The 77-year-old billionaire was among more than 100 people linked last month to several central Florida day spas and massage parlors suspected of being used for prostitution and targeted by law enforcement during a monthslong investigation.
How police spent months taking down a spa where Robert Kraft is accused of paying for sex

Police said Kraft twice visited the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter. Video footage showed him receiving “paid acts” in a room at the spa and surveillance video shows him being driven to the spa, police Chief Daniel Kerr said last month.
Kraft, who has denied through a spokesman that he committed a crime, has been charged with two counts of solicitation. “We categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity,” his spokesman said.
The charges are second-degree misdemeanors and generally carry no more than a 60-day sentence in county jail, according to Mike Edmondson, a spokesman with the State Attorney’s Office in Palm Beach County.
CNN calls to the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s office and attorneys for Kraft have not been returned.
Kraft is to be arraigned on March 28.
The plea offer was first reported in the Wall Street Journal.
The White House said Trump was naming Steve Dickson, who retired recently as Delta’s vice president for flight operations, to the FAA role.
The agency had been without a permanent chief for more than a year. The administrator role was filled in an acting capacity by Daniel Elwell for 14 months.
Dickson had been eyed by the White House for months to take the job, though action on his nomination wasn’t taken until Tuesday. Trump made the selection before the current controversy surrounding the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jets, the aircraft involved in two deadly crashes over the past several months.
Trump administration grounds Boeing 737 Max planes

Last week, Trump announced from the White House the jets wouldn’t be permitted to fly until Boeing determines they are safe. His announcement came ahead of any official word from the FAA, and caught some officials off-guard.
Until the announcement, the agency had insisted the planes were safe. Later, officials said new evidence from the scene of a crash in Ethiopia led them to follow the lead of other nations in grounding the plane.
In assuming the post — which carries a term of five years — Dickson will come to work for a President with distinct views of air travel and aviation.
A longtime user of a private Boeing 757, Trump at one point wanted to name his personal pilot, John Dunkin, to the FAA job but faced questions about Dunkin’s qualifications.
As the Boeing crisis unfolded, Trump lamented on Twitter that planes were “becoming far to complex to fly,” and advocated for removing some of the technology that has been installed inside cockpits.
Dickson is a pilot himself, who began his career in the military and later flew commercial aircraft including the Boeing 727, 737, 757 and 767 planes. In his post at Delta he was responsible for flight safety and pilot training.
The press blamed the planes, and many passengers were afraid to fly on them. The jet was supposed to set the company on a path to success, because it was the type of transport that airlines had been demanding. But if panic persisted and airlines were unwilling to buy it, the future of Boeing would be in jeopardy.
That could describe Boeing’s current crisis. A pair of fatal crashes of its 737 Max jets led to the grounding of all 371 of the jets worldwide.
But the crisis described above was much worse than Boeing’s 737 Max troubles, and it happened more than 50 years ago.
During a four-month period in late 1965 and early 1966, four new Boeing 727 jets crashed. Three of the crashes occurred while the planes were attempting to land at US airports, and two of them happened within three days of each other in November 1965.

The lessons from that earlier crisis

Boeing obviously survived the crisis from the mid ’60s. So what lessons can it apply to its current situation?
First, proper training for pilots who are flying new aircraft is crucially important.
Pilots were not prepared to fly the 727, and that led to the crashes.
Tail section of the All Nippon Airways Boeing 727 jetliner, which crashed in Tokyo Bay with 133 persons aboard in 1966.

While the exact cause of the 737 Max crashes have yet to be determined, there is evidence that pilots were not prepared to deal with an automatic safety system designed to prevent stalls. Investigators suspect the plane’s safety system forced the nose of the 737 Max jets lower before the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
But the crashes in 1965 and ’66 proved that passengers will get over their fear of certain jets fairly quickly if Boeing can prove they’re safe.
Anxiety over flying on Boeing’s 737 Max planes reached a fever pitch after the crash in Ethiopia. The travel site Kayak added an option to screen out flights using the 737 Max jets. Boeing’s decision to request a grounding of the jets was partly “in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety.”
If history is a guide, nervousness over the 737 Max should recede.
Those four 727 crashes provoked even more concern among the traveling public. Air crashes were far more common then and many more people had little experience with air travel.
But the concerns about the 727 faded quickly, and the plane became a major success for Boeing (BA).

The history of the 727 crashes

The 727 had three jet engines on its tail, the first commercial plane with fewer than four engines. That made it more fuel efficient than the four-engine Boeing 707, the industry’s first commercial jet. The 727 also had innovative wings that could slow the plane faster, which allowed it to land on shorter runways. That allowed the plane to land at airports that previously had only been served by propeller planes, a key selling point.
But the pilots at the controls of the four doomed jets were apparently unprepared for how quickly the planes would descend with the new wings.
One of the planes bound for O’Hare Airport in Chicago crashed into Lake Michigan miles away.
“The headlines in the papers called it the ‘Deadly 727.’ There were a lot of calls for grounding it,” said Bill Waldock, professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and head of the school’s crash lab. “You had travel agents booking passengers away from the airplane. It could have killed the airplane.”

The FAA sticks with Boeing

As was the case last week when aviation authorities around the world were grounding the 737 Max, the FAA stuck by Boeing in 1965. It issued a statement the day after the third fatal 727 crash, saying that it could find no pattern in the crashes. It declined to ground the jet.
Eventually the Civil Aeronautics Board and the National Transportation Safety Board, the CAB’s successor agency, which was created in the wake of the crashes, cleared the 727 and blamed pilot error for the accidents.
“The board determines the probable cause of this accident was the failure of the captain to take timely action to arrest an excessive descent rate during the landing approach,” said investigators looking into a crash in Salt Lake City.

The need for more training

Pilots were not properly prepared to deal with the changes to how the plane handled compared with the commercial jets that preceded it.
“The descent rates that can develop were far, far greater than what they were used to,” said Shem Malmquist, an accident investigator and visiting professor at the Florida Institute of Technology who is a Boeing 777 captain who previously flew the 727. “The investigators were right that the airplane itself was safe. They left out that the pilots weren’t trained to handle it.”
But Boeing did get past the 727 crisis. Increased training led to safer operation of the plane, and these kinds of crashes ended.
“The problem was the pilot training and experience,” said Waldock, who teaches about the 727 crashes as part of his accident investigation classes. “The training was expanded as a result of the accidents.”

Public acceptance of once troubled planes

The 727 went on to become the bestselling jet of its time for Boeing. It eventually sold 1,831 of the jets, nearly twice as many as the rival DC-9.
The DC-9 maker, Douglas Aircraft, ended up merging with McDonnell Aircraft a couple of years later. Boeing eventually bought the merged company, McDonnell Douglas, in 1997.
Public concern about aircraft that have crashed is typically short-lived, said aviation author and historian Brian Baum.
Baum points to the recent grounding of Boeing’s then new 787 Dreamliner in 2013 for three months because of problems with battery fires.
“People were quite nervous about the 787 with the battery problems,” said Baum. “But I don’t know of anyone who would have an issue getting on a 787 today.”
When all is said and done, consumers make decision based on cost.
“I don’t know that people will care that much for very long,” said Malmquist. “They only worry about the price of the ticket.”
The walls aren’t lined with an eclectic assortment of Trump swag and fan mail. There is no “wall of shame” exhibiting pictures of vanquished rivals. Staffers work at desks and in sleek, glass-doored offices rather than huddled behind plastic folding tables surrounded by unpainted dry wall.
In almost every way, the effort to re-elect Trump is a stark contrast to the insurgent, chaotic bid that propelled him to the White House in 2016. Moving out of the bare-bones production offices of “The Apprentice” in Trump Tower and into shiny, modern offices in the Washington suburbs is just the beginning.
Nearly 20 months out from the presidential election, the Trump campaign is already more organized and better-structured than its 2016 predecessor ever was. It’s hired dozens of staffers, expanded its already impressive data operation, and begun to build out a formidable ground game across the country.
It’s also raised (and spent) a record amount of money for a presidential re-election campaign at this stage. The campaign ended 2018 with $19 million in the bank, after raising more than $100 million alongside its joint fundraising committees over the first two years of Trump’s presidency.
Perhaps the most significant difference is the relationship the campaign has with the Republican National Committee. Compared to the uneasy, bolted-on partnership forged in the final sprint to Election Day in 2016, the Trump campaign and RNC are now practically one entity. Under an unprecedented agreement announced earlier this year, the two merged their field operations and fundraising efforts and will share office space.
Under this setup, the RNC will pay for and provide much of the infrastructure, and the Trump campaign will call the shots.
The joint Trump/RNC re-election outfit, Trump Victory, is already putting its ground game in motion, with two deputy political directors and nine of 10 regional field directors hired and plans to deploy state directors in all key battleground states by early this summer, two senior Trump campaign officials said.
The result, according to interviews with 16 Trump campaign officials, Republican operatives and White House officials, is a presidential re-election campaign unlike any other in modern history. That’s partly because the Trump campaign never actually ended. Trump filed for re-election just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2017, something no other president has ever done. Both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had been in office for more than two years before they filed for re-election.
Donald Trump's 2020 secret sauce

By getting out of the gate so early, the campaign has also been able to foot millions of dollars in legal fees — some to cover the expenses of the campaign and Trump associates caught up in federal and congressional investigations. The campaign and its supporting outside groups have also provided a soft landing spot for a handful of former White House aides and family members.
While Democrats are only just beginning their primary squabble, Trump campaign aides say they’re sitting on a juggernaut. Whether Trump — who has a track record of sabotaging his aides’ best-laid plans — takes full advantage of the operation remains to be seen.
Brad Parscale

Brad Parscale

In charge of it all is Brad Parscale, a 43-year-old, 6-foot-8 digital marketing executive who had no campaign experience until he was hired as the 2016 campaign’s digital director. Before that, Parscale spent several years running an online marketing business and building websites, including for the Trump Organization.
Since Trump tapped him as campaign manager a year ago, Parscale has quietly developed a highly structured re-election organization that will be driven by a data-centric approach that reflects Parscale’s digital marketing background.
“We now have an operation and time to build that — a building that has proper desks in it and proper things,” Parscale said in an interview with CNN. “Last time — not for any fault of some of the people that run it — but it just was fly-by-night sometimes because it was going so fast.”
Parscale also has one key advantage he didn’t last time: “We already have the President of the United States,” he says. “We have the incumbency, we know where we’re going.”
Still, he has his work cut out for him. Trump is among the most unpopular presidents in modern history, having never breached the 50% approval mark in polling averages. He’s also under investigation on a number of fronts. Congressional and federal investigators are probing his administration as well as his business, his inauguration committee and his foundation. That’s all helped fuel a tide of liberal enthusiasm that swept Democrats to victories in last year’s midterms, including in many swing states that were critical to Trump’s narrow path to victory in 2016.
To win, it’s crucial that Parscale mobilizes Trump’s avid core of supporters. The campaign is already turning its attention to addressing Rust Belt warning signs, with Trump planning to rally supporters in Michigan next week. It will be the 56th rally of his presidency, a staple of Trump’s campaign style that will remain central to his 2020 effort.
Beyond data analytics, field operations, fundraising and advertising, the election will likely come down to voters’ charged feelings about a controversial President. Parscale sees Trump as his ace in the hole.
“When the President and this campaign gets ready to go full speed again, the President will turn on every ignition switch that’s necessary to get the enthusiasm back. Anyone who doesn’t think that this president will go 5 million miles an hour, day and night, to bring enthusiasm back and talk about what he can do next — they don’t know him,” Parscale said.

Turning rallies into “real data machines”

On a February night in El Paso, Texas, chants of “build that wall!” fill the El Paso County Coliseum as Parscale confidently strides onto the stage with a box of “Make America Great Again” hats under his arm. Without undoing the top button on his expertly tailored three-piece suit, he tosses several hats into the crowd before reaching for the microphone.
Parscale warms up the crowd

Parscale warms up the crowd

“I am feeling the enthusiasm in here tonight! You gotta understand, though, this is our first rally for this presidential cycle, so you guys gotta be extra loud today,” Parscale says as the crowd breaks into a raucous cheer.
Parscale has become a staple of the pre-programming at Trump rallies — a stark departure from the behind-the-scenes role he played in 2016 running the campaign’s digital operation.
In that role, Parscale pushed the campaign to spend half its ad budget online, a move that initially left Trump fuming at Parscale, but is now one of the reasons he sits atop the campaign. Already in 2019, the Trump campaign has spent $3.5 million on Facebook ads and another $1 million on Google, according to public spending data analyzed by communications firm Bully Pulpit Interactive. That’s nearly double the combined online ad spending for the full Democratic field of presidential candidates.
Back in 2016, that sort of precise targeting of voters through digital ads would not have worked without the RNC’s data operation, the byproduct of a multimillion-dollar investment spurred by the Republican defeat in 2012. RNC operatives credit Parscale with encouraging Trump campaign officials to use what they’d built.
“Brad was able to go through the hierarchy up to the President, with Jared (Kushner), with (Steve) Bannon with Kellyanne (Conway), with everybody…and he was able to go and say, I looked under the hood and they have this amazing machine,” a former senior RNC official said.
Now campaign manager, Parscale is putting data at the core of the re-election campaign’s efforts. Standing at the lectern in El Paso, Parscale quickly reveals his true interest in these rallies when he whips out his phone and asks the crowd to “text WALL” to a specific phone number.
“That’s how we can connect with you and that’s very important to helping us win in 2020,” Parscale explains as he entices the crowd with a sweepstakes-like promises of free campaign swag.
Just like in 2016, the campaign is capitalizing on Trump’s ability to draw thousands of supporters — many of whom are infrequent voters or non-traditional Republicans — to expand their voter data files and improve turnout. Now, the campaign is focused on getting even more granular data out of rallies and marshaling that energy into volunteer work, turning the rallies into “real data machines,” as Parscale says.
The El Paso rally is an important step in that direction. Outside the coliseum, volunteers use handheld electronic ticket scanners for the first time to confirm which supporters have actually shown up, instead of simply tracking which ones sign up for a ticket on Eventbrite. With this data in hand, the campaign determines that half the rally attendees are registered Democrats, and that 23% hadn’t voted in any of the last four elections — crucial information in identifying voters it might not have otherwise known to target.
The scanners also give the campaign access to the phone numbers of some of Trump’s most motivated supporters, which the campaign plans to use to boost its ranks of volunteers — something they felt was a shortcoming of the 2016 campaign, two senior Trump campaign officials said.
“What we did not do a good enough job of was to activate them into their neighborhoods,” Trump campaign political director Chris Carr said of rallygoers in 2016. “That’s what we’re going to do this cycle. Because when we activate them into their neighborhoods, it just grows. The army (of volunteers) grows.”
The campaign is aiming to have at least 1.5 million volunteers for the presidential election, a senior campaign official said. There’s even an app that’s in development.
“We need to give them digital technology right on their phone,” says Parscale. “As they’re waiting for the President, while they’re standing outside or a couple of days before when they’re excited, they’re interested, they’re speaking of, ‘I’m going to go see the President’ and say, ‘Hey, here are some activities we’d like you to do.'”
If there’s one aspect of the re-election operation that Trump campaign and RNC officials are most confident in, it’s their data operation. It was crucial in helping to steer digital advertising dollars with precision and direct resources to midwestern states that proved to be the difference. Now, the Trump campaign and RNC have had two years to improve their synergy, collect more voter data and perfect their voter targeting, and they believe they have a critical edge over Democrats.
Republicans’ voter database has long lived in a shared data exchange called The Data Trust, which allows a slew of Republican groups — from campaigns to state parties and even super PACs — to feed in and extract voter information. Democrats — whose data analytics outpaced Republicans’ in 2008 and 2012 — are now playing catch up.
“I think, right now, we’re not competitive,” said former Gov. Howard Dean, a former presidential candidate and DNC chairman who has been tasked by the Democratic National Committee with creating the Democrats’ version of The Data Trust. “They’ve been doing this the right way for two cycles and you know the DNC has really started out in a hole. You know, we have basically 12 months or so to get us in shape.”
“I’m not the least bit panicked about it, but we don’t have a lot of time,” he added.

