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Sept. 21 2017 11:40 PM

Facebook Agrees to Turn Over Thousands of Russian-Bought Political Ads During 2016 Election

Facebook announced Thursday it will turn over to Congress more than 3,000 political ads that were bought during the 2016 president election and linked to Russian accounts. The move, announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook, comes as evidence continues to grow that Russian-affiliated accounts were able to manipulate the site in a variety of different ways to target American voters. Shady Russian accounts have been known to try to sow division and disorder, but during the election they didn't stop there. A Russian Facebook page called “Being Patriotic,” for example, was able to organize more than a dozen Trump rallies in Florida. Recently, Facebook has shut down hundreds of fake accounts posing as American activists run by a Russian firm linked to the Kremlin. Facebook also admitted it allowed a pro-Kremlin Russian “troll farm” to buy $100,000 worth of ads to target voters during the 2016 election and beyond.

The scope of Russia’s influence on the social media network suddenly appeared to be far more pervasive and Facebook struggled to respond to criticism of its permissiveness and calls for greater transparency. The company balked at handing over too much of its ad data citing concerns for user privacy, but on Thursday changed course offering to turn over the ads to investigators. “The integrity of our elections is fundamental to democracy around the world,” Zuckerberg said. “That's why we've built teams dedicated to working on election integrity and preventing governments from interfering in the elections of other nations... We are looking into foreign actors, including additional Russian groups and other former Soviet states, as well as organizations like the campaigns, to further our understanding of how they used our tools."

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Zuckerberg also outlined policy changes to increase security and oversight of political ads, particularly propaganda, and create greater transparency when a political ad shows up in your timeline.  

When someone buys political ads on TV or other media, they're required by law to disclose who paid for them. But you still don't know if you're seeing the same messages as everyone else. So we're going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency. Not only will you have to disclose which page paid for an ad, but we will also make it so you can visit an advertiser's page and see the ads they're currently running to any audience on Facebook. We will roll this out over the coming months, and we will work with others to create a new standard for transparency in online political ads.

“[W]e are in a new world. It is a new challenge for internet communities to deal with nation states attempting to subvert elections,” Zuckerberg said. “But if that's what we must do, we are committed to rising to the occasion.”

Sept. 21 2017 9:13 PM

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Responds to Trump, Calling Him a “Mentally Deranged Dotard”

On Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un responded to President Trump’s United Nations address in the pair’s escalating nuclear rhetoric, saying in a statement that Trump would “pay dearly” for his speech where the president referred to Kim as “Rocket Man” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea. “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” Kim continued in a statement released by the official Korean Central News Agency.

Whoa, whoa, whoa—let’s pause for a moment before President Trump squeezes a tweet in. First, fair play, that was kind of a sick burn there. Didn't think you had that in you. I was just thinking it was time someone hauled dotard back into the vernacular.

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I would feel a bit better about the two nations’ ability to communicate if one of the leaders wasn’t using Google translate to use words the other clearly doesn’t know. Next time, just write that bad boy in Korean. We’ve got folks who can translate it. They’ll send it to the rest of us. The North Koreans, however, traditionally issue these statements in English, which, over the years, the quirky corpus has turned into a genre of the language all its own. (For more about why North Korea’s statements sound as wacky, but strangely familiar as they do, check out Daniel Engber’s Slate explainer here.)

For extra authenticity, the Korean state news agency published the statement along with a photo of Kim Jong-un sitting at a desk holding some papers. Nice touch.

Just sayin'.

The statement—discarding the specter of nuclear war (obvs)—is pretty much nonsensical. Here’s the opening line: “The speech made by the U.S. president in his maiden address on the UN arena in the prevailing serious circumstances, in which the situation on the Korean peninsula has been rendered tense as never before and is inching closer to a touch-and-go state, is arousing worldwide concern.” Who’s a maiden?

There is something strangely poetic about the North Korean English turn of phrase.

Shaping the general idea of what he would say, I expected he would make stereo-typed, prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office on the spur of the moment as he had to speak on the world's biggest official diplomatic stage.

Go on.

But, far from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors.

Yes, yes he did “make unprecedented rude nonsense.” I had not thought to describe it like that before you said it right there.

A frightened dog barks louder.

Than? A normal, chill dog?

I’d like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to when making a speech in front of the world.

Good note.

The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on the UN arena the unethical will to “totally destroy” a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty think about discretion and composure.

Hmm … I thought I knew where you were going with this and what you were talking about halfway through.

His remarks remind me of such words as “political layman” and “political heretic” which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign.

The good old days.

After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.

I mean, the syntax is a bit icky, but not too far off base as far as geopolitical analysis goes.

His remarks which described the U.S. option through straightforward expression of his will have convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last ... Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.

And the finale:

I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue.
Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.
I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.

Good imagery. If we weren’t talking about nuclear war this would be “ha ha” funny not “terrifying” funny.

Sept. 21 2017 8:02 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Kimmel vs. Kilmeade

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Conservatives focused their fire on Jimmy Kimmel again on Thursday after his response to criticisms of his commentary on Graham-Cassidy by right-wing voices like Fