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Greg BluesteinTamar Hallerman
Jim Galloway

Don’t get excited, but a Virginia judge says anti-Trump delegates can vote their conscience

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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gazes at the audience following a standing ovation during his speech in Virginia Beach, Va., on Monday. Trump outlined a 10 point plan to help veterans and talked for the first time publicly on tragic events in Dallas. Kristen Zeis/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gazes at the audience following a standing ovation during his speech in Virginia Beach, Va., on Monday. Kristen Zeis/The Virginian-Pilot via AP

CLEVELAND – Forces lined up against Republican presidential presumptive nominee Donald Trump were offered a glimmer of hope late Monday. But it’s only a glimmer. From the Washington Post:

An anti-Donald Trump delegate to the Republican National Committee convention won a small legal victory Monday he hopes will provide a boost to longshot efforts at derailing the billionaire businessman from formally clinching the GOP presidential nomination.logo-all

But the ruling issued Monday by a federal judge in Richmond is limited in scope. It means that delegates cannot be obligated to vote in a winner-takes-all fashion, as stated in an obscure portion of Virginia election law. But the law in question was so obscure that Republicans had already decided to allocate delegates in a proportional fashion, based on the results of the state’s March 1 primary, which Trump won. The ruling leaves that unchanged.

Nonetheless, the lede editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal includes this challenge to Trump:

Mr. Trump says he’s confident he’ll prevail even if the delegates are unbound, and if that’s true then he ought to welcome a conscience vote. The convention system is designed to produce consensus nominees, but many reluctant Republicans haven’t rallied around the winner this time. Winning on the floor would add to the legitimacy of his nomination and help unite the party despite his critics. If Mr. Trump can’t obtain the support of a majority of delegates, he’s probably a loser in November.

An RNC rules committee will determine the fate of the anti-Trump movement later this week.

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We’ve picked up word that last week’s violence in Dallas and beyond has prompted Cleveland officials to cancel a Sunday march led by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Sunday over security concerns.

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Here’s the 60-second TV ad you’ll see on Fox News next week, courtesy of a group called Fairness USA, that depicts the plight of transgender people in North Carolina and elsewhere:

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Campaign contribution reports by candidates in the 2017 race for mayor of Atlanta, which doesn’t seem that far away anymore, have begun rolling in.

Peter Aman, former chief operating officer for the city, reports raising $285,716 in the first quarter of his candidacy, with more than 300 donors. Former city council president Cathy Woolard showed $271,566 raised in the first two quarters of her candidacy, including about $120,000 raised in the last three months.  The campaign has more than $151,000 cash on hand, with 540 total donors thus far. From Woolard’s press release:

 Some of the contributors to Woolard include former Mayor Shirley Franklin; Renee Glover, former CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority; Keith Mason, a top state and national Democratic fundraiser; Elaine B. Alexander, founding member of the Black-Jewish Coalition and former Executive Director of Leadership Atlanta; and Ryan Gravel, visionary creator of the Atlanta Beltline concept.

Franklin’s contribution, we’re told, was $100 and didn’t constitute an endorsement. Obviously, it is a small sum and perhaps can best be described as an affirmation of the concept of Woolard’s campaign. But it’s also worth remembering that Franklin’s daughter-in-law is in charge of Woolard’s fundraising.

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The behind-the-scenes negotiations in the governor’s office over Medicaid expansion seem to be heating up.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff Chris Riley met recently with two former aides, Brian Robinson and Blake Fulenwider, who are now part of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s “Medicaid reform” efforts.

They outlined three options they want the governor to consider before lawmakers return to the Capitol, Robinson said, and each will be a conservative take on the traditional Medicaid expansion that Deal has rebuffed as too expensive. Andy Miller of Georgia Health News has more details:

The Georgia task force is … gravitating toward new coverage under Medicaid for people with incomes up to 100 percent of the poverty level Robinson said.

Currently, people above that poverty limit ($11,880 for an individual) qualify for tax credits in the ACA’s insurance exchange. But the limit of 100 percent of the federal poverty level is lower than what the ACA calls for: covering people in Medicaid at up to 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, which is $16,394 for an individual.

The narrower span, though, would still cover up to 565,000 people – a much higher estimate than previous Georgia projections, the task force says.

A growing number of Republicans once resistant to the notion of expanding the healthcare program are now embracing it, and Deal has said he’s open to “variations” of a traditional expansion.

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Well that didn’t take long.  U.S. Sen. David Perdue wants to ban all State Department officials from using private email accounts and servers for any work-related information.

The Georgia Republican plans to introduce a bill today that would not only bar the use of non-agency owned and managed email systems, but add new training requirements for handling classified information and implement new oversight measures.

