presidential campaign

TN man’s conviction upheld, sentence vacated in Mitt Romney tax returns case

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a Franklin man’s conviction for trying to extort $1 million from an accounting firm working for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, but vacated his four-year prison sentence, reports the Nashville Post.

A Nashville federal jury last year found Michael Mancil Brown guilty for a 2012 scheme in which he falsely claimed that he had gained access to then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns, threatening to release them unless the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers paid a $1 million Bitcoin ransom, according to testimony at trial.

Brown, represented by Bone McAllester Norton attorney Alex Little on appeal, argued that the Secret Service did not have probable cause for the search warrant that led to key evidence in the case and that a sentencing enhancement triggered by an obstruction of justice charge was improperly applied. Little declined to comment when reached by the Post Monday.

The appeals court panel rejected the first argument in upholding the conviction, while accepting the second argument, in turn remanding the case to the Nashville district court for resentencing.

According to court proceedings, Brown had sent a letter to the Franklin offices of PwC in the months ahead of the 2012 election demanding the accounting firm pay $1 million, or else he would release the tax returns. Similar letters were sent to local Republican and Democratic party offices, though no evidence that Brown ever possessed the tax documents ever surfaced.

TN electors ignore protesters to cast votes for Trump

Tennessee’s 11 Electoral College votes all went to Republican Donald Trump today despite calls from protesters to ignore a state requirement to support the candidate who wins the popular vote, reports Andy Sher.

Republican electors here said they had been blitzed by thousands of letters, emails and phone calls, some of them threatening and nearly all from out-of-state groups aiming to deny an expected Electoral College victory by Trump.

But Tennessee’s vote was not without some side drama. Protesters in the state Capitol’s House gallery twice interrupted proceedings. One woman shouted Trump was “nuts,” prompting state Election Coordinator Mark Goins to bang his gavel and demand order. She was escorted out.

A man later sought to read a Bible verse, prompting Goins to tell him: “We certainly appreciate the Scripture, but this is a procedure the Electoral College can only proceed in. The answer is no.”

On Election Day in Tennessee, Trump won 1,522,925 votes while Democrat Hillary Clinton garnered 870,960.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam presided over portions of the meeting.

“Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States; I want to do everything I can to make him and Mike Pence be successful in that role,” Haslam said.

“While some people don’t like the result, and obviously, we had protesters today who didn’t like that, ultimately, you have to love the process that we’re a part of in this country,” he added. “It’s the best process there is.”

Note: Nationally, seven electors voted against their state mandates, a record number of so-called “faithless” electors, reports Politico. The previous record was set in 1808 when six electors refused to vote for James Madison.

Cohen proposes constitutional amendment for popular election of president

Democratic U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis filed a constitutional amendment Thursday that calls for eliminating the electoral college and allowing for direct election of the president and vice president, reports Michael Collins.

The congressman’s amendment comes as Democrat Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote in last month’s presidential election topped 2.5 million. Clinton lost the electoral college – and the presidency – to Republican Donald Trump.

“For the second time in recent memory, and for the fifth time in our history, we have a President-elect, who lost the popular vote,” said Cohen, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

“The Electoral College is an antiquated system that was established to prevent citizens from directly electing our nation’s president, yet that notion is antithetical to our understanding of democracy,” Cohen said. “In our country, ‘We the People’ are supposed to determine who represents us in elective office.”

The legislation is unlikely to gain any traction in the Republican-controlled Congress. It would need two-thirds approval in both the House and the Senate and would then have to be ratified by 38 of the 50 states.

Email onslaught asks TN electors not to vote for Trump

Some members of Tennessee’s Electoral College say they’ve been inundated with emails and phone calls from critics of President-elect Donald Trump who want them to change their electoral vote, reports The Tennessean.

“Certainly I would call it harassment,” said Pat Allen of Clarksville, Tennessee’s Electoral College representative for the 7th Congressional District.

Allen said she spent almost an hour deleting the emails, many of which circle around the same talking points hammered by Trump opponents. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote nationwide, but Trump won the electoral votes.

Allen and others say they don’t plan to change their vote next month when the Electoral College votes are officially recorded across the country.

“There’s no amount of money you could pay me to (change my vote),” said Lynne Davis, an Electoral College member from Lascassas, part of the 4th Congressional District.

…Allen said the emails appear to be written by residents across the nation, not an automated system. In several she shared with The Tennessean, the emails do circle around the same talking points but have different subject lines, body text and signatures.

One, from a sender named Kristi Beal, who told the Tennessean she lives in Southeast Missouri, was sent to dozens of recipients, It said Trump lacks experience, is a misogynist and xenophobe, and that Clinton won the popular vote.

