Rep. Brenda Lawrence adds to growing number of House Democrats to announce retirement

Her announcement adds to a growing list of Democrats who have recently said they won’t runn for reelection in November’s midterms. Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview published Monday that he won’t run for a 16th term. Democrats face strong headwinds for retaining their slim majority in both chambers of Congress, and Republicans see President Joe Biden’s sagging approval numbers as an opportunity for the midterms.
'We have got a problem here': Low morale and redistricting hand Democrats a growing retirement issue

Many lawmakers are also facing new congressional maps after the once-a-decade redistricting process. Lawrence is the 36th member from either party to announce they’ll be leaving the House at the end of the term. That includes 11 members — six Democrats and five Republicans — who are running for Senate or governor.

Lawrence, first elected in 2014, referenced redistricting in her Tuesday remarks. “As we have a new redistricting map, a new generation of leaders will step up. We need to make sure our elected officials, in Michigan and across this country, look like our communities,” she said.

“It is not lost on me that I’m currently the only Black member of the Michigan congressional delegation — in both the US House and Senate. So, whether it’s in the halls of Congress, city halls or local school boards, representation matters,” she added.

Lawrence, the co-chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, was the first Black person and the first woman to be elected mayor in the city of Southfield, Michigan, according to her congressional biography.

The Michigan congresswoman promised to fight to “pass laws to protect our voting rights, women’s rights and to protect our environment” during the remainder of her tenure, and while she did not expound on her future plans, she said that “service to my community, service to my country” will continue to be her “guiding light.”

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All nine Supreme Court justices have received a Covid-19 booster shot

The announcement comes as the US grapples with a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases nearly two years into the pandemic largely due to the highly contagious Omicron variant. Health officials have in recent weeks been urging most vaccinated populations to get a booster shot, citing data that shows an additional vaccine dose provides better protection against the strain.

The justices will hear oral arguments Friday in cases challenging the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine and testing requirements for large employers and certain health care workers.
The Supreme Court has upheld state and local vaccine mandates. That may not save Biden's.
At least two members of the court have previously tested positive for the virus: Justice Brett Kavanaugh received a diagnosis in October, while Justice Amy Coney Barrett had a bout with it in 2020 prior to being nominated to the high court by then-President Donald Trump.
CNN reported last March that all nine justices had been fully vaccinated, with the court’s announcement then marking the first time it had acknowledged that the jurists had received protection against Covid-19 and a rare instance when information about their health was revealed.
Though the justices had started working remotely at the start of the pandemic when much of the US went into lockdown, they resumed in-person oral arguments in October 2021.

The Biden administration has said it will not begin enforcing the employer mandate until January 10, and the government has said it’s not implementing the health care worker mandate while legal challenges play out.

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Albany DA declines to prosecute former Gov. Andrew Cuomo on forcible touching charge

Albany County District Attorney David Soares said in a statement Tuesday he was declining to prosecute a former aide’s allegation that Cuomo had groped her, ahead of the Democratic former governor’s scheduled court appearance this month.

Soares said in a statement that he could not prove the charge, filed by the Albany County sheriff in October, in a courtroom to the criminal standard of proof.

“While many have an opinion regarding the allegations against the former Governor, the Albany County DA’s Office is the only one who has a burden to prove the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt,” Soares said. “While we found the complainant in this case cooperative and credible, after review of all the available evidence we have concluded that we cannot meet our burden at trial.”

The decision comes after district attorneys in Westchester and Nassau counties also in the last two weeks declined to pursue charges against Cuomo. Those cases focused on different allegations.

Soares noted that the decision to discontinue criminal prosecution is unrelated “to any possible civil liability.”

The allegations from Brittany Commisso were among the 11 detailed in New York Attorney General Letitia James’ report on allegations of sexual misconduct that led to Cuomo’s resignation in August.

Commisso, a former assistant to Cuomo, told investigators for the attorney general’s office that Cuomo had grabbed her buttocks during hugs and, during an event at the executive mansion, reached under her blouse and grabbed her breast.