The legislation comes a week after the FBI announced it wouldn’t recommend charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. Said Perdue:

“There are serious and systemic security management problems at the State Department that span the tenure of several secretaries. Most recently during Hillary Clinton’s tenure, these security weaknesses were amplified by the use of private email servers and non-governmental email accounts … It is unacceptable for an agency that handles our nation’s security secrets to be so vulnerable.”

Perdue has the jurisdiction to begin moving the legislation. He chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees the State Department.

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Now back to Republican doings. Newt Gingrich still has quite a hole in his campaign wallet. From Patricia Murphy of the Daily Beast:

According to the latest FEC filings, Gingrich’s official campaign committee, still has $4.63 million dollars in unpaid bills. Among all major party presidential candidates from 2012, only Gingrich and Rick Santorum’s campaigns remain in debt, with Santorum owing less than one-eighth of the amount of the debt Gingrich racked up.   

The Gingrich campaign’s IOU’s are spread across the county and owed to organizations large and small. The biggest chunk of the debt, nearly $1 million, is owed for Gingrich’s use of private jets to fly from event to event through charter travel company Moby Dick Airways. The campaign also owes more than $400,000 for Gingrich’s personal security to the Patriot Group, and $128,000 to the Winston Group, a top Republican polling company based in Washington.

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Conservative provocateur Erick Erickson of WSB Radio fame, far from Donald Trump’s biggest fan, is also not pleased about Indiana Gov. Mike Pence potentially being the billionaire’s running mate. More accurately, Erickson said the two would make a perfect political pair in a searing post on his blog The Resurgent:

“Mike Pence would actually be the perfect vice presidential pick for Donald Trump because he lacks the courage of his convictions and would absolutely not overshadow Donald Trump. He gives Trump the veneer of conservatism without anyone ever having to worry that he’d actually fight for those principles.”

And that’s just the opening paragraph. Erickson goes on to disclose that he wanted Pence to run for president four years ago but that he became particularly disappointed in how the governor handled the pressure on Indiana’s ‘religious liberty’ legislation.

“He knows winning re-election in Indiana is going to be tough and victory is not assured. Pence, since 2006, has never liked a fight where victory was not assured. So now he will sign on to a campaign he knows is going to lose, but know that it sets himself up perfectly to be the nominee in 2020.”

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News came out over the weekend that Trump was also vetting retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for the VP slot. It now looks like Flynn, a long-shot candidate who caught flak from Republicans for pro-abortion rights comments, has changed his tune over the last few days. From CNN:

Flynn said Sunday that it was up to women “to make the decision” about whether to end a pregnancy, a position squarely contradicting the Republican Party’s long-held opposition to abortion rights.

But on Monday, Flynn described himself as a “pro-life Democrat” and and said that the current court standing, which allows for some legal abortions, should be reversed.

“This pro-choice issue is a legal issue that should be decided by the courts,” Flynn told on Fox News. “I believe in law. If people want to change the law, they should vote so that we can appoint pro-life judges. I believe the law should be changed.”

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As he declared himself the “law and order” candidate, Donald Trump rolled out a 10-point plan for overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs yesterday during a speech in Virginia Beach. Among the billionaire’s recommendations for improving care for vets are giving more power to the VA secretary to fire bad employees, creating a commission to investigate wrongdoing at the department and giving veterans the choice to seek care wherever they choose.

So what does Johnny Isakson make of Trump’s blueprint? The two-term Republican and chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has an overhaul plan of his own that he’s been trying to steer through the Senate for months, and parts of it overlap with Trump’s. Isakson was positive but kept his distance:

“Changing the culture of corruption at the Department of Veterans Affairs and ensuring our nation’s veterans receive the best possible care and support that they deserve should be a paramount issue in this election. I’m pleased to see Donald Trump address the critical need to reform the scandal-plagued VA, and I look forward to reviewing his plan.”

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We’ll be staking out a hearing before the House Oversight Committee this morning about the federal ‘religious liberty’ legislation we told you about next week.

One of the invited witnesses is Kelvin Cochran, the former Atlanta fire chief who was fired by the city last year after publishing a religious book in which he called homosexuality a “perversion.” Also expected to testify is Jim Obergefell, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that ultimately led the Supreme Court legalize gay marriage. 

The House Freedom Caucus, a group of the chamber’s most conservative lawmakers that counts two Georgians as members, is pretty keen on the legislation:

“Supporting the First Amendment Defense Act was one of the first official positions the Freedom Caucus took and we look forward to seeing it advance in the House. We encourage the Oversight Committee to move this legislation forward for a mark-up as soon as possible.”