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GOP House member will not seek another term

Representative John Katko, R-N.Y., questions Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor as he testifies before a House Committee on Homeland Security meeting on Capitol Hill, in Washington, July 22, 2020.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Representative John Katko (R-N.Y.) said Friday he will not seek another term in Congress, becoming the third of the 10 Republicans who voted last year to impeach former president Donald Trump to announce their retirement.

In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Katko, 59, said that he made the decision “so that I can enjoy my family and life in a fuller and more present way.”

“My conscience, principles, and commitment to do what’s right have guided every decision I’ve made as a Member of Congress, and they guide my decision today,” said Katko, who is in his fourth term in Congress. “It is how I’ve been able to unite people to solve problems, and how I was rewarded with resounding victories in every single campaign for Congress.”

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In a whiplash-inducing turn last year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had deputized Katko to negotiate with Democrats on legislation to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Katko, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security panel, reached a deal with the chairman, Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and announced the plan, only to have McCarthy reject it. The measure was approved by the Democratic-led House but blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

The House later formed its own bipartisan select committee to investigate the attack, which resulted in five deaths and injured 140 law enforcement officers.

Katko was one of 13 House Republicans to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, drawing the ire of some GOP colleagues who cast the 13 as “traitors” for helping to deliver a legislative win for President Biden.

WASHINGTON POST

Mich. seeks federal probe of falsified electoral documents

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s attorney general is asking federal prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into 16 Republicans who submitted false certificates stating they were the state’s presidential electors despite Joe Biden’s 154,000-vote victory in 2020.

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Dana Nessel, a Democrat, disclosed Thursday that her office had been evaluating charges for nearly a year but decided to refer the matter to the US attorney in western Michigan.

“Under state law, I think clearly you have forgery of a public record, which is a 14-year offense, and election law forgery, which is a five-year offense,’’ she told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. But the Justice Department, she said, is best suited to probe and potentially prosecute.

The US attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment early Friday.

Nessel alleged a “coordinated effort” among Republican parties in several battleground states including Michigan to push so-called alternate slates of electors with fake documents. She said she wants federal authorities to make an evaluation for possible charges.

“Obviously this is part of a much bigger conspiracy,” Nessel said.

On Jan. 8, 2021, the Office of the Federal Register — which coordinates certain functions of the Electoral College between states and Congress — notified Michigan’s elections director and Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s chief lawyer in an e-mail that it received unofficial, signed certificates from GOP “electors’' who had not been appointed by the Democratic governor.

The Michigan GOP didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment early Friday.

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s office last month gave the e-mail to a US House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

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When Michigan’s electors cast 16 votes for Biden in December 2020 following the certification of his 2.8 percentage point win, a separate group that included some Republican state House members tried to enter the state Capitol with Donald Trump’s Electoral College candidates. They were turned away by state police.

The invalid certificates also were mailed to the US Senate, Benson, and the federal court for western Michigan, according to a memo a GOP official wrote. Two Republicans did not sign the documents and were replaced.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Judge disallows drop boxes for absentee ballots in Wisconsin

A Wisconsin judge ruled Thursday that drop boxes for absentee ballots cannot be used in the state, a move that comes amid a push by Republicans across the country to restrict their use and a stymied attempt by congressional Democrats to require states to allow them.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Michael Bohren sided with a conservative organization that argued that while the state Elections Commission had issued detailed guidance on the use of drop boxes, their use is not specifically authorized by state law.

‘’It’s all good and nice, but there’s no authority to do it,’’ Bohren said from the bench, according to local media accounts.

The ruling is expected to be appealed, but Bohren said he would soon issue an injunction ordering the Elections Commission to withdraw advice to municipal clerks on use of the drop boxes.

While Democrats nationally have argued that drop boxes expand voting participation, Republicans in numerous states have targeted their use, claiming they invite fraud.

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Sweeping voting legislation passed Thursday by the US House includes a provision that would require states to make secure drop boxes available.

However, that legislation, dubbed the ‘’Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act,’’ is all but certain to be blocked next week by Republicans in the Senate.

WASHINGTON POST

Senate rejects Cruz’s bill of sanctions for Russia’s gas pipeline

The Senate on Thursday rejected a bill sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would impose sanctions on those responsible for the construction of a new Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline.

The bill’s failure amounts to an endorsement of President Biden’s approach to countering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expanding influence in Europe.

The new pipeline, Nord Stream 2, is entirely owned by Russian energy company Gazprom, a majority of which is owned by the Russian government. The pipeline has already been completed but is not yet running because it has not received German regulatory approval.

The White House said Thursday it strongly opposed Cruz’s measure, which it argued “would only serve to undermine unity amongst our European allies at a crucial moment when we need to present a unified front in response to Russian threats against Ukraine.”

“The Administration does not believe this bill is a genuine effort to counter Russian aggression or protect Ukraine,” the White House said in a statement.

Cruz’s legislation garnered support from 55 senators, short of the 60 votes necessary for passage. Democratic leaders, with the backing of the White House, proposed a competing package of sanctions Wednesday in a bid to tamp down potential defections.

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