Is It Time To Go To Non-Partisan Primaries To Address Growing Polarization?

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A segment on MSNBC’s 11th Hour w/ Stephanie Ruhle(06/22/22) delved into the very interesting discussion as to whether, given the staggering levels of polarization in the country, we should change adopt a non-partisan primary voting system. Ruhle’s guest Nick Troiano, Executive Director of Unite America, says this change, which is already in place in several states, notably Alaska, would incentivize candidates to look for support beyond their party affiliation thus making them more likely to seek bipartisan solutions to problems. Unite America is a national organization trying to bridge the growing partisan divide by supporting political reforms and candidates who put people over party.

Troiano told 11th Hour host Ruhle(video at 1:22):“I think we spend a lot of time focused on who we elect, not enough time focusing on how we elect, because it’s the systems of our elections that are really pushing our parties further and further apart, and I think our politicians, as a result, are much more polarized than we the people. We’re not seeing the types of solutions and bipartisan policy making in Congress as the American people want and deserve, and the core reason of that is because of our system of partisan primaries. In the last election, it was only 10% of Americans who elected 83% of Congress, because the vast majority of our elections are decided not in the general election in November, but in the primary election, and that problem is getting even worse this election cycle after the latest round of redistricting. We’re going to have the least competitive elections of our lifetime. It’s going to lead to the least accountable Congress of our lifetime. So if we want different outcomes out of Congress, we have to change the process, and fortunately, there’s a growing movement to do that at the state level all across the country.”

Below are some of United America‘s suggested reforms

Troiano singled out the primary system in Alaska as the “best example” of what should be emulated nationwide, if we are going to address the growing polarization problem. He said: “Senator[Lisa]Murkowski was one of the 14 Republicans who voted to advance the bipartisan gun legislation. She’s the only Republican up for election this year, and what’s notable is that this is the first time where the Senator doesn’t face a partisan primary. She’s standing for election in front of all Alaskan voters because in 2020, Alaskans adopted a ballot measure that replaced both parties primaries with a single non-partisan primary. So all the candidates compete in one election, all the voters get to participate on that ballot, the top four finishers go to the general election and through an instant runoff, whomever wins the majority of support gets elected, and so it gives voters more voice and choice in elections, and it incentivizes candidates and leaders to campaign and be responsive to the whole constituency, not just the 10% who may vote in a partisan primary. Now imagine if additional states were to adopt this reform, we can have dozens of our elected leaders in Congress finally being able to be responsive to the majority of Americans and not the political extremes.”

Troiano also said non-partisan primaries would encourage more people to throw their hats into the political ring without fear of being labeled “spoilers”, something he acknowledged, keeps a lot of otherwise good candidates from both parties, on the sidelines.

Bottom line folks, non-partisan primaries is a very interesting suggestion indeed, which Yours Truly hopes, will be given serious consideration given the crippling levels of polarization in our politics today. Simply put, when the likes of Boebert(CO) and MTG(GA) start showing up in Congress, then reasonable people will agree, that the selection system is surely broken!!

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Former AG Holder: Americans Should Prepare For An “Ideologically Driven” Supreme Court Not Tethered To Precedent

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Former AG Holder on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports show(05/12/22)

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder appeared on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports show (05/12/22) to discuss his new book “Our Unfinished March”. During his interview, he was asked about the controversy caused by the leaked draft Supreme Court majority opinion dealing with abortion, to which he gave a very interesting response. He said while the leak itself was a serious issue, the bigger problem Americans need prepare themselves for, is an “ideologically driven” Supreme Court, that will have little regard to precedent–an issue Democrats need to focus on as we approach the midterm elections.

