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Texas No Longer a Sure Bet for Trump

Weaving through the crowd, Temple Gonzalez and her family enjoyed the scenes and fried snacks at the Texas State Fair in Dallas.“Then we get on the rides and cross our fingers,” she laughed. Gonzalez, a mother from a town called The Colony, just outside of Dallas, professed love for Texas and its diversity.“I’m proud that we love everybody,” she said. “Lots of people from everywhere. And we want more!”Gonzalez had less welcoming words for U.S. President Donald Trump, who campaigned in Dallas recently.Temple Gonzalez and other suburban women uneasy with Trump’s demeanor is a factor in Republicans losing support in Texas.“I don’t think he’s a kind person,” Gonzalez said. “I just don’t like how he treats people. He needs to be modeling that from the top down, and I don’t see that happening.”Polls indicate suburban women like Gonzalez are a reason Texas – a state that has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter in 1976 – may no longer be a sure bet for Trump in 2020, despite the fact that he is giving it a lot of campaign time.“Texas is not in play,” Trump said to a cheering crowd at his October 17 rally at the American Airlines Center in down town Dallas. “Donald Trump is not going to lose Texas, I can tell you that.”Trump Rallies Supporters in TexasTeaser DescriptionU.S. President Donald Trump held a campaign rally in Texas Thursday evening to drum up support in a state that may be shaping up to become a battleground in the upcoming 2020 national election. Trump rallied as news broke about the cease-fire announced by White House officials and Turkey in its assault on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara has this report from Dallas.The October rally was Trump’s third in the state in the past year and his sixth visit.Texas Republicans welcome the attention. “It’s good to see that the president is reaching out and not taking Texas for granted,” said Rodney Anderson, chairman of the Dallas County Republican party.Red with a purple tintIn 2016, Trump won Texas by only nine points, down from Mitt Romney’s 16-point margin in 2012. Analysts see this as evidence of the state shifting left as well as the fact that incumbent Republican senator Ted Cruz only narrowly defeated Democratic newcomer Beto O’Rourke in the 2018 Senate race.Although it’s premature to call Texas a swing state, it will probably “go red with a very strong purple tint”, said Shannon Bow O’Brien, professor of politics at the University of Texas in Austin.“Texas is a growing state and it’s growing in the cities, and a lot of the growth is Democratic voters,” said O’Brien. She pointed out that Trump is struggling in the suburbs in Texas, and said the Texas GOP is “worried.”Rodney Anderson dismissed the notion but admitted that Republicans “have got a real ball game” in 2020.Democrats gearing upDemocrats in Texas welcome the demographic shift and aim to build on their growth by wooing independents.“There are a lot of people that just are not happy with the things that Trump has done and these are the people that actually voted for Trump in the last election,” said Tramon Arnold, political director of the Dallas County Democratic Party.One of them is Larry Strauss, a life-long Republican, who co-founded the North Texas Jewish Democratic Council in 2017. The council recently hosted a gathering in a Dallas community center to discuss election politics with Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the political newsletter Quorum Report.“The population is no longer reliably Republican,” said Kronberg. “Particularly the suburbs, which is the richest source of votes out there.”Kronberg said this is partially because Texas demographics have shifted towards a larger population of Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern, as well as “Millennials who are antithetical to social conservatives” and what he calls “an abandonment of Republicans by women”.But Trump can still rely on his base, who are fired up by his “ad hominem attacks, belittling and making fun of his opponents,” said Kronberg.Larry Strauss, sitting in the front row, nodded. Strauss was a life-long Republican, until he heard the president’s remarks about the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent.Larry Strauss turned in his Republican membership card and co-founded the North Texas Jewish Democratic Council in 2017 after he heard President Trump’s remarks about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA.“When Donald Trump made that comment that there are good people marching on both sides, I went ballistic. I turned in my Republican membership card.”Strauss, a retiree in his sixties was so distraught he reached out to the Dallas County Democratic Party and established the council, the first of its kind in the state, with co-founder Janice Schwartz.Strauss supports the House impeachment inquiry against Trump. “We’re lacking integrity in the White House,” he said. “He’s not the type of president that gives a good example to my children and my grandchildren.”Republicans dismiss the suggestion that Trump is hurting their party’s chances of winning.“He’s absolutely helping us, 100%,” Rodney Anderson said, adding that the impeachment inquiry is energizing the Republican base even more.Analysts point out that with strong support from rural areas, Trump may still win Texas, though with an even slimmer margin than 2016. But they say a lot can happen in a year particularly with an ongoing impeachment inquiry.The latest poll from Quinnipiac University indicates 45% of registered voters in Texas approve of Trump. The same poll indicates 48% would not vote for him in 2020.Voter suppressionTexas is one of the most diverse states in the country, and one of the four “majority-minority” states in the United States — together with California, Hawaii, and New Mexico — where the population of racial and ethnic minorities combined is larger than the white population.Activist groups say that because of “voter suppression tactics used by the state and other entities,” the diversity of Texas is not reflected in state legislature and minority communities’ interests are not reflected in state policy.“Our state legislators are generally a lot whiter and a lot wealthier than Texans,” said Hani Mirza, senior attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, a nonprofit organization based in Austin.Voting rights groups have long accused Texas of extreme gerrymandering and restrictive voter registration rules, that in effect have rigged the state’s election rules in ways that disempower black and brown voters.“The tactics used in gerrymandering can dilute minority votes to where they can’t have their voice heard in elections,” said Mirza. He added that when drawing electoral lines, state legislature has broken up minority communities to dilute their votes, or packed minority groups into as few districts as possible to suppress their voice.Texas is due for a federal census in 2020 and redistricting process in 2021 where electoral maps may be redrawn.WATCH: Texas weighs in on 2020 election
Texas No Longer Sure Bet for Trump video player.
Presidency not the only prizeThe presidency is not the only coveted prize in 2020 as Democrats make inroads in state legislature seats with an eye on redistricting.“Honestly, it’s not flipping Texas it’s flipping the state legislature seats,” said Shannon Bow O’Brien. “And the Democrats have a shot.”“The way that things are gerrymandered, we need to make sure that everything is the way that it’s supposed to be, and not favoring the Republican Party,” said Tramon Arnold of the Dallas County Democratic Party.If in 2020 Democrats win nine seats that they need to control the Texas House, for the first time in decades they would have control over the redrawing of the electoral map.Future elections based on that map may mean more Democratic lawmakers being sent to Washington, out of the 36 currently representing Texas in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Texas No Longer Sure Bet for Trump