Brian Premo, an attorney for Commisso, told CNN on Tuesday, “I can confirm only that in this case my client had no control over the filing or prosecution of criminal charges. She had no authority or voice in those decisions.”

“The only thing she has any power over is her resolution to continue to speak the truth and seek justice in an appropriate civil action, which she will do in due course,” Premo said.

Cuomo has denied the allegation. CNN has reached out to his attorney, Rita Glavin, for comment. CNN also reached out to Cuomo representative Rich Azzopardi.

The Albany Times Union first reported the story.

Soares said in a November letter that filings in the misdemeanor forcible touching case against Cuomo are “potentially defective” and asked to delay the former governor’s arraignment on a charge filed by the Albany County sheriff. Soares noted that the filing was “unilaterally and inexplicably filed” by Albany Sheriff Craig Apple’s office and failed to include a sworn statement by the victim.

Separately, Cuomo attorney Elkan Abramowitz told CNN that the Manhattan district attorney’s office closed an investigation into whether there was criminal liability from nursing home leadership or state officials for Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.

“I was contacted today (Monday) by the head of the Elder Care Unit from the Manhattan district attorney’s office who informed me they have closed its investigation involving the Executive Chamber and nursing homes,” Abramowitz said.

Abramowitz was outside counsel to Cuomo’s office when the former governor was in office. “I was told that after a thorough investigation — as we have said all along — there was no evidence to suggest that any laws were broken.”

CNN has reached out to the Manhattan district attorney’s office and Gov. Kathy Hochul’s executive chamber for comment. This investigation was not previously disclosed to the public.

A March 25, 2020, order by the state’s Department of Health while Cuomo was governor mandated that nursing homes must not deny readmission or admission to people “solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.” Cuomo announced a new policy on May 10, 2020, saying a hospital cannot discharge a person who is Covid positive to a nursing home.

A separate, federal investigation into how the Cuomo administration handled Covid-19 nursing home death data is ongoing. CNN has reached out to a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York for comment.

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal reported in 2021 that Cuomo’s former senior aides were involved in rewriting a 2020 nursing home report from state health officials to lower the coronavirus death toll in nursing homes, citing documents and interviews with people with knowledge of the discussions.

The original report listed the number of nursing home deaths at nearly 10,000, according to the Journal. A 2021 investigation by James’ office revealed that the state was not counting the nursing home deaths of people who had been transferred to hospitals as their conditions worsened and had died there.

CNN’s Mark Morales and Sonia Moghe contributed to this report.

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CT family hands out oranges to drivers stuck in VA winter storm | Connecticut News

(WFSB) – A nightmare commute for drivers in Virginia was brightened by a couple from Connecticut.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia said he was stuck in traffic for 19 hours on his way to Washington DC.

Fewer than 20 abandoned vehicles remained on Interstate 95 in eastern Virginia Tuesday evening after a severe winter storm left many motorists…

He and a number of other people were the victims of a severe winter storm. The Virginia Department of Transportation said the storm created snowy and icy conditions.

Kaine said his drive usually takes him about 2 hours. He started it around 1 p.m. on Monday.

He wasn’t alone in being trapped.

Drivers were stuck on portions of a 50 mile stretch of Interstate 95 in the Fredricksburg, VA area, between Richmond and Washington DC.

“I started my normal 2 hour drive to DC at 1 p.m. [Monday],” Kaine posted to Twitter. “Nineteen hours later, I’m still not near the Capitol.”

At some point during the wait, the senator said a Connecticut family that was returning from Florida found him and the others.

“A CT family returning in a packed car from Florida walked by in the middle of the night handing out oranges as we were stopped for hours on I-95,” Kaine said. “Bless them!”

It’s unclear who the family was.

However, in addition to getting recognition from Kaine, Gov. Ned Lamont also took notice.