Former AG Holder(video at 0:35):“I think the leak is unprecedented both in its breadth, its scope, and its completeness. We’ve heard rumors before about where the court is going to go, how the justices perhaps were aligned, but never actually seen a draft opinion, and that’s serious. That’s something that needs to be addressed. But what we really need to focus on is what’s contained in that leaked opinion, and where the court appears to be lining up. Looks like they are going to overturn Roe v Wade, inconsistent with the notion that you adhere to precedent that people have relied on over the course of the last 50 years. It’s an attack on the right to privacy, and so the question has to be asked, is it only going to be abortion that is going to be at risk, or is same sex marriage going to be at risk? The regulation of contraception, is that going to be at risk? Even interacial marriage. All of these things are based on the right to privacy, which this opinion in its form as we saw it, really goes after that right to privacy.”

Holder added that people need to get prepared for an “ideologically driven” Supreme Court, that is “not going to adhere to the extent that they should, to precedent.” This is of course very troubling given the weighty issues the high court is getting ready to deal with–affirmative action, gun cases, voting rights, etc. Democrats can capitalize on this Supreme Court issue, but only if they present it in AG Holder’s terms–an untethered high court that threatens many of the legal precedents we have come to rely on. This approach will likely drive more people to the polls this Fall, as opposed to only presenting it as an abortion/reproductive rights issue.

Bottom line folks, Dems sucking at messaging is nothing new. “Leakgate” presents them with an opportunity to drive Dem voters afraid of an untethered Supreme Court, to the polls in record numbers, and bucking the midterm election trend which typically favors the party out of power(GOP). Hopefully Dems will get their Supreme Court messaging right this time around by railing against the MAGA Supreme Court as an affront to all the legal precedents we have come to rely on for decades.

It’s also worth noting that former AG Holder, a self-described “institutionalist”, said that after initially being opposed to a criminal prosecution of former President Trump, he now believes, given the revelations about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, that he needs to be held accountable. Surely, current AG Garland has to take this seriously, coming from a former prosecutor, who recently held his position.

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Elie Mystal: The “Chief Architect” Of The Assault On Voting Rights Is Chief Justice John Roberts

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The Nation’s Justice Correspondent, Elie Mystal, dropped a major bombshell on MSNBC’s American Voices (01/16/22), when he slammed U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts as the “chief architect” of the assault on voting rights. Unlike many mainstream media pundits who engage in incendiary rhetoric just for ratings, Elie Mystal backed up his bombshell assertion with very good examples that would make any reasonable person either agree with him, or at the very least, find his assertion quite plausible. The fact that Elie Mystal’s bombshell claims pass the plausibility test, should compel Chief Justice Roberts to address them, for the sake of the Supreme Court’s integrity.

Elie Mystal specifically said: “The chief architect of this assault on our voting rights is not Mitch McConnell, it’s not ot David Duke, it’s not whatever boogey man you think is hiding under the closet. The chief architect is Chief Justice John Roberts. It is he who has been an enemy of voting rights and racial equality from his very first job out of law school, which was to oppose the 1982 amendments to the Voting Rights Act. It is John Roberts who authored Shelby County v Holder in 2013 which eviscerated section 5 of Voting Rights Act which is basically why we are here right now, it is John Roberts who authored Rucho in 2020 which swung wide the doors towards gerrymandering, and it is John Roberts who provided the crucial 5th vote in last year’s Brnovich decision which eviscerated section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This is all being done by Federalist Society conservatives that have been put on the Supreme Court, and until we stop them, until we do something about the court–you want to pass your Freedom to Vote Act, I think that’s a great bill, we should pass it, I think we should have passed HR1, but always remember that John Roberts and his conservative cronies are waiting at the Supreme Court level to strike down whatever laws we put forward. As long as you let Republicans control the Supreme Court, you cannot have a fair and equal just society.”

It’s worth pointing out here too, that Elie Mystal is not only decrying Chief Justice Roberts’ questionable history on voting rights, but crucially, also making the point that minorities are doomed going forward, with him at the helm of the Supreme Court. This naturally raises the question as to whether Chief Justice Roberts is the right person to lead the high court.

Bottom line folks, these are questions that the mainstream media needs to take up with Chief Justice Roberts. At a time when voting rights are a red hot topic, and minorities are increasingly concerned about Republicans infringing upon their right to vote, the public deserves to know whether the Roberts Supreme Court will be a neutral arbiter in the fight for voting rights, as it should be.

