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Black Lives Matter Groups Release 6-Point Policy Platform as General Election Kicks Off

On Monday, a collective of more than 60 groups associated with the Black Lives Matter movement presented a policy platform that has been in the works for a year. Its unveiling occurs only a week before the second anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

We will present that platform to you now, but will follow up in greater depth over the next few days.

The platform, which BLM will advocate for in the run-up to the general election and beyond, contains six constellations of issues that the network will pursue locally and nationally:

  • Ending the war on black people
  • Reparations
  • Investment and Divestment
  • Economic Justice
  • Community Control
  • Political Power

Each of these planks comes with complexities, diverse beneficiaries, and potential partnerships. Under “Economic Justice,” the groups speak to a new tax code and “policy that subsidizes and offers low-interest, interest-free or federally guaranteed low-interest loans to promote the development of cooperatives (food, residential, etc.), land trusts and culturally responsive health infrastructures that serve the collective needs of our communities.”

Protections for workers in industries that are not appropriately regulated including domestic workers, farm workers, and tipped workers, and for workers—many of whom are Black women and incarcerated people— who have been exploited and remain unprotected. This includes the immediate passage at the Federal and state level of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and extension of worker protections to incarcerated people.

Under “Political Power,” the platform calls for, among other things, “Public financing of elections and the end of money controlling politics through ending super PACs and unchecked corporate donations.”

Election protection, electoral expansion and the right to vote for all people including: full access, guarantees, and protections of the right to vote for all people through universal voter registration, automatic voter registration, pre-registration for 16-year-olds, same day voter registration, voting day holidays, enfranchisement of formerly and presently incarcerated people, local and state resident voting for undocumented people, and a ban on any disenfranchisement laws.

As we said, we will follow up as things progress. but the platform in and of itself and the attention it is receiving testifies to the movement’s values and persistence.—Ruth McCambridge

Source: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2016/08/03/black-lives-matters-6-point-policy-platform-presidential-campaign-beyond/

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Tighter Restrictions Are Losing In The Battle Over Voter ID Laws

The struggle over who can vote on Election Day is becoming more heated in courtrooms, judges’ chambers and statehouses across the country, paralleling the intensity of the presidential race. And at the moment, the side that wants fewer voting restrictions seems to be winning.

The battle began in earnest after 2010, when several Republican state legislatures began tightening identification requirements on voters. It has reached a new level in the 2016 election, when voters in 17 states faced new restrictions that ranged from photo ID requirements to cutbacks on early voting and same-day registration. Republicans said the laws were necessary to prevent fraud; Democrats and voting rights advocates said the restrictions were really designed to reduce participation by minority groups and young voters who traditionally support Democrats.

“It’s the biggest rollback of voting since Jim Crow,” said Jonathan Brater, an attorney at NYU Law’s Brennan Center for Justice, which compiled the list of restrictions.1

But in just the past few weeks, several of these laws have been blocked or overturned by federal judges. On Monday, a District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction against a voter ID law in North Dakota. In the previous 10 days, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ID law in Texas violated the Voting Rights Act, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a law in North Carolina, and a District Court judge in Wisconsin ruled that elements of the law there were unconstitutional. There is also major voting-law litigation ongoing in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio and Virginia.

Things are taking such a rapid turn that, while we were on the phone early this week, Brater was still deciphering the ruling fresh from North Dakota.

The legal fight has become a significant issue in the presidential race. Hillary Clinton has spoken forcefully against the voter ID laws in speeches and op-ed articles. “They’re doing everything they can to stop black people, Latinos, poor people, young people, people with disabilities from voting,”she said in Houston earlier this year.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump warned that the election would be “rigged” against him, and he cited as an example the court decisions throwing out voter ID laws. “If you don’t have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting,” he told The Washington Post. (As the Post pointed out, however, that kind of fraud almost never happens.)

The proliferation of these laws was spurred, in part, by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which declared key sections of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. This decision effectively eliminated the requirement that certain states with a history of racial discrimination in voting to clear changes to their election laws with the federal government. “The gutting of the Voting Rights Act certainly emboldened states to push forward with these restrictions,” Brater said. It also made it easier to pass new restrictions in places that had previously been covered by the pre-clearance requirement, such as North Carolina and Texas.

But 2013 wasn’t the beginning. The court’s decision merely “gave a green light to efforts that were already underway,” Ari Berman, a writer at The Nation and author of “Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America,” told me.

This avalanche of efforts to enact voting restrictions was really triggered a decade earlier, after the 2000 election, the chad debacle in Florida and the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. Many politicians came to a fateful realization. “In a very close election, the rules of the game matter,” said Richard Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine, who runs Election Law Blog. “So there was more litigation and more attempts to manipulate the system.” During the George W. Bush administration, the first strict voter ID laws were introduced in Indiana and Georgia.

The movement gathered further momentum after the 2008 election. “The effort to try to restrict the electorate really intensifies after Barack Obama’s election, because I think lots of Republicans were really scared,” Berman said. Scared not only of the election of the first black president, but that the record levels of turnout among young voters and voters of color in 2008 would become a “new normal.”

This momentum has led to ID laws that are of substantially different character from the early ones. They’ve gotten stricter. Rather than requestingan ID at the polls, new laws often require one. And in some cases the required ID must be a specific type of photo ID.

But now, it seems, some may have gone too far, outstripping their justification as checks on voter fraud, and being called out as racially discriminatory by the courts. In the North Carolina decision, Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote: “In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications.” And in the Texas case, the 5th Circuit, one of the country’s most conservative, found that the law there discriminated against black and Hispanic voters.

