August 13, 2020

The Trump campaign launched a lawsuit against two Iowa counties on Wednesday, suing the counties for making it easy to vote by mail, reports The Associated Press.

The Democratic-leaning counties had distributed absentee ballot request forms that had pre-filled boxes with voters' names, dates of birth, and voting pin numbers. The idea was that voters could just sign and return the forms to get mail-in ballots ahead of November's election.

But the Trump campaign says tens of thousands of ballot applications should be invalidated because the process wrongly includes personal information, violating Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate's instruction that the request forms should be mailed blank to "ensure uniformity." Pate, a Republican, isn't suing the counties, but said his office is investigating.

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller, a Democrat, said the applications were pre-filled to avoid common mistakes. "I'm just trying to protect people in my community from the pandemic," he said, arguing the move was within his authority.

As Obama campaign manager and former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina put it, the attempt to "disenfranchise voters" isn't likely to earn the president many brownie points in a state where he's already walking a thin line.

Notably, the Trump campaign is not suing a Republican-leaning county in Iowa that did the exact same thing. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

3:16 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany is trying to spin President Trump's election fraud allegations back on Democrats.

In a Wednesday press conference, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he's not re-elected this fall, and alleged without evidence Democrats are running a "scam" to steal the election. The comments earned widespread condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike, and got a bit more clarity from McEnany on Thursday.

During Thursday's press conference, ABC News' Jon Karl asked McEnany if Trump would "assure us that there will be a peaceful transfer of power" should he lose this fall. McEnany tried to debate just how the Wednesday question was asked of Trump, but went on to affirm "the president will accept the results of a free and fair election." She then alleged Karl's question was "better to be asked of Democrats," and shared some quotes from Democrats in which they appeared to be challenging Trump's many attacks on the electoral process.

McEnany's response also remains complicated due to Trump's baseless suggestions that this will not be a free and fair election. While Trump has alleged attempted fraud, FBI Director Christopher Wray confirmed Thursday there was no evidence of a national effort to commit fraud "by mail or otherwise" this election or "historically." Kathryn Krawczyk

2:58 p.m.

Prosecutors are reportedly dropping prostitution charges against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Kraft in 2019 was charged for allegedly soliciting prostitution at a Palm Beach County massage parlor, but court papers filed on Thursday showed that the charges against him are being dropped, NBC News reports.

"Although there was probable cause to make an arrest, the evidence cannot prove all legally required elements of the crime alleged and is insufficient to support a criminal prosecution," a court filing said.

This comes after last month, the Florida 4th District Court of Appeal ruled that Jupiter police violated Kraft's rights by secretly installing cameras inside the spa's massage rooms, and the court said that video footage of Kraft allegedly paying for sex at the spa couldn't be used during the trial, The Associated Press reports. This decision was expected to lead to charges against Kraft being dropped after prosecutors did not appeal it. The owner and the manager of the spa still face charges in the case, per the AP.

Kraft had pleaded not guilty to the charges. He issued an apology in March 2019, though, saying, "I am truly sorry. I know I have hurt and disappointed my family, my close friends, my co-workers, our fans and many others who rightfully hold me to a higher standard." Brendan Morrow

Opinion
2:33 p.m.

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday released a proposed rule change putting new limits on visas for international students, exchange visitors (au pairs, visiting scholars, and the like), and foreign journalists. The rules for students especially have drawn immediate criticism because, as is so often the case with the Trump administration's immigration policy, they are needlessly onerous and cruel.

As it stands, the student visas in question don't have an expiration date — their duration is linked to the duration of study. The new rule would limit these visas to four years, regardless of degree length. But for students from certain countries, the limit would be just two years, typically half the time to complete a bachelor's degree. Students could request extensions, but they're not guaranteed. The risk of spending two years of time and tuition on a degree that can't be completed is likely great enough to deter many students from studying in America at all.

Those familiar with President Trump's past country-specific immigration rules won't be surprised to learn the stricter, two-year version applies overwhelmingly to nations in Africa and the Middle East, including many Muslim-majority countries. It does this by targeting the four nations on the state sponsors of terrorism list and, crucially, "citizens of countries with a student and exchange visitor total overstay rate of greater than 10 percent."

But overstay rate often doesn't correlate with overstay volume (India, for example, has more than 20 times as many overstays as Iraq, but a much lower percentage rate). Thus using the overstay rate limits student visas for what Trump would reportedly dub "shithole countries" via an ostensibly neutral formula while doing relatively little to cut down on total visa overstays.

