Korean public, undercutting the vice president’s intent to show solidarity with an ally. Mr. Moon had been determined to bring the Americans and North Koreans together, to the irritation of the American delegation, which believed that he was deliberately trying to stage-manage an encounter they considered awkward and inappropriate.

Mr. Moon, by contrast, hosted Ms. Kim for a lavish luncheon at the presidential Blue House, and she surprised him with a letter from her brother. She told Mr. Moon that her brother wanted to convene a summit meeting at an early date. The two spent nearly three hours together, with Mr. Moon doing most of the talking.

He said that he really wanted to meet Mr. Kim and improve ties, but that there was a limit to how far he could go without progress in dismantling the North’s nuclear program. He urged North Korea to talk to the Americans and said they needed to hurry so as not to lose the rare momentum from the spirit of the Olympics visits.

A Family Envoy

After the unfortunate optics from Mr. Pence’s visit and what some viewed as a missed opportunity, Mr. Trump sent his daughter, Ivanka Trump, to the closing ceremony of the Games. She had dinner with Mr. Moon at the Blue House and briefed him on new sanctions her father would impose on North Korea, then made a public statement to reporters reaffirming the American strategy of “maximum pressure.”

She then headed to Pyeongchang for the last two days of competition. Briefed by Mr. Pence’s staff, Ms. Trump and her team were “incredibly forceful,” as one official put it, in going over the seating plan for the box and the timing and sequencing of arrivals to avoid any surprises.

Ms. Trump proffered a smiling, more open image that went over better in South Korea. She stood for the South Korean athletes, who this time entered the stadium separately from their compatriots from the North, and posed for photographs with famous Korean pop stars. But she too made a point of sending a message; for her guest in the box, she brought Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of American forces in South Korea.

When she attended a curling event, Ms. Trump’s team received word that the North Koreans were on their way in what the Americans thought was an effort to make a scene or prompt her to leave in an embarrassing spectacle. Ms. Trump decided to stay, and the North Koreans in the end did not come.

All Smiles in the North

With the Olympics over, it was time for Mr. Moon to make his move. Last week, he sent two trusted aides on a two-day trip to Pyongyang: Mr. Chung, his national security adviser, and Suh Hoon, his National Intelligence Service director. Flying north, they knew that they were meeting Mr. Kim but not when.

After landing in Pyongyang, they were taken to a riverside guesthouse where they found their rooms equipped with the internet and access to foreign television channels, including CNN. They could even surf South Korean websites, a rare privilege in the totalitarian state. As soon as they unpacked, Kim Yong-chol, a general who heads inter-Korean relations, showed up and said that they were meeting Mr. Kim that evening.

Black limousines took the South Koreans to Azalea Hall in the ruling Workers’ Party headquarters, Mr. Kim’s workplace. They found Mr. Kim and his sister waiting to greet them with broad smiles. Mr. Chung and Mr. Suh were the first South Koreans to set foot inside the party headquarters since the Korean War.

Photo

Mr. Chung and Suh Hoon, the director of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, announced outside the White House that Mr. Trump had accepted an invitation to meet with the North Korean leader.

Credit
Doug Mills/The New York Times

Mr. Chung had barely launched into his talking points when Mr. Kim said “I know” and “I understand you.” Then he laid out his proposal: talks with the United States on denuclearizing his country; a suspension of nuclear and missile tests during the talks; and his understanding that the United States and South Korea must proceed with annual joint military exercises.

The South Koreans found Mr. Kim to be an extremely confident leader. He was closely following foreign news media, knew how he was depicted, and even joked about it. He had studied Mr. Moon’s speeches and overtures toward the North.

He even joked about his missile launches. “I was sorry to hear that President Moon Jae-in had to convene his National Security Council meetings early in the morning because of our missile launchings,” he told the South Koreans. “Now, he won’t lose his early morning sleep any more.”

Mr. Kim agreed to open a direct hotline to Mr. Moon. “Now if working-level talks are deadlocked and if our officials act like arrogant blockheads, President Moon can just call me directly and the problem will be solved,” he said.

And, he added, he was eager to hold a summit meeting with his South Korean counterpart. The South Koreans suggested Pyongyang, Seoul and Panmunjom as possible sites and asked Mr. Kim to choose. Mr. Kim said he would come to the Peace House, a South Korean building inside Panmunjom.

The meeting and dinner, complete with wines and traditional Korean liquor, lasted from 6 p.m. to 10:12 p.m. with much laughter and bonhomie.

After returning to Seoul on Tuesday, the South Korean officials briefed Mr. Moon and then South Korean reporters. After his news conference, Mr. Chung called General McMaster and told him that he was carrying a message from Mr. Kim to Mr. Trump. Only several people at the Blue House knew that the message included a proposal for a meeting with Mr. Trump.

Off to Washington

Mr. Chung and Mr. Suh flew to Washington, arriving Thursday morning. By the afternoon, they were at the White House, meeting separately with General McMaster and Gina Haspel, the deputy C.I.A. director. The four then got together and were soon joined by other American officials, including Mr. Pence, Mr. Mattis, Dan Coats, the national intelligence director, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, and John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

Joined by their ambassador to Washington, the South Korean visitors were not supposed to meet with Mr. Trump until Friday, but when he heard they were in the building, he called them to the Oval Office.

Mr. Kim’s invitation to meet was not a complete surprise to Mr. Trump’s team. An American official said they had learned about it from intelligence agencies, so on Thursday morning, before the arrival of the South Koreans, Mr. Trump talked by phone with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, who was traveling in Africa, about the possibility. What he did not tell Mr. Tillerson was that he would accept.

Mr. Trump was eager enough, however, that once he said yes, they discussed a meeting as early as next month. The South Koreans suggested it would be better to wait until after Mr. Moon’s summit meeting with Mr. Kim in April, which led to a target of May.

Not only did Mr. Trump surprise the South Koreans by accepting immediately, he even suggested that they make the public announcement right there and then at the White House.

Photo

Mr. Chung and Mr. Suh met with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang on Monday. They were the first South Koreans to set foot inside the party headquarters since the Korean War.

Credit
Korean Central News Agency

A stunned Mr. Chung retreated to General McMaster’s office to draft a statement in collaboration with the Americans. Then, using a secure telephone line, he called Mr. Moon early in the morning in Seoul to get his approval.

Elated, Mr. Trump stuck his head into the White House briefing room to tell reporters there would be an important announcement soon, something he had never done before.

Some of the president’s advisers objected to the idea of a foreign official making a statement from the White House lectern, so they had him do it instead on the White House driveway, where visitors typically speak with reporters. Still, it was highly unusual for a foreign official to announce an American president’s decision in a major international situation.

Out of the Loop

Mr. Trump’s quick decision caught many off guard, including Mr. Tillerson and American allies. Television networks set up live feeds from the White House driveway to carry Mr. Chung’s announcement. Congressional leaders and top officials at the Pentagon and the State Department learned what was happening from news reports.

The fact that it came on the same day that the president slapped stiff new tariffs on imported steel that would hit South Korea and Japan hard indicated how hasty and unplanned it was.

While Mr. Chung headed to the driveway, Mr. Trump hurriedly called Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan to let him know. Mr. Abe has worked assiduously to cultivate a close relationship with Mr. Trump and taken a hard line on North Korea, but he was left out of the loop, a fact that stung.

“I have an impression that the Japanese are not quite well informed,” said Mine Yoshiki, head of a previous Japanese delegation seeking normalized relations with North Korea. “What we have been told is awfully out of tune, I should say.”

Mr. Trump did not reach President Xi Jinping of China until the next morning. China has backed Mr. Trump on North Korea, generating good will between Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi. But China refused last month to go along with an American plan to interdict oil tankers bound for North Korea on the high seas, demonstrating that there were limits to how far China would go in punishing Mr. Kim, given the risk of a North Korean collapse on its borders.

Mr. Trump said his conversation with Mr. Xi went well. “President XI told me he appreciates that the U.S. is working to solve the problem diplomatically rather than going with the ominous alternative,” the president wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “China continues to be helpful!”

But in response to Mr. Trump’s planned meeting, China is engaged in what some call “exclusion anxiety,” worried about being shut out. China would like the meeting to be held in Beijing, where six-nation talks were held with North Korea during President George W. Bush’s administration, but Chinese analysts doubt Mr. Kim would agree.

For now, Mr. Trump is juggling these dynamics and preparing to meet the world’s most hermetic. To his advisers, Mr. Trump has said he is impressed that Mr. Kim at such a young age has outmaneuvered almost everyone, but he has added that the North Korean leader is a wild card.

Of course, so is he. Mr. Trump vacillates between confidence and fatalism when it comes to North Korea. For the moment, he is optimistic.

“North Korea has not conducted a Missile Test since November 28, 2017 and has promised not to do so through our meetings,” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “I believe they will honor that commitment!”

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