Beyond the constitutional question, do these voting restrictions have a practical effect on voter turnout? In 2012, my boss Nate Silver found that the academic literature on this question was in broad agreement: Voter ID laws “seem to decrease turnout by about 2 percent as a share of the registered voter population.”

Indeed, a 2014 Government Accountability Office report, one of the most cited pieces of research on this topic, looked at two states (Kansas and Tennessee) that added voter ID requirements, compared with a handful of states that did not. It found, essentially, that the requirements depressed turnout somewhere between 2 and 3 percentage points.

But none of the academic studies available to Silver in 2012 measured the disparate impact on Democratic and Republican voters — in other words, none measured the “effectiveness” of these laws in suppressing certain subsets of the electorate. So he took it upon himself, performing some calculations and finding “some detrimental effect” of these laws on Democrats.

And now new research, with the aid of additional hindsight and data, suggests the disparate impact of these laws might be bigger than previously thought. A paper forthcoming in the Journal of Politics, titled “Voter Identification Laws and the Suppression of Minority Votes” and written by a trio of political scientists, finds that, in the presence of strict ID laws, the predicted gap in participation between black and white voters in general elections increases from 2.9 points to 5.1 points, and in primaries increases from 2.5 points to 11.6 points. A similar result holds for the gap between Latino and white voters. More starkly, they find “that voter ID laws skew democracy toward those on the political right.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 11.37.47 AM

FROM “VOTER IDENTIFICATION LAWS AND THE SUPPRESSION OF MINORITY VOTES,” BY ZOLTAN HAJNAL, NAZITA LAJEVARDI, AND LINDSAY NIELSON OF UCSD

“The enactment of strict voter ID laws tends to double or triple the gap in turnout between whites and racial and ethnic minorities,” Zoltan Hajnal, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, and one of the paper’s authors, told me.

The paper is only able to come to these sharp conclusions as a result of the proliferation of stricter voting laws. The paper draws on data from the 2010, 2012 and 2014 elections, for example — elections with strict ID laws in place in more than one or two states, increasing its sample size from that in earlier studies.

Although there’s lots of evidence that minorities are less likely to have the required identification, the exact mechanism driving the results isn’t yet well understood. It might be that some voters are going to the polls and being turned away, some might not go to the polls at all, some might not think they have the required ID when they in fact do, and some may have a sense, given a history of racially exclusionary laws, that they are not welcome at the polls.

Could these laws change the outcome of the election? Some of the states with new voting restrictions are high on FiveThirtyEight’s list of likely tipping points: Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin.

But even if we have evidence of a widening gulf in the electorate, we don’t know how that will play out on Election Day. “We don’t have a lot of conclusive evidence about how these laws have affected an electoral outcome,” Hajnal said.

“Turnout is a really hard nut to crack,” Hasen said. Indeed, a 2009 paper in the Election Law Journal concluded that, when it came to turnout effects, “the data are not up to the task of making a compelling statistical argument.”

But perhaps this is the wrong question to ask. “The right question is: ‘Is the state making it harder for people to register and vote for any good reason?’” Hasen said.

Proponents of voter ID laws typically offer several reasons. The laws may curb voter impersonation fraud, they say, or instill a sense of confidence in the fairness and proper functioning of the system. But impersonation fraud is all but nonexistent, with research revealing only 31 cases in over a billion ballots cast since 2000 — about 0.000003 percent. And a 2008 paper in the Harvard Law Review found no relationship between voters’ perceptions of fraud and their likeliness to vote and, further, no increase in confidence for voters under strict ID laws.

Source: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/tighter-restrictions-are-losing-in-the-battle-over-voter-id-laws/

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DHS may increase protections for voting systems to thwart hackers

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday the federal government should consider designating the U.S. election process as “critical infrastructure” to give the voting system greater protection against cyber attacks.

Johnson made the comment in response to a reporter’s question about whether electronic voting machines are vulnerable to hackers in November’s presidential and congressional elections. There are more than 9,000 state, county and city jurisdictions that collect and tally votes throughout the nation.

“We are actively thinking about election cybersecurity right now,” Johnson told reporters at a newsmaker breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

If the voting system was designated as critical infrastructure, it would allow theDepartment of Homeland Security to strengthen protections for the election process and make it a bigger priority, Johnson said. The secretary plays a central role in deciding what public and private sectors should receive the designation.

Critical infrastructure is defined by DHS as “sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety.”

Currently, 16 sectors have been given the designation, including transportation services, energy, nuclear reactors, emergency services, the chemical industry, the defense industrial base, communications, and financial services.

“I do think we should carefully consider whether our election process is critical infrastructure,” he said.

Johnson said DHS plans to contact state and local election officials soon to ensure that the strongest possible precautions are taken to protect the integrity of the voting systems. In the longer term, the government needs to invest more money in protecting the electoral process, Johnson said.

Questions about the security of electronic voting systems have been raised in the wake of last month’s revelations that the Democratic National Committee had been hacked. Johnson said DHS is not yet prepared to attribute that hack to the Russian government or any other specific actor, despite widespread reports that Russia may have been involved. The FBI is investigating the attack.

A spokeswoman for the National Association of Secretaries of State said state election officials have not been informed of any specific threat to the voting process.

“NASS is not aware of the existence or the presence of any credible threats reported by any national security agencies,” said Kay Stimson, the group’s communications director.

She said the de-centralized nature of voting in America actually helps thwart hackers. Each state runs its own voting system even for national presidential elections.

“It’s also important to point out that our election systems are not Internet-based systems,” Stimson said. “The are closed systems.”

