Either outcome in Alabama is a self-inflicted wound by Senate GOP

Alabama voters weigh in on closely-watched special election

On the ground in Alabama, supporters of Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore see a lot at stake in the special Senate election on Dec. 12. (Alice Li, Jenny Starrs, Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post)
By Paul Kane December 12 at 11:37 AM
It’s easy to view Roy Moore’s controversial candidacy as a self-inflicted wound by Senate Republicans.
Over the summer, the GOP’s top strategists analyzed a complicated three-way race for the party’s nomination to succeed Jeff Sessions, who left the seat to become attorney general, and came to this conclusion: The only path to victory for the establishment favorite, appointed senator Luther Strange, was to elevate Moore on the initial ballot, on the belief that he would lose in the runoff in late September, leading to an easy victory for Strange in Tuesday’s general election.
As we all now know, that didn’t happen. Moore, a controversial former judge, ran away with the Republican nomination. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his top lieutenants are left with few options other than to contain the damage of what will be a brutal defeat either way in Alabama. If Democrat Doug Jones wins the special election, McConnell will face a perilously thin majority, 51 to 49, in the Senate — and more perilous prospects of losing it altogether in the November 2018 midterm elections.

If Moore wins, McConnell will face the greatest test yet of the “contagion” theory that he has followed for the past five years. The Senate probably would open an immediate ethics investigation of allegations that Moore made inappropriate advances toward teenage girls when he was a local prosecutor in his 30s. Perhaps more important, the former judge’s positions on such issues as gay rights, marriage and Islam would draw immediate attention — in Moore’s floor speeches, his appearances on news shows and his daily interactions with the congressional press corps in halls of the Capitol — and would force Republicans to explain their colleague’s views day after day after day.
It began during the 2012 Senate campaign in Missouri, when Republican Todd Akin lost after claiming, in an effort to explain his opposition to abortion even in cases of assault, that pregnancy rarely results from a “legitimate rape.” Ever since, Senate Republicans have forcefully tried to defeat candidates they consider on the fringes of public opinion to protect themselves from being damaged by out-of-step views.

What it would take for a Democrat to win Alabama View Graphic
GOP establishment goes after Alabama congressman running for Senate for criticizing Trump
Until the Alabama campaign, McConnell’s team had a more than four-year run in successfully thwarting those types of insurgent Republicans in primary races. The strategy helped Republicans end the 2014 and 2016 elections with the majority.

But the run ended this year in Alabama, in the unpredictable era of President Trump. And now, Republicans are unsure about how to proceed.
“I guess you can do a postmortem on anything and dissect it, I don’t know,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), who opposes Moore’s candidacy, said Monday evening. He then added, perhaps philosophically: “We’re where we are today, I wish we weren’t where we were, but we are.”
Shelby was giving voice to what has become conventional wisdom among most Republicans and many Democrats — that the volatility of the race has made a Jones victory a very real possibility.
The peculiarity of a special election in December already makes it difficult enough to predict who will show up at the polls. But the allegations against Moore have left his support hard to measure in a state that is not used to contested elections.
“The presumption is the Republican’s gonna win it, in this case, Moore, but he might not,” Shelby said, before a long pause. “I don’t know.”

‘I’ll go to battle with this guy’: Moore supporters rally behind him in the final hours
Supporters of Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore rallied behind him at his final campaign event on Dec. 11. (Jordan Frasier/The Washington Post)
In 2014, seven statewide races appeared on the Alabama ballot. Strange, easily winning reelection to his previous post as attorney general, was the only Republican to receive less than 60 percent. He received 59 percent.

There are no well-known, proven public polls in Alabama. Real­Clear­Politics has no public surveys available for the 2016 presidential campaign or for Shelby’s reelection last year.
A Jones victory would give Democrats an immediate injection of energy, and it would encourage others to make long-shot bids in Republican states such as Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. GOP incumbents are considered overwhelming favorites in those places, but if a Democrat can win in Alabama, it will provide encouragement to others.
Bitter Senate race tests Alabama’s image in the country — and at home
If Jones is elected, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would need a net pickup of two seats next year, and although that would still seem like a high hurdle — Democrats are defending almost three times as many seats as Republicans are, and 10 of them are in states that Trump won last year — it would open a path.
All of it makes that GOP strategy over the summer — what seems like several lifetimes ago — feel ill-advised in the cold light of December.

It started when McConnell and the McConnell-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund super PAC mounted a multimillion-dollar campaign to tear down Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) to ensure that Strange would face Moore in the runoff. One TV ad showed Brooks slamming Trump, early in the 2016 campaign, when he was backing another candidate.
“I think what you’re going to see 12 to 18 months from now is a lot of people who have supported Donald Trump, they’re going to regret having done so, 12 to 18 months, but right now they’re enamored with the personality,” Brooks said.
Brooks, as a member of the rabble-rousing House Freedom Caucus, enjoyed inroads with the most conservative voters in Alabama, as well as credentials with more traditional business-friendly interests. The thinking of Senate leaders was that if Strange’s allies took out Moore in the initial vote, Brooks would win the runoff in a rout.
So they buried Brooks’s campaign in that initial three-way race. And then they lost the runoff to Moore by a wide margin — setting up Tuesday’s race against Jones.
On Monday, Strange, in office just a few months, acknowledged that he was unaware of the custom for outgoing senators to escort their successors into the well of the Senate to be sworn in by the vice president.
Strange presumed that he will not fulfill that role, regardless of who wins.
“That’s a good question, I assume that’s up to Shelby, that’s kind of what I’m guessing,” he said Monday. “That will be his responsibility.”
In other words, either way the race turns out, Strange appears ready to wash his hands of the situation. For better or for worse, that option isn’t available to McConnell.

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FCC, FTC announce partnership to police internet after net neutrality repeal

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced an agreement on Monday to coordinate their efforts to police the internet once the latter agency has repealed its net neutrality rules.
On Thursday, the FCC is expected to approve the plan to scrap the Obama-era consumer protections that prohibit internet service providers from discriminating against, or favoring, certain websites. Under the proposal, the FCC would get rid of the conduct rules governing broadband companies and cede authority over the industry to the FTC.
“The Memorandum of Understanding will be a critical benefit for online consumers because it outlines the robust process by which the FCC and FTC will safeguard the public interest,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “Instead of saddling the Internet with heavy-handed regulations, we will work together to take targeted action against bad actors.”

Once the repeal is passed, the FTC will be tasked with going after internet providers that engage in unfair or deceptive practices, but net neutrality supporters argue the agency is not equipped to prevent companies from abusing their power over web traffic.
Democratic FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement, “The agreement announced today between the FCC and FTC is a confusing, lackluster, reactionary afterthought: an attempt to paper over weaknesses in the Chairman’s draft proposal repealing the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules.”
Pai’s plan will require companies such as Comcast and Verizon to disclose to their users whether they plan to block or slow down certain sites, and the FCC will be tasked with overseeing their transparency.
“There is no comfort in this announcement from the FTC,” said Chris Lewis, vice president of the consumer group Public Knowledge. “Not only is the FCC eliminating basic net neutrality rules, but it’s joining forces with the FTC to say it will only act when a broadband provider is deceiving the public. This gives free reign to broadband providers to block or throttle your broadband service as long as they inform you of it.”

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Trump’s lawyer wants second special counsel to probe investigators

By Mallory Shelbourne – 12/12/17 08:06 AM EST
President Trump’s legal team said Tuesday it would like a new special counsel to be appointed to probe individuals investigating Russian election meddling.
“The Department of Justice and FBI can not ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate,” one of Trump’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement.
Sekulow’s statement calling for a second special counsel, which was first reported by Axios, comes after Fox News published an article on Monday that said the wife of an official in the Justice Department was employed during the campaign by Fusion GPS, the opposition firm behind a controversial dossier of Trump opposition research.

The president’s attorneys, according to Axios, fault the FBI and the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the probe into Russia’s election meddling and any potential ties between Trump campaign staff members and the Kremlin.
Trump has repeatedly called the probe a “witch hunt,” arguing Democrats are using Russia’s attempts to interfere in last year’s presidential election as an excuse for their loss.
“As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!” Trump said in July.

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Postal Worker Sentenced to Federal Prison for Stealing, Selling at Least 6,240 Credit Cards

Posted on December 12, 2017 by postal
Former Postal Employee Sentenced to over 6 Years in Federal Prison for Selling at Least 6,240 Credit Cards Stolen from the U.S. Mail
12/11/17 SANTA ANA, California – A Garden Grove man who worked for the United States Postal Service for more than two decades was sentenced today to 75 months in federal prison for stealing thousands of credit cards from the U.S. Mail and selling the credit cards on the black market.

Chinh Vuong, 49, was sentenced by United States District Judge Cormac J. Carney, who also ordered the defendant to pay $325,085 in restitution to Chase Bank USA and American Express.
Vuong pleaded guilty in August 2016 to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Vuong told federal investigators that he made at least $6,000 per month selling stolen credit cards and “used the funds from the sale of stolen credit cards to pay for personal expenses, including designer handbags and boots, two BMW automobiles, alcohol and drugs,” according to court documents.
Prior to being confronted with evidence of the thefts, Vuong had worked at the United States Postal Service Santa Ana Processing and Distribution Center as a mail processing clerk for about 25 years. On October 6, 2015, federal authorities searched Vuong’s residence and seized approximately 199 stolen credit cards and luxury items, such as more than 20 handbags from designers that included Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci.
“On the day of the warrant, [Vuong] described to federal agents how he executed the bank fraud conspiracy and identity theft scheme,” according to a sentencing memorandum filed with the court. “While at work, [Vuong] would identify envelopes that contained American Express and Chase credit cards but had been marked ‘undeliverable.’ Rather than let those envelopes be returned to the respective bank, [Vuong] stuffed the envelopes with new credit cards inside into his waistband. Then, he made trips to his car while on break to hide the stolen credit cards.”
Vuong admitted to investigators that in the year prior to the search, he had stolen an average of 40 credit card envelopes, three to five nights per week, which means he stole at least 6,240 credit cards over a one-year period.
The investigation into Vuong was conducted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Identity Theft & Economic Crimes Task Force; the United States Postal Service, Office of the Inspector General; and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The Westminster Police Department provided assistance during the investigation.
The case against Vuong was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vibhav Mittal of the Santa Ana Branch Office.

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