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2019 bellwether elections kick off with Louisiana’s jungle primary Saturday

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WASHINGTON — Tomorrow brings us the first of the 2019 gubernatorial races — the jungle primary for Louisiana governor.

And the name of the game is whether Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards can clear the 50 percent threshold to avoid the Nov. 16 runoff.

Democrats eyeing the race believe they’re on the cusp of clearing 50 percent; a recent Mason-Dixon poll had Edwards at 45 percent among registered voters, with 10 percent undecided.

Republicans, on the other hand, are confident they’ll keep him below the threshold, which would force a runoff with either Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., or businessman Eddie Rispone. (The Mason-Dixon poll had Rispone at 22 percent and Abraham at 17 percent.)

And guess who’s coming to Louisiana today — President Trump, who holds a rally in Lake Charles at 8:00 pm ET.

But maybe the biggest storyline here is the totality of the three southern/red-state gubernatorial races of 2019: Louisiana, Kentucky and Mississippi.

They’re all competitive, and Republicans losing two out of three should send alarm bells inside the GOP, since we’re talking about three red states.

Winning all three would be a relief for the GOP given the current political climate.

And the GOP losing one — most likely Louisiana, either on Saturday or in the runoff — would represent the status quo.

By the way, Republicans are pleased with the early-vote numbers, which seem more GOP leaning than four years ago.

Then again, there’s maybe a reason why more Louisianans (and Republicans) have voted early: LSU plays Florida in Baton Rouge on Saturday night.

Data Download: The number of the day is … $31 million

$31 million.

That’s the total amount of money that’s been spent in Louisiana’s gubernatorial contest on TV and radio ads, as of Saturday’s contest.

Republican candidates and outside groups have spent $15.8 million, while Democrats have spent $15.2 million.

The top advertisers:

  • Edwards (D): $8.4 million
  • Rispone (R): $8.1 million
  • Pro-Edwards Gumbo PAC (D): $6.0 million
  • Republican Governor’s Association: $4.6 million
  • Abraham (R): $2.0 million

Some GOP senators are having a hard time defending Trump

Vulnerable 2020 Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., was unable to give a simple yes-or-no answer on whether it’s appropriate for the president of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a rival.

Ditto Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., released a statement saying that it was inappropriate for a president to be talking with a foreign government to investigate a political opponent. But Alexander added that impeachment would be a mistake, because it would divide the country.

“An election, which is just around the corner, is the right way to decide who should be president,” he said.

(But the hole in that logic: Isn’t the legitimacy of that election compromised when the president is using the powers of his office to hurt his opponents?)

The latest in the impeachment inquiry

NBC’s Geoff Bennett says that ousted Ukraine envoy Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch is scheduled to appear today for a closed-door deposition at 10:00 am ET before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees.

While NBC News reports the committees still expect Yovanovitch to testify despite the White House vow not to cooperate with the ongoing probe, one source close to Yovanovitch says it’s assumed that she would have to first quit her role as a State Department foreign service officer in order to appear.

Also, NBC’s Josh Lederman, Carol E. Lee and Kristen Welker report that Fiona Hill, who had been Trump’s top aide on Russia and Europe, “plans to tell Congress that Rudy Giuliani and E.U. ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News.”

And the question we have after all of yesterday’s Rudy Giuliani/Giuliani business associate news: Is Rudy going to be set up as the fall guy here?

2020 Vision: Addressing LGBTQ issues

Nine presidential candidates spoke last night at an LGBTQ forum hosted by the Human Rights Campaign and CNN. NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor and Benjamin Pu have the highlights:

Joe Biden reminisced about getting out in front of President Obama when he went on “Meet the Press” in 2012, and said he was “absolutely comfortable” with gay marriage. Per Sotomayor and Pu, “Biden was also very blunt tonight, saying that as president he would constantly be reminding people about the hardships members of the LGBTQ community face because currently ‘homophobes’ are controlling ‘the agenda.’”

Pete Buttigieg was met by transgender and Black Lives Matter protestors the moment he stepped on stage, and he spoke about being a member of the LGBTQ community – but one not facing the discrimination that minorities and transgender minorities face.