Conductor of the Trump train

Standing outside the coliseum in El Paso, Parscale towers over the crowd. He’s popped outside for a few minutes to survey the snaking line of supporters, knowing that the President will ask him about the crowd size when he shows up in three hours, especially with the Democratic sensation and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke leading a counter-rally just a few blocks away.
“I want to make sure we fill it and I want to see how much we back-fill it outside,” Parscale says, before predicting 8,000 supporters will fit inside the 6,500-capacity coliseum. Even that hyperbole wasn’t satisfactory for Trump. That night from the stage he claimed that, with the help of the fire department, 10,000 people fit inside the coliseum, a claim the fire department later denied.
While Parscale’s height might give him an edge in the eyes of Trump, who famously likes to surround himself with tall people, it’s not the reason he has his current job.
The unconventional selection was borne largely out of Parscale’s close relationship with the President’s family, namely Eric Trump and Jared Kushner. Eric initially hired Parscale in 2011 to build websites for the Trump Organization. Kushner recognized his digital savvy during the 2016 campaign, quietly elevating the Trump campaign digital director to a role that many on the campaign likened to that of a deputy campaign manager.
Parscale with Donald Trump

Parscale with Donald Trump

Parscale is almost universally well-liked and respected inside Trumpworld, a rarity considering it’s rife with intense rivalries and backstabbing, though two sources familiar with the matter reported tension between Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Parscale. In an effort to keep the peace, Parscale recently began convening a regular “kitchen cabinet” conference call with a group of former top Trump campaign officials and informal political advisers, from Lewandowski to pro-Trump activist Charlie Kirk, seeking their input and sharing updates about the campaign, two sources familiar with the calls said.
Parscale with Eric Trump

Parscale with Eric Trump

The Kansas native-turned-Texas transplant also knows where he stands vis-à-vis Trump.
“I’ve always said, he’s the campaign manager, the communications director, the finance director — he is the master of the Trump train and I’m a conductor on it,” Parscale says back in the campaign offices.
Parscale typically speaks with the President at least once a week by phone, two sources familiar with the matter said. He talks to Kushner nearly every day. The President’s son-in-law has been a quiet force behind many of the campaign’s early efforts to prepare for 2020 and will serve as Trump’s primary go-between with the campaign.
In 2016, Trump micromanaged much of his campaign , and he is already keeping close tabs on the re-election effort. Multiple sources close to the President said he will be the ultimate driver of his re-election strategy.
During a recent meeting in the White House residence where Trump campaign officials outlined the structure of the campaign for the President and vice president, Trump was locked in, two sources who attended the meeting said, even as the meeting stretched for an hour and a half.
Trump also flashed his penchant for keeping a close eye on the money, cheering the forthcoming hire of an in-house legal counsel, which is aimed at reducing the campaign’s legal bills.
“I love that!” Trump exclaimed, the two sources said.

The road to Charlotte

While nearly nine in 10 Republicans tell pollsters they approve of Trump’s job as President, his presidency has provoked more intra-Republican bloodletting than any other in modern history. Since he took office, there has been rampant speculation about which Republican would mount a primary challenge.
So far it’s just one— former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016. Former Ohio governor and CNN senior political commentator John Kasich is said to still be mulling a possible primary challenge, and Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan has recently emerged as a possible alternative.
The campaign isn’t leaving anything to chance, and is working hard to close off as many pathways to the RNC convention floor as possible.
Two former White House officials, Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, are heading up a small team of Trump campaign officials whose singular mission is to ensure the 2020 RNC convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, is “drama-free.”
They have already hit the ground, heading off any cracks in support for the President at the state party level by working to ensure that RNC convention delegates and state party chairs elected this year are reliably pro-Trump.
At the national level, the merger between the Trump campaign and RNC is sending a powerful message that Trump and the Republican Party are synonymous. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has proved a fierce defender of the President, even firing off missives at her uncle, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, after he penned an op-ed critical of Trump. The RNC has since also installed Tommy Hicks, Jr., a Texas businessman and close friend of the President’s eldest son, as co-chairman.
Parscale with Ivanka Trump and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel

Parscale with Ivanka Trump and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel

While part of the campaign’s team is focused on heading off primary challenges, the campaign and the RNC are focused on building out a formidable general election ground operation.
Led by Carr, the political director, the campaign is planning to deploy staff into key battleground states by early this summer, a full year before the two parties formally nominate their candidates for the general election.
The campaign has hired regional directors for all but the upper Midwest region and is preparing to hire state directors who will manage the Trump campaign and RNC efforts in each state. Carr is requiring all state directors to undergo and pass a weeklong training course this spring before they are hired — even if they already currently serve as RNC state directors, according to a senior Trump campaign official.
The deployments will allow the campaign to turn its attention early on to engaging and deploying field workers and volunteers into “turfs,” territories comprised of 15,000 households the Trump campaign plans to target in 2020. Residents in those households are either fervent Trump supporters who vote infrequently or reliable voters who are leaning toward supporting Trump but are not yet “in the bank,” in the words of a senior Trump campaign official.
It’s a similar effort to the ground game the RNC ran in 2016 — except this time it is beginning early, and supercharged.
None of this would be possible without raising a record amount of money. The Trump campaign and its affiliated committees have raked in nearly $130 million over the past two years. That’s given it a financial advantage that Trump campaign officials say will allow them to vigorously compete in more states than they did in 2016.
A super PAC and nonprofit organization supporting Trump — America First Action and America First Policies — raised an additional $75 million, according to a spokeswoman for the combined America First operation. Both are closely aligned with the President, with a coterie of former Trump aides helping to develop them. Parscale is one of the founders of America First Policies but is no longer involved.
The super PAC, America First Action, spent heavily on ads to boost Republican candidates in 2018, burning through most of its money. The organization also serves as home to some key Trump loyalists, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who serves as a senior adviser and spokesman for the group, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host who is dating the President’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr. Guilfoyle is the group’s vice chairwoman.
For all of its fundraising prowess, the Trump campaign has burned through donors’ contributions at a fast clip.
In the last three months of 2018 alone, according to a CNN review of FEC records, the campaign spent $23 million — exceeding the $21 million that Trump and his political operation with the RNC raised in that time. The campaign plowed nearly a third of its money — $8 million — into advertising, as it worked to boost its data gathering and drive support for Republicans in the midterm elections. Another $2 million went to purchasing campaign swag — the T-shirts, mugs, stickers and “Make America Great Again” hats — that his avid supporters snap up.
Over the past two years, some of the campaign’s money has flowed directly to Parscale’s own businesses. Between the Trump campaign and the RNC, Parscale’s firms have pulled in more than $21 million for services including digital consulting, online advertising and fundraising.
Parscale has said that much of that money goes directly toward purchasing advertising and other expenses, but he declined to provide a detailed accounting of the spending and how much he has profited from his business with the RNC and Trump campaign.
He points out that unlike other political consultants, he will not earn a percentage of the campaign’s ad buys, instead agreeing to a $300,000 annual retainer with the campaign, plus bonuses.
“In the last election, I was hired as an advertising agency and we received a percentage. After that, I felt like as campaign manager it would seem not very ethical and very good of myself to pay myself a percentage for my own decisions,” Parscale said. “I know a lot of guys in this industry that do that. I feel differently about it.”