About 60% of states have post-election audits to help guard against any direct manipulation of the voting process, she said.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/08/03/dhs-may-increase-protections-voting-systems-thwart-hackers/87996990/

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In 2012, Donald Trump suggested that the result was rigged

The night Mitt Romney lost, Donald Trump tweeted.

About 20 minutes after polls closed on the West Coast, television networks called the election for President Obama. Like Karl Rove, who’d just been told that Fox News had called Ohio against the Republican, Trump was incredulous. “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election,” he tweeted. “We should have a revolution in this country!”

Over the next half hour, he continued.

The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one! We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington and stop this travesty. Our nation is totally divided!

Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice! The world is laughing at us. More votes equals a loss … revolution! This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy! Our country is now in serious and unprecedented trouble … like never before. The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy.

The tweets about “revolution” were deleted that night. Most of the others, including the one about how “we can’t let this happen,” remain.

Trump’s assertion that Obama had “lost the popular vote by a lot” was incorrect, though by 11 p.m., the votes had not all been counted yet. In the end, Obama won by about 5 million votes.

The first time Obama won, in 2008, there were similar rumors about the election results being fraudulent — despite the margin of victory that year being nearly twice as large. When George W. Bush won reelection in 2004, rumors about rigged voting machines were rampant. It’s probably not a surprise that this followed the historically close (and questionably resolved) election of 2000. But these conspiracy theories stayed mostly at the boundaries of partisan politics.

Which is where the Trump campaign was born. So it’s probably not a big surprise that Trump embraced the idea in 2012 — or that, at a campaign stop on Monday, he warned that he thought the 2016 election might be stolen, too.

 

“Bernie, poor Bernie. He looked so upset. You know what? He made a mistake. He shouldn’t have made a deal,” Trump said about the contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

“He lost, he lost. First of all, it was rigged,” he continued. “And I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged. I have to be honest.”

Why? Because he thinks the system in the primary was rigged against him, which, of course, it wasn’t. Trump actually won a disproportionate number of delegates in most states, which is why he was able to cement his nomination in a way that Clinton wasn’t. (Trump got well under 50 percent of the Republican vote. Clinton got a majority.)

There’s a big difference between Twitter personality Trump complaining about the results in 2012 and Republican nominee Trump complaining about the results in 2016 — particularly given his past apparent encouragement of violence at his events.

At least one prominent supporter is already on board with the message. Over the weekend, long-time Trump ally (and one-time Trump staffer) Roger Stone conducted an interview with Breitbart.com, a website that’s been staunchly and unabashedly supportive of Trump’s candidacy. Stone openly endorsed the idea that voting machines can be and have been rigged — including in Ohio in 2012.

Stone encouraged Trump to start priming the pump on the issue.

“I think we have widespread voter fraud, but the first thing that Trump needs to do is begin talking about it constantly,” Stone said. “He needs to say for example, today would be a perfect example: ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government.'”

“If you can’t have an honest election,” Stone said, according to Breitbart, “nothing else counts. I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath.”

Three days later, Trump mentioned his concerns about the general election process being rigged to an audience in Columbus, Ohio.

The problem with election-rigging accusations is that they’re usually offered independent of evidence. During the Democratic primaries, rumors of elections being rigged for Hillary Clinton were rampant, without any evidence of widespread fraud. Crafting a scenario in which fraud is occurring takes as little as a temporary glitch in results in one state to be credible to some.

For a candidate, the bar is even lower. The last time a federal candidate openly embraced the idea that an election had been stolen was Chris McDaniel in Mississippi in 2014. He had little trouble convincing supporters that fraud had occurred, but was unable to convince many others — or the state’s courts. But that was a primary in one state, not a presidential general election.

In 2000, Al Gore declined to continue fighting the results of the general election, despite having actually won the popular vote.

“I say to President-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country,” Gore said on Dec. 13, more than a month after the day of the election and after the Supreme Court had halted the ballot count in Florida. “Neither he nor I anticipated this long and difficult road. Certainly neither of us wanted it to happen. Yet it came, and now it has ended, resolved, as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy.”

He later continued: “I say to our fellow members of the world community, let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome.”

If Trump loses, and if 2012 or his comments on Monday are any guide — America may have another chance to demonstrate the strength of its democracy.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/02/in-2012-donald-trump-suggested-that-the-result-was-rigged-he-warned-of-the-same-thing-this-week/

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How Paul Manafort Wielded Power in Ukraine Before Advising Donald Trump

Few political consultants have had a client fail quite as spectacularly as Paul Manafort’s did in Ukraine in the winter of 2014.

President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who owed his election to, as an Americandiplomat put it, an “extreme makeover” Mr. Manafort oversaw, bolted the country in the face of violent street protests. He found sanctuary in Russia and never returned, as his patron, President Vladimir V. Putin, proceeded to dismember Ukraine, annexing Crimea and fomenting a war in two other provinces that continues.

Mr. Manafort was undaunted.

Within months of his client’s political demise, he went to work seeking to bring his disgraced party back to power, much as he had Mr. Yanukovych himself nearly a decade earlier. Mr. Manafort has already had some success, with former Yanukovych loyalists — and some Communists — forming a new bloc opposing Ukraine’s struggling pro-Western government.

And now Mr. Manafort has taken on a much larger campaign, seeking to turn Donald J. Trump into a winning presidential candidate.

With Mr. Putin’s Russia, and its interference in Ukraine, becoming a focus of the United States presidential campaign, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine has come under scrutiny — along with his business dealings with prominent Ukrainian and Russian tycoons.