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Sen Cassidy Says SCOTUS Decision Gutting Voting Rights Act Justifies Restrictive State Election Laws

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Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) appeared on CNN’s State of The Union show (01/16/22) to put forward the Republican position on the push for a federal voting rights legislation(John Lewis Voting Rights Act), and also discuss the related question as to whether the U.S. Senate should change its filibuster rules to allow for the passage of the said voting rights law via a simple majority vote. When asked by host Jake Tapper why Republicans are now opposed to keeping key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act(VRA) intact, when as recently as a decade ago they were all for it, Sen Cassidy gave a strange response which appeared to suggest that because the Roberts Supreme Court gutted key provisions of the VRA in Shelby County v Holder(2013), there is no need to be concerned about discriminatory state election laws–that this is not 1965 anymore, things have changed.

Yours Truly, and I suspect a lot of other viewers too, found Senator Cassidy’s Response quite strange because while liberals agree that this is not 1965, and that progress has been made on the civil rights front, we need to restore key aspects of the 1965 Voting Rights Act because Trump’s GOP is taking us back to 1965. In other words, Senator Cassidy, and by extension the Roberts Supreme Court, are totally wrong in their assessment that simply because this is not 1965, Republican states are no longer capable of crafting discriminatory election laws. The facts on the ground clearly show that after the 2020 election, relying on former President Trump’s “big lie“, many Republican-controlled states have hurriedly enacted election laws that reasonable people agree, disenfranchise voters of color.

Senator Cassidy specifically said on CNNSOTU(video @ 2:20 onwards): “The Supreme Court decided[paused for effect], the Supreme Court decided that the conditions in 1965 are different than the conditions now. Imagine that. We’ve had an African-American elected President of the United States, we’ve had an African-American elected to the Vice Presidency, an African-American elected to the[U.S.]Senate in South Carolina. Now, if anyone can’t see that circumstances have changed, they’re just not believing their lying eye…There’s more to do, absolutely, we need safeguards, but to argue we are still the same as we were in 1965 is to deny facts that are clearly before us.”

There’s no other way any reasonable person presented with Senator Cassidy’s response(including his pause for effect), would arrive at any other conclusion other than, because the Roberts Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 citing changed conditions, the voter suppression laws currently popping up in red states are justified. Think about that, the new Republican rationale for voter suppression, as articulated by Senator Cassidy, is that it’s not a big deal because if it was, the Roberts Supreme Court would never have gutted key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act–a sad state of affairs indeed.

Bottom line folks, Dems must use every tool at their disposal to get holdout Senators Kyrsten Sinema(D-AZ) and Joe Manchin(D-WV) to agree to a filibuster carveout for a federal voting rights legislation before the 2022 midterms because if they don’t, all the gains we’ve witnessed thus far as a result of the 1965 Voting Rights Act will be lost, and the Roberts Supreme Court will not lift a finger to assist. Simply put, it’s now or never for a federal voting rights law that restores key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

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Extreme Gerrymandering In Ohio Called Out

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CNN’s Reality Check w/John Avlon did a segment(11/19/21) featuring an extreme gerrymandering case currently playing out in Ohio. Back in 2018, Ohio voters overwhelmingly backed(75%) an amendment to the state’s constitution that would ensure redistricting was carried out in a bipartisan fashion. Ohio’s congressional district maps were to be drawn by a bipartisan 7-member redistricting commission. The idea behind a bipartisan redistricting commission was quite simple–to create competitive district maps which would in turn reduce political polarization. Basically, politicians will shy away from radical ideas/conduct if they know they can be easily beaten at the polls.

Well, it turns out Ohio Republicans have since reneged on their support for a bipartisan redistricting commission, and are now using the Republican-led state legislature to come up with an extremely gerrymandered map, one that will give them a 13-2 advantage in congressional seats(86%R-14%D), even though Trump’s 2020 win in Ohio was only 53%-45%. No reasonable person would ever conclude that Ohio is an 86R-14D state, yet this is exactly what the new congressional map being pushed by state Republicans attempts to achieve–a total fraud and willful disenfranchisement of Democratic-leaning voters.