Legal Fees

The campaign’s fundraising has also served another crucial function: paying the legal bills of Trump campaign officials and family members.
In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, donors to the Trump campaign have underwritten more than $6.7 million in legal expenses — more than $1 out of every $10 the campaign has spent on operating costs — at a time when the President, his family and aides have had to respond to federal and congressional investigations stemming from Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
That’s nearly as much at the $7.4 million President Barack Obama’s campaign spent on legal services during the entire eight years of his presidency, according to a CNN analysis of Federal Election Commission records.
The bulk of the campaign’s spending on legal fees — nearly $4.4 million — has gone to the law firm Jones Day, which handles the campaign’s FEC compliance and document request matters. Almost all the remaining $2.3 million has flowed to other law firms, several of which represent Trump campaign officials and Trump family members swept up in the Russia-related investigations.
More than $317,000 of those legal expenses have been paid out to firms representing Donald Trump Jr., who brokered the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 with a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.
And firms representing former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller and Kushner have been paid nearly $366,000 by the campaign. A spokesman for Kushner’s attorney said payments to his firm were related to the DNC’s lawsuit against Trump’s campaign officials, including Kushner.
Back at its gleaming new office space in Virginia, Parscale proudly claims the campaign saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by subleasing a fully furnished office — which was a trading floor for a financial company — after that company was purchased and downsized.
Savings aside, some Trump political advisers worry the campaign will lose the “start-up mentality” that defined Trump’s stunning 2016 victory as it becomes a more traditional national campaign — modern office space and all.
“You kind of still have to keep that — I don’t want to say fly by the seat of your pants — but that’s what made this campaign very successful,” one Republican operative close to the campaign said. “You don’t want to have a thousand layers and become some giant corporation where you can’t make a decision.”
Parscale is mindful of the criticism and wary of the campaign being cast as too “traditional.” This won’t be a campaign that will grow to “400 employees in 400 offices across America,” he says.
And if there’s anything he can lean on to make his case, it’s his own nontraditional background.
“I don’t think there’s anything traditional about me,” he said. “I think that I was the right hybrid for the President.”
The episode occurred Saturday, one day after a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing at least 50 people.
Noel Thomas Becht, 40, is being held on charges of threatening and intimidating, disorderly conduct and trespassing.
Phoenix police said Becht showed up Saturday evening at the United Islamic Center of Arizona and said he was curious about Islam. He was encouraged to sit in on a prayer service.
Becht sat for a while but then began wandering around the building, going into rooms where he wasn’t allowed, police said. He asked questions about the service times at the Phoenix mosque as well as another mosque in Tempe, about half an hour away by car.
A mosque leader questioned Becht, who then held his finger to his throat and made a sawing motion, according to a police report.
The leader later told police he felt as though Becht was signaling he “wanted to behead him.”
Police responded at 7:25 p.m. and took Becht into custody.
He was booked into the Maricopa County Jail, where he was still being held Tuesday morning.
CNN has attempted to reach out to Becht but has not been able to determine if he has an attorney.
Becht is scheduled to appear in court next Monday.

Mosques are taking extra precautions

The attacks in Christchurch have mosques around the world taking extra security measures.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is sending out a 16-page safety guide to mosques with instructions on how to install cameras as well as how to deal with active shooters, bomb threats and suspicious packages.
Araceli Villanueva, an official with CAIR-Arizona, told CNN affiliate KTVK, “We need to make sure that we have security at all times, especially right now.”
New York officials are beefing up security at mosques in New York City and throughout the state. Officials in the Dutch city of Rotterdam are ramping up security at mosques after a shooting on a tram over the weekend killed three people.
In a Facebook message Monday, the United Islamic Center of Arizona thanked the community for its support.
“After the recent incident that occurred on Saturday night at UICA, we have seen the true strength and the unity that are present within our community and elsewhere,” the message said. “Muslims and non-Muslims alike came to show us their support and to work hand-in-hand with us to unroot hate, radicalism and supremacy of all forms.”
The company revealed on Monday its plans to fund and distribute new publications, inviting editors and publishers to apply for its new program.
It’s a familiar pitch for Medium, which acknowledged in the announcement that it had previously done deals with third-party publishers. The company said it “fulfilled those contracts but did not end up renewing them.” Sites such as ThinkProgress and The Ringer had previously partnered with Medium, though both have since left.
Medium has had fits and starts since it was founded by Williams in 2012; in 2017, it laid off a third of its staff. Later that year, Medium unveiled a subscription program that allowed publishers to implement a paywall, but the program was canceled in 2018.
In its call for applications on Monday, Medium emphasized that it is looking “for quality publications.”
“When we say quality, we mean more than good writing (though we like that a lot),” the announcement said. “We also mean information quality — accuracy, insightfulness, and offering something uniquely valuable to the reader.”
The company said it will pay publishers “a revenue share based on readership,” which in some cases can range from $5,000 to $50,000 a month. The contracts will range from three to 12 months.
The company is now focused on producing original publications. Digiday reported last month that Medium is launching four subscription publications. On Tuesday, former New York Times food writer Mark Bittman launched Salty, an online magazine published through Medium.
Williams told the New York Times that there are more publications on the way; after investing $5 million in publishing last year, he said this year Medium will commit “several multiples of that.”
The walls aren’t lined with an eclectic assortment of Trump swag and fan mail. There is no “wall of shame” exhibiting pictures of vanquished rivals. Staffers work at desks and in sleek, glass-doored offices rather than huddled behind plastic folding tables surrounded by unpainted dry wall.
In almost every way, the effort to re-elect Trump is a stark contrast to the insurgent, chaotic bid that propelled him to the White House in 2016. Moving out of the bare-bones production offices of “The Apprentice” in Trump Tower and into shiny, modern offices in the Washington suburbs is just the beginning.
Nearly 20 months out from the presidential election, the Trump campaign is already more organized and better-structured than its 2016 predecessor ever was. It’s hired dozens of staffers, expanded its already impressive data operation, and begun to build out a formidable ground game across the country.
It’s also raised (and spent) a record amount of money for a presidential re-election campaign at this stage. The campaign ended 2018 with $19 million in the bank, after raising more than $100 million alongside its joint fundraising committees over the first two years of Trump’s presidency.
Perhaps the most significant difference is the relationship the campaign has with the Republican National Committee. Compared to the uneasy, bolted-on partnership forged in the final sprint to Election Day in 2016, the Trump campaign and RNC are now practically one entity. Under an unprecedented agreement announced earlier this year, the two merged their field operations and fundraising efforts and will share office space.
Under this setup, the RNC will pay for and provide much of the infrastructure, and the Trump campaign will call the shots.
The joint Trump/RNC re-election outfit, Trump Victory, is already putting its ground game in motion, with two deputy political directors and nine of 10 regional field directors hired and plans to deploy state directors in all key battleground states by early this summer, two senior Trump campaign officials said.
The result, according to interviews with 16 Trump campaign officials, Republican operatives and White House officials, is a presidential re-election campaign unlike any other in modern history. That’s partly because the Trump campaign never actually ended. Trump filed for re-election just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2017, something no other president has ever done. Both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had been in office for more than two years before they filed for re-election.
Donald Trump's 2020 secret sauce

By getting out of the gate so early, the campaign has also been able to foot millions of dollars in legal fees — some to cover the expenses of the campaign and Trump associates caught up in federal and congressional investigations. The campaign and its supporting outside groups have also provided a soft landing spot for a handful of former White House aides and family members.
While Democrats are only just beginning their primary squabble, Trump campaign aides say they’re sitting on a juggernaut. Whether Trump — who has a track record of sabotaging his aides’ best-laid plans — takes full advantage of the operation remains to be seen.
Brad Parscale

Brad Parscale

In charge of it all is Brad Parscale, a 43-year-old, 6-foot-8 digital marketing executive who had no campaign experience until he was hired as the 2016 campaign’s digital director. Before that, Parscale spent several years running an online marketing business and building websites, including for the Trump Organization.
Since Trump tapped him as campaign manager a year ago, Parscale has quietly developed a highly structured re-election organization that will be driven by a data-centric approach that reflects Parscale’s digital marketing background.
“We now have an operation and time to build that — a building that has proper desks in it and proper things,” Parscale said in an interview with CNN. “Last time — not for any fault of some of the people that run it — but it just was fly-by-night sometimes because it was going so fast.”
Parscale also has one key advantage he didn’t last time: “We already have the President of the United States,” he says. “We have the incumbency, we know where we’re going.”
Still, he has his work cut out for him. Trump is among the most unpopular presidents in modern history, having never breached the 50% approval mark in polling averages. He’s also under investigation on a number of fronts. Congressional and federal investigators are probing his administration as well as his business, his inauguration committee and his foundation. That’s all helped fuel a tide of liberal enthusiasm that swept Democrats to victories in last year’s midterms, including in many swing states that were critical to Trump’s narrow path to victory in 2016.
To win, it’s crucial that Parscale mobilizes Trump’s avid core of supporters. The campaign is already turning its attention to addressing Rust Belt warning signs, with Trump planning to rally supporters in Michigan next week. It will be the 56th rally of his presidency, a staple of Trump’s campaign style that will remain central to his 2020 effort.
Beyond data analytics, field operations, fundraising and advertising, the election will likely come down to voters’ charged feelings about a controversial President. Parscale sees Trump as his ace in the hole.
“When the President and this campaign gets ready to go full speed again, the President will turn on every ignition switch that’s necessary to get the enthusiasm back. Anyone who doesn’t think that this president will go 5 million miles an hour, day and night, to bring enthusiasm back and talk about what he can do next — they don’t know him,” Parscale said.

Turning rallies into “real data machines”

On a February night in El Paso, Texas, chants of “build that wall!” fill the El Paso County Coliseum as Parscale confidently strides onto the stage with a box of “Make America Great Again” hats under his arm. Without undoing the top button on his expertly tailored three-piece suit, he tosses several hats into the crowd before reaching for the microphone.
Parscale warms up the crowd

Parscale warms up the crowd

“I am feeling the enthusiasm in here tonight! You gotta understand, though, this is our first rally for this presidential cycle, so you guys gotta be extra loud today,” Parscale says as the crowd breaks into a raucous cheer.
Parscale has become a staple of the pre-programming at Trump rallies — a stark departure from the behind-the-scenes role he played in 2016 running the campaign’s digital operation.
In that role, Parscale pushed the campaign to spend half its ad budget online, a move that initially left Trump fuming at Parscale, but is now one of the reasons he sits atop the campaign. Already in 2019, the Trump campaign has spent $3.5 million on Facebook ads and another $1 million on Google, according to public spending data analyzed by communications firm Bully Pulpit Interactive. That’s nearly double the combined online ad spending for the full Democratic field of presidential candidates.
Back in 2016, that sort of precise targeting of voters through digital ads would not have worked without the RNC’s data operation, the byproduct of a multimillion-dollar investment spurred by the Republican defeat in 2012. RNC operatives credit Parscale with encouraging Trump campaign officials to use what they’d built.
“Brad was able to go through the hierarchy up to the President, with Jared (Kushner), with (Steve) Bannon with Kellyanne (Conway), with everybody…and he was able to go and say, I looked under the hood and they have this amazing machine,” a former senior RNC official said.
Now campaign manager, Parscale is putting data at the core of the re-election campaign’s efforts. Standing at the lectern in El Paso, Parscale quickly reveals his true interest in these rallies when he whips out his phone and asks the crowd to “text WALL” to a specific phone number.
“That’s how we can connect with you and that’s very important to helping us win in 2020,” Parscale explains as he entices the crowd with a sweepstakes-like promises of free campaign swag.
Just like in 2016, the campaign is capitalizing on Trump’s ability to draw thousands of supporters — many of whom are infrequent voters or non-traditional Republicans — to expand their voter data files and improve turnout. Now, the campaign is focused on getting even more granular data out of rallies and marshaling that energy into volunteer work, turning the rallies into “real data machines,” as Parscale says.
The El Paso rally is an important step in that direction. Outside the coliseum, volunteers use handheld electronic ticket scanners for the first time to confirm which supporters have actually shown up, instead of simply tracking which ones sign up for a ticket on Eventbrite. With this data in hand, the campaign determines that half the rally attendees are registered Democrats, and that 23% hadn’t voted in any of the last four elections — crucial information in identifying voters it might not have otherwise known to target.
The scanners also give the campaign access to the phone numbers of some of Trump’s most motivated supporters, which the campaign plans to use to boost its ranks of volunteers — something they felt was a shortcoming of the 2016 campaign, two senior Trump campaign officials said.
“What we did not do a good enough job of was to activate them into their neighborhoods,” Trump campaign political director Chris Carr said of rallygoers in 2016. “That’s what we’re going to do this cycle. Because when we activate them into their neighborhoods, it just grows. The army (of volunteers) grows.”
The campaign is aiming to have at least 1.5 million volunteers for the presidential election, a senior campaign official said. There’s even an app that’s in development.
“We need to give them digital technology right on their phone,” says Parscale. “As they’re waiting for the President, while they’re standing outside or a couple of days before when they’re excited, they’re interested, they’re speaking of, ‘I’m going to go see the President’ and say, ‘Hey, here are some activities we’d like you to do.'”
If there’s one aspect of the re-election operation that Trump campaign and RNC officials are most confident in, it’s their data operation. It was crucial in helping to steer digital advertising dollars with precision and direct resources to midwestern states that proved to be the difference. Now, the Trump campaign and RNC have had two years to improve their synergy, collect more voter data and perfect their voter targeting, and they believe they have a critical edge over Democrats.
Republicans’ voter database has long lived in a shared data exchange called The Data Trust, which allows a slew of Republican groups — from campaigns to state parties and even super PACs — to feed in and extract voter information. Democrats — whose data analytics outpaced Republicans’ in 2008 and 2012 — are now playing catch up.
“I think, right now, we’re not competitive,” said former Gov. Howard Dean, a former presidential candidate and DNC chairman who has been tasked by the Democratic National Committee with creating the Democrats’ version of The Data Trust. “They’ve been doing this the right way for two cycles and you know the DNC has really started out in a hole. You know, we have basically 12 months or so to get us in shape.”
“I’m not the least bit panicked about it, but we don’t have a lot of time,” he added.

