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DAMAC Properties Founder, Hussain Sajwani, Exercises ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ In All Pursuits


Hussain Sajwani, owner and founder of DAMAC Properties, hails from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). He grew up helping his family work long hours for their global retail shops. He acquired wisdom of how folk from varied regions around the world display different manners of interaction. He also learned that people present distinct expectations during business transactions. He formulated successful means of how to network with likeminded individuals, and to unite their talents toward common negotiations.


According to CNBC, these observations and skills would serve him well in his early, professional development and beyond. Hussain Sajwani studied well and obtained an undergraduate scholarship. He studied abroad in the US, attending the University of Washington located in Seattle. There, he attained his dual-discipline Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Economics. Upon returning home to the UAE, he embarked upon his first career position as the manager for the accounts receivable division for an oil tycoon. It was Hussain’s skills of observation and implementation that would propel him unto his next career move within three years of his tenure with that company.

Verifying all of those contractual payments led Hussain Sajwani to the logical conclusion that the best way to cozy money into your own camp is to offer a product or service that is in high demand and can offer a wide profit margin. Thus, he did. He founded a food catering business in 1982 and negotiated lucrative contracts. He and his team delivered excellent service such that word-of-mouth advertising spread appreciably and that same business continues today. It is now known as Global Logistics Services.


With similar business acumen, he recognized the opportunity for astronomical real estate investment when the UAE decided to let foreigners participate. In 2002, Hussain Sajwani founded DAMAC Properties, a luxury home and hotel development company with properties now extending to such places as Dubai, where it has its headquarters, Jordan, Lebanon, London, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The business and its chairman, Hussain Sajwani, have received honors and awards from several industry markers.

Hussain Sajwani is also renowned for his philanthropic investments. He believes that every child should have all basic needs met in order to contribute their best talents to the world in lifechanging fashion. To that end, he has given millions of dollars to charities such as those that feed, clothe and deliver healthcare to children. He also sponsored the UAE coding initiative that aims to teach ubiquitous technology to the next generation..

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Manafort trial Day 12: Prosecution hammers Manafort's 'lies,' defense chides 'selective' evidence

Prosecutors urged jurors in the trial of Paul Manafort to focus on financial records and Manafort’s “lies” — and to set aside personal feelings about a tainted star witness — as the government offered its closing argument on Wednesday.

Pushing back, lawyers for the former Trump campaign chairman argued that the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller is a mishmash of “selective” evidence that doesn’t amount to any crime at all.

Those competing positions, made in Alexandria, Virginia, federal court during a daylong session, will soon give way to jury deliberations in the first case brought by Mueller’s Russia investigative squad to reach trial.

Mueller’s team went first with its final statements, with prosecutor Greg Andres spending more than 15 minutes delivering his case to the jurors before even naming Manafort’s longtime deputy Rick Gates, widely perceived as the government’s star witness. But Andres made clear the government believed it could secure a guilty verdict even without Gates’ testimony.

“The star witness in this case is the documents,” Andres said.

Gates provided several days of incriminating testimony last week, but was also forced to admit that he had stolen money from Manafort, in part to finance an extramarital affair. Manafort’s lawyers seized on the sordid sideshow, telling jurors that Gates led a “secret life” — without Manafort’s knowledge — and “showed himself to be the liar that he is.”

Anticipating this line of attack, Andres spent nearly two hours in the court’s morning session recounting the evidence against Manafort in painstaking detail, urging the jury to convict the GOP operative on all 18 criminal counts of tax and bank fraud. Gates isn’t the linchpin to these charges, he emphasized, just a corroborating voice for the voluminous documents and emails the jury was provided.

The outcome could have important political and even legal implications for Mueller’s wider probe into Russian election interference, although the charges have little direct relation to President Donald Trump or his 2016 presidential campaign.

Mueller’s prosecutor repeatedly told jurors that the government had provided them with “overwhelming proof” of the defendant’s guilt. He used the word “lie” more than 30 times to explain how Manafort misled everyone from his accountants to his bookkeepers and the banks that lent him millions of dollars under false pretenses.

“Mr. Manafort lied to keep more money when he had it, and he lied to get more money when he didn’t,” Andres told the jury.

Manafort’s team gets its turn

Manafort’s defense got its opportunity to present its own version of the case after Wednesday’s lunch break — and it seized on the argument that the prosecution failed to present evidence to convict Manafort beyond a reasonable doubt.

“They’ve done a good job of selectively pulling information together. But it’s been a selection,” said Richard Westling, a member of Manafort’s five-man legal team.

Westling portrayed Mueller’s team as if it had been fishing for a crime that never existed and said the indictments against Manafort didn’t happen until “the special counsel showed up and started asking questions.”

The defense also repeatedly emphasized that Mueller’s team isn’t made up of standard Justice Department prosecutors. It referred to the lawyers as part of the “special counsel” and suggested that “people do not get prosecuted by typical Justice Department prosecutors” for the transgressions alleged in Manafort’s case.

Westling stressed that the government’s goal was to present an “overwhelming” case to make it appear to the jury that there’s “only one conclusion.” But, he argued, there are “plenty of things that have not come out in this courtroom that leave significant doubts about this evidence.”

Manafort’s lawyer also insisted that his client couldn’t have been the party to such a wide-ranging bank- and tax-fraud enterprise because he had clued in everyone from Gates to his bookkeeper and accountant in various aspects of his finances.

“That’s not consistent with someone attempting to commit a fraud,” Westling said.

Westling instead cast Manafort as a talented political consultant who engendered bipartisan respect for his work on the campaigns of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole and Donald Trump. In those efforts, they said, he would involve a team to help him with his tasks. “Sometimes the people we rely on are trustworthy,” Westling said, “and sometimes they’re not.”

The defense team also continued its effort to paint Gates, the longtime former Manafort aide, as an admitted liar and thief.

“That is the real Rick Gates,” said defense attorney Kevin Downing, adding that the longtime deputy — who remained a part of Trump’s team after Manafort departed in August 2016 — “tried to look all clean-shaven” for the jury. But after one question, Downing said, “he fell apart and showed himself to be the liar that he is.”

Manafort’s attorneys dug in on who the Mueller team didn’t bring to the stand as it presented its case over the last two weeks. Manafort’s attorneys noted that the banking officials who were invited to testify didn’t have final approval over the loans the defendant was seeking, while the executives who did have that authority were left out of the case.

“None of them have been witnesses in this courtroom. It’s important for you to determine what that means,” Westling said.

Mueller’s team on Manafort: lies, lies, lies

Andres began his initial argument Wednesday by summarizing the prosecution’s case presented over the past two weeks: Manafort lied to his bookkeeper, to his tax preparers and to the IRS. The longtime lobbyist filed false tax returns in five straight years, Andres said, and failed to pay taxes on nearly $15 million in income.

“You don’t need to be a tax expert to understand that,” Andres said, adding emphatically: “He is not above the law.”

The prosecutor seemed to recognize that Gates’ admissions of unethical behavior might have troubled jurors, and urged them to remember that the case did not hang simply on his account of Manafort’s alleged financial fraud and tax evasion.

“We’re not asking you to like him either,” Andres said.

Instead, the prosecutor urged the jurors to look for consistencies between how Gates testified — under penalty of perjury and a lengthy prison sentence — and other witnesses who recounted similar facts.

Andres told the jurors that Gates’ admission of an affair, made under a tough cross-examination, was unrelated to the case. “Was it to distract you? Does it matter?” the prosecutor asked. “Does it make Mr. Manafort any less guilty?”

During a final rebuttal argument to the jury, Andres said the defense’s claims about missing witnesses were a ruse aimed at diverting attention from the ample evidence of Manafort’s guilt.

“Ladies and gentlemen, does anyone really think we need more witnesses or more documents?” the prosecutor asked, tallying up 27 individuals who testified and 399 exhibits admitted during the two-week trial.

Andres said repeatedly that the defense was eager to “distract” from what jurors had already heard and seen.

“It’s the witnesses in this case and the evidence in this case that the defense is afraid of,” the normally staid prosecutor said, growing more animated as he brought the government’s case to a finish. “The defense is asking you to ignore your own common sense.”