“Connecticut values extend well beyond our state’s boundaries,” Lamont responded on Twitter. “This family’s generosity meant much more than just a snack. It was a friendly reminder that we’re all in this together.”

Copyright 2022 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Hackers breached Florida health care system, potentially exposing data on 1.3 million people

Social Security numbers, patient medical history and bank account information are among the data that have been exposed in the breach of Broward Health, a network of over 30 health care facilities serving patients across roughly 2 million-person Broward County, Florida, according to a notice the health care provider filed with the Office of the Maine Attorney General.

About 470 of the data breach victims live in Maine. Like other states, Maine law requires organizations that hold state residents’ personal data to file a disclosure when they’ve been hacked.

It is just one of numerous cyber incidents that have rattled the health sector during the pandemic, as cybercriminals have not let up in stealing data from hospitals and trying to profit from it. A ransomware attack on the Los Angeles chapter of Planned Parenthood in October compromised the personal information of about 400,000 patients.

In the case of Broward Health, the incident did not appear to involve ransomware. Broward Health spokesperson Jennifer Smith told CNN in an email that the hackers did not make any ransom demand and that no ransom was paid.

“Patient care was not disrupted or impacted at any time during or following this incident,” Smith said.

Mark Krotoski, who is listed as an attorney for Broward Health in the breach notice, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The intruders accessed Broward Health’s computer networks via a “third-party medical provider,” according to the breach notice, an incident that highlights the exposure that hospitals and other organizations have to hackers via their supply chains.

“This personal information was exfiltrated, or removed, from Broward Health’s systems, however, there is no evidence the information was actually misused by the intruder,” the breach notice says.

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Biden’s infrastructure czar urges governors to appoint their own infrastructure implementation coordinators

“We know that needs, capacity, and challenges can vary widely by locality,” the letter from Landrieu, which was shared with CNN, reads. “We need to make sure our programs reflect these realities across your state and our country, and having a senior, single point of contact in your office will help ensure that issues get elevated appropriately and rapidly.”

Landrieu suggested governors could create their own infrastructure task forces — modeled after the Infrastructure Implementation Task Force created by the President in November — to help integrate all aspects of the implementation process. The President’s task force is co-chaired by Landrieu, who is the former mayor of New Orleans, and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, has already created his own Infrastructure Planning Advisory Committee and appointed a chairman. The committee is tasked with making recommendations to the governor on best uses of the funding available to Arkansas.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, has also appointed a new infrastructure adviser to the state. The new infrastructure adviser is focused on determining priorities for the billions of dollars in federal infrastructure funding.

Implementation of the roughly $1 trillion law is a top priority of the White House ahead of this year’s midterm elections. The President and Democrats in Congress are hoping Americans see tangible benefits from the massive new spending bill ahead of the elections.

The legislation, which was signed into law by the President in November, will deliver $550 billion of new federal investments in America’s infrastructure over five years, including money for roads, bridges, mass transit, rail, airports, ports and waterways.

The package includes a $65 billion investment in improving the nation’s broadband infrastructure and invests tens of billions of dollars in improving the electric grid and water systems. Another $7.5 billion would go to building a nationwide network of plug-in electric vehicle chargers.

“The President has been clear in his charge to me: make sure these programs get implemented without unnecessary bureaucracy and delay to rebuild America’s infrastructure — while at the same time being good stewards of taxpayer dollars and working to achieve goals around creating good middle-class jobs, supporting disadvantaged and underserved communities, advancing climate resilience and sustainability, and investing in American manufacturers,” the letter reads.

Landrieu also told governors that this month his team, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget, will be releasing formal guidance to agencies to “help set the policy parameters for much of the discretionary and remaining formula funding in 2022 and beyond.” They are also preparing a guidebook for state and local governments that will include key dates related to programs coming this year.

The bipartisan infrastructure law is the first part of Biden’s two-part economic agenda. Biden is also looking to get an even larger spending package to expand the social safety net and fight the climate crisis passed through Congress but is facing major hurdles.