Perhaps most galling of all is this metric's inclusion of nations like Afghanistan and Iraq, where the United States is actively at war and engaged in nation building, ostensibly spreading democracy and promoting education. Other countries we've invaded or otherwise subjected to military intervention — including Yemen, Vietnam, and Somalia — are on the list, too. Citizens of these countries get American bombs, but maybe not books. Bonnie Kristian

1:53 p.m.

After slamming him in a tell-all book, President Trump's niece is taking him to court.

Mary Trump, the president's niece who spoke out against him in her book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, filed a lawsuit against him in New York on Thursday, accusing the president and his siblings of fraud, NBC News reports.

The lawsuit claims that among the president, his sister Maryanne Trump Barry, and his late brother Robert Trump, "fraud was not just the family business — it was a way of life," and it accuses them of having "concocted scheme after scheme to cheat on their taxes, swindle their business partners, and jack up rents on their low income tenants."

Mary Trump also claims in the lawsuit that after the death of her father, Fred Trump Jr., the president and his siblings "fleeced her of tens of millions of dollars" of her inheritance after they "designed and carried out a complex scheme to siphon funds away from her interests, conceal their grift, and deceive her about the true value of what she had inherited," reports NBC.

President Trump previously attacked his niece after the publication of her tell-all book, calling her a "seldom seen niece who knows little about me," and the White House called Too Much and Never Enough a "book of falsehoods." White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also said Thursday that "the only fraud committed there was Mary Trump recording one of her relatives," referring to Mary Trump having secretly recorded conversations with Maryanne Trump Barry.

Mary Trump in a statement on Thursday alleged Trump and his siblings "betrayed me by working together in secret to steal from me" and said she's bringing the lawsuit "to hold them accountable and to recover what is rightfully mine." Brendan Morrow

1:32 p.m.

FBI Director Christopher Wray has affirmed there's no proof of a national attempt to defraud the 2020 election.

On Wednesday, President Trump refused to say whether he would peacefully give up power if Democratic nominee Joe Biden is elected this fall, once again repeating baseless allegations that Democrats are running a "scam." But in sworn testimony before Congress on Thursday, Wray said he's seen no evidence of this happening.

While Wray takes "voter fraud and voter suppression ... seriously" and is committed to investigating those situations, "We have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise," Wray said when questioned by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.). He has seen instances of local voter fraud, but "to change a federal election outcome by mounting that kind of fraud at scale would be a major challenge," Wray added.

Wray was Trump's pick to replace James Comey as FBI director, but Trump has reportedly been considering ousting Wray for months. Trump also publicly disparaged Wray on Twitter after the director made it clear Russia was trying to interfere in the 2020 election. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:49 a.m.

Republican congressmembers are calling out President Trump's election fraud allegations without actually calling him out.

In a Wednesday press conference, Trump refused to say if he would accept a loss in the 2020 election, instead baselessly suggesting Democrats are running a "scam" that "will end up in the Supreme Court." Democrats roundly accused Trump of acting like a "dictator," but Republicans waited until Thursday to issue gentler, less direct criticisms of their own.

The House's No. 3 Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) ensured in a tweet that "the peaceful transfer of power is enshrined in our Constitution."

While Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) guaranteed even though "it may take longer than usual to know the outcome," the 2020 presidential election will produce a "valid" winner. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) meanwhile brushed off Trump's comments as merely saying "crazy stuff," but said "We've always had a peaceful transition of power. It's not going to change."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) capped them off with a rare criticism, ensuring whoever wins the election will be inaugurated in January, and "there will be an orderly transition" of power when that happens. Kathryn Krawczyk

Kathryn Krawczyk

11:29 a.m.

President Trump on Thursday paid his respects to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and while doing so was booed by protesters in the area.

The president, alongside first lady Melania Trump, on Thursday visited the United States Supreme Court, where Ginsburg lay in repose after she died last week at 87. Video from the scene showed loud booing from nearby protesters, who could also be heard chanting "vote him out!" and "honor her wish!"

The latter chant was a reference to Ginsburg having dictated a statement to her granddaughter prior to her death saying that her "most fervent wish" was not to be replaced on the Supreme Court "until a new president is installed," as NPR reported. Trump earlier this week baselessly suggested Ginsburg's statement was made up, telling Fox News, "I don't know that she said that." Republicans are moving forward to fill Ginsburg's seat prior to the November election, and Trump has said he will announce his nominee on Saturday.

CNN's Kevin Liptak noted that it's "rare for this president to see his opposition this up-close and in-person" as he did on Thursday. Another example was in October 2019, when Trump attended Game 5 of the World Series in Washington, D.C. and was met with boos, as well as chants of "Lock him up!" Watch the moment below. Brendan Morrow

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