With its changing demographics, Texas – until recently a Republican stronghold – is no longer a sure bet for U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020. The president is giving the state a lot of campaign time, including this month’s rally, the third in the past year. White House Correspondent Patsy Widakuswara reports from Dallas about how both Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for a big fight ahead of next year’s election.

Trump to Make First Presidential Visit to Chicago

President Donald Trump has spent a lot of time bashing Chicago, and now he’s coming to visit.
In his first trip to Chicago since his election, the president is scheduled to address the 2019 International Chiefs of Police Conference on Monday.
Chicago has been a target for Trump since his campaign for what he calls an unwillingness to crack down on gun crime. He has repeatedly decried the violence in the city and has blamed Democratic politicians for it.He has also called out Chicago for being a sanctuary city. After the city filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions couldn’t tie the distribution of federal grant money to a city’s willingness to cooperate with immigration authorities.

Actor Alec Baldwin Campaigns for Virginia Democrats

The actor known for his mocking impersonations of Republican President Donald Trump on “Saturday Night Live” is in Virginia to help Democratic legislative candidates.Alec Baldwin told reporters in suburban Richmond on Tuesday that he believes flipping the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and Senate would improve the chances of Virginia becoming the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
Baldwin is accompanying Democratic volunteers as they knock on doors, deliver pizza to volunteers and make calls.The progressive advocacy group People for the American Way helped organize the trip. Baldwin is a board member and has been an outspoken critic of Trump.Virginia is one of only four states holding legislative elections this year and the only one where partisan control of the legislature is up for grabs.