One of those distractions, Andres argued, was the defense’s contention that Manafort’s misleading loan applications were justified by a good-faith belief that he was due $2.4 million in fees for consulting work he did in Ukraine in late 2014. The prosecutor said profit-and-loss statements Manafort doctored claimed he had between $3 million and $4.2 million in income, substantially more than anyone indicated he might be owed.

“Mr. Manafort has told so may lies about his accrued income even he can’t keep them straight,” Andres declared.

At an earlier point Wednesday, the Mueller prosecutor also made a point of ridiculing the defense’s claim that Gates’ admission of embezzling money from Manafort implicated him in the various tax- and bank-fraud schemes the prosecution has linked to Manafort. Gates was Manafort’s longtime protégé, Andres argued, and the two often worked together to perpetuate Manafort’s crimes. “He didn’t choose a Boy Scout,” Andres said.

Andres said it was absurd to suggest that Gates parked $60 million in offshore accounts, then arranged payment of $15 million in Manafort’s personal expenses — all without Manafort’s knowledge.

“Is it possible or plausible,” the prosecutor asked, “that somebody, maybe even Rick Gates, signed” Manafort’s name to overseas bank accounts, deposited tens of millions in them and then paid Manafort’s massive personal bills?

“Does that make any sense at all? We should all be so lucky,” Andres added, prompting chortling from many in the courtroom.

At another point, Andres pointed to a series of email messages in which Manafort referred to accounts belonging to several offshore companies as “my” accounts.

“These are all emails Mr. Manafort wrote himself. No Rick Gates on these emails — not one,” the prosecutor said.

At one point, Andres mangled the veteran lobbyist and political consultant’s name, appearing to call him “Mr. Manafraud.” It was not entirely clear whether it was a slip-up.

Prosecutors rebut defense’s final pitch

In a move that may have been intended to signal to the jury that the government’s case is weak, the defense’s closing arguments consumed only an hour and 20 minutes — far less than the two hours the judge permitted.

But soon after the defense wrapped and jurors were sent on a break, the prosecution raised several objections to statements defense attorneys made in their closing.

Andres alleged that the defense violated ground rules the judge had set out when it argued that Manafort was the victim of selective prosecution and that the IRS could have resolved any errors by Manafort through an audit, rather than a criminal case.

Downing “said quite clearly that these types of cases are not prosecuted in the United States,” the prosecutor said.

Calling Andres’ objection “quite correct,” U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III quickly said he would add a jury instruction designed to address the issue. But the judge once again seemed to allude to a statement he made in pretrial proceedings that it was evident that Manafort was being prosecuted as part of an effort to seek damaging information about Trump.

“Any member of the public, of course, can have a view about what is really underway, but this is not for this jury to consider,” the judge said. He also agreed to tell jurors that the government is not obliged to audit someone before prosecuting them for criminal tax fraud.

Another dispute broke out over Westling’s mention of the fact that one of the banks involved in making $16 million in loans to Manafort received several hundred thousand of dollars in fees. Andres said that comment should permit him to tell jurors in his rebuttal that the bank, The Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, wrote off the loans after Manafort stopped paying.

During the trial, the defense pressed to have the judge certify one possible reason for the non-payment: Manafort’s indictment. The government action led to efforts to seize the lobbyist’s properties as being purchased with the proceeds of criminal activity.

Ellis noted that he sided with the prosecution on that and refused to relay that fact to the jury. The judge then offered a bit of media criticism.

“If you read the newspapers, it’s otherwise. They win everything,” he said, referring to the defense. “And you lose everything,” the judge added, referring to the prosecution.

“Let’s keep it that way,” Downing chimed in, prompting laughter in the courtroom.

Despite the judge’s desire to be seen as evenhanded, there was immediately another prickly exchange with the prosecution after Ellis asked Andres whether — if given permission to mention that the Chicago bank wrote off the loans — he might also add that they did charge some fees at the outset.

“I’m not responsible for making the defense’s case. They made it already,” Andres said, taking clear umbrage at the judge’s suggestion.

“No, you’re not responsible for making the defense case,” Ellis replied sharply. He added, raising his voice: “I’m responsible for making sure this is a fair trial.”

The judge mulled giving the defense a couple of minutes to respond to what Andres planned to tell the jury about the loan being written off, but he eventually opted against that, giving Andres the all-clear to note that to jurors.

Despite the extensive wrangling on the issue, Andres never mentioned that issue during his final plea to the jury.

What’s next?

In the late afternoon, Ellis — whose routine interjections have irked prosecutors throughout the trial — spent nearly two hours delivering instructions to the jury, which is expected to begin deliberating Thursday morning.

At various times during the prosecution’s closing argument, Andres seemed to allude to the judge’s earlier criticisms, particularly his exhortations to the prosecution to move briskly. A comment by Andres that his argument would take “90 minutes and certainly less than two hours” drew laughter from the audience and at least some jurors.

However, Andres also echoed at least one stern warning Ellis gave early in the case, emphasizing that — despite testimony about the millions of dollars Manafort spent on luxury goods — the defendant is not on trial for being rich.

“This case is not about Mr. Manafort’s wealth,” Andres said near the outset of his argument. “It is not a crime in this country to be wealthy. It is not a crime to have nice things. … We’re not in this courtroom today because Mr. Manafort is wealthy.”

Jurors initially looked attentive as Ellis began the process of reading the jury instructions, but as the session wore on, it seemed to descend into legal boilerplate not unlike a rental car agreement. This led some jurors’ eyes to wander and Manafort to slouch in his chair at the defense table. At one point, Ellis’ voice grew quiet as if he, too, might be drifting off.

Ellis dismissed the four alternate jurors and told the 12 primary jurors to return to court at 9:30 a.m. to be greeted briefly and then commence deliberations. He warned the media to stay away from the jurors. The judge also urged the jurors to hold in confidence what happens in the jury room.

“My suggestion is people not talk to the media about how the deliberations went,” said Ellis, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan. “I suggest to you, and it is a suggestion, you have a duty of confidentiality as to what went on in the course of your deliberations.”

After the session concluded, Downing addressed TV cameras outside the court for the second time in two days, repeating the defense team’s message inside, where recordings are not permitted.

“Mr. Manafort was very happy with how things went today,” he said. “His defense team got to address the jury to point out the shortcomings of the government’s case and explain how the government has not met their burden of proof.”

A reporter asked Downing how the former Trump campaign chairman felt about his chances with the jury.

“Very good. Very good,” the lawyer answered.

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Trump pulls security clearance of ex-CIA Director John Brennan

President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who has become a harsh critic of the president, and appeared to be targeting others who have disagreed with the administration.

“Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation’s most closely held secrets and facilities, the very aim of our adversaries which is to sow division and chaos,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, reading a statement from Trump while briefing reporters on Wednesday.

“Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this Administration,“ the president‘s statement continued.

In addition, Sanders said, the administration is evaluating clearances for former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former FBI attorney Lisa Page, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose security clearance was deactivated after he was fired earlier this year, and Bruce Ohr, who is still in the Justice Department although he was demoted from associate deputy attorney general.

“More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended,” Sanders said.

Brennan later responded on Twitter.

“This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics,” he wrote. “It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent,” he wrote.

In a subsequent phone interview on MSNBC, Brennan added that if the president believed that the action would lead the former CIA director “to just go away and be quiet, he is very badly mistaken.“

“I‘ve seen this type of behavior and actions on the part of foreign tyrants and despots and autocrats during my CIA and national security career,” he said. “I never thought I would see it here in the United States. And so I do believe that all Americans really need to take stock of what is happening right now in our government, and how abnormal and how irresponsible and how dangerous these actions are.“

Brennan also said he was not informed by the government that his security clearance was revoked, but instead learned it from a friend who called when Sanders was delivering the president’s statement.

The White House last month announced that it was looking into revoking security clearances for the individuals Sanders listed, with the exception of Yates, Strzok, Page and Ohr, whose names were added on Wednesday.

Trump has over the past couple of days dug into Strzok, who was fired from the FBI on Friday, and Ohr.

Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, has come under scrutiny after it was revealed he had contact during the 2016 election cycle with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson and former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier that described a complex conspiracy of Trump and his campaign working with the Kremlin to influence the outcome of the presidential election. Trump has denied the dossier‘s findings. Ohr’s wife, Nellie, also worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Ohr’s security clearance.

“Security clearances for those who still have them may be revoked, and those who have already lost their security clearance may not be able to have it reinstated,” Sanders said.

Clapper on Wednesday said during an interview with CNN that he had not had any access to current intelligence since he resigned in January 2017.

The former intelligence chief has been a harsh critic of Trump and has feuded with the president, who has characterized the FBI’s use of an informant as the Justice Department‘s spying on his presidential campaign. Clapper, however, has countered that Russian efforts were the subject of intelligence operations, not Trump‘s campaign.

Clapper said that losing his clearance wouldn’t have any “ immediate substantive impact“ on him, and that he would continue to speak out against the president.

“Will the republic stand or fall on whether John retains his access to classified information, or mine or any others that were named? Of course not,“ he said. “The larger issue here, to me, throughout has been infringement on First Amendment rights. And I think people ought to think seriously about that.“

Comey last month said he no longer had a security clearance, and Hayden also said on Twitter that he did not go back for classified briefings but would occasionally be asked to “offer a view on something.”

Comey, who was fired last year, documented a conversation with Trump in which he says the president asked him to to let go of an FBI investigation into former Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn, who also served briefly as the president’s national security adviser. Since the release of Comey‘s memo, special counsel Robert Mueller has broadened his Russia investigation to include whether Trump tried to obstruct justice. Trump has long called the Mueller inquiry a “witch hunt.“

Susan Gordon, principal deputy director of national intelligence, told POLITICO on Wednesday that she didn’t know whether the White House consulted National Intelligence Director Dan Coats before it announced the decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance.

“But it is a presidential decision,” she said. “That authority is his; he can make the decisions. I don’t know whether we were consulted or not, but whether we were or not, it’s an executive decision for him to make.”

She pointed out that security clearances have traditionally been important tools for the U.S. intelligence community, allowing agencies to rely the experiences of former department chiefs.

“There’s a whole range of people that we rely on, including our formers who have those clearances to help us be better at what we do and know,” she said on the sidelines of a Defense Intelligence Agency conference in Omaha, Nebraska.

Gordon said she didn’t have any indication whether the removal of Brennan’s clearances was part of a “larger trend.”

She stressed, however, that former agency leaders — including those working for private companies and those still in government — remain important parts of the intelligence community. And, she said, former officials with clearances should maintain certain standards to keep those clearances.

“Yes, that’s important as well,” she said.

Conservatives have over the past couple of weeks pushed for Brennan’s security to be removed.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in June said he spoke to the president about that very issue, and Fox News host Tucker Carlson also called for Brennan’s clearance to be removed after he reported he still had it.

On Wednesday, the Senate majority whip, John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is on the Intelligence Committee, said it was “entirely appropriate” for Trump to take action against Brennan.

But Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the retiring chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said: “Without having some kind of tangible reasons for doing so, which there may be that I’m not aware of, I don’t like it at all. It just feels like sort of a … banana republic kind of thing,”

Brennan, in the MSNBC interview on Wednesday, said he believed that Trump was concerned about the criticism Brennan has been voicing publicly and was trying to diminish his integrity.

“I must tell you that Mr. Trump‘s dishonesty, his lack of integrity, his nastiness, mean-spiritedness, the types of things that he has just tweeted out the past 72 hours, the terms that he uses, this is not what I think of an American president, nor of America,“ Brennan said. “We’re better than this. We have to be better than this. We have been a shining example to the world, and Mr. Trump is letting this country down.“

In addition, Brennan criticized Trump‘s attacks on Mueller and his investigation. He added that although he did not know any details from the inquiry, he believed that the president’s recent attacks were a result of the “closer magnification of some of the things that those around him have been involved in“ through the probe.

“I know some things that the Russians were involved in, but I certainly don‘t know all the things that Mr. Trump has been involved in over the years,“ he said. “I do not pretend to have that knowledge. He is the one. But clearly his actions are those of somebody who is seeking to prevent the full light of day being shone upon his past.“

Mueller‘s investigation should have a conclusion, Brennan said, and added that the American public should accept the findings no matter what.

“I think at the end of the day we all should accept the findings of that investigative team,“ he said. “And if they exonerate everybody, including Mr. Trump, from any wrongdoing whatsoever, we should accept that, because that is what the rule of law demands and what our system of justice requires.“

John McLaughlin, a former acting director of the CIA, who was not listed as having his clearance under review but has criticized the president’s policies in the past, said on Wednesday that he thought the choice to revoke the clearance was to “silence critics.“

“This really has the feel of someone simply trying to do two things: silence critics and also distract from another damaging political event that‘s going on with Omarosa,“ he said during a phone interview on MSNBC, referring to former presidential adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman, whose new book includes scathing criticism of Trump and his administration.

Martin Matishak and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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Some Republicans uneasy with Trump cutting off Brennan

Some Republican senators are panning President Donald Trump’s move to yank former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, warning about the precedent it will set for national security.

Even as much of the GOP either backs the president or professes ignorance of Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance and threaten future action against other critics, Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine said they disagreed with the move. Collins, a member of the Intelligence Committee, criticized Brennan as “far too political” but said that unless he disclosed classified information she didn’t “see the grounds” for revoking his security clearance.

“It’s unwise. Because generally, recently retired intelligence officials have a lot to contribute to the analysis that is being done,” Collins told reporters.

“Without having some kind of tangible reasons for doing so, which there may be that I’m not aware of, I don’t like it at all. It just feels like sort of a … banana republic kind of thing,” said Corker, the retiring Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, repeating the “banana republic” line two more times in an exasperated tone. “I don’t like it.”

In a statement read by his press secretary, Trump said that he made his decision because of Brennan’s “unfounded and outrageous allegations” about the administration made in the media. But even senators that back up Trump on his authority to make security clearance decisions said there is little evidence he was doing so other than as payback for Brennan’s public criticism.

“It’s clear that’s how it got on the president’s radar screen,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), another Intelligence Committee member. He added that it was “entirely appropriate” for Trump to take action against Brennan.

But Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said it wasn’t enough for Brennan to be simply targeted as a critic: “That’s not a reason.” Hatch suggested more “serious accusations” would be required to cut off Brennan’s intelligence access.

And some members of both parties warned that Trump’s move could have national security implications. Former top intelligence officials are used frequently as resources for current national security teams as they navigate domestic and international crises.

“I have to see the basis for it. I think there are plenty examples of officials from administrations in both parties who have that clearance. And I think it’s a good thing to get counsel and advice,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

And with Trump mulling action against the clearances of more than a half-dozen other current former officials, some senators are worried about precedent that the president is setting.

“It was almost, in effect, … a Nixonian enemies list,” said Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. “It is not the way our national security and intelligence has worked for decades, where we ask intelligence professionals to speak truth to power.”

Warner said he needs to talk to Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) about whether there is any action Congress can or should take. But he doubted whether the GOP would be willing to challenge Trump on the matter.

Indeed, it was clear that the bulk of the party is siding with Trump in a tit-for-tat with a former CIA director whose confirmation few Senate Republicans voted for in 2013.

“I’m not a big fan of Mr. Brennan. I think he has cheapened the status of our national security intelligentsia in this country,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

“I have wondered for years and years why people … are in civilian life, they’ve been in civilian life, and they still have all these clearances. Maybe they need them for a year of transition. But in perpetuity? That’s more than being generous,” said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a former Intelligence chairman.

Elana Schor contributed to this report.

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Mexico, U.S. may be heading toward NAFTA deal amid Trump’s global trade war

President Donald Trump could be poised to make a deal with Mexico on NAFTA even as he engages in a trade war with the rest of the world.

Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo arrived in Washington on Wednesday — as he has every week for the past month — to hammer out some of the most contentious issues on NAFTA. U.S. and Mexican officials now say they could be on the verge of announcing a preliminary agreement on everything from complicated automotive rules to environmental regulations by the end of August.

The apparent turnaround after months of stalemate is a surprise outcome of discussions reaching their year anniversary on Thursday. And while the two sides have yet to bring Canada, the third partner in NAFTA, into the latest round, the negotiators’ optimistic tone could signal that Trump may be ready to extinguish at least one trade conflagration before the midterms. That would placate Republicans who have been calling for a return to stability as the U.S. and China have been slapping tariffs on each other’s exports, roiling international markets and burdening American farmers.

