Senate approves defense bill, setting up clash over ZTE

By Karoun Demirjian | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Congress is headed for a likely showdown over President Donald Trump’s recent deal to lift certain penalties against Chinese telecom giant ZTE, after the Senate overwhelming passed its version of an annual defense authorization bill that would reimpose those punitive measures.

The Senate voted 85 to 10 to approve the behemoth, $716 billion piece of legislation with little fanfare — a sign of how much common ground there is between the House’s and the Senate’s versions of the bill, which must still be woven into a single piece of legislation — and a reminder that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee has steered the bill through many a floor fight in recent years, continues to battle a rare and serious form of brain cancer in Arizona. The measure is named after McCain.

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The bill envisions several policy changes to better equip the Pentagon to combat threats from aggressor nations such as Russia and China in everything from the arms race to cyberspace. But whereas most of those measures are expected to easily earn the support of the whole Congress, the ZTE provision has already sparked direct clashes with the Trump administration, setting up a likely clash between the GOP’s national security hawks and Trump’s closest supporters as administration officials attempt to convince lawmakers to strip the Senate’s policy change from the final bill.

Both the House and Senate versions of the defense policy bill restrict government agencies from purchasing ZTE products. But the Senate bill goes one step further than the House’s, ordering the reimposition of punitive measures that Trump sought to roll …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Judge tosses Kansas voter ID law

By Roxana Hegeman | Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. — A federal judge ruled Monday that Kansas cannot require documentary proof of U.S. citizenship to register to vote, finding such laws violate the constitutional right to vote in a ruling with national implications.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson is the latest setback for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has championed such laws and led President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission. The 118-page decision came in two consolidated cases challenging a Kansas voter registration law requiring people to provide documents such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport or naturalization papers.

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The decision strikes down the Kansas proof-of-citizenship registration law and makes permanent an earlier injunction that had temporarily blocked it.

In an extraordinary rebuke, the judge also ordered Kobach on Monday to complete an additional six hours of legal education on top of other requirements before he can renew his law license for the upcoming year. She imposed the sanction for his numerous disclosure violations.

Kobach did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

No other state has been as aggressive as Kansas in imposing proof-of-citizenship voter registration requirements. Alabama and Georgia have proof-of-citizenship laws that are not currently being enforced, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Arizona is the only other state with a similar law in effect, but that law is far more lenient and allows people to satisfy it by writing their driver’s license number on the voter registration form.

The lead case filed by the ACLU on behalf of several named voters and the League of Women Voters is centered on the National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Report: Over 1 billion firearms in world. Guess who has the most?

By EDITH M. LEDERER | The Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — There are over 1 billion firearms in the world today, including 857 million in civilian hands — with American men and women the dominant owners, according to a study released Monday.

The Small Arms Survey says 393 million of the civilian-held firearms, 46 percent, are in the United States, which is “more than those held by civilians in the other top 25 countries combined.”

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“The key to the United States, of course, is its unique gun culture,” the report’s author, Aaron Karp, said at a news conference. “American civilians buy an average of 14 million new firearms every year, and that means the United States is an overwhelming presence on civilian markets.”

The report said the numbers include legal and illegal firearms in civilian hands, ranging from improvised craft weapons to factory-made handguns, rifles, shotguns and, in some countries, even machine guns.

The estimate of over 1 billion firearms worldwide at the end of 2017 also includes 133 million such weapons held by government military forces and 22.7 million by law enforcement agencies, it said.

Karp said the new global estimate is significantly higher than the 875 million firearms estimated in the last survey in 2007, and the 650 million civilian-held firearms at that time — mostly due to increasing civilian ownership.

While the United States was dominant in civilian ownership in 2007 and 2017, the report said the U.S. is only fifth today in military firearms holdings, behind Russia, China, North Korea and Ukraine. It is also fifth in law enforcement holdings, behind Russia, China, India and Egypt.

The Small Arms Survey released its study to coincide with the third U.N. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


Justice Dept: Probes ongoing into Comey memos, FBI leaks

By Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett | Washington Post

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department inspector general said Monday that his office is still probing possible misconduct in the FBI’s safeguarding of its own secrets – from how former Director James Comey handled his private memos, to whether others under him may have given sensitive details to reporters.

Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed the continued investigative work to lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which on Monday conducted the first hearing to examine his 500-page report assessing how the FBI handled the high-profile investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

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The report blasted senior FBI officials for having shown a “willingness to take official action” to hurt Donald Trump’s chances of becoming president, though it determined political bias did not ultimately impact the decision not to charge Clinton with a crime.

Monday’s hearing offered lawmakers on each side of the aisle an opportunity to press their long held talking points about the Clinton email case and the similarly charged investigation into whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Through the inspector general, lawmakers each seemed to score political points. Horowitz conceded bias might have affected one FBI agent’s decision to prioritize the Russia case over the Clinton email probe and called out as particularly troubling a text exchange in which the agent told an FBI lawyer “we’ll stop” Trump from becoming president.

“We found the implication that senior FBI employees would be willing to take official action to impact a presidential candidate’s electoral prospects to be deeply troubling and antithetical to the core values of the FBI …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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