US Diplomat Provides House with Detailed Account of Ukraine

Former U.S. Ambassador William Taylor, a diplomat who has sharply questioned President Donald Trump’s policy on Ukraine, has provided lawmakers with a detailed account of his recollection of events at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment probe , they said Tuesday.
Lawmakers emerging from the room after the early hours of the private deposition said Taylor had given a lengthy opening statement, with a recall of events that filled in gaps from the testimony of other witnesses.
“The testimony is very disturbing,” said New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who attended the start of the Taylor interview.
Taylor, who declined to comment as he entered the closed-door deposition, is the latest diplomat with concerns to testify. His appearance is among the most watched because of a text message in which he called Trump’s attempt to leverage military aid to Ukraine in return for a political investigation “crazy.” He was subpoenaed to appear.
Rep Ami Bera, D-Calif., said Taylor is a career civil servant who “cares deeply” about the country. He said Taylor’s memory of events was better than that of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador who testified last week but couldn’t recall many specific details.
Taylor was expected to discuss text messages he exchanged with two other diplomats earlier this year as Trump pushed the country to investigate unsubstantiated claims about Democratic rival Joe Biden’s family and a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukraine’s role in the 2016 election.
The diplomat was one of several intermediaries between Trump and Ukrainian officials as the president advocated for the investigations. Taylor had been tapped to run the embassy there after the administration abruptly ousted the ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, in May.
In a series of text messages released earlier this month by Ukrainian envoy Kurt Volker, Taylor appeared to be alarmed by Trump’s efforts as the U.S. was also withholding military assistance to Ukraine that had already been approved by Congress.
“I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor wrote in excerpts of the text messages released by the impeachment investigators.
Taylor has stood by the observation that it was “crazy” in his private remarks to investigators, according to a person familiar with his testimony who was granted anonymity to discuss it.
Taylor’s description of the policy is in sharp contrast to how Trump has tried to characterize it. The president has said many times that there was no quid pro quo, though his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney contradicted that last week. Mulvaney later tried to walk back his remarks.
Taylor, a former Army officer, had been serving as executive vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan think tank founded by Congress, when he was appointed to run the embassy in Kyiv after Yovanovitch was removed before the end of her term following a campaign against her led by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
He was welcomed back to Kyiv as a steady hand serving as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.
“He’s the epitome of a seasoned statesman,” said John Shmorhun, an American who heads the agricultural company AgroGeneration.
Before retiring from government service, Taylor was involved in diplomatic efforts surrounding several major international conflicts. He served in Jerusalem as U.S. envoy to the Quartet of Mideast peacemakers. He oversaw reconstruction in Iraq from 2004 to 2005, and from Kabul coordinated U.S. and international assistance to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003.
He arrived in Kyiv a month after the sudden departure of Yovanovitch and the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president, prepared to steer the embassy through the transition. He was most likely not prepared for what happened next.
In July, Trump would have his now-famous phone conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he pressed him to launch the investigations. Trump at the time had quietly put a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid that Ukraine was counting on in its fight against Russian-backed separatists.
In the follow-up to the call, Taylor exchanged texts with two of Trump’s point men on Ukraine as they were trying to get Zelenskiy to commit to the investigations before setting a date for a coveted White House visit.
In a text message to Sondland on Sept. 1, Taylor bluntly questioned Trump’s motives: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him to call him.
In texts a week later to Sondland and special envoy Kurt Volker, Taylor expressed increased alarm, calling it “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” In a stilted reply, several hours later, Sondland defended Trump’s intentions and suggested they stop the back and forth by text.
Taylor had also texted that not giving the military aid to Ukraine would be his “nightmare” scenario because it sends the wrong message to both Kyiv and Moscow. “The Russians love it. (And I quit).”
U.S. diplomats based at the Kyiv embassy have refused to speak with journalists, reflecting the sensitivity of the impeachment inquiry. The embassy press office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