West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a key swing vote, dealt his party a major blow when he announced in late December that he was a “no” on the Build Back Better Act. But the President has said that he still thinks “there’s a possibility of getting Build Back Better done” and has insisted that he and Manchin will “get something” finished. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that Democrats “will not let this opportunity pass.”

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Trumps move to quash subpoenas for their testimony in civil investigation

Lawyers for the former President, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, who were subpoenaed on December 1, asked a judge to quash subpoenas for their testimony, arguing New York Attorney General Letitia James is seeking to “circumvent the entire grand jury process.” Allowing the testimony, they argued, would set a “dangerous precedent.”

The Trump lawyers argued in the court filing that James is trying to leverage the civil investigation her office has been conducting since 2019 to aid a criminal investigation led by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, known as DANY, that she joined earlier this year.

A deposition in the civil case, they wrote, “is effectively the same as a deposition by the DANY, but without providing the constitutional protections afforded every witness through the grand jury process.” Witnesses called before a New York state grand jury are given transactional immunity for their testimony and can’t be prosecuted unless they lie under oath. James, they argued, is trying to get around those rights by seeking the testimony in a civil case, which could then be used by criminal prosecutors. If they don’t testify, in a civil case a jury can hold that against defendants or draw an adverse inference.

“This is a rather transparent gambit. By attempting to play both sides, Ms James is in a position to cherry pick her investigatory methods — civil or criminal — in a calculated manner to, for example, leverage a Fifth Amendment assertion and obtain an adverse inference” in the civil investigation, they wrote, adding that absent a criminal investigation, the Trumps “might well be inclined to testify.”

The Trumps’ lawyers requested a hearing to argue their position.

The subpoenas for Trump’s children were made public Monday in a court filing where the judge set a briefing schedule to handle the dispute. CNN reported last month that Trump himself had been subpoenaed for testimony. James’ office will have two weeks to respond to the motion to quash the subpoenas and then the Trump lawyers will have time to reply, meaning a decision over the subpoenas is not expected for at least a month.

Eric Trump, an executive vice president at the company, was previously subpoenaed and provided his testimony in late 2020. Since then, James joined the criminal investigation, which covers the same topics as the civil investigation and is looking into the accuracy of financial statements the Trump Organization used when seeking financing.

The Trump filing Monday included more than two dozen exhibits, including tweets and transcripts of James’ public statements, to support their assertion that she has a dual role.

The Trumps have asked the judge to quash the subpoenas, which they made public, or put them on hold until the criminal investigation is complete. The subpoenas are seeking multiple forms of communication and financial statements prepared by the Trumps’ accountants dating back to 2010.

The subpoenas also seek records relating to the Trump hotel in Chicago and conservation easements, or tax benefits, taken on properties including the family’s Seven Springs estate in New York. Additionally, the subpoenas seek all communications with Forbes magazine, which wrote articles about Trump’s wealth, and records relating to its insurance coverage and renewal of the plans.

The Trumps’ pushback marks a new showdown in the ongoing investigations into the Trump Organization and its finances. Trump attorneys have fought subpoenas for documents and testimony in the civil and criminal investigations, going to the US Supreme Court twice over a grand jury subpoena to its longtime accounting firm.

Authorities have prevailed in their subpoena fights, at least in the litigation that has been public, but the disputes have caused delays.

Trump sues NY attorney general, seeking to stop investigation into his company

Monday night, James’ office issued a statement in response to the motion saying that “despite their names, they must play by the same rules as everyone else. These delay tactics will not stop us from following the facts or the law, which is why we will be asking the court to compel Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump to testify with our office under oath. Our investigation will continue undeterred.”

The civil subpoenas come as prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney’s office have interviewed additional witnesses in recent weeks and brought others before the grand jury.

An attorney for Trump earlier Monday reiterated his claims that the investigation is politically motivated.