After disclosures of a breach of the Democratic National Committee’s emails — which American intelligence officials have linked to Russian spies— both men are facing sharp criticism over what is seen as an unusually sympathetic view of Mr. Putin and his policies toward Ukraine. That view has upended decades of party orthodoxy toward Russia, a country that the previous Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, called “our No. 1 geopolitical foe.”

On Sunday, Mr. Trump even echoed Mr. Putin’s justification of the annexation of Crimea, saying the majority of people in the region wanted to be part of Russia, remarks that were prominently featured on state news channels in Moscow.

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President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine, center, with Vladimir V. Putin, right, then Russia’s prime minister, and Dmitri A. Medvedev, left, then Russia’s president, in 2011. CreditPool photo by Sergei Karpukhin

It is far from certain that Mr. Manafort’s views have directly shaped Mr. Trump’s, since Mr. Trump spoke favorably of Mr. Putin’s leadership before Mr. Manafort joined the campaign. But it is clear that the two have a shared view of Russia and neighbors like Ukraine — an affection, even — that, in Mr. Manafort’s case, has been shaped by years of business dealings as much as by any policy or ideology.

“I wouldn’t put out any moral arguments about his work,” said Yevgeny E. Kopachko, a pollster with Mr. Yanukovych’s former party who cooperated with Mr. Manafort for years and called him a pragmatic and effective strategist. “Nobody has a monopoly on truth and morals.”

Mr. Manafort did not respond to requests for an interview. In television interviews on Sunday, though, he defended Mr. Trump’s views on Russia, saying that as president, Mr. Trump would be firm with Russia but would deal with it like any other country when doing so suited American interests.

“He views Russia as a foreign power that has its own interests at stake,” Mr. Manafort said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Until he joined Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign this year, Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine had been his most significant political campaign in recent years. He began his career in Republican politics in the 1970s and extended it overseas to advising authoritarian leaders, including Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Mr. Yanukovych.

Mr. Manafort, 67, is the scion of an immigrant family that built a construction business in Connecticut. A lawyer by education, he served briefly in the Reagan administration before devoting himself to politics and later to business. A review of his work in Ukraine shows how politics and business converged in a country still struggling to function as a democracy, a quarter of a century after it had gained independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In that world in flux, Mr. Manafort’s political strategy had echoes of Mr. Trump’s populist campaign.

Mr. Manafort’s influence in the country was significant, and his political expertise deeply valued, according to Ukrainian politicians and officials who worked with him. He also had a voice in decisions about major American investments in Ukraine, said a former spokesman for Ukraine’s foreign ministry, Oleg Voloshyn, who also ran as a candidate in the new bloc Mr. Manafort helped form.

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The Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor A. Yushchenko and his top ally, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, right, singing the country’s national anthem during a rally in 2004 at Independence Square in Kiev, the capital.CreditOded Balilty/Associated Press

He persuaded the government to lower grain export tariffs, a change that benefited agribusiness investors like Cargill, and to open negotiations with Chevron and Exxon for oil and natural gas exploration in the country.

Mr. Manafort began working in Ukraine after the popular uprising in the winter of 2004-5 that became known as the Orange Revolution. Mr. Yanukovych, then prime minister, was declared the winner of a presidential election in 2004 that was marred by fraud and overturned by the country’s highest court after weeks of protests in favor of his pro-Western rival, Viktor A. Yushchenko.

Mr. Yanukovych had relied disastrously on Russian political advisers who underestimated voter frustration. After his defeat, he turned to American experts.

Mr. Manafort had begun working for one of Ukraine’s richest men, Rinat Akhmetov, to improve the image of his companies. Mr. Akhmetov was also a prominent sponsor of Mr. Yanukovych’s party, the Party of Regions, and he introduced the two men.

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With Mr. Manafort’s advice, Mr. Yanukovych began a comeback, with the Party of Regions winning the biggest bloc in parliamentary elections in 2006 and again in 2007, returning him to the post of prime minister. At the time, Mr. Manafort called Mr. Yanukovych, a former coal trucking director who was twice convicted of assault as a young man, an outstanding leader who had been badly misunderstood in the West.

According to State Department cables at the time and later released by WikiLeaks, Mr. Manafort and his colleagues Phil Griffin and Catherine Barnes frequently pressed American diplomats in Ukraine to treat Mr. Yanukovych and his supporters equally so as not to risk being seen as favoring his opponents in the new elections. With Mr. Manafort’s help, the party was “working to change its image from that of a haven for mobsters into that of a legitimate political party,” the American ambassador at the time, John E. Herbst, wrote.

During this time, lucrative side deals opened for Mr. Manafort.

In 2008, he and the developer Arthur G. Cohen negotiated a deal to buy the site of the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan. One partner was Dmytro Firtash, an oligarch who made billions as a middleman forGazprom, the Russian natural gas giant, and who was known for funneling the money into the campaigns of pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, including Mr. Yanukovych. The three men intended to reopen the site as a mall and spa called Bulgari Tower, according to a lawsuit filed in Manhattan by Yulia V. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister of Ukraine. In the end, though, the project unraveled.

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Violent demonstrations in February 2014 in Kiev. CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

A separate deal also funneled Russian-linked oligarchic money into Ukraine. In 2007, Mr. Manafort and two partners, Rick Gates and Rick Davis, set up a private equity company in the Cayman Islands to buy assets in Ukraine, and invited the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska to invest, according to a court filing. Mr. Deripaska agreed to pay a 2 percent annual management fee to Mr. Manafort and his partners, and put $100 million into the fund, which bought a cable television station in the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, before the agreement unraveled in disagreements over auditing and Mr. Deripaska sued Mr. Manafort. The case is still pending.