“We’re settling in for the long haul with China, so we really need to release the pressure in our backyard,” said Dan Ujczo, an international trade lawyer who specializes in Canada-U.S. matters. “I think that’s a driving force for the U.S.’ desire to get a deal right now.”

To be sure, some major controversial issues remain unresolved, including the U.S. proposal to automatically terminate the pact after five years unless all three countries agree to renew it — an idea that Canada and Mexico have both rejected outright. And for the time being, at least, Canada still remains on the outside of the current talks.

But reaching even a bare-bones agreement on NAFTA before November’s elections would hand a concrete victory to Trump, who would likely point to the revamped pact as a symbol that his strong-arm tactics have worked, industry sources and experts closely following the talks say. It would also allow U.S. trade officials to clear a major task off their agenda and dedicate more time to areas where U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in particular has wanted to focus, primarily trade issues with China.

At the same time, Mexican negotiators are also under renewed pressure to get a deal after the country elected a new leader who takes office in December and who badly wants NAFTA to be signed and off his plate before then. Mexico has pointed to Aug. 25 as the date by which it must wrap up at least a preliminary agreement for outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto to be able to sign the deal before he leaves office.

Those domestic politics have put Guajardo in a tough position, as he tries to appease the incoming Mexican administration and quickly wrap up a deal while still standing up firmly against some U.S. proposals that Mexico has repeatedly derided as unworkable.

“They’re under a lot of pressure to just come up with anything, whatever it is,” one source close to the talks said, requesting anonymity to speak freely about internal deliberations. “What I’ve been hearing from other Mexican parties is that Ildefonso was sort of distraught and frazzled by the fact that he’s being asked to wrap it up, and that of course means making concessions that he wasn’t ready to make. It lowers his negotiating potential.”

Against that backdrop, sources close to the talks say Mexico appears to be poised to accept large swaths of a U.S. proposal involving the rules that govern North American-produced automobiles and dictate what percentage of each car must be sourced from within a NAFTA country to qualify for reduced duties under the agreement.

At the U.S.’ urging, Mexico looks likely to agree to an increase in the overall amount of North American-sourced content that must be included in each automobile, and will accept a requirement that a certain percentage of each car must be produced by workers earning at least $16 an hour, sources say. Mexico is also poised to accept mandates that a certain percentage of the steel, aluminum and plastic included in each vehicle is also sourced from a NAFTA country.

In exchange, the United States would be prepared to give up a controversial proposal that would have made it easier for American fruit and vegetable growers to make the case that Mexico is selling produce at unfairly low prices when crops are in season in a particular region, two sources with knowledge of the trade-off told POLITICO. The U.S. would also submit to Mexico’s demand to leave a chapter largely untouched that contains rules on disputes between governments, one of the sources said.

“Essentially, there is a deal,” one of the sources said.

At the same time, however, other major aspects of the renegotiation remain unfinished. Chief among them is the so-called sunset clause that the U.S. wants, which would end the pact after five years unless the parties opt to continue it. Several sources close to the talks say the sunset clause has hardly been discussed during the latest set of meetings between the U.S. and Mexico, and the two countries still remain on opposite sides.

And Canada will need to come to the table for a deal to be finalized. Officials from all three countries have sought to emphasize that the U.S.-Mexico engagement is not a sign of ill will toward Canada but is instead an attempt to work out bilateral issues before bringing Ottawa back into the fold.

But negotiators had expected that Washington and Mexico City would have made enough progress by now for Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to have joined the meetings in Washington. The more time that passes, the more likely it is that the strategy to put off a trilateral meeting could backfire, a source close to the talks said.

“Yes, there’s U.S.-Mexico momentum — that’s a positive message and great from Mexico’s point of view,” the source said. “But the longer it takes to bring in Canada, the less likely this is going to get done in the short term.”

Still, any incremental progress, or even the fact that the U.S. and Mexico are continuing to engage in good-faith negotiations and regular meetings, has offered a signal of some hope to U.S. farmers, consumers and industry groups who have been worn out by months of uncertainty and pummeled by retaliatory tariffs imposed over the past few months.

Retailers and business groups are reluctant to throw their support at this point behind a deal that is still unfinished, particularly when a number of proposals that some have termed poison pills remain on the table.

But at the same time, “I think what all of our members want, what the business industry at large wants, is certainty,” said Vanessa Sciarra, a former U.S. trade negotiator who now works as a vice president at the National Foreign Trade Council. “Anything that provides for greater clarity on trade relationships, particularly with Mexico and Canada … would be helpful.”

Adam Behsudi contributed to this report.

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‘Abolish Prisons’ Is the New ‘Abolish ICE’

It’s no secret that the criminal justice system in America needs fixing—everyone from Jared Kushner to Cory Booker agrees. And while the Koch brothers might not go so far as Elizabeth Warren to outright label it “racist … front to back,” politically speaking, this is one rare issue that seems increasingly bipartisan. Just last week, President Trump held a roundtable with governors, state attorneys general and other officials on the topic of prison reform, and the administration is reportedly working behind the scenes with congressional leaders to pass sweeping legislation that could touch everything from sentencing reform to helping former inmates get jobs.

It’s an admirable effort to bring together a traditionally tough-on-crime Republican Party with a Democratic Party whose criminal justice platform has in recent years, according to the Marshall Project, grown to more and more reflect the “fingerprints of the Black Lives Matter movement and Bernie Sanders.”

But for some leftist activists, prison reform is not enough and, in some cases, may even be counterproductive. For these activists, the word “abolish” that has been trending lately with reference to immigration enforcement and the death penalty is a nod to a more ambitious movement that has been building for decades and for which getting rid of ICE would only be the beginning of a far more radical set of changes.

That is the movement to abolish prisons—and more broadly, the entire penal and policing system—in America. Proponents envision a future society in which, rather than having better carceral conditions than we have today, there exist literally no prisons at all.

At first blush, the idea might seem fringe and unreasonable; where, for instance, would all the criminals go? What happens to rapists and murderers? But the movement’s backers counter that it is the only truly humane direction we can head in as a society—that is, if we really aspire to live in a world rid of interpersonal harm and racial inequality. And they might actually be making headway.

I spoke with several advocates for prison abolition—or “abolitionists,” as most simply refer to themselves—and they’re not just old Marxist philosophers or Norwegian criminologists but rather a group of young, mostly black lawyers, academics, artists, authors and community organizers. Some have had, or still have, close family members incarcerated; others were incarcerated themselves. They certainly don’t all have the same backgrounds or life experiences, but they’re each resolute about one thing: The criminal justice system as we know it is inherently cruel, perpetuates systemic racism, and must be overhauled completely.

“It’s not necessarily about tearing down the prison walls tomorrow,” says Maya Schenwar, who wrote Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better. “Maybe we’d be better off than we are right now if we did that,” she adds, “but it’s not going to happen.”

Rather, Schenwar argues, “abolition is the acceptance of an understanding that prison does not work to any good ends.” “It works to uphold white supremacy; it works to uphold capitalism; it works to uphold oppression; but it doesn’t actually work to keep us safe or to protect society in any way that is productive.”

Many involved in this modern-day abolition movement, Georgetown law professor Allegra McLeod tells me, understand their work as a continuation of the earlier movement to abolish slavery.

“There is overwhelming evidence that mass incarceration evolved as an outgrowth of Jim Crow laws, which itself was a system rooted in the subjugation of former slaves,” Democratic phenom Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote in an online essay embracing the abolish-prisons cause. “According to legal scholar Michelle Alexander, there are more African-Americans under correctional control today than were enslaved in 1850—that is, before the Civil War.”

In fact, McLeod notes, the connection is a surprisingly direct one: Although slavery was abolished in 1865, the 13th amendment notably includes an exception to allow it as a punishment for convicted criminals. Think prison labor—from chain gangs toiling along the highway to inmates doing simple manufacturing jobs for private companies. As the Economist reported last year, “Most convicted inmates either work for nothing or for pennies at menial tasks that seem unlikely to boost their job prospects.” Last week, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation even boasted on Twitter about using inmates, including “youth offenders,” to fight the wildfires.

But if that’s not enough, the racial disparities in policing and imprisonment are well-documented, especially in recent popular media such as Michelle Alexander’s bestselling book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness or Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated documentary “13th.” This concept of a racialized mass incarceration has become so ubiquitous that when Republican Senator Rand Paul acknowledged it in a 2016 presidential primary debate, his comments made hardly a stir on the right.