McConnell Resolution Prods Trump to Keep Troops in Syria

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a resolution denouncing Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and prodding President Donald Trump to halt his withdrawal of U.S. troops from that part of the country.The Kentucky Republican is also holding off on separate, bipartisan legislation imposing sanctions on Turkey. This creates a split for now between the House and Senate over what Congress should do.  
McConnell says slapping sanctions on Turkey, a NATO member, could backfire by driving Ankara closer to Russia.
The Democratic-led House last week overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan resolution opposing the U.S. troop withdrawal.
House Democrats say their chamber will vote next week on a separate measure imposing sanctions on Turkey.
McConnell says sanctions may eventually be needed but says Congress should hold off for now.

Facebook Unveils Policies to Protect 2020 US Elections

Facebook on Monday said it will apply lessons learned from America’s 2016 election to prevent manipulation of its platforms in the 2020 presidential contest.In a press release, Facebook said it is working to combat “Inauthentic Behavior” on its applications — a phenomenon widely documented in 2016 that has continued in years since.Facebook defines inauthentic behavior as “using deceptive behaviors to conceal the identity of the organization behind a campaign, make the organization or its activity appear more popular or trustworthy than it is, or evade (Facebook’s) enforcement efforts.”U.S. intelligence agencies have accused Russia of creating fake accounts on Facebook and other platforms to spread falsehoods and divisive messaging that pitted U.S. voters against each other.The social media giant will start requiring pages and advertisements to show their “Confirmed Page Owner.” Pages with large U.S. audiences will need to add their owners first.The press release shared that Facebook had taken down four pages and groups on Facebook and Instagram that were linked to government-sponsored inauthentic behavior the morning of the press release. Three of them were linked to Iran, and one was in Russia.As part of its policy, Facebook said it will label media outlets that are wholly or partially under their government’s editorial control as state-controlled media.The company also pledged to remove misinformation from its newsfeeds. Elsewhere on the platform, pop-up messages will warn users of content that had been rated false or partly false by independent fact-checkers.Fact-checkers are not trusted by all Americans. According to a survey by Pew Research Center, 69% of Democrats say fact-checking efforts by news outlets and other organizations “deal fairly with all sides.” But only 28% of Republicans concur.Facebook said it has taken down 50 networks that were engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” many of which were operating ahead of major elections.

Pelosi in Jordan for ‘Vital Discussions’ Amid Syria Crisis

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a group of American lawmakers on a surprise visit to Jordan to discuss “the deepening crisis” in Syria amid a shaky U.S.-brokered cease-fire.
The visit came after bipartisan criticism in Washington has slammed President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw the bulk of U.S. troops from northern Syria — clearing the way for Turkey’s wide-ranging offensive against the Kurdish groups, who had been key U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Turkey agreed on Thursday to suspend its offensive for five days, demanding the Kurdish forces withdraw from a designated strip of the border about 30 kilometers deep (19 miles).  
Pelosi, along with the nine-member Congressional delegation, met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the capital of Amman late Saturday for talks focusing on security and “regional stability,” according to a statement from her office.
Jordan is a key U.S. ally in the region and has been greatly affected by the eight-year-long civil war in neighboring Syria. Jordanian officials say the kingdom hosts some 1 million Syrians who have fled the fighting.
 “With the deepening crisis in Syria after Turkey’s incursion, our delegation has engaged in vital discussions about the impact to regional stability, increased flow of refugees, and the dangerous opening that has been provided to ISIS, Iran and Russia,” said the statement, using the Islamic State group’s acronym.
Jordan’s state news agency Petra said Abdullah stressed the importance of safeguarding Syria’s territorial integrity and guarantees for the “safe and voluntary” return of refugees.
 “The meeting also covered regional and international efforts to counter terrorism within a comprehensive approach,” the agency said.
The Congressional delegation included Democrats Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, who is leading the impeachment probe into President Trump; Eliot Engel, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. There was one GOP member of the group, Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee.
The U.S. Embassy in Amman said the delegation left Jordan early Sunday but gave no further details on where it was heading.
Many Democrat and Republican lawmakers say that the U.S. pullout could make way for rivals like Iran and Russia, who back Syrian President Bashar Assad.    