By 2010, Mr. Yanukovych’s revival was complete. He had won a presidential campaign against Ms. Tymoshenko, who was convicted of abuse of office and sent to prison.

Mr. Kopachko, the pollster, said Mr. Manafort envisioned an approach that exploited regional and ethnic peculiarities in voting, tapping the disenfranchisement of those who felt abandoned by the Orange Revolution in eastern Ukraine, which has more ethnic Russians and Russian speakers.

Konstantin Grishchenko, a former foreign minister and a deputy prime minister under Mr. Yanukovych, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Manafort had ultimately grown disillusioned with his client.

Mr. Manafort pressed Mr. Yanukovych to sign an agreement with the European Union that would link the country closer to the West — and lobbied for the Americans to support Ukraine’s membership, as well, despite deep reservations because of the prosecution of Ms. Tymoshenko.

Mr. Manafort helped draft a report defending the prosecution that Mr. Yanukovych’s government commissioned from the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 2012.

Mr. Manafort’s role was disclosed after a document was discovered in a box in a sauna belonging to a former senior Ukrainian official. Other documents in that cache are now evidence in a criminal case against a former justice official, and could shed more light on Mr. Manafort’s role.

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A portrait of former President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine was moved in April 2014 at the country’s National Art Museum. CreditJoseph Sywenkyj for The New York Times

Ultimately Mr. Yanukovych disregarded Mr. Manafort’s advice and refused to sign the trade agreement, which Mr. Putin vehemently opposed. Mr. Yanukovych’s decision led to the protests that culminated in two nights of violence in February 2014 and Mr. Yanukovych’s flight.

Mr. Manafort has said little about Mr. Yanukovych’s fall. “I don’t think he’s very happy with the outcome,” Mr. Grishchenko said.

Mr. Manafort’s chance for a comeback, however, came sooner than anyone had expected.

When the government of President Petro O. Poroshenko called snap parliamentary elections for October 2014, just eight months later, Mr. Manafort rallied the dispirited remnants of Mr. Yanukovych’s party.

He was now on the payroll of Mr. Yanukovych’s former chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin. Mr. Manafort flew to Ukraine in September 2014 and set to work rebranding a party deeply fractured by the violence and by Russia’s intervention.

Rather than try to resurrect the disgraced party, he supported pitching a bigger political tent to help his clients and, he argued, to help stabilize Ukraine. The new bloc would woo everyone in the country angry at the new Western-backed government.

It was Mr. Manafort who had argued for a new name for the movement — the Opposition Bloc, or Oppo Bloc, as it was called. “He thought to gather the largest number of people opposed to the current government, you needed to avoid anything concrete, and just become a symbol of being opposed,” recalled Mikhail B. Pogrebinsky, a political analyst in Kiev.

The strategy worked. Under the new name, the Party of Regions kept a foothold in Parliament. Its new bloc now has 43 members in the 450-seat chamber.

It is not clear that Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine ended with his work with Mr. Trump’s campaign. A communications aide for Mr. Lyovochkin, who financed Mr. Manafort’s work, declined to say whether he was still on retainer or how much he had been paid.

Mr. Manafort has not registered as a lobbyist representing Ukraine, which would require disclosing his earnings, though at least one company he subcontracted, the public relations firm Edelman, did in 2008. It received a retainer of $35,000 a month to promote Mr. Yanukovych’s efforts as prime minister “toward making Ukraine a more democratic country.”

Source:http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/01/us/paul-manafort-ukraine-donald-trump.html?_r=0

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Appeals Court Rejects Strict North Carolina Voting Law

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down the heart of a North Carolina voting law seen as the strictest in the nation, finding that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against African-Americans when they passed it.

A divided 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the measure’s provisions “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”

The ruling is just the latest court win for voting rights advocates. A different federal appeals court ruled this month that Texas’s voter ID law is racially discriminatory and must be softened. And a district court softened Wisconsin’s ID law, too, though that decision is being appealed.

The office of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, who signed the law and has championed it, didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the state planned to appeal the ruling. McCrory is in a tight re-election battle with Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who has refused to defend the law in court.

The voting law imposed a voter ID requirement, cut early voting opportunities, eliminated same-day voter registration and banned out-of-precinct voting, among other provisions.

The court found that by 2013, African-American registration and turnout rates had reached near parity with those of whites. But weeks after the Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Republicans said they planned to enact an “omnibus” voting law. The court’s ruling continued: “Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices. Upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African-Americans.”

While Texas and Wisconsin’s voter ID laws were softened rather than eliminated, the appeals court rejected that approach here, saying even a softened ID provision would still have a discriminatory impact.

The election law scholar Rick Hasen called the ruling “a very big win for voting rights plaintiffs and the [U.S. Justice Department],” who had challenged the law.

With surgical precision, North Carolina tried to eliminate voting practices disproportionately used by African-Americans. This ruling is a stinging rebuke of the state’s attempt to undermine African-American voter participation, which had surged over the last decade,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “It is a major victory for North Carolina voters and for voting rights.”

A district court earlier this year upheld the law. But the appeals court found that the lower court erred by seeing the law’s goals as partisan rather than race-based. The state’s history of racial discrimination in voting, the appeals court said, “highlight[s] the manner in which race and party are inexorably linked in North Carolina. This fact constitutes a critical — perhaps the most critical — piece of historical evidence here. The district court failed to recognize this linkage, leading it to accept “politics as usual; as a justification for many of the changes in [the voting law]. But that cannot be accepted where politics as usual translates into race-based discrimination.”

Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/appeals-court-strikes-down-strict-north-carolina-voting-law-n619836

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Trump urges Russia to hack Clinton’s emails

Democrats prepared to use their convention Wednesday night to raise fresh doubts about Donald Trump’s fitness to serve as commander in chief, as the Republican presidential candidate called on Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email server to find “missing” messages and release them to the public.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said during a news conference at his South Florida resort on Wednesday.

“They probably have them. I’d like to have them released. . . . It gives me no pause. If they have them, they have them,” Trump added later when asked if his comments were inappropriate. “If Russia or China or any other country has those emails, I mean, to be honest with you, I’d love to see them.”

The Clinton campaign quickly expressed alarm at Trump’s remarks.

“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” Clinton’s senior policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement. He added later: “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”

Trump’s comments earned another rebuke from House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). His spokesman, Brendan Buck, said in a statement that “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin should stay out of this election.”

On several occasions throughout the GOP primary campaign, Ryan disavowed controversial Trump statements and withheld his endorsement for a month after the candidate had locked up the necessary delegates. Once he endorsed Trump, Ryan vowed to speak out if he felt that Trump had crossed a line.

Meanwhile, President Obama, Vice President Biden and the man who wants to succeed him, Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.), spent Wednesday morning previewing what they plan to say tonight to tout Clinton’s national security experience.

On NBC’s “Today” show, Obama sought to raise fears about a Trump presidency. Responding to a question on Trump’s electoral chances, Obama said “we don’t know” whether the Republican could win the presidency and warned Democrats that “anybody who goes into campaigns not running scared can end up losing.”

Biden delivered a blunter assessment, saying that Trump “knows nothing about foreign policy, nor should he, based upon his background. But the thing that bothers me is, I don’t see any attempt for him to go out and to get people who really know on the Republican side” to advise him, he told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Trump dismissed the attacks during his news conference, calling Obama “the most ignorant president in our history. His views of the world, as he says, don’t jive, and the world is a mess.”

Trump appeared to be alluding to comments Obama made last week that disputed Republican views of a country “on the verge of collapse.”

“I think it is important, just to be absolutely clear here, that some of the fears that were expressed throughout the week just don’t jibe with the facts,” Obama said at a news conference last Friday.

Trump’s exchange with reporters on Wednesday was free-wheeling and tense. On several occasions, he interrupted reporters and accused them of bias. In one instance, he told a female reporter to “be quiet.”

The real estate mogul sought to distance himself from allegations that the Russian government hacked into the Democratic National Committee to benefit his campaign, which Clinton’s campaign manager suggested earlier this week.

“It is so farfetched. It’s so ridiculous. Honestly, I wish I had that power. I’d love to have that power, but Russia has no respect for our country,” Trump said.

Trump said repeatedly that “I have nothing to do with Russia” and distanced himself from previous positive comments he made about Putin: “I have nothing to do with Russia! I said that Putin has much better leadership qualities than Obama, but who doesn’t know that?”

Earlier on Twitter, Trump called Biden “not very bright.”

In Philadelphia, Kaine spoke Wednesday morning to Virginia Democrats and focused on Trump’s rhetoric and his frequently controversial remarks about women, minorities and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“Is it too much to ask to have the first woman president rather than someone who offends women every time he opens his mouth?” he said on Wednesday morning.

Kaine, whose Marine son deployed overseas Monday, also said Trump has fought to avoid paying taxes that pay for the military — a potent message in veterans-rich Virginia.

“Who’s funding veterans’ programs?” he asked. “Who’s funding veterans’ services? Folks like you and me, but Donald Trump’s too big to have to fund veterans, too big to have to fund our military . . . too big to have to fund the things that make us a great nation.”

“I guess that’s just for suckers to have to pay for the society we have,” he said, as the audience of friends and supporters cheered.

Kaine is expected to focus on Clinton’s national security and foreign policy plans in his prime-time address, according to a campaign official.

The topics are consistent with the theme that Clinton officials have crafted for a third night of the convention, as foreign policy and terrorism have risen to the fore in the 2016 election. Trump has seized on those issues, casting himself as the candidate more focused on keeping the country safe.

Kaine’s pick as Clinton’s running mate drew praise from many quarters, but the former Virginia governor faces a challenge in convincing some progressive groups that he will champion their issues. Longtime watchers of Virginia politics say the question during much of Kaine’s career there has actually been whether he is too liberal for their state.

But Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), who sits alongside Kaine on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described the Virginian on Wednesday as “a next-level intellect.”

“There’s nobody better on that committee to distill these complicated issues into easy, digestible ways,” Murphy said in a Washington Post Live interview in Philadelphia. “I think he’s going to bring a readiness and humanity to this role. And all the press he gets about being a nice guy — it’s all true.”

Other speakers on Wednesday will include Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary and CIA director who served alongside Clinton during Obama’s first term, most notably during the military operation that killed terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent, plans to endorse Clinton during Wednesday evening’s proceedings amid concerns about Trump’s fitness for the presidency.

Relatives of the victims of the recent Orlando nightclub shooting will also appear on Wednesday night, as well as the daughter of the principal of a Connecticut elementary school who was shot dead in a 2012 shooting; and astronaut Mark Kelly and his wife, former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), the victim of a 2011 assassination attempt. The couple leads a gun safety organization.

The Clinton campaign meanwhile sought to tamp down fresh questions about whether the candidate intends to reverse her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership if she is elected president.

The controversy erupted on Tuesday night when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe told a reporter for Politico that Clinton, who is a longtime friend and ally, would support a version of the deal, which is supported by Obama.

But Clinton’s campaign chairman, senior aides and prominent supporters quickly corrected the governor, saying that Clinton opposes TPP before and after the election.