“The idea with those earlier movements for abolition was both that slavery would be eliminated and that a new, democratic and more egalitarian order would take shape in its wake,” says McLeod. “Although there have been many complicated twists and turns,” she says, “there’s been an incomplete reckoning.”


Every abolitionist I spoke with agrees that the movement was pioneered predominantly by black feminists of the late 20th century, particularly by Angela Davis, the academic, activist and author who published a book in 2003 titled Are Prisons Obsolete? A bible of sorts for the abolitionist movement, the book outlines with surprising depth in a short 128 pages the historical and sociological arguments for eliminating rather than reforming prisons.

Thirty-three years earlier, Davis herself was incarcerated, prompting James Baldwin to write in an open letter to her in the New York Review of Books: “One might have hoped that, by this hour, the very sight of chains on black flesh, or the very sight of chains, would be so intolerable a sight for the American people, and so unbearable a memory, that they would themselves spontaneously rise up and strike off the manacles. But, no, they appear to glory in their chains; now, more than ever, they appear to measure their safety in chains and corpses.”

At that time, the U.S. prison population was just over 200,000. By 1998, when Davis and a few others would organize an abolitionist conference called Critical Resistance, that number had grown to over 1,200,000. The intervening years had seen the “War on Crime” and a “War on Drugs,” both of which disproportionately targeted African-Americans, take hold. In 2018, the U.S. prison population is over 2,200,000, far and away the most people behind bars of any country in the world.

As for abolitionism, however, Mohamed Shehk, the communications director of Critical Resistance, the organization that grew out of the conference 20 years ago, tells me that he is absolutely sure the movement has become more popular in academic spheres, activist arenas and elsewhere and is continuing to resonate with more and more people. In 2015, the National Lawyers Guild adopted a resolution in support of prison abolition, and today, the abolition of police and prisons is one of the platform tenets of the Democratic Socialists of America – the growing leftist group that fiercely backed Ocasio-Cortez.

There’s also money behind the movement. Like most criminal justice advocacy organizations, Shehk says, the explicitly abolitionist Critical Resistance gets most of its funding from small grassroots donations, but it also receives significant financial backing—he wouldn’t say how much—from several bigger philanthropic institutions such as the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program, Craigslist Charitable Fund and the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.

But Baldwin was right about the politics, according to Schenwar: “A really big obstacle to people even being open to the idea of abolition is this persistent idea that we need prisons to keep us safe.” Schenwar believes that a safe society can be achieved without locking anybody up.

Well-meaning conservatives and liberals, several abolitionists lamented to me, are often much more comfortable with advocating for “prison reform.” The House passed such a bill — supported and opposed on both sides of the aisle—earlier this year. But many reforms, abolitionists say, are often counterproductive to their movement.

“There are certain reforms that seek to fix or improve or tweak the way that the prison industrial complex functions,” Shehk says, “and then there are reforms that actually seek to chip away at its power.” It’s the latter that abolitionists seek, he says.

Regarding the prison industrial complex — a term many abolitionists use to refer to the collective of prisons, jails, detention centers and the structures that support them like bail, police and more — Schenwar says, “Once we understand that basically its roots are rotten, then we understand that we can’t just replace certain aspects of it or improve it or make prison kinder and gentler; we actually have to uproot it.”

Rev. Jason Lydon, the formerly incarcerated founder of the LGBT-oriented abolitionist organization Black and Pink, tells me that so much of prison reform is about making distinctions between “good prisoners” and “bad prisoners.” “We are not looking to free some while demonizing others,” he declares. Rather, he explains, “Abolitionists say: ‘Actually, let’s not use punishment as a method of addressing harm.’”


Challenging the entire concept of punishment is, according to some abolitionists, the biggest hurdle they must overcome when trying to gain new supporters.

“It’s really, really hard for people to imagine a world without prisons, but we had that world before,” Kim Wilson — an artist with a Ph.D. in public policy and co-host of Beyond Prisons, a podcast on incarceration and prison abolition—tells me. “‘Reform’ is what got us to what we have today.”

There’s some truth to this: Historian Harry Elmer Barnes estimated in 1921 that the advent of prisons as the conventional response to crime in the United States happened sometime during the 18th century as a result of reformists advocating against corporal punishment.

“The system that we currently have is supposed to be more humane than if we just tortured someone,” Wilson says, “but we’re just torturing people in a different way.”

The most fundamental issue with retributive justice, pretty much every abolitionist I spoke with tells me, is that it dehumanizes people who have committed crimes. Rather, they believe, as DSA’s Bianca Cunningham puts it, “that we should be implementing policies that are treating people like human beings that make mistakes and not like animals.”

“We have come to think of murderers, rapists, child molesters,” Shehk says, “as deviants that are just kind of running wild, as though these people are not our brothers, our sisters, our uncles, our neighbors, etc. And this kind of demonization and flattening of people works to reproduce the narrative that there are people that are deserving to be locked in a cage even for life.”

“I think we can live in a society that is based on mutual support and love instead of punishment and prison. That is not a radical thing,” Carlton Williams, an abolitionist lawyer in Boston, tells me, adding, “but that’s the most radical thing you can ever say in the world.”

It’s not surprising, Williams says, that people instinctively feel an inclination to punish—the “we’re going to hurt you because you hurt someone else” mentality is understandable, he offers.

One of the most difficult conversations to have, Williams admits, is a critique of retributive justice with victims. “It’s hard to tell someone who experienced sexual violence that their rapist shouldn’t be punished.”

Similarly, Page May, a community organizer in Chicago, says, “I’ve worked with families who have lost loved ones by police violence, and they want the cops to go to jail.”

Lydon tells me that as a preacher and an abolitionist, he has dedicated his life to challenging the idea “that people who have been wronged in some way should feel transformed by the punishment of the person who has wronged them.”

“People want a simple solution for sure, and right now all we offer is prison or nothing,” May says. “And for a long, long time, if you experienced domestic violence or sexual violence, you couldn’t even get that. That was what people had to fight for.”

But May also says she stands firm in the belief that “there’s more to justice than putting someone in a cage.”

“Abolition,” she says, “is not just the absence of prisons. It’s the presence of alternatives. Right now, we have a justice system that, when something goes wrong, asks two questions: Who did it? And how do we punish them? That’s not working.”

“Instead we need a justice system that, when harm happens, asks new questions,” she adds. “Who was harmed? How do we help them? And how do we make sure this never happens again?”


Many who balk at the idea of abolition believe that prisons are, in fact, the answer for crime prevention and deterrence, Williams says. Those people, he and many others are convinced, are wrong.

“The logic behind deterrence,” writes criminologist David Scott in Why Prison?, “is firmly rooted in the utilitarian calculus that to deter the rational offender requires the pain of imprisonment to outweigh the pleasure derived from ‘crime.’”

Yet a 2013 report by the National Institute of Justice found that it doesn’t actually work that way. “Sending an individual convicted of a crime to prison isn’t a very effective way to deter crime,” the report concludes. And with 3 out of 4 released prisoners re-arrested within 5 years, incarceration doesn’t even seem able to prevent recidivism.

Williams tells me that his go-to tactic for discussing abolition with those who think prisons are meant for deterrence is to get them to realize that they share a common goal: making prisons obsolete. “If you were fully successful in this prison idea and the prison idea actually worked, you would start to move toward a place where you no longer need [prisons], wouldn’t you? Unless you just think some people are evil at the core.”

It is indisputable, however, that there are some people —“the dangerous few,” McLeod calls them—who pose a risk to society.

When people predictably ask Wilson, “What about the murderers and rapists?”, she says she understands why they might feel a concern about letting certain people free, but she responds in two ways. First, she says, “It’s an oversimplification of humanity to dichotomize good people and bad people.” And second, she asks back, rhetorically, “You realize that not all murderers and rapists are locked up?”

“We’re not going to incarcerate our way out of social problems. We’re not going to incarcerate our way out of domestic violence or any other kind of physical harm,” Wilson says, “so we need other ways to address it.”

If we truly cared about preventing crime, Wilson says, our quest would not be to cage as many murderers and rapists as we can, but rather to figure out “what conditions exists in people’s interpersonal relationships, in their homes, in their communities that lead someone to commit harm.”