Even more repugnant is the way the Republican-led Ohio state legislature ended up being responsible for drawing the congressional maps. According to John Avlon, Republican members of the bipartisan redistricting commission simply refused to show up for duty, thereby crippling the commission because it was unable to convene meetings. With the bipartisan commission deliberately crippled, the redistricting job fell back to the partisan Ohio legislature, which drew the extremely gerrymandered map–a sad state of affairs indeed.

John Avlon said: “Ohio Republicans just decided to disregard the state constitution and the will of the voters. A seven-member redistricting commission had a month to work on a fair map, but Republican members refused to participate, and so the commission couldn’t convene. The power to draw the lines fell back to the Republican-controlled state assembly, who proceeded to do exactly what the constitutional amendment forbade. They cracked and packed minority communities, dividing counties and cities for their own partisan advantage. For example, Hamilton County, home to Cincinnati, which voted for[President] Biden by a 16-point margin, will be divided into 3 congressional districts, with Black voters offset by White Republicans.”

This is just the latest example of how state Republicans are actively disenfranchising Democratic-leaning/minority voters while Democrats in Washington are still dithering over abolishing the filibuster, and coming up with a federal voting rights law. A federal voting rights law is the only solution to the rampant GOP gerrymandering.

Bottom line folks, time is of the essence. Democrats need to abolish the filibuster immediately and pass a federal voting rights law. The two Senate holdouts, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, must be confronted with this troubling Ohio gerrymandering case, and be forced to explain why a filibuster carve out for a federal voting legislation is not the appropriate way to go, given the dire circumstances.

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo:”Texas Is Being Run From Maralago”

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Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo appeared on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show (09/24/2021), where she blasted elected Republicans in Texas for giving in to former President Trump’s baseless demands for an audit into the state’s 2020 election results. The decision by the Texas Secretary of State’s office to conduct an audit into the election results of Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant counties, came literally a few hours after Trump’s demand, which led a visibly upset Judge Hidalgo to tell host Maddow that Texas was “being run from Maralago.”

Judge Hidalgo told Maddow:“We have to remember we had incredibly successful elections here in Harris County in 2020. We had innovations that led to record turnouts from both parties, the highest in 30 years, I mean it was beautiful, and since then, no evidence has come out that would in any way cause the need for this kind of audit. All we’ve seen is [former]President Trump exhorting the state, or [Governor]Abbott, to have this audit…The reality of it is Texas is being run from Maralago, and that is dangerous, and it’s not appropriate…it’s extremely concerning.”

Judge Hidalgo added that time had come for politicians in Washington to get off the sidelines, and actively join the fight against voter suppression in the states, telling host Maddow, “We need the federal government to act, I mean, this has gone too far… This should be another call to action. We’ve got the writing on the wall. We’ve got to get off our chairs and get moving on all this.”

Bottom line folks, as Judge Hidalgo correctly pointed out, time has come for some decisive action to be taken against these naked efforts by Republicans at the state level, to restrict the voting rights of minorities. Democrats in Washington cannot just sit on the sidelines, and watch their counterparts in Republican-led states like Texas, go to war against GOP’s efforts to restrict minority voting rights. Simply put, time has come for Democrats in Washington to finally do away with the filibuster, and institute a national voting standard geared towards making it easier for people to vote, as opposed to GOP’s scheme of limiting access to the ballot box. As Judge Hidalgo correctly put it, congressional Democrats need to “get off their chairs and get moving” on a comprehensive federal voting rights law.

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Trump-Tied Dark Money Group Brags About Drafting Voter Suppression Laws

Heritage Action’s Executive Director Jessica Anderson addressing a group meeting

A leaked video obtained by Mother Jones, shows the shocking extent to which a Trump-tied dark money group, Heritage Action For America, is secretly engineering the recent spate of voter suppression laws in Republican-led states. This bombshell revelation, even though not quite surprising, should be a call to action for voting rights activists nationwide, and a reminder to Congressional Democrats, of the dire need for passage of HR1-For The People Act.