“Letitia James is the single most unethical Attorney General this country has ever seen,” said Alina Habba, an attorney representing Trump. “The way she has weaponized her office through this political witch hunt exceeds all bounds of prosecutorial standards and violates basic constitutional rights. Her actions are a threat to our democracy and I plan to hold her accountable to the fullest extent.”

The Trump Organization sued James’ office last month alleging she is biased and her investigation into the former President and his company is unconstitutional. It has asked a judge to block the civil investigation.

This story has been updated with additional developments Monday.

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Abortion providers go back to Supreme Court in long-shot bid to challenge Texas abortion law

The long-shot bid on the part of the providers is their latest attempt to revive their challenge to the law, four months after it was allowed to take effect, bringing to a halt abortions in the country’s second largest state.

Last month, the Supreme Court allowed the controversial law to remain in effect but it did clear a limited path forward for the providers to sue a handful of licensing officials in the state in order to block them from enforcing the law. The court’s ruling was a devastating blow to supporters of abortion rights who had hoped the justices would block the law outright. Instead, the case was returned to a conservative federal appeals court.
Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law continue but says providers can sue

The current dispute centers on whether the appeals court should immediately return what is left of the providers’ case to a district court judge who has expressed deep skepticism over the law, or whether the case can remain in the conservative leaning 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals for proceedings that could take months to resolve, further delaying the providers’ case.

The 5th Circuit — which ruled in favor of the law during an earlier phase of the lawsuit — is set to hold arguments in the case on Friday.

In legal filings filed Monday night, lawyers for the Center for Reproductive Rights accused the appeals court of unnecessarily delaying the case and said that it should have immediately sent the dispute back to the district court.

“Absent intervention by the Court, the Fifth Circuit is poised to entertain questions already decided by the Court in direct violation of this Court’s mandate and delay further resolution of this case in the district court by at least weeks, and potentially months or more,” Marc Hearron, a lawyer for the providers, told the court.

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Russian businessman’s Kremlin ties could prove intelligence ‘gold mine’ for US, former official says

Former Justice Department and Homeland Security officials say that Vladislav Klyushin‘s Moscow-based cybersecurity firm’s work with the Russian government and Klyushin’s alleged relationship with an ex-Russian GRU military intelligence officer will likely be of keen interest to US law enforcement and intelligence officials.

The Russian businessman, who is in his early 40s, made an appearance in federal court in Massachusetts via videoconference on Monday in what was supposed to be an arraignment hearing. But Klyushin’s US-based lawyer, Maksim Nemtsev, did not file the requisite paperwork for the hearing to proceed, according to Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler. The arraignment hearing is now slated for Wednesday.

US prosecutors have accused Klyushin and four other Russian men of an elaborate insider trading scheme that involved hacking into companies that Tesla and other firms used to file Securities and Exchange Commission reports.

The US government has not publicly connected Klyushin to Russian interference in the 2016 election. But one of Klyushin’s co-defendants in the securities fraud case is Ivan Ermakov, who was one of a dozen GRU officers whom a federal grand jury indicted in 2018 for interfering in the 2016 election by hacking and leaking documents from the Democratic National Committee.

Klyushin’s case is just the latest high-stakes US pursuit of a Russian national with potentially illuminating connections to Russian hacking activity targeting US interests.

Christopher Krebs, former head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, called Klyushin’s arrest and prosecution a potential “gold mine” for US intelligence because it could shed additional light on GRU operations against the US and its allies. “This is a big get for a few reasons: If he flips, he may be able to confirm the intelligence community’s findings about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election,” Krebs told CNN.

Even if Klyushin doesn’t cooperate, Krebs said, a conviction on the charges of securities fraud could send “a strong signal to others like him that they don’t have a whole lot of freedom of movement outside Russia.”

Oliver Ciric, a Switzerland-based lawyer for Klyushin, told CNN in an email that his client denies the US securities fraud allegations and other US charges and “intends to use all available legal remedies in order to ensure his defense.”