Furthermore, Williams adds, “If people look at the numbers and say, ‘I want to stop rapes from happening in this country,’ they would pretty much only work on the conditions in prisons, because that’s where rapes happen.”

Other abolitionists argue that prisons keep Americans from addressing our real challenges. As Schenwar wrote in her book: “Incarceration serves as the default answer to many of the worst social problems plaguing this country — not because it solves them, but because it buries them. By isolating and disappearing millions of Americans (more than 2.3 million, making us the most incarcerated nation on the planet), prison conveniently disappears deeply rooted issues that society—or rather, those with power in society—would rather not attend to.”


So, if not prisons, then what? What would an abolitionist world actually look like? And how do we get there?

“People always ask me: What can we do to replace prisons? And they’re hoping for a kind of monolithic institution that comes in to replace the institution of prison,” says Schenwar, “and that’s actually antithetical to abolition.”

Abolitionists tell me that their approach instead, while ambitious in its overarching goal, is measured and multi-pronged. “Stop/Shrink/Build” is how feminist scholar Julia C. Oparah describes the work of abolitionists in a chapter of Why Prison?

“Abolition is both an effort to gradually decarcerate and gradually reduce reliance on policing and imprisonment to manage social, economic, and political problems,” McLeod says, “and at one and the same time, it is an effort to build the sort of world we want to live in, one where the problems that the prison and policing now address—problems like mental illness, addiction, poverty, interpersonal violence — are addressed, rather than through one size-fits-all solutions like the prison, through constellations of alternatives that communities devise in order to address those sorts of problems.”

Decarceration efforts—the stopping and shrinking—I’m told, include efforts to reduce the expansion or increased funding of jails, detention centers, prisons and police forces as well as campaigns for reduced sentences and the release of inmates. They also include the decriminalization of certain things like drug use and homelessness as well as the end of the cash bail system and more. On some — but not all — of these fronts, progress is being made.

“A lot of the work is not super sexy. It’s not going to make the news,” May says.

The oft-held assumption that abolitionists are naïve at best, anarchical at worst, seems a misconception. The third — and probably most crucial — component of the abolitionist vision is the positive, not negative, changes they advocate for, like investment in education and healthcare. And with new and old members of the Democratic Party starting to embrace more leftist policy ideas, they’ve got a not-unrealistic shot at making political gains in this realm.

“Abolition is just as much about building up what we want to see as it is about tearing down the institutions and structures that we want to get rid of,” Shehk says.

“We’re saying we need money for schools, not police. We need money for housing, not prisons,” May says.

“We need to build up actual generative institutions, supportive institutions, like health care, mental health care, education, the arts. All of these things are important for a good society. Those things are our abolitionist goals,” says Schenwar.

As for what to do with criminals, Shehk pointed me to efforts at what is known as “restorative justice”—an alternative to punishment that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders and restitution to victims—such as those being tried out in some schools in Denver and courts in Chicago. He also mentioned efforts at another anti-retribution approach known as “transformative justice,” which focuses on creating conditions for healing for victims and safety through preventative measures for communities. This latter model is being tested by a number of non-profits across the country for addressing things even as serious as child sexual abuse.

There are still a number of political obstacles to achieving meaningful, abolition-oriented prison reform: powerful interests such as private corporations and police and prison guard unions stand to profit from the maintenance and expansion of the prison industrial complex, not to mention politicians who fear being tagged as soft on crime.

But public opinion might be swaying toward the side of the abolitionists, at least in part. According to a recent poll, 60 percent of Americans believe rehabilitation is more appropriate than punishment for non-violent offenses, which seems to be part of a broader trend away from punitive approaches to dealing with crime. Abolitionists simply want to take that kind of empathy a step further to eventually include violent offenders as well.

“We actually have power as people to change the system and change it to be more equitable, change it to be more just, change it to be more compassionate, change it to be more humane. I think that’s the hill that we have to climb,” says Cunningham.

Although they frequently find themselves dismissed as dreamers, several of the abolitionists I spoke with pointed to something Angela Davis wrote 15 years ago: “Slavery, lynching, and segregation are certainly compelling examples of social institutions that, like the prison, were once considered to be as everlasting as the sun. Yet, in the case of all three examples, we can point to movements that assumed the radical stance of announcing the obsolescence of these institutions.”

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Primary night: Democrats plot a Midwest comeback

Democrats are hoping to kickstart a comeback in the Midwest in Tuesday’s primaries, picking candidates to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and succeed Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in Minnesota.

President Donald Trump’s victory in Wisconsin and narrow loss in Minnesota spurred renewed Democratic activism in both states. Party leaders hope to channel that enthusiasm into both governor’s races and reelecting Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), one of 10 Democratic senators up for reelection in states Trump carried. A wide field of Democrats led by state education official Tony Evers jumped in to face Walker, their longtime nemesis, while several prominent Minnesota Democrats leaped at the open governor’s race there, including Attorney General Lori Swanson and Rep. Tim Walz, as well as party-endorsed state legislator Erin Murphy.

Fielding strong candidates who can win those gubernatorial races would help Democrats rebuild their diminished party in the Midwest and, crucially, guarantee them a seat at the table for the next round of congressional and state legislative redistricting in 2021 and 2022 — eight years after Wisconsin Republicans locked in major midterm gains by controlling the redistricting process.

“It’s a classic midterm election where the ‘out’ party has a terrific opportunity to win,” said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin. “That’s what happened the other way in in 2010 and 2014. Now it’s our turn. We don’t want to go overboard but I think we are very hopeful of reversing a lot of the Republican gains over the last several cycles.”

But Republicans want to keep building on Trump’s 2016 showing. They’ve spent more than $12 million in the primary to pick Baldwin’s opponent and could potentially re-nominate ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty for his old job in Minnesota. The GOP is also targeting two Democratic-held House seats in Minnesota, where both parties are watching Tuesday’s primaries for signals about the competitiveness of the fall general elections.

Republicans are also eyeing Connecticut, where retiring Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy has low approval ratings, as an opportunity to pick off a governorship in the usually-blue Northeast. Five Republicans are jockeying for the nomination, including David Stemerman, a hedge fund founder who loaned his campaign $10 million and has cast himself as “a pure outsider and turnaround specialist,” said Phil Cox, the former executive director of the Republican Governors Association.

Another New England primary offers a chance at history: Vermont Democrats could nominate Christine Hallquist, who would be the first openly transgender governor in the country if she wins, to run against Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern in Vermont, 8 p.m. in Connecticut and 9 p.m. in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Here’s a state-by-state look at what’s on the ballot:


Evers, the state superintendent of education, has led in polls of the Democratic gubernatorial primary thanks to wide name recognition. But a number of other candidates are also seeking to take on Walker, including former state legislator Kelda Roys and firefighters union president Mahlon Mitchell.

The crowded Democratic primary for governor split the donor money in that race, but outside money has poured into Republicans’ Senate primary. State Sen. Leah Vukmir and Kevin Nicholson, a veteran and businessman, each have their own billionaire super PAC-funding backers. The Wisconsin GOP Party and House Speaker Paul Ryan are also backing Vukmir, but megadonor Richard Uihlein has spent $10 million to boost Nicholson, who has cast himself as a political outsider. Recent public polling shows the race essentially tied with a chunk of undecided voters.

Another top House race will decide House Speaker Paul Ryan’s replacement in southeastern Wisconsin, after Ryan announced that he would not seek reelection in 2018. Ryan endorsed Bryan Steil, a state board of regents member, in the Republican primary, but he must first emerge from a crowded race, which includes Paul Nehlen, a businessman who’s made anti-Semitic comments.

Randy Bryce, an ironworker who has raised millions of dollars after going viral on social media last year, and Cathy Myers, a Janesville school board member, are battling for the Democratic nomination.


Democrats hope to hold on to the governor’s mansion, but the primary highlights all the tensions currently at play in the party.

Public polling shows Swanson and Walz as frontrunners, despite state Rep. Erin Murphy’s support from the state party after winning the convention vote earlier this year. But Walz, who represented a red-tinted, rural district, has come under fire for his one-time “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. Murphy is tacking to the left, running on a progressive, Medicare-for-all platform.