McAuliffe also clarified his position, blaming a misunderstanding for the gaffe. He said he believed that Clinton would oppose the deal unless her concerns were addressed.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democratic-national-convention-obama-biden-kaine-set-to-tout-clinton-as-commander-in-chief/2016/07/27/afc57884-53e8-11e6-bbf5-957ad17b4385_story.html

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The DNC Hack Is Watergate, but Worse

The email dump isn’t a high-minded act of transparency. It’s a foreign power attempting to swing an election for its favored candidate.

A foreign government has hacked a political party’s computers—and possibly an election. It has stolen documents and timed their release to explode with maximum damage. It is a strike against our civic infrastructure. And though nobody died—and there was no economic toll exacted—the Russians were aiming for a tender spot, a central node of our democracy.

It was hard to see the perniciousness of this attack at first, especially given how news media initially covered the story. The Russians, after all, didn’t knock out a power grid. And when the stolen information arrived, it was dressed in the ideology of WikiLeaks, which presents its exploits as possessing a kind of journalistic bravery the traditional media lacks.

But this document dump wasn’t a high-minded act of transparency. To state the obvious, only one political party has been exposed. (Selectively exposed: Many emails were culled from the abridged dump.) And it’s not really even the inner workings of the Democrats that have been revealed; the documents don’t suggest new layers of corruption or detail any new conspiracies. They’re something closer to the embarrassing emails that fly across every office in America—griping, the testing of stupid ideas, the banal musings that take place in private correspondence. The emails don’t get us much beyond a fact every sentient political observer could already see: Officials at the DNC, hired to work hand in glove with a seemingly inevitable nominee, were actively making life easier for Hillary Clinton. It didn’t take these leaks to understand that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a hack and that the DNC should be far more neutral in presidential primaries.

What’s galling about the WikiLeaks dump is the way in which the organization has blurred the distinction between leaks and hacks. Leaks are an important tool of journalism and accountability. When an insider uncovers malfeasance, he brings information to the public in order to stop the wrongdoing. That’s not what happened here. The better analogy for these hacks is Watergate. To help win an election, the Russians broke into the virtual headquarters of the Democratic Party. The hackers installed the cyber-version of the bugging equipment that Nixon’s goons used—sitting on the DNC computers for a year, eavesdropping on everything, collecting as many scraps as possible. This is trespassing, it’s thievery, it’s a breathtaking transgression of privacy. It falls into that classic genre, the dirty trick. Yet that term feels too innocent to describe the offense. Nixon’s dirty tricksters didn’t mindlessly expose the private data of low-level staff.

We should be appalled at the public broadcast of this minutiae. It will have a chilling effect—campaign staffers will now assume they no longer have the space to communicate honestly. This honest communication—even if it’s often trivial or dumb—is important for the process of arriving at sound strategy and sound ideas. (To be sure, the DNC shouldn’t need privacy to know that attacking a man for his faith is just plain gross.) Open conversation, conducted with the expectation of privacy, is the necessary precondition for the formation of collective wisdom and consensus. If we eviscerate the possibility of privacy in politics, we increase the likelihood of poor decision-making.

It is possible to argue that Russia is just behaving as great powers often do. States try to manipulate opinion beyond their borders. Barack Obama recently attempted to sway the British public to reject Brexit; we don’t just broadcast the Voice of America to expose the world to jazz. Russia does this, too. It has a website and television network, Russia Today. We might not care for Russia Today and its propagandistic coverage, but it operates in the open. It uses reporting and opinion to sway hearts and minds. The interconnected nature of the world means that it would be malpractice for states not to make the best case for its policies to enemy and ally alike. The United States is better when it understands the world and argues with it.

Still, we have a clear set of rules designed to limit foreign interference in our elections, to protect our sovereignty. We should be open to rational arguments from abroad but terrified about states playing a larger role than that. This is why we don’t let foreign entities make campaign contributions. We don’t allow noncitizens to vote. Consider our reaction, if an American political leader had pulled this stunt: He would be prosecuted, and drummed from political life. These are unacceptable tactics for an American; they can hardly be more tolerable when executed by a foreign power that wishes us ill.

The DNC dump may not have revealed a conspiracy that could end a candidacy, but it succeeded in casting a pall of anxiety over this election. We know that the Russians have a further stash of documents from the DNC and another set of documents purloined from the Clinton Foundation. In other words, Vladimir Putin is now treating American democracy with the same respect he accords his own. The best retaliation isn’t a military one, or to respond in kind. It’s to defeat his pet candidate and to force him to watch the inauguration of the woman he so abhors.

Read more about Donald Trump’s connections to the Kremlin, and about his campaign manager’s work for Putin’s allies.

Source: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/07/the_dnc_hack_is_watergate_but_worse.html
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George Soros returns to politics with $25 million splash

Billionaire investor George Soros has re-emerged this election cycle as a major Democratic donor, committing more than $25 million to Hillary Clinton and other party candidates and causes, according to Politico.

Soros spent roughly $27 million in a bid to unseat then-President George W. Bush in 2004 but later scaled back his giving, the website reported. Some associates of the Soros Fund Management chairman told Politico they expect him to give even more as Election Day approaches.

The Hungarian-born financier is worth $24.9 billion, according toForbes‘ most recent estimate, and his return as a big-time contributor will be a boon to the party as it seeks to retain control of the White House and regain a majority in the Senate.

Soros advisor Michael Vachon told Politico that Soros “has been a consistent donor to Democratic causes, but this year the political stakes are exceptionally high.”