In the leaked video, Jessica Anderson, a former Trump administration official and now Executive Director of Heritage Action For America, can be heard talking to a group of donors in Tucson Arizona in late April, and admitting to conduct that leaves absolutely no doubt to any reasonable person, that her group is engineering the voter suppression laws currently springing up in Republican states across the country. She is essentially bragging to the donors about how Heritage Action is drafting voter suppression laws currently being enacted by Republican-led state legislatures.

She can be heard telling the donors, “Iowa is the first state we[Heritage Action] got to work in, and we did it quickly, and we did it quietly. Honestly, nobody noticed.”(see video at 1:05). No reasonable person presented with Jessica Anderson’s “nobody noticed” remarks, can ever conclude that Heritage Action went into Iowa with a mission other than sneaking through a voter suppression law.

Other alarming statements by Jessica Anderson to the GOP donors include;

“At the end of the day, the bill that Governor[Brian] Kemp signed, and the Georgia legislature marshalled through had eight key provisions that Heritage recommended.” (see video at 1:11)

“We are working with these state legislators to make sure they have all of the information they need to draft the bills. In some cases we actually draft them for them, or we have a sentinel on our behalf, give them the model legislation so it has that grassroots, from the bottom up, type of vibe.” (see video at 1:32). This is by far, the most damning part of Jessica Anderson’s presentation. She basically admits that Heritage Action is writing voter suppression laws for the states, and faking their grassroots appeal.

It also bears pointing out that this same Trump-tied dark money group, is also in the forefront of lobbying Congressional Republicans into blocking the HR1-For The People Act, currently being pushed by Congressional Democrats, which among other things, seeks to vastly expand voting rights for all Americans.

Bottom line folks, it appears Heritage Action is the vehicle Trump Republicans are using to push their voter suppression laws targeting minority voters. Voting rights activists in Texas and other emerging purple states, where the voting rights battle is already red hot, must come up with effective strategies to confront Heritage Action and other such right wing anti-democracy groups. Yours Truly is not an attorney, but is reasonable enough to know that some of the statements Jessica Anderson made to the GOP donors, can be very useful in federal lawsuits against these Republican voter suppression laws.

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Handy List Of Iowa GOP State Senators Mad About Record Voter Participation Due To Mail-In Voting

Iowa witnessed record voter participation in its June 3rd primary elections as a result of a provision that allowed the secretary of state to mail absentee ballots to all registered voters due to the covid-19 pandemic. The noble goal of this provision was to save Iowa voters from going into crowded polling centers which would have increased their chances of contracting the virus. Given the ease and convenience of voting by mail, Iowans voted in record numbers, much to the delight of democracy lovers. Well, it turns out republicans were not happy with the record voter participation. They quickly moved in the Iowa state legislature to prevent universal voting by mail in the November elections–a clear cut effort at voter suppression.

On 6/10/2020 a bill that prohibits Iowa’s secretary of state from mailing absentee ballots to all registered voters for the November general elections passed the Iowa state senate by a vote of 30-19. Needless to say, all the 30 state senators who voted for this voter suppression bill were republicans. Because this is one of the most brazen acts of official voter suppression to date, we have no choice but to name and shame these 30 GOP state senators using our famous “handy list”.

Here’s a handy list of the 30 shameful Iowa GOP state senators who are mad that mail-in voting allowed record voter participation in the June primary elections, and are on a mission to prevent that from happening again this November.

Bottom line folks, there’s no longer any doubt that the unpopular policies of the republican party are increasingly turning it into a marginal/regional party. Republican party leaders have long realized that their only chance of clinging to power is to make sure as few people as possible vote, especially minorities who traditionally vote against them. Where, as here, we witness such a brazen attempt at voter suppression by elected officials, we have no otherwise but to loudly call them out.