On the Republican side, Pawlenty is trying to make a comeback. But the one-time presidential candidate and head of the Financial Services Roundtable, where he oversaw the finance industry’s lobbyists in Washington, has to handle a primary from Jeff Johnson. And if Pawlenty nabs the nomination, he’ll be forced to walk a careful line between alienating the Trump base and the president’s falling approval numbers in the state.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) is running in her first primary, seeking to complete former Sen. Al Franken’s term after he resigned over sexual harassment allegations. Republican voters are choosing GOP nominees to go up against both Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison, who jumped into the attorney general’s race, has also come under fire since the weekend, after the son of an ex-girlfriend accused the congressman of domestic violence. Ellison denies the allegations, but it’s not clear what kind of impact they could have on the primary to succeed Swanson as attorney general.

Down the ballot, both parties are eyeing a handful of House primaries. Republicans, hoping to offset losses elsewhere in a tough midterm election, believe they have a shot at flipping two open Minnesota House seats that Trump won by double-digits. Democratic incumbents opted against seeking reelection in both seats.

In Minnesota’s 1st District, businessman Jim Hagedorn and Carla Nelson, a state legislator, are battling to replace Walz in a district Trump carried by 15 points. Democrats expect Dan Feehan, a veteran and former Obama administration official, to carry their banner, but he’ll face an uphill battle in a rural seat that has trended rapidly away from his party.

Republicans are already touting St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, their candidate to replace retiring Rep. Rick Nolan for his Iron Range-based seat that backed Trump by 16 points. Democrats, for their part, are hoping to see former state Rep. Joe Radinovich survive a five-candidate primary, seeing him as the only Democrat with the resources to take on Stauber in the fall.

A pair of perennial battleground matchups will also be settled on Tuesday. Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) is expected to face off again against his 2016 opponent, health care executive Angie Craig. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.) will likely face Dean Phillips, a businessman, for his suburban Minneapolis seat.


Malloy’s poor job approval numbers have put Republicans on offense. Five GOP candidates are running for a shot at the open governorship, including Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, former banking executive Bob Stefanowski, Trumbull First Selectman Tim Herbst, consulting executive Steve Obsitnik and David Stemerman, a self-funding hedge fund founder.

Democrats expect to nominate Ned Lamont, a businessman who shot to fame in 2006 when he defeated Sen. Joe Lieberman in a primary, before Lieberman won the general election as an independent. Lamont has distanced himself from Malloy.

An insider-versus-outsider primary is playing out in the race to replace Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who retired after mishandling a sexual misconduct claim against a former staffer. Jahana Hayes, a first-time candidate who was named “National Teacher of the Year” in 2016, would be the first African-American to represent the state in Congress. But Mary Glassman, a longtime local politician, is seen as the frontrunner in the race.


Democrats in the state are poised to pick Christine Hallquist, the former Vermont Electric Coop CEO, as their nominee, who if elected, would be the first openly transgender woman to serve as governor.

“Christine will be a historic figure if she wins the nomination, whether or not she becomes the governor,” former Houston Mayor Annise Parker told POLITICO earlier this month. “If she becomes the governor, she has the potential to be a role model for every trans kid in America.”

But Scott, first elected in 2016, holds a wide margin in name recognition over his Democratic opponents in public polling, even though his job approval rating dropped off in the last year.

Daniel Strauss contributed reporting.

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Live election analysis: Aug. 14 primaries

Follow along as POLITICO reporters and editors analyze the results as they come in.

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GOP megadonors clash in 2018's costliest Senate primary

The most expensive Senate primary of 2018 and a pair of gubernatorial primaries key to Democrats’ Midwestern comeback attempt are up for grabs Tuesday, along with a handful of contests crucial to the battle for House control in November.

In Wisconsin, Republicans have seen more than $12 million in outside spending before they choose between two candidates competing to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin, one of the 10 Democratic incumbents seeking reelection in states President Donald Trump carried in 2016. Democrats in the state will pick a candidate to face Gov. Scott Walker, a longtime nemesis who has weakened public-sector unions.

The parties are also clashing over four of Minnesota’s eight House districts, and primaries Tuesday in two of them — on opposite ends of the state — could go a long way in determining which party has the advantage in the general election.

Meanwhile, Tuesday also presents chances at political comebacks for two bold-faced names from the last decade: Ned Lamont in Connecticut, and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern in Vermont, 8 p.m. in Connecticut and 9 p.m. in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Here are six things to watch as the results come in:

Outside-versus-inside in Wisconsin

State Sen. Leah Vukmir has the backing of the state Republican Party, House Speaker Paul Ryan and key allies and even family members of Gov. Scott Walker. But businessman and veteran Kevin Nicholson has one very deep-pocketed backer: GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein, who has financed several groups that spent around $10 million on the airwaves boosting Nicholson.

Vukmir also has a billionaire backer, Diane Hendricks, but she has leaned more on a May endorsement from the state GOP, calling herself a proven conservative and campaigning on her role enacting Walker’s conservative agenda. Walker himself has stayed neutral in the race — he’ll share the ballot with whoever wins — but his wife endorsed Vukmir, his son is working on her campaign and operatives from his past campaigns are running a pro-Vukmir super PAC.

Nicholson has branded himself as a political outsider and on his record as a businessman and Marine, hoping to catch fire with Trump supporters who liked his anti-Washington message. Pro-Vukmir groups have attacked him for his past as a Democrat, but he’s attempted to use his conversion to the Republican Party as a positive.

Recent polls have shown a close race with a substantial group of undecided voters. Democrats are hoping the negativity of the race will leave the nominee bruised and broke heading into the general election against Baldwin.

But Republicans have already prepared themselves for the quick turnaround after the primary. The state GOP has specifically avoided going negative in the race so it is prepared to activate on behalf of Nicholson if he prevails. And Uihlein and Hendricks are co-chairing a fundraiser Friday for the primary winner.

Democrats’ picks in the upper Midwest

If it’s an even-numbered year, Scott Walker is running. First there was his 2010 election, which wrested the Wisconsin governor’s mansion from Democrats. Then it was the 2012 recall, when Democrats, angry over Walker’s move to strip public unions of collective-bargaining rights, unsuccessfully tried to boot him from Madison. After Walker won a hard-fought reelection in 2014, he quickly trained his eyes on the White House — but flamed out early in the nominating process. He returned to Wisconsin seriously wounded, with plummeting approval ratings.

Walker’s poll numbers have recovered somewhat, but Democrats still believe that the national environment, combined with voters’ Walker fatigue, gives them a good chance to deny him a third term.

First, Democrats have to pick a candidate among the 10 on the ballot. There’s been very little reliable polling of the race, but those surveys show only one candidate gaining much traction at all: Tony Evers, the state superintendent of public instruction.

Meanwhile, Democrats will also pick their nominee for governor in Minnesota, where the party is looking to hold onto the governor’s mansion after Mark Dayton’s two terms; the Democrat isn’t seeking a third. The race is a three-way contest between state Attorney General Lori Swanson, Rep. Tim Walz and state Rep. Erin Murphy.

The state’s Democrat-Farmer-Labor Party endorsement process has loomed large in the race. Murphy captured the imprimatur at the state party convention this year, while Swanson entered the race only because the party endorsed a challenger to her candidacy for reelection as attorney general.

‘Sam’s Club’ Republican meets the Trump era

When Pawlenty first ran for governor of Minnesota in 2002, he said the GOP had to be “the party of Sam’s Club, not the country club.”

Now he’s running for governor again, after years working for the financial industry in Washington, seeking the nomination of a party whose leader just spent two weeks governing and golfing at his own, eponymous country club. But despite that dissonance, the Republican Party has changed — and in the general direction Pawlenty had prescribed.

Trump put Minnesota on the map in the 2016 presidential race by turning traditionally blue, working-class corners of the state red — but he also ceded ground in the Twin Cities suburbs, as more-educated white voters fled the GOP nominee. Trump ended up losing the state by 1.5 points.

In order to win back the governorship, Pawlenty must unite those two wings of the party. But the one-time White House hopeful faces a fight just to capture his party’s nomination. Limited polls give Pawlenty a slight edge over Jeff Johnson, the GOP nominee against Dayton in 2014.

But Johnson has a lot of material with which to work against Pawlenty, and so will the Democratic nominee in the fall, if the man known as “T-Paw” wins the nomination. After his aborted 2012 presidential bid, Pawlenty became president of the Financial Services Roundtable — essentially serving as the financial industry’s chief lobbyist in Washington.