Vachon confirmed to CNBC Politico’s report of the roughly $25 million in donations so far this cycle.

Soros’ charity, Open Society Foundations, did not respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.

Source: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/27/george-soros-returns-to-politics-with-25-million-splash-report.html

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It’s not all up to Sanders: Will Bernie’s political movement have life beyond the DNC?

Along with the Democratic party officials, delegates, lobbyists and members of the media who flocked to Philadelphia this weekend came tens of thousands of activists — a number that will likely continue to grow during the four days of the party’s presidential nominating convention that officially kicked off Monday night with speeches from first lady Michelle Obama and former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

The activists’ causes were numerous. Front and center was a push to get the Democratic Party and its presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, to pay greater attention to policies espoused by Sanders during his campaign for president. On Sunday, more than 10,000 people gathered in sweltering heat to attend at least one of two rallies that originated over the course of the afternoon in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall. The first called for a ban on fracking — a major industry in western and northeastern Pennsylvania — and a transition to a clean energy economy. The second was a demonstration in support of Bernie Sanders. Other protests occurred over the weekend: Black Lives Matter events called for an end to policies that disproportionately harm black people, and activists demanding health care for all and a $15 minimum wage joined the many in Philadelphia to make their voices heard.

The day before the big climate and Sanders marches, during a quieter event at a Quaker meeting hall, representatives from many of these causes met to lay out a platform in a formal, online document. The “People’s Convention,” as participants called it, was designed to look beyond this year’s presidential race, toward creating the sort of wide-reaching political movement the Vermont senator so often invoked on the campaign trail.

The initiative came about largely through the efforts of two organizers, Jack “Jackrabbit” Pollack and Shana East. Both had volunteered for Sanders in the Chicago area. East was hired by the campaign once it started ramping up its organizing efforts in Illinois. But in April, they decided they would have to step away from the Sanders campaign to foster a wider movement.

“The Sanders campaign didn’t really seem to be interested in actually working with the grass roots,” Pollack said. “Once Shana and I realized that that was the case, we figured that for the political revolution that Bernie had been calling for since the beginning of his campaign, it was really essential that we be building for something, toward something. We were kind of giving a form and a framework to a movement that is currently very amorphous.”

“The reality is that Bernie, if you really listened to his speeches and the things that he said over the course of the campaign, he never actually said ‘I’m leading this movement,’” Pollack continued. “I think the mistake that a lot of people have been making is to think that they needed to look to him for this movement. The movement is us.”

The Democratic Party may have one of the most liberal platforms in recent memory, in no small part because of Sanders and his impassioned supporters. But those at the People’s Convention were disappointed. They lamented the absence of planks calling for a ban on fracking, for universal health care and opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. Fueling the discontent: Clinton’s choice of the relatively centrist Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as her running mate over more populist options like Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

“I told somebody Friday before she announced: If she picks Kaine, every Berner in the country’s going to be at the DNC. It’s just the biggest slap in the face you could possibly have,” said Douglass Paschal, a resident of the Philadelphia suburbs who attended the People’s Convention.

A number of Sanders delegates to the Democratic Convention were in attendance. “I came here as mostly an interested observer. I’m excited to see a lot of people I know here,” said Christine Kramer, a delegate from Nevada. “When you get to the actual convention, the discussion ends. It’s a scripted TV show. So this is where we have the catharsis: This is what we all know needs to happen for our country and how do we get there.”

Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who became a national spokeswoman for Sanders after switching her allegiance from the Clinton campaign to his during the primaries, delivered one of the convention’s keynote addresses.

“This nation needs people from all walks of life like those of us in this room today to be able to stand up and speak truth to power and not be afraid. Both major political parties need people like us in this room to keep us honest and keep them on task,” she said, also encouraging voters to check out other parties, including the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. “If we truly are a representative democracy where everyone’s voice matters, we shouldn’t be afraid of a little competition.”

There were plenty of people at the convention who still held out hope for a Sanders presidency, and others who are looking elsewhere: Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, served as the end-of-the-day keynoter. But Pollack and East emphasized that their Peoples’ Convention was not about pushing a specific outcome at the Democratic Convention, but instead about building an enduring movement.

Many of the people who stopped by the Quaker meeting hall cheered the advent of a formal progressive platform after years of diffuse activism and disorganization on the left.
The products of months of input, submitted through the internet, and months of drafting, led by Pollack and East, the People’s Platform that the alternative convention ratified Saturday afternoon contained five planks: economic justice,health care as a human right, racial justice, climate justice and “creating real Democracy” — which dealt with decreasing the influence of money in politics and increasing access to the ballot. All of the planks will be reopened for amending in August.

Contributing to the document were activists affiliated with Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the Green Party, the Sanders campaign, environmental groups and groups trying to limit the influence of money on politics.

The People’s Convention was not without its points of contention. In particular, many expressed discomfort with lingering signs of segregation, pointing to the whiteness of the movements behind some causes represented, while the movement for racial justice remains, primarily, black.

But overall, many of the people who stopped by the Quaker meeting hall for some or all of the day cheered the advent of a formal progressive platform after years of diffuse activism and disorganization on the left.

“As far as the theater of power at the DNC is concerned, I don’t think this is going to make a big dent in that,” said Paschal, a veteran activist who has been following movements on the left since his time with the United Farm Workers in the early 1970s. “But as far as the Bernie movement, or the left movement, this meeting here showed everyone that it will continue. It’s a continual struggle. It’s going to continue in others’ hands.”

Source: http://www.salon.com/2016/07/26/its_not_all_up_to_sanders_will_bernies_political_movement_have_life_beyond_the_dnc_partner/