Corker squabbles with Trump critic during hiking encounter

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and David George Haskell, a University of the South professor, had a political discussion during an encounter while hiking over the weekend, reports the Times-Free Press. Haskell says Corker responded to his criticism of Donald Trump with “attacks on my character and complaints about the uncivil way that I was disrupting his restful Sunday walk ‘in nature’ .. and suggested Haskell leave Tennessee.

“I greeted [Corker] then told him how deeply ashamed I was to be from a state where our senator will not denounce Trump for boasting of sexual assault,” wrote Haskell, who confirmed his account later in a telephone interview. “Corker has been silent on this matter and on the racism and hate that the T-monster has spewed into our country these last months.”

And Senate Foreign Relation Committee Chairman Corker’s response?

“If you don’t like it, then you should leave the state.”

But the senator’s office, however, offered a much different account of what transpired.

“While hiking alone yesterday afternoon on Stringer’s Ridge, Senator Corker was aggressively approached by Professor Haskell, who was hiking with three other individuals,” Corker spokeswoman Micah Johnson said in a statement.

She said the professor “began shouting at Senator Corker in a profanity-laced tirade while pointing a finger in his face and told the senator that he was embarrassed to live in a state where the citizens voted to overwhelmingly elect Donald Trump.

“Senator Corker calmly suggested to the professor that he did not have to live in Tennessee if he did not wish to do so,” Johnson continued before adding, “Senator Corker believes that if the leadership of Sewanee witnessed the exchange, they would be sorely disappointed in the behavior of someone tasked with leading students.”

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Haslam now backs Trump, expects no repercussions for balking earlier

Gov. Bill Haslam, who refused to vote for Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for president, says he’s now supporting the nation’s leader-to-be and expects no repercussions from the past criticism.

The governor was asked about negative repercussions by reporters Wednesday, reports the Times-Free Press.

“I don’t think so,” said Haslam, who also has expressed concerns over some of Trump’s positions such as trade. “I was very encouraged by his [conciliatory] tone last night, and anybody who saw that would say that that was the exact right tone for him to hit.”

Moreover, Haslam added, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, “is a good, close friend of mine. Mike and I talk frequently, when we were governors we worked on a lot of issues together, and I actually think our relationship with Mike _ excuse me, Vice President-elect Pence, will be a real benefit to the state as well.”

…”I had some questions about President-elect Trump,” Haslam said. “I had some big concerns with Secretary Clinton. As a governor, there’s some good news. Trump has spoken basically a lot about giving power back to the states. That’s a good thing.”

A further quote via the Associated Press: “We should hope for all success for the new president,” Haslam said. “‘‘And for us, because we have such a critical working relationship with the federal government, we’ll be working hard to build that relationship from day one.”

…Haslam said he is hopeful that Trump can use his outsider status to find new consensus in a divided nation.

“President-elect Trump, I don’t think, comes in with a lot of hard, fast ideological positions on the big issues of the country,” Haslam said. “I think there’s a chance to have a fresh discussion about things.”

TN GOP congressmen hail Trump triumph

Press release statements from some Tennessee members of Congress:

From U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (prominently mentioned as a potential Trump cabinet appointee): “The American people and the citizens of Tennessee have spoken in a remarkable and resounding way, and I congratulate President-elect Trump on his hard earned win,” said Corker. “The real work now begins as we address the many challenges facing our great country, and I am looking forward to working with President Trump and the rest of the Congress to move our country forward.”

From U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander: “Congratulations to President-elect Trump. The election belongs to the people and the people have voted for change. Donald Trump is the agent for that change. Now it is the responsibility of the President-elect and the Congress to work together to address the voices of anger and despair, and of hope, that we heard yesterday. This includes reducing Washington’s role in our lives, making it easier to find a good job and less expensive health care, and making our system more fair. It’s time to put the election behind us. The way to make change and move our country in the right direction is to work together to bring out the best in all of us.”

From U.S. Rep. Diane Black: “Last night, we were reminded that the polls, the pundits, and the political elite don’t determine elections – voters do. With Donald Trump’s convincing win, Americans rejected the scandals and status quo politics of the Clinton campaign, and instead voted for real change to take our country back from the liberal stranglehold of the last eight years,” said Diane Black. “I am elated over Donald Trump’s decisive victory and look forward to working with him and our House and Senate Republican majorities to repeal Obamacare, protect life, secure our border, and act on other conservative reforms. With Donald Trump as our 45th President, we will make America great again.” 