Pawlenty isn’t the only aughts-era politico looking to make a comeback on Tuesday: Lamont — who unseated then-Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) in a Democratic primary in 2006, only to lose in the general election when Lieberman ran as an independent — is the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for Connecticut governor.

A GOP opportunity in Connecticut

While Lamont is favored in the Democratic primary, five Republicans have been battling for months for the GOP nomination.

The candidates are Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton; Tim Herbst, the 2014 GOP nominee for state treasurer; Steve Obsitnik, who unsuccessfully challenged Rep. Jim Himes in 2012; former GE executive Bob Stefanowksi; and former hedge fund manager David Stemerman, who has loaned his campaign $10 million.

Republicans sense an opening despite the state’s Democratic lean, given retiring Gov. Dannel Malloy’s putrid approval ratings. And a victory in Connecticut could allow Republicans to increase their ranks in New England, even as the party struggles elsewhere.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott faces one challenger in the Republican primary on Tuesday: Keith Stern, a grocer. Scott is favored to win reelection this fall.

Gov. Charlie Baker is virtually assured of reelection, even in bright-blue Massachusetts. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is a more narrow favorite to earn a second term to the north. A Suffolk University poll released last week showed a tied race in Maine, where Gov. Paul LePage is term-limited.

In addition to Connecticut, the GOP is on offense in Rhode Island, where a rematch is anticipated between Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and Allan Fung, whom she defeated in 2014. A WPRI-TV/Roger Williams University poll released last week showed the two candidates neck-and-neck in the general election.

A changing of the guard in Minnesota

Tuesday’s primaries could go a long way in determining whether Republicans can pick up a few House seats that could offset Democratic gains elsewhere in November, as the GOP tries to protect its fragile 23-seat edge in the House.

Walz, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, has represented the 1st District in Southern Minnesota for 12 years. But he chose to mount a statewide campaign rather than seek a seventh term in a district Trump carried by 15 points. The political ground shifted right under Walz’s feet in the mostly rural district: In the 2012 election, then-President Barack Obama won the district by a point.

Democrats are likely to nominate Dan Feehan, an Army veteran and former Obama administration official. Republicans are choosing Tuesday between Jim Hagedorn — who lost to Walz in both 2014 and 2016 — and state Sen. Carla Nelson. Most observers see Nelson as the stronger general-election candidate, but Hagedorn maintains name ID in the district and earned the endorsement of the state GOP.

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) made the same calculation in Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range as Walz down south: A statewide candidacy is preferable to running for another term in a district Trump won by 15 points. (Nolan is running for lieutenant governor on Tuesday.) Republicans have been touting their likely candidate: St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, who also got the coveted Trump Twitter endorsement on Monday.

Democrats, on the other hand, are hoping former state Rep. Joe Radinovich emerges from a five-way primary on Tuesday. They believe Radinovich, who managed Nolan’s 2016 campaign, is the only Democrat with the resources to take on Stauber in the fall.

The race for Paul Ryan’s seat

While the shock waves from Ryan’s retirement announcement earlier this year have subsided in Washington, they are still roiling his southeast Wisconsin congressional district, with competitive primaries in both parties.

On the Republican side, Ryan has endorsed Bryan Steil, a former Ryan aide and University of Wisconsin regent. But Steil faces four other opponents for the seat, including Paul Nehlan — Ryan’s 2016 primary challenger, who has made a series of racist and anti-Semitic comments.

Also on the ballot is Jeremy Ryan, who challenged Paul Ryan in 2014 and was described by the Janesville Gazette last week as “an enthusiastic marijuana smoker.”

The race for the Democratic nomination is between two candidates: ironworker Randy Bryce and Janesville school board member Cathy Myers. Bryce has been a fundraising machine, but he’s spent a lot, too: As of July 25, Bryce had raised $6.3 million for the cycle — and spent $4.6 million of it. Bryce would also bring some baggage to the race: He was arrested in 1998 for driving under the influence and later had his license suspended.

Trump carried the district by 10 points in 2016, and the GOP nominee will likely enter the general election as a slight favorite.

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Wisconsin Dems jump at chance to finally beat Walker

Wisconsin Democrats on Tuesday will choose from a field that once swelled to over a dozen candidates — an array of businessmen, state legislators, the mayor of Wisconsin’s most liberal city and the chief of the state firefighters union — to realize their long-elusive goal of defeating Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

But the clear frontrunner is state education superintendent Tony Evers, a 66-year-old white man who stands out in a year when Democrats have put forward high numbers of women, young people and first-time candidates for office. What Evers lacks in sizzle, Democrats are hoping he compensates for with a record of clashes with Walker over education that could energize his party and deny the Republican governor a third term.

After years of doing battle with unions and pushing conservative legislation, Walker may be the one Republican who gets Wisconsin Democrats as agitated as President Donald Trump does. And that, say some Democratic officials in the state, might be enough in a year like this.

“If there’s a rub on Tony Evers, it might be that he’s too nice,” said Joe Wineke, a former Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman. “But I’m not convinced Midwestern nice is going to be a bad thing in the year of Trump.”

While talk of rolling back Walker’s accomplishments has dominated the Democratic primary, Republicans have already sought to define the terms of the campaign. The Republican Party of Wisconsin has already focused attack ads on four candidates: Evers, former Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Matt Flynn, former state Rep. Kelda Roys, and Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell.

“I do think this is our big opportunity. This is a favorable year for Democrats. It’s a year in which women candidates and women voters are more energized and are being more successful than ever in modern political history,” said Roys.

The Democratic primary has hardly been the bareknuckle brawl one might expect from a big field in a divided state. But it has split money and endorsements over a broad range of candidates, leading the Democratic Governors Association to task a operative with building fundraising infrastructure for the eventual primary winner, to assure the nominee is able to compete with Walker’s campaign machine. That has given an edge to Evers, who has been elected statewide three times since 2009.

“We had a gubernatorial primary that really didn’t ever take off, and so for that reason Evers is a perfectly acceptable statewide figure who’s probably going to win,” said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin.

Evers has also embodied the anti-Walker mood, bashing Walker as “anti-education” and vowing to bring back funding for after school program and kindergarten in the next 2019 and 2021 budget.

“To beat Scott Walker we need a stronger vision for our future. Instead of investing a billion dollars in handouts to companies like Foxconn, I’m going to invest in our kids and our workers,” Evers said in an ad. The narrator adds: “What’s best for our kids is best for our state.”

The biggest criticism aimed at Evers came from Matt Flynn, another primary candidate, who’s argued that Evers, along with Mitchell and Roys, have run ineffective campaigns and would lose decisively against Walker in a general election matchup. Flynn has accused Evers of being a “politically naïve” candidate.

Mitchell, the labor leader, has rallied most of the other major Wisconsin unions to his side. He has run as a pragmatic liberal candidate who, as an African American, can appeal to minorities in the state and rally labor unions like no other candidate in the field.

But Roys, a former state representative, has highlighted her appeal to female voters with endorsements from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and her experience as the executive director of the NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin. Roys ran a celebrated primary ad that featured her breastfeeding her child.

As the Democrats have scrapped for votes within their party, Walker has been preparing for the sprint to the finish in the general election, amassing $4.8 million already. Since it’s never been completely clear who he will face in the general election, Walker and his team have worked to highlight his policy accomplishments, framing him as an education-focused governor, while also bashing as many of the Democratic candidates as possible.

“Scott Walker has delivered results and traveled the state tirelessly to share his vision with the people of Wisconsin, and now he’s built a campaign to win,” Walker senior adviser Brian Reisinger said in a statement. “Tens of millions of dollars in big government special interest money is lining up to distort his record of reform, but the governor will continue to offer a conservative model for others by running on his accomplishments and vision to keep Wisconsin working for generations to come.”

Once there’s a Democratic nominee, the contrast between Walker and the Democrat will crystallize, said Republican strategist Mark Graul.

“The governor has been in sort of a vacuum. Either you’re for Scott Walker or you’re not for Scott Walker. And after Tuesday I think it’ll be ‘either you’re for Scott Walker or whether it be Evers or Roys or Mitchell,'” Graul said. “So there will be a clear contrast of what people’s choices are going to be in November.”

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