Elizabeth Warren cleaned up an answer from 2012, when she said that gender reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate wasn’t a “good use of tax payer dollars.” Last night, Warren said “It was a bad answer. And I believe that everyone is entitled to medical care and medical care that they need and that includes people who are transgender who it is the time for them to have gender-affirming surgery.”

On the campaign trail

Today: Elizabeth Warren appears at a pride parade in Las Vegas… And Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard and Steve Bullock are in New Hampshire.

Saturday: Pete Buttigieg speaks with the New Yorker’s David Remnick in New York City before holding a town hall in Des Moines, Iowa… Kamala Harris and Steve Bullock are also in Iowa… Yang and Gabbard remain in New Hampshire… And John Delaney is also in the Granite State, where he holds a town hall.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Sotomayor and Pu have the LGBTQ performances for some of the other 2020 Democrats: Cory Booker was pressed on an op-ed he wrote as a college student where he wrote he was “disgusted by gays.” Booker said, “I wanted to try to push people to understand the absurdities of homophobia, and became a campus activist on those issues, and so I wrote this article to challenge people about their homophobia and about their hatred and to say the euphemisms we use for hatred is just wrong.”

Beto O’Rourke promised that under his administration organizations would lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.

And per Sotomayor and Pu, “Kamala Harris raised eyebrows when she came on stage and introduced herself with the pronouns she wanted to be referred as — ‘she, her and hers.’”

Tweet of the day

The Lid: You’re as cold as ice

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at a new Pew Research Center poll that shows just how frosty the two parties are becoming toward each other.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

They knew all along? The Washington Post reports that at least four national security officials raised concerns before and after Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.

Attorney General Bill Barr met privately with Rupert Murdoch this week.

Here’s what Trump had to say about Joe Biden and his son at last night’s Minneapolis rally.

A senior Pompeo aide is stepping down.

And some Trump allies are worried that they can’t count on Senate Republicans in the impeachment fight.

Trump Agenda: He takes my money when I’m in need

Trump asked Rex Tillerson to work with Giuliani to stop the prosecution of a Turkish Iranian gold trader who was one of Giuliani’s clients.

Here’s more on what we know about those two Giuliani business associates who were arrested yesterday.

Trump staffers are split on his abrupt Syria move.

Lindsey Graham was the target of a prankster’s phone call, and some of what he said has him in hot water.

2020: “Congressman 1”

“Congressman 1” could be in trouble.

Bernie Sanders says that voters have a “right to know” about his health.

Tom Steyer wants to use his ranch to talk about the next generation of climate-friendly farming.

The Wall Street Journal looks at the counties that have backed every single presidential winner since Ronald Reagan.

Will retiring GOP members of Congress break with Trump?



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Twitter fact checks Trump’s tweets for the first time, calls mail-in voting claim ‘misleading’

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Twitter slapped a fact check label on a pair of “misleading” tweets by President Donald Trump on Tuesday in which he railed against mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” Trump tweeted.

“That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Experts who study the issue have found no evidence that voter fraud is a widespread problem in the United States.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

It appears to be the first time that the social media giant has fact checked Trump or otherwise enforced its terms regarding his tweets. Many of his critics have long called on Twitter to hold the president accountable for violating its terms of service.

The platform added language to the president’s tweets that reads “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” and directs users to a Twitter article titled “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud,” along with a “What you need to know” section, as well as aggregated tweets about Trump’s unfounded claims.

A Twitter spokesperson told NBC News on Tuesday that the tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The spokesperson added that the company rolled out a policy this month to combat misinformation, particularly related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump lashed out at Twitter on Tuesday, saying the company is restricting free speech.

“.@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” he wrote in one tweet.

“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said in another.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, called Twitter biased in a statement Tuesday.

“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” he said. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”

He added, “There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive Democratic rival in November, urged the company to flag statements from every user, including Trump, when they are untrue.

“I think they should say when things are patently not true,” Biden said Tuesday in an appearance on CNN when asked about Trump’s recently sharing conspiracy theories on the site. “They should say so.”

Download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many states holding primaries have had to consider how to balance elections with public health. The pandemic has driven lawmakers to act, such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who issued an order that requires election officials in each of the state’s 58 counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

However, the move has prompted legal challenges.

The Republican National Committee and other GOP groups, such as the California Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee, sued Newsom on Sunday. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel called Newsom’s executive order “radical” and a “recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud.”

A similar challenge also cropped up in Texas, but a federal judge there ruled in favor of the Democratic Party’s expanding mail-in voting. The case is being appealed by state Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Marianna Sotomayor contributed.



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Trump’s encouragement of racism against Asian Americans is an affront to all Americans

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A boy landed in the hospital after being beaten up by his classmates on school grounds. A little girl was pushed off her bike in the middle of a park. A nurse was assaulted on the subway, and another was spit on while delivering medicine to a sick patient. A father was hit over the head by a man swearing at him on the street.

In the past several months, countless Asian Americans have been punched and kicked and threatened, told that they’ll be sorry if they don’t leave this country — their country. They’ve been blamed for COVID-19: yelled at by strangers in parking lots, refused service at stores and needlessly, cruelly scapegoated by the most powerful man on the planet, President Donald Trump, who has racialized the pandemic and stoked xenophobia every time he’s uttered the term “Chinese virus.”

In a nation founded on the principle that we’re all created equal, such bigotry is downright un-American.

Deflecting blame for his own failure to heed the warnings of experts to prepare for this crisis, Trump has stood in the White House briefing room day after day and pulled from the same cynical playbook he’s relied on so many times before, stoking grievances and using the same politics of division that helped him get elected in the first place, this time by casting Asian Americans as the “other.” As if they are a deviation from those who are “actually” American. As if they don’t truly belong.

The comments Trump has made have ranged from the dangerous to the absurd. But the sentiment behind them has been clear.

So let us be even clearer.

The American story as we know it would not exist without the strength of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. In a literal sense, Asian Americans helped build and unite this country — laying the railroad tracks, tilling the fields, starting the businesses and picking up the rifles necessary to develop and defend the nation we love.

No insult, no insinuation — even when it comes from the president in the middle of the Rose Garden telling an Asian American reporter to “ask China” — can change the fact that Asian Americans are just as American as anyone else lucky enough to be a daughter or a on of the United States.

Ironically, May marks Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In the face of such intolerance, this month reminds us that it’s as important as ever to honor the AAPI community’s service to this country — as teachers, doctors, troops, you name it — as well as recognize the consequences of the fear-mongering and outright racism that have been on the rise throughout Trump’s presidency.

Because that’s the kind of prejudice that led to Japanese Americans’ being interned on U.S. soil even as their loved ones fought to defend this nation overseas during World War II. It’s a version of what we’ve seen in debates over everything from segregation to immigration, where those who aren’t white are portrayed as if they’re somehow dirty or dangerous or, now, contaminated — and then cast off as second-class citizens. In a nation founded on the principle that we’re all created equal, such bigotry is downright un-American.

The United States is great because, by and large, Americans look out for one another and are good to one another. We’ve witnessed that time and again, and we’re seeing it now in the midst of this crisis. Landlords are waiving rent for tenants struggling to get by. Medical students not yet allowed to take care of patients in the ICU are instead taking care of health care workers, offering to look after their kids or do chores. Teachers are driving through their students’ neighborhoods to say hello.

Trump has proven he will never get it. He will never understand that the reason the U.S. has led the world for decades is not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example.

Each of those people understands our country better than Trump ever will. They understand that at its best, America is a roughly 3.8 million-square-mile community whose members don’t just want to do well for themselves, but to do good for others. No matter the color of their skin.

Trump has proven he will never get it. He will never understand that the reason the U.S. has led the world for decades is not just by the example of our power, but by the power of our example. As much as we all wish and hope, it is clear that Trump will never rise to the awesome responsibility that comes with the title President of the United States.

As our neighbors are spit on and beat up because of the color of their skin, it is more obvious than ever how important it is that we make this the last Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Trump in the White House.

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Boris Johnson faces grilling over Dominic Cummings chaos – furious Tory MPs rebel

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BORIS JOHNSON will be grilled by senior MPs today as a rebellion within his own party grows over his response to the Dominic Cummings crisis.

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