White House Aide Mulvaney Reiterates, No Ukraine Money Link to Political Investigations

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Sunday defended his claim that President Donald Trump did not withhold nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in order to get Kyiv to undertake investigations of Democratic rivals and the 2016 election.Mulvaney told reporters last week there was such a” quid pro quo” by Trump, but hours later walked back the statement and continued to advance his revised version of White House policy discussions in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” talk show.”There were two reasons we held up the aid,” Mulvaney said. “The first one was the rampant corruption in Ukraine. It’s so bad in Ukraine that in 2014 Congress passed a law … requiring us to make sure that [the fight against] corruption was moving in the right direction. So corruption’s a big deal. Everybody knows it.”He added, “The president was also concerned about whether other nations, specifically European nations, were helping with foreign aid to Ukraine.”FILE – White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney talks to the press at the White House, Oct. 17, 2019.Mulvaney also mentioned during his White House news conference last Thursday that Trump wanted to know whether Ukraine had possession of a computer server used at the Democratic National Committee in 2016 as it supported former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her unsuccessful campaign against Trump for the White House. The whereabouts of the computer is part of a debunked theory that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election, and not Russia, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded.But Mulvaney said Sunday his mention of Trump’s concerns about the computer “wasn’t connected to the aid,” although last week had said, “That’s why we held up the money.””We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney had said at the White House.On Sunday, he said, “I never said there’s a quid pro quo because there isn’t.”Trump, while initially blocking the aid to Ukraine, eventually released the money to Kyiv.”The aid flowed,” Mulvaney said Sunday. “Once we were able to satisfy ourselves that corruption, that they were doing better with it…” and other countries’ aid to Ukraine had increased, “the money flowed.” During the news conference last week, Mulvaney added a third condition, whether Ukraine was assisting a U.S. Justice Department probe of the origins of 2016 election investigations that eventually implicated Russia’s interference to help Trump win.FILE – Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and U.S. President Donald Trump face reporters during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2019.Trump’s interactions with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy are at the center of the impeachment inquiry Democrats in the House of Representatives have opened against Trump.The inquiry was touched off when an intelligence community whistleblower expressed concern about Trump’s July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy, with a White House-released transcript of the call showing Trump urging the Ukrainian leader to open a corruption investigation into one of his key 2020 election rivals, former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as a probe of his son Hunter Biden’s lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.Both Bidens have denied any wrongdoing, although the younger Biden, 49, said last week he used “poor judgment” in agreeing to work for the Ukrainian company because of the political fallout for his father.Trump has alleged that when Joe Biden was U.S. vice president, he threatened to withhold loan guarantees to Ukraine unless an earlier corruption probe into the gas company was stopped.No evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens has surfaced. But reaching out to a foreign government to dig up dirt on a rival is considered to be interference in a presidential election.Trump has described his call with Zelenskiy as “perfect” and accuses the Democratic-led House of a witch hunt. A House vote for Trump’s impeachment in the coming weeks is a possibility, although his conviction after a trial in the Republican-majority Senate and removal from office remains unlikely.U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, center, arrives for a joint interview with the House Committees on Capitol Hill, Oct. 17, 2019.Trump donor Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told impeachment investigators last week that Trump ordered him and other diplomats to work with the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine into investigations that could help Trump politically.Those investigations would include the 2016 election and the Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden worked.Sondland told the investigators he was disappointed that Trump directed diplomats to work with Giuliani on Ukraine matters.”Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy towards Ukraine,” Sondland said.He said the diplomats who worked with Giuliani did not know “until much later” that Giuliani would push for a probe of Biden “or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.””Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong,” Sondland said in his statement. “Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings.”          

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