Ciric said that US intelligence officials had tried to recruit Klyushin in the south of France in 2019 and that British intelligence did the same in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2020. Ciric declined to elaborate on the incidents, which Bloomberg News first reported.

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to Ciric’s statement. The UK Foreign Office declined to comment to CNN.

From the Alps to a Massachusetts jail

Klyushin was arrested in Switzerland in March 2021 while on a ski vacation with this family, according to Ciric. Klyushin was extradited to the US last month, where he now faces hacking and securities fraud charges for his alleged role in the multimillion-dollar scheme between 2018 and 2020.

US prosecutors accuse Klyushin, Ermakov and their co-conspirators of using access to the non-public financial records to make tens of millions of dollars on stock trades.

Ermakov worked at Klyushin’s firm, M-13, which claims to offer “IT solutions to the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation,” among other government agencies, according to its website.

Klyushin wrote to Ermakov, whom the Justice Department describes as a now-former GRU officer, in May 2019 describing the nearly $1 million in profits the scheme had netted for one account over the previous seven months, according to the US indictment.

Ermakov could not be reached for comment. M-13 did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Ciric previously told CNN that the US indictment and extradition were “disingenuous” and alleged that “the real reason” for Klyushin’s arrest and extradition “is in connection with the nature of his work for and contacts within the Russian government.”

Kellen Dwyer, a former US deputy assistant attorney general, said Klyushin looked like a natural target for US investigators.

“Russia fights extradition of high-level cybercriminals for a number of reasons, including the fact that they don’t want the US to have access to people who can help them better understand the relationship between Russian intelligence and cybercriminals,” Dwyer, now a partner focusing on cybersecurity at Alston & Bird law firm, told CNN. He said he had no knowledge of any non-public information on Klyushin’s case.

Holden Triplett, a former senior FBI official based in Russia, said that the US arrest of Klyushin could compromise any Russian intelligence activity of which Klyushin or his firm had knowledge.

“When someone like this has been arrested, any operation that they would have knowledge of immediately becomes suspect from a counterintelligence perspective,” Triplett told CNN. “Anything that they’ve touched is now under the microscope.”

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New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner announces retirement after 45 years as the state’s top election official

“In the coming days, I will be stepping down as secretary of state,” he told reporters on Monday. “I will do so after arrangements have been made for the constitutional deputy Dave Scanlan to take the oath of office.”

Gardner has served as New Hampshire’s secretary of state since 1976 and has been kept in his position under both Democratic and Republican legislatures. Gardner faced a notably tough challenge in 2018, when Democrat Colin Van Ostern, who ran for governor two years earlier, challenged his hold on the job, but the longtime secretary of state held on to narrowly win.

While Gardner handled all issues around elections as secretary of state, the role that earned him a level of notoriety was his work around the state’s presidential primary and his repeated defense of the Granite State being the first state to hold a primary in the presidential nomination process.

Gardner defended the first in the nation primary as part of New Hampshire “culture” on Monday, arguing that it is part of the small state’s history — an argument he has made for decades.

“We’re not smarter than anybody, any others. It’s just part of the DNA of the state,” Gardner told NPR in 2016. “It’s part of our political heritage, our culture.”

Stephen Stepanek, chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said Gardner “made an indescribable and long-lasting impact on the State of New Hampshire and our country as a whole.”

“His steadfast commitment to putting his state first and partisanship last is admirable,” said Stepanek.

Ray Buckley, chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said Gardner has “played an important and historic role with not only NH’s Elections but the nation’s.”

“Bill Gardner’s 44 year diligence in preserving the state’s status as the First in the Nation Primary has been laudable and has served the nation well,” Buckley said.

Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, also recognized Gardner’s legacy: “Granite Staters owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Secretary of State Bill Gardner.”

“For decades, Bill Gardner has fiercely protected New Hampshire’s First in the Nation presidential primary and overseen our elections that are truly a point of pride for our state – always open, fair, accessible, and accurate,” he said.

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