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Regardless of party, the 2018 primaries run through Trump

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WASHINGTON — In our divided political times, something unites both Democrats and Republicans running in key primaries this season: Most of them are talking about Trump.

Of course, there’s a difference in exactly how they’re talking about him. In Republican primaries, the conversation is about which candidate is more loyal to the president — or which candidate might have criticized him in the past.

  • Here’s Todd Rokita running in the May 8 Indiana Senate primary: “[GOP opponent] Luke Messer — he plotted with the Never-Trumpers to steal the nomination from President Trump… I’m Todd Rokita and I’ll proudly stand with our president and Mike Pence to drain the swamp,” he says in a TV ad as he dons a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
  • Here’s Messer’s own TV ad: “I’m Luke Messer. I get teamwork. That’s why I back President Trump’s agenda — tax cuts, pro-life and funding for our troops.” (Messer’s campaign also has seized on the news that Rokita called Trump “vulgar, if not profane” in a 2016 interview explaining why he backed Marco Rubio at the time.)
  • Here’s a TV ad from an outside group backing Republican Patrick Morrisey in the May 8 West Virginia GOP Senate primary: “Patrick Morrisey will move President Trump’s agenda forward.”
  • Here’s Republican Steve Braun running to fill Rokita’s House seat in Indiana: “Hoosiers are ready for ‘America First,’” he says in a TV ad.
  • And as the Washington Post recently spotlighted, here’s a TV ad from Republican Bill Schuette running in the August 7 gubernatorial primary in Michigan: “Supported by President Trump, Bill Schuette is the strong leader who can defeat the Granholm liberals.”

In Democratic primaries, meanwhile, the conversation is about which candidate is tougher on Trump, especially as a way to prove one’s progressive credentials. This anti-Trump contest, in fact, dates back to last year, when Virginia’s Ralph Northam was calling the president a “narcissistic maniac.”

  • Here’s a digital ad from Gwen Graham, who’s running in the increasingly competitive August 28 Democratic gubernatorial primary in Florida: “Donald Trump is an embarrassment. Donald Trump is an example of a bully.”
  • Here’s a TV ad from Democrat Steve Sisolak, who’s running in the June 12 Democratic gubernatorial primary in Nevada: “I’ve taken on bullies my whole life… Donald Trump is hurting Nevada families. He wants to take health care away from 200,000 Nevadans. He wants to break up families by deporting DREAMers.”

The Gwen Graham ad — much like the Northam one from last year — is especially striking, because it comes from a Dem candidate who, fairly or not, is being accused of not being sufficiently progressive. So playing the Trump card potentially neutralizes that. Bottom line: If you have primary problems, Trump is your elixir — in either supporting him (if you’re a Republican) or attacking him (if you’re a Democrat).

Trump White House hits the pause button on a trade war with China

“White House officials moved quickly on Wednesday to calm fears of a potential trade war with China, saying the administration’s proposed tariffs were a ‘threat’ that would ultimately help, not hurt, the United States economy, hours after China said it would punish American products with similar levies,” the New York Times writes.

“The administration’s insistence that a trade war was not imminent came as the United States and China traded tit-for-tat penalties that caused wild swings in stock markets from Hong Kong to New York.”

More: “White House officials reiterated on Wednesday that China must stop the ‘unfair’ trading practices President Trump believes have disadvantaged American companies and workers, but they held out the possibility that tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods outlined on Tuesday might never go into effect.

“‘There’s no trade war here,’ Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump’s new top economic adviser, said in an interview on Fox Business Network. He described the threat of tariffs as ‘just the first proposal’ in a process that would involve negotiations and back-channel talks. ‘I understand the stock market’s anxiety,” he said. “But on the other hand, don’t overreact.’”

By the way, here’s the front page of the Des Moines Register: “Tariffs may help to sink farmers.” (What is Trump’s ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, who was Iowa’s former governor, thinking right now?)

Facebook’s Zuckerberg to testify before Congress April 10-11

NBC News: “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees as well and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 10 and 11 respectively, the committees announced Wednesday.”