Conductor of the Trump train

Standing outside the coliseum in El Paso, Parscale towers over the crowd. He’s popped outside for a few minutes to survey the snaking line of supporters, knowing that the President will ask him about the crowd size when he shows up in three hours, especially with the Democratic sensation and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke leading a counter-rally just a few blocks away.
“I want to make sure we fill it and I want to see how much we back-fill it outside,” Parscale says, before predicting 8,000 supporters will fit inside the 6,500-capacity coliseum. Even that hyperbole wasn’t satisfactory for Trump. That night from the stage he claimed that, with the help of the fire department, 10,000 people fit inside the coliseum, a claim the fire department later denied.
While Parscale’s height might give him an edge in the eyes of Trump, who famously likes to surround himself with tall people, it’s not the reason he has his current job.
The unconventional selection was borne largely out of Parscale’s close relationship with the President’s family, namely Eric Trump and Jared Kushner. Eric initially hired Parscale in 2011 to build websites for the Trump Organization. Kushner recognized his digital savvy during the 2016 campaign, quietly elevating the Trump campaign digital director to a role that many on the campaign likened to that of a deputy campaign manager.
Parscale with Donald Trump

Parscale with Donald Trump

Parscale is almost universally well-liked and respected inside Trumpworld, a rarity considering it’s rife with intense rivalries and backstabbing, though two sources familiar with the matter reported tension between Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Parscale. In an effort to keep the peace, Parscale recently began convening a regular “kitchen cabinet” conference call with a group of former top Trump campaign officials and informal political advisers, from Lewandowski to pro-Trump activist Charlie Kirk, seeking their input and sharing updates about the campaign, two sources familiar with the calls said.
Parscale with Eric Trump

Parscale with Eric Trump

The Kansas native-turned-Texas transplant also knows where he stands vis-à-vis Trump.
“I’ve always said, he’s the campaign manager, the communications director, the finance director — he is the master of the Trump train and I’m a conductor on it,” Parscale says back in the campaign offices.
Parscale typically speaks with the President at least once a week by phone, two sources familiar with the matter said. He talks to Kushner nearly every day. The President’s son-in-law has been a quiet force behind many of the campaign’s early efforts to prepare for 2020 and will serve as Trump’s primary go-between with the campaign.
In 2016, Trump micromanaged much of his campaign , and he is already keeping close tabs on the re-election effort. Multiple sources close to the President said he will be the ultimate driver of his re-election strategy.
During a recent meeting in the White House residence where Trump campaign officials outlined the structure of the campaign for the President and vice president, Trump was locked in, two sources who attended the meeting said, even as the meeting stretched for an hour and a half.
Trump also flashed his penchant for keeping a close eye on the money, cheering the forthcoming hire of an in-house legal counsel, which is aimed at reducing the campaign’s legal bills.
“I love that!” Trump exclaimed, the two sources said.

The road to Charlotte

While nearly nine in 10 Republicans tell pollsters they approve of Trump’s job as President, his presidency has provoked more intra-Republican bloodletting than any other in modern history. Since he took office, there has been rampant speculation about which Republican would mount a primary challenge.
So far it’s just one— former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket in 2016. Former Ohio governor and CNN senior political commentator John Kasich is said to still be mulling a possible primary challenge, and Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan has recently emerged as a possible alternative.
The campaign isn’t leaving anything to chance, and is working hard to close off as many pathways to the RNC convention floor as possible.
Two former White House officials, Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, are heading up a small team of Trump campaign officials whose singular mission is to ensure the 2020 RNC convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, is “drama-free.”
They have already hit the ground, heading off any cracks in support for the President at the state party level by working to ensure that RNC convention delegates and state party chairs elected this year are reliably pro-Trump.
At the national level, the merger between the Trump campaign and RNC is sending a powerful message that Trump and the Republican Party are synonymous. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has proved a fierce defender of the President, even firing off missives at her uncle, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, after he penned an op-ed critical of Trump. The RNC has since also installed Tommy Hicks, Jr., a Texas businessman and close friend of the President’s eldest son, as co-chairman.
Parscale with Ivanka Trump and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel

Parscale with Ivanka Trump and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel

While part of the campaign’s team is focused on heading off primary challenges, the campaign and the RNC are focused on building out a formidable general election ground operation.
Led by Carr, the political director, the campaign is planning to deploy staff into key battleground states by early this summer, a full year before the two parties formally nominate their candidates for the general election.
The campaign has hired regional directors for all but the upper Midwest region and is preparing to hire state directors who will manage the Trump campaign and RNC efforts in each state. Carr is requiring all state directors to undergo and pass a weeklong training course this spring before they are hired — even if they already currently serve as RNC state directors, according to a senior Trump campaign official.
The deployments will allow the campaign to turn its attention early on to engaging and deploying field workers and volunteers into “turfs,” territories comprised of 15,000 households the Trump campaign plans to target in 2020. Residents in those households are either fervent Trump supporters who vote infrequently or reliable voters who are leaning toward supporting Trump but are not yet “in the bank,” in the words of a senior Trump campaign official.
It’s a similar effort to the ground game the RNC ran in 2016 — except this time it is beginning early, and supercharged.
None of this would be possible without raising a record amount of money. The Trump campaign and its affiliated committees have raked in nearly $130 million over the past two years. That’s given it a financial advantage that Trump campaign officials say will allow them to vigorously compete in more states than they did in 2016.
A super PAC and nonprofit organization supporting Trump — America First Action and America First Policies — raised an additional $75 million, according to a spokeswoman for the combined America First operation. Both are closely aligned with the President, with a coterie of former Trump aides helping to develop them. Parscale is one of the founders of America First Policies but is no longer involved.
The super PAC, America First Action, spent heavily on ads to boost Republican candidates in 2018, burning through most of its money. The organization also serves as home to some key Trump loyalists, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who serves as a senior adviser and spokesman for the group, and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host who is dating the President’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr. Guilfoyle is the group’s vice chairwoman.
For all of its fundraising prowess, the Trump campaign has burned through donors’ contributions at a fast clip.
In the last three months of 2018 alone, according to a CNN review of FEC records, the campaign spent $23 million — exceeding the $21 million that Trump and his political operation with the RNC raised in that time. The campaign plowed nearly a third of its money — $8 million — into advertising, as it worked to boost its data gathering and drive support for Republicans in the midterm elections. Another $2 million went to purchasing campaign swag — the T-shirts, mugs, stickers and “Make America Great Again” hats — that his avid supporters snap up.
Over the past two years, some of the campaign’s money has flowed directly to Parscale’s own businesses. Between the Trump campaign and the RNC, Parscale’s firms have pulled in more than $21 million for services including digital consulting, online advertising and fundraising.
Parscale has said that much of that money goes directly toward purchasing advertising and other expenses, but he declined to provide a detailed accounting of the spending and how much he has profited from his business with the RNC and Trump campaign.
He points out that unlike other political consultants, he will not earn a percentage of the campaign’s ad buys, instead agreeing to a $300,000 annual retainer with the campaign, plus bonuses.
“In the last election, I was hired as an advertising agency and we received a percentage. After that, I felt like as campaign manager it would seem not very ethical and very good of myself to pay myself a percentage for my own decisions,” Parscale said. “I know a lot of guys in this industry that do that. I feel differently about it.”

Legal Fees

The campaign’s fundraising has also served another crucial function: paying the legal bills of Trump campaign officials and family members.
In the first two years of Trump’s presidency, donors to the Trump campaign have underwritten more than $6.7 million in legal expenses — more than $1 out of every $10 the campaign has spent on operating costs — at a time when the President, his family and aides have had to respond to federal and congressional investigations stemming from Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
That’s nearly as much at the $7.4 million President Barack Obama’s campaign spent on legal services during the entire eight years of his presidency, according to a CNN analysis of Federal Election Commission records.
The bulk of the campaign’s spending on legal fees — nearly $4.4 million — has gone to the law firm Jones Day, which handles the campaign’s FEC compliance and document request matters. Almost all the remaining $2.3 million has flowed to other law firms, several of which represent Trump campaign officials and Trump family members swept up in the Russia-related investigations.
More than $317,000 of those legal expenses have been paid out to firms representing Donald Trump Jr., who brokered the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting in the summer of 2016 with a Russian lawyer promising “dirt” on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government.
And firms representing former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, former Trump bodyguard Keith Schiller and Kushner have been paid nearly $366,000 by the campaign. A spokesman for Kushner’s attorney said payments to his firm were related to the DNC’s lawsuit against Trump’s campaign officials, including Kushner.
Back at its gleaming new office space in Virginia, Parscale proudly claims the campaign saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by subleasing a fully furnished office — which was a trading floor for a financial company — after that company was purchased and downsized.
Savings aside, some Trump political advisers worry the campaign will lose the “start-up mentality” that defined Trump’s stunning 2016 victory as it becomes a more traditional national campaign — modern office space and all.
“You kind of still have to keep that — I don’t want to say fly by the seat of your pants — but that’s what made this campaign very successful,” one Republican operative close to the campaign said. “You don’t want to have a thousand layers and become some giant corporation where you can’t make a decision.”
Parscale is mindful of the criticism and wary of the campaign being cast as too “traditional.” This won’t be a campaign that will grow to “400 employees in 400 offices across America,” he says.
And if there’s anything he can lean on to make his case, it’s his own nontraditional background.
“I don’t think there’s anything traditional about me,” he said. “I think that I was the right hybrid for the President.”
“My view is that every vote matters and the way we can make that happen is that we can have national voting and that means get rid of the Electoral College — and every vote counts,” the Massachusetts Democrat said, to raucous applause from the audience (The Democratic base is very much up in arms over the Electoral College, after Donald Trump won the White House in 2016 despite losing the popular vote by almost 2.9 million votes to Hillary Clinton).

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How realistic is what Warren is proposing? And how much — really — would it change how candidates campaign for the nation’s top job? To get some answers, I reached out to Sanford Levinson, a constitutional law expert and professor at the University of Texas Law School (Check out this talk Levinson gave at Harvard in 2016 for more of his thoughts on the Electoral College).
Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.
Cillizza: Warren said she favors abolishing the Electoral College to make “every vote matter.” Is that what getting rid of the Electoral College would do?
Levinson: Abolishing the Electoral College would certainly equalize the vote as a purely formal matter. Now, the strength of one’s vote — and, more to the point, the incentive to campaign — is a function of geography. Republican votes in contemporary California and Democratic votes in contemporary Texas are irrelevant. That would obviously not be the case in a national popular vote.
Cillizza: Warren was speaking in Jackson, Mississippi. If there was no Electoral College and only the national popular vote, would presidential candidates be campaigning there in the fall of a presidential election?
Levinson: Why not? It would be foolish to spend lots of time in Mississippi and smaller states, but that’s even more true now, especially given that almost all of the relevant states are completely predictable. Only New Hampshire is a battleground (unlike, say, Vermont next door). But Democrats would have a strong incentive to turn out minority voters in Mississippi and Alabama.
Cillizza: The argument for the popular vote is simple: He (or she) with the most votes wins. Make that sort of simple argument for the Electoral College.
Levinson: Actually, the kind of reform I favor is not quite so simple: that is, I don’t think it should be enough simply to come in first, because, as in 1968 and 1992, the winners could still have only 43% of the vote. Therefore I favor a runoff system, as in France or the state of Georgia or the alternative transferable vote, as in Maine. The argument is simple, though: A president should be able to claim the support of the majority. That is not now the case.
Cillizza: How would the country, logistically, go about abolishing the Electoral College? Is it at all plausible?
Levinson: Unfortunately, it would take a Constitutional amendment to achieve the kind of reform I think by far best. The proposal simply to award electoral votes to whoever comes in first does nothing at all to assure a genuine majoritarian choice, and it is easy to imagine a truly perverse result should we further fragment into multi-candidacies for the presidency.
At this point, we have to confront the truly terrible Article V of the Constitution and the barriers it places in the way of Constitutional amendment (The New York Times had a good discussion of this in an article on Birch Bayh and his inability to get an amendment through the awful Senate even after passing with strong support in the House and the support as well of Richard Nixon).
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “The fairest way to determine the President of the United States is _________.”
Levinson: “through a process that allows the winner to claim majority approval of the total electorate.”
In 1988, Jesse Jackson made reparations part of his campaign platform.
In 2016, President Barack Obama dismissed reparations as politically impractical during an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose Atlantic article sparked renewed interest in reparations.
Now, Elizabeth Warren, who is campaigning on big, bold policy ideas such as breaking up tech giants, has stated her support of a bill that would form a commission to study slavery and develop reparations proposals. It’s actually an issue she’s evolved on, moving from a more broad-based approach to something more specific.
“Because of housing discrimination and employment discrimination, we live in a world where the average white family has $100 (and) the average black family has about $5,” she said at a CNN town hall in Jackson, Mississippi.

CNN’s Nia-Malika Henderson explores the politics of identity in American life — race, religion, region, gender, class and party.

“So, I believe it’s time to start the national full-blown conversation about reparations in this country,” she said. “And that means I support the bill in the House to appoint a congressional panel of experts, people that are studying this and talk about different ways we may be able to do it and make a report back to Congress, so that we can as a nation do what’s right and begin to heal.”
The bill, first introduced in 1991 by John Conyers and co-sponsored by a handful of others, has never made it out of the House Judiciary Committee. But it now appears it will serve as a kind of litmus test for Democratic presidential candidates as they talk about racial inequality and possible remedies.
Traditionally, commissions are thought of as a way to kick an issue down the road or as a way to appear to be doing something without actually doing anything at all. Yet, what Warren is calling for has for years been seen as politically untenable and easily dismissed.
“This is important, and the major reason I think it’s important is that in the other significant instance of reparations being provided, for Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated unjustly, that program was the result of a commission,” said William “Sandy” Darity, a Duke University professor who has written extensively on reparations. “There is some sentiment that this isn’t a reparations program so it doesn’t go far enough. But a commission could be a very important instrument in designing a program.”
As for the rest of the field, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro backs a reparations commission and has criticized Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for dismissing the idea of cutting a check for the descendants of slaves, given his support for expensive government programs. Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Kamala Harris of California support broad investments in communities of color as a form of reparations. Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke has said he supports a conversation about reparations.
Harris, one of the two black candidates running in the Democratic primary, said at a recent event in South Carolina that “we have to speak truth to what happened.”
“For too long, frankly, in our country, for too long we have not had these honest discussions about race. We’ve just not,” she said. “You can look at textbooks in public schools that have erased so much of the history, the awful shameful history on race in this country.”
Sen. Kamala Harris responds to pointed question on race in America

Sen. Kamala Harris responds to pointed question on race in America

A commission on slavery and its aftermath would be both an accounting for and a reckoning with the cost and damage of America’s embrace of a race-based system of oppression. Presidents, in moments of racial unrest, have often called for a “national conversation” on race. A commission on slavery and reparations would be just that.
It would be an extended “teachable moment” on slavery, “sharecropping, convict leasing, Jim Crow, redlining, unequal education and disproportionate treatment at the hands of the criminal justice system,” as the Conyers bill states.
The debate around reparations — what they are, who would get them, who would give them — goes back centuries. But for the first time, the conversation is being had by multiple candidates for the White House. And, in another first, reparations aren’t being dismissed out of hand.
It’s a testament to how far the Democratic Party has moved on racial issues, pushed there by President Donald Trump’s open embrace of white identity politics, and by the policy-focused and diverse Democratic field and electorate.
“This is an important sea change in the political climate,” Darity said. “Reparations has become a topic where you don’t have to duck the term. It’s now part of the public arena’s discourse.”
The materials show that Cohen was an early target of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia and obstruction of justice, and came under intense scrutiny from New York federal prosecutors, with investigators seeking everything from Cohen’s email accounts to phone records to historical data of his cell phones’ locations the month before the 2016 election.
The Cohen-related material that has posed the greatest potential danger to the President comes from the Southern District of New York’s investigation into the hush-money payments to women alleging affairs with Trump. The search warrant materials related to that matter, however, were redacted in Tuesday’s disclosures.
Here are the biggest takeaways from Cohen’s search warrant documents:

Mueller’s investigation ramped up quickly

It didn’t take Mueller’s team long to start ramping up its probe into Cohen, search warrants unsealed Tuesday show, and the special counsel’s office likely took a similar tack with its other targets.
Prosecutors and the FBI were given approval to search Cohen’s various email accounts in July, August and September 2017, as the investigation into Trump’s then-personal lawyer played out quietly behind the scenes before any charges had been filed by the special counsel’s office.
Mueller was allowed to review years of Cohen emails from time he worked under Trump

It’s been a familiar pattern for Mueller’s investigation where the public only learns about investigations into key figures months later — often through court filings — like when former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos’ guilty plea was revealed in October 2017 on the day that Mueller’s first charges were unsealed.
Republicans have criticized Mueller’s investigation for stretching on for nearly two years, and many have urged him to wrap it up already. But the search warrants released Tuesday show that Mueller’s team has moved at a swift pace throughout its 22-month probe, with months of investigative work preceding the actual public filing of charges.
If Mueller is in fact nearly done, the length of his investigation could dwarf similar probes like special prosecutor Ken Starr’s investigation into President Bill Clinton.

Stormy Daniels-related redactions show Trump Org investigation continues

Cohen’s campaign finance crimes — in which he made or orchestrated payments to silence women during the 2016 presidential election who claimed sexual encounters with then-candidate Trump — were arguably the most significant charges against him because he implicated the President when he pleaded guilty, but the documents released Tuesday contain only redacted material related to those payments.
That’s because the campaign finance violations are related to an ongoing Manhattan US Attorney’s investigation into whether any executives at the Trump Organization committed crimes connected to the company’s efforts to reimburse Cohen for the hush money he paid to one of the women, adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, CNN has previously reported.
After media organizations, including CNN, sought to have the search warrant materials redacted, Manhattan federal prosecutors argued that they should be able to redact information related to ongoing probes, and US District Court Judge William Pauley agreed.
“The Government represents that aspects of its investigation remain ongoing, including those pertaining to or arising from Cohen’s campaign finance crimes,” Pauley wrote in his order. “Indeed the search warrant applications and affidavits catalogue an assortment of uncharged individuals and detail their involvement in communications and transactions connected to the campaign finance charges to which Cohen pled guilty.”
The inquiry regarding the Trump Organization has been active since Cohen pleaded guilty in August 2018, and last month CNN reported that federal prosecutors in New York had requested interviews with executives at the company.

Prosecutors may not have seen all of Cohen’s emails

The search warrant materials document prosecutors’ ability to examine multiple email accounts held by Cohen, but one matter left unexplained by the materials is why prosecutors appear to have been unable to search the account he used while working for Trump’s family business, the Trump Organization.
Prosecutors sought to examine that account, according to the documents, but weren’t able to do so. “Indeed from my involvement in this investigation, I know that Cohen had an email account with the Trump Organization, but the [US Attorney’s Office] and FBI have not been able to obtain the contents of that account to date,” the unnamed FBI agent who filed the affidavit for the search warrant application wrote.
It’s unclear from the document whether prosecutors sought and were denied a search warrant for that account or whether they were unable to access it for some other reason. It’s also not clear whether prosecutors were ultimately able to examine that account at some point after the April 9, 2018, searches of Cohen’s home, hotel room, office and safety deposit box.
But since material seized from Cohen had to go through a process wherein a third party determined what was subject to attorney-client privilege — and it doesn’t appear that any material seized after the April 9 searches went through such a process — it is unlikely that prosecutors were ultimately able to review Cohen’s Trump Organization email account, at least not via a search warrant.

Cohen was investigated for other possible crimes

When Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in December, Judge William Pauley said that Cohen had pleaded guilty to “a veritable smorgasbord of fraudulent conduct.”
He was actually investigated for even more crimes that he wasn’t ultimately charged with.
READ: Newly released Michael Cohen court documents

READ: Newly released Michael Cohen court documents

Cohen pleaded guilty to tax crimes, campaign finance violations tied to the hush money payments, false statements to a bank and lying to Congress about the length of discussions surrounding the Trump Tower Moscow project. The search warrant documents released Tuesday show federal prosecutors also suspected that Cohen could have violated foreign lobbying laws and committed money laundering.
Federal investigators asked for access to records related to Cohen’s consulting business, Essential Consultants LLC, which was also the shell company used to make the hush-money payments to women.
It’s not clear exactly why Cohen wasn’t charged with those crimes. One possibility is simply that investigators didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with those crimes. Another is that when Cohen agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors agreed to drop other potential charges.
Violations of the foreign lobbying law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, have rarely been prosecuted, although Mueller’s investigation — including charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates — has shown that sentiment could be on the way out.
Cohen has company as someone who was questioned over foreign lobbying work but not ultimately charged: former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was scrutinized for his Turkish business, but he was charged by Mueller only with lying to the FBI.

Mueller probably knows a lot more than he’s let on

Mueller has not spoken publicly since he was appointed special counsel in May 2017. Instead, the special counsel’s office has let its court filings do the talking to lay out its cases against senior Trump officials and Russian intelligence officers it says hacked Democrats during the 2016 campaign.
But the search warrant documents show just how much Mueller’s team has uncovered in its 22-month investigation, which has led to charges against 37 individuals and entities.
Mueller’s team was allowed to review years of Cohen’s emails and other online data during his time working for Trump. Prosecutors and the FBI sought search warrants for Cohen’s various email accounts beginning in July 2017, and received approvals in November 2017 and January 2018 to track Cohen’s incoming and outgoing calls. The search warrants sought Cohen’s emails related to his business dealings under a shell company used to cut hush money deals with women accusing then-candidate Trump of extramarital affairs, which Trump has denied.
It’s still unknown what Mueller will say when he submits a report to Attorney General William Barr concluding his investigation, but the material offered in the search warrant documents provides a small glimpse into the depth of Mueller’s information-gathering.
When Democratic investigators like House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff say they want to obtain Mueller’s underlying evidence, this is what they’re after.