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GA Governor’s Former Campaign Manager Is A Lobbyist For Voting Machine Company Responsible For GA Voting Debacle

Tuesday night’s edition of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show(TRMS) featured a segment about the numerous problems voters experienced when trying to cast their ballots in Georgia’s primary elections. As usual, the voting problems were concentrated in democratic party strongholds–urban areas where minorities live. The Maddow segment however threw in an interesting tidbit into the story and that is, the lobbyist for the voting machine company(Dominion) at the center of Georgia’s primary voting debacle is none other than the former campaign manager for Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp. The full Maddow segment is available here but the relevant clip is below.

Maddow specifically said, “An electronic voting machine company[Dominion Voting Systems] hired [Governor] Brian Kemp’s former campaign manager to be it’s lobbyist, and then the Brian Kemp administration in Georgia, hired that company to replace all of the voting machines in every city, town and county in Georgia, all in record time–literally record time. The state had this board of evaluators that was looking at the various companies who were trying to get that voting machine contract. This board of evaluators looked at the different bids from the different companies and what they were offering. They did not pick the company that Georgia ultimately went with. They picked a different company altogether. But no, the state administration instead decided they would go with the company that Brian Kemp’s campaign manager was the lobbyist for. The company had never had a job this big ever, in fact there has never been a bigger job in U.S. election history. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution pointed out last November, what Georgia was trying to roll out here, was the largest and fastest roll out of elections equipment in U.S. history.”

Maddow’s segment raises the prospect that the Tuesday primary election debacle we witnessed in Georgia may not have been the result of some random or unforeseeable technical difficulties but rather, a well orchestrated plan of voter suppression by Georgia Republicans. Governor Brian Kemp is no stranger to allegations of voter suppression. As a matter of fact Kemp has been a constant target of election integrity/security advocates like Jennifer Cohn for years.

This troubling revelation that Kemp’s former campaign manager is the lobbyist for the voting machine company at the center of Georgia’s voting debacle should be cause for a complete and thorough voter suppression investigation. We simply cannot afford to wait until the November general elections to be “surprised” by the same voting machine problems.

Bottom line folks, there’s no longer any doubt that the unpopular policies of the republican party are increasingly turning it into a marginal/regional party. Republican party leaders have long realized that their only chance of clinging on to power is to make sure as few people as possible vote, especially minorities who traditionally vote against them. What we witnessed in Georgia’s primary elections was just the latest example of GOP voter suppression but it definitely will not be the last. If we are going to have free and fair election this Fall, it is imperative that the mainstream media and members of congress take voter suppression allegations like the ones in Georgia very seriously. Simply put, Governor Kemp must not be allowed to orchestrate yet another voting “debacle” in November for GOP’s benefit.

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Russia Was In A Position To Delete Or Change Voter Data

CBS Face The Nation‘s host Margaret Brennan made a bombshell revelation today when reading from a bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report she said, “Russia likely targeted election infrastructure in all 50 states. The first known breach was in July 2016 in Illinois where Russian cyber actors scanned state election systems. They were in a position to delete or change voter data. The report does say some progress has been made but the threat is imperfectly understood…”

This mirrors the recent troubling revelation made by Rep Jackie Speier (D-CA) who said Russia likely tampered with our voting machines in 2016 in ways we may never know.

The idea that Russia tampered with our voting machines in 2016 is still largely treated by the mainstream media as some wild conspiracy theory yet time and again we get evidence showing that it is anything but a conspiracy–the latest being this bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report. The question as to what exactly Russia did in 2016 is one House Democrats and the mainstream media should still be digging into even though the Mueller investigation is now over

Bottom line, if we are going to successfully defend ourselves against another foreign attack on our voting infrastructure in 2020, we need to fully understand what Russia did in 2016 so that we know where our vulnerabilities lie. As it currently stands, the stance taken by House Democrats and the mainstream media is that we need to move on now that Mueller probe is over. Yours Truly strongly disagrees and believes that instead of “moving on”, now is the time we need hunker down and dig deeper into the Mueller findings for clues at to what exactly Russia did in 2016 and ways to stop them in 2020. This issue has to be front and center of mainstream media coverage as we head into 2020.

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