“The public testimony will be Zuckerberg’s first before the U.S. government and comes after Facebook has been the subject of broad criticism and numerous legal inquiries over how the user information of as many as 87 million Facebook users ended up in the possession of a data-analysis firm that worked with President Donald Trump’s election campaign.”

Our take: The problem that Facebook has right now is a credibility problem: Every time they give an explanation of what happened in 2016, we ultimately learn that it was worse than they said.

Scott Pruitt’s campaign to save his job

“EPA chief Scott Pruitt and his allies in the administration are on a mission to save his job — offering a blitz of interviews to friendly media outlets while separately accusing a former agency staffer of a cascade of damaging leaks,” per Politico. “But the White House made it clear Wednesday that President Donald Trump is not pleased with all the negative headlines surrounding him.”

One thing is for sure: Pruitt has a constituency inside the conservative movement. We’ll see if that’s enough to save his job.

Rundown on the 2018 midterms

In case you missed them, here are some of the recent midterm developments that we’ve chronicled on our “Rundown” blog: Per NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald, Democrats are hoping their next upset comes in the April 24 AZ-8 special election… Vulnerable GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., called on Pruitt to resign… And Joe Biden is hosting a fundraiser for Phil Bredesen in Tennessee on April 10.

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Iran targeting U.S. state voter rolls and spreading election propaganda, officials say

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The FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency both issued advisories Friday warning that Iran is spreading propaganda and targeting U.S. state websites, including election sites, in “an intentional effort to influence and interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”

The FBI sent a FLASH bulletin to various states, saying an Iranian group is “creating fictitious media sites and spoofing legitimate media sites to spread anti-American propaganda and misinformation about voter suppression.” It added, “This group has been linked to efforts to disseminate a propaganda video concerning voter fraud and hacking of U.S. voter information. The FBI advises this video is almost certainly intended to make U.S. voter information and the voting process appear insecure and susceptible to fraud.”

The CISA advisory went further, stating that the Iranian hackers have also “successfully obtained voter registration data in at least one state.” The agency did not disclose which state.

Both the FBI and CISA confirmed that “a review of the records that were copied and obtained reveals the information was used in the propaganda video.”

There is no indication that any voter registration databases have been manipulated or any votes have been changed.

The news comes after FBI Director Christopher Wray and National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe alleged in a press conference last week that Iran and Russia had hacked local governments and obtained voter registration and other personal data. Iran used the data, the officials claimed, for a recent campaign of emails that purported to be from the white nationalist group the Proud Boys, which were sent to intimidate Florida Democratic voters.

Both countries have denied the accusation.

U.S. intelligence officials also believe Iranian hackers probed election-related websites of 10 states and, in one case, accessed voter registration data, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News on Friday. The hackers scanned state and local websites at the end of September, then attempted to exploit the websites and steal voter data, the source said. The states were not named.

FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials briefed local election officials on the attempt during a conference call and assured them that the agencies will be coordinating with states to address the issue. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

DHS officials have stressed that these hacks did not grant attackers access that could affect the integrity of the vote. But there have long been fears that foreign hackers could tamper with voter rolls in a way that makes it harder for people to vote when they show up on Election Day.

American voters’ data is, on the whole, already public and widely available. Though laws vary by state, some make the list available to anyone who requests and some just to political parties; some require requesters to be researchers or to work in politics; some charge a fee. Some lists are simply available to download from a state website at any time. But all 50 states and Washington, D.C., have at least some way to make access easy for requesters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.



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Fishing chief warns French will use 'militant tactics and burn boats' in Brexit blockade

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FRENCH fishermen are plotting to use “militant tactics” to stage a mass blockade of ports in a bid to hammer their Brexit message home, a fishing chief has warned.

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Biden faces protestors in Minnesota, says 'we need to come together'

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Former Vice President Joe Biden faced loud protesters during his drive-in campaign rally in Minnesota but said that he would still represent them if elected, adding “we need to come together.”

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