presidential campaign

Lawyer mentioned in Russian probe also had ties to Blackburn

A Nashville lawyer with ties to a Russian banker mentioned in national media reports on probes into that country’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election also has ties to U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, reports The Tennessean.

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Corker for president? ‘It’s way too early to be thinking about those things’

Retiring U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Friday wouldn’t rule out a possible 2020 challenge to President Donald Trump, but stressed his primary focus remains on completing his third and final term in the Senate, reports the Times Free Press.

“The only thing I’m talking about now over the next 14 months truly is doing the best job I can as a senator,” the former Chattanooga mayor told reporters in Gatlinburg after a state economic and community development conference.

Asked whether he was thinking about or ruling out a Republican primary challenge to Trump in 2020, Corker said: “If you even begin thinking those things, everything you do becomes viewed through a different lens. I’ve got 14 months to do the best job that I can.”

“It’s way way too early,” Corker later noted. “Does [Trump] even run again? It’s way too early to be thinking about those things.”

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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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Blackburn becomes 2nd Tennessean on Trump transition team

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Brentwood is among those named Friday to serve on President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team. Another Tennessean, former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, is already serving as chief of the Trump team reviewing prospective presidential appointees.

Blackburn, an outspoken advocate for Trump during the campaign, was among those added to the transition team as part of move that included the president-elect naming Vice President-elect Mike Pence, to head the transition group, replacing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (Politico story HERE, which includes a list of Blackburn and other new appointees.)

Hagerty, who served as ECD commissioner from 2011-2014 has has previously been active in the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney, was interviewed by the Tennessean last week on his role, likening the task as “a 2-trillion-dollar takeover” in the merger and acquisitions world and declared his business background prepared him for the effort.

 “It’s all about building a team at the end of the day, and those skills translate into what we’re doing right now,” he said. “Certainly at the beginning, we’ve put together a process that I’m very optimistic is going to deliver a great team for the United States.”

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.”


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