From U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann: “I wholeheartedly congratulate President-elect Donald Trump on his historic and hard-fought win.  America has spoken and it’s time Washington listens,” said Fleischmann.  “I look forward to working with him and continuing to serve the Third District of Tennessee.” 

 

From U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (Democrat): “It’s an honor to continue serving Middle Tennesseans in Congress. There has never been a more important time for civility,” Rep. Cooper said. “I hope the president-elect will pledge to represent all people – including those who legitimately and genuinely feel threatened by him – not just those who voted for him.”

Rundown on final (unofficial) TN election results in key races

President

Donald Trump 1,519,926, 61.06%

Hillary Clinton 868,853, 34.90%

Gary Johnson, Independent, 70,266, 2.82%

(County-by-county results, HERE.

U.S. Congress

All incumbents reelected, along with former U.S. Attorney David Kustoff, GOP nominee in the 8th Congressional District seat vacated by Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher. District-by-district results HERE.

State Senate

Republicans maintain 28-5 control in the state Senate. Closest races were those won by Republican Sens. Steve Dickerson of Nashville (results HERE) and Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga (HERE.)

(Times-Free Press story on Gardenhire’s win HERE; TEnnessean story on Dickerson win HERE.)

State House

Republicans picked up two seats previously held by Democrats, both in fairly rural areas, while losing one seat in suburban Shelby County previously held by a Republican. That will give the GOP a total of 74 seats in the House versus 25 for Democrats. The last session began with Republicans holding a 73-26 majority.

The turnover seats:

-House District 43, where Republican Paul Sherrell defeated Rep. Kevin Dunlap, D-Sparta. (Results HERE)

-House District 69, where Republican Michael Curcio defeated Democrat Dustin Evans to win the seat previously held by retiring Rep. David Shepard, D-Dickson. (results HERE.)

-House District 96, where Democrat Dwayne Thompson upset Rep. Steve McManus, R-Cordova, with 14,105 votes to 13,754 for the incumbent.

Some other House races of note:

-House District 13, the closest race in the state, where Republican Rep. Eddie Smith of Knoxville triumphed over former Rep. Gloria Johnson. Smith got 11,160 votes; Johnson 11,006. (News Sentinel story HERE.)

-House District 56, where House Speaker Beth Harwell won reelection over Democrat Chris Moth, 21,041 to 15,201. (Nashville Scene story HERE.)

-House District 74, where Republican Rep. Jay Reedy of Erin defeated Democrat Andy Porch, 11,256 to 8,013. (County-by-county results HERE.)

-House District 41, where Democratic Rep. John Mark Windle of Livingston survived a challenge from Republican Ed Butler, 12,230 to 10,008. (County-by-county results HERE.)

Trump carries Tennessee

Republican Donald Trump won Tennessee’s 11 electoral vote Tuesday by a comfortable margin over Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to projections by major news organizations. Television networks including CNN, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC  declared Trump the winner in Tennessee just minutes after the polls closed and others quickly followed. The AP did so at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern time).

The first Tennessee returns reported showed the Republican with a lopsided lead of almost 3-to-1, though those precincts apparently do not include the state’s more urban areas that produce most of the Democratic vote.

Neither candidate made a public campaign appearance in Tennessee during the general election, though both did so prior to the March 1 presidential preference primary – where both got a boost toward the party nomination from the Volunteer State.

Both also were active in fundraising from Tennesseans and, in that respect, Clinton bested Trump. According to the most recent figures compiled by the Federal Election Commission, Clinton raised $3,311,876 from Tennesseans while Trump collected $1,961,733.

Note: This post will be updated.

TN among 22 states skipped in National Election Poll exit polling

From a Politico report:

The consortium of news networks that commissions election exit polls will survey 28 states on Tuesday, eschewing state-level polls in many smaller and less-competitive states.

In recent elections, the National Election Pool — which includes The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News — and Edison Research, which conducts the exit poll, have eliminated state-level surveys in an effort to cut costs. In 2012, there were 31 state-level exit polls, with exit pollsters skipping 19 states, plus the District of Columbia.

(This year, 22 states will be skipped, though the list hasn’t been officially released.)

…The list (of covered states) includes Texas, where there was no state exit poll four years ago. It also includes the nation’s most populous state, California, though it isn’t expected to be competitive this year.

Every state where the presidential race is contested or there is a competitive Senate race is represented, including Indiana and Missouri.

The most-populous states without exit polls are bright-blue Massachusetts and solid-red Tennessee. And while the gubernatorial races are tight in Vermont and West Virginia, there won’t be state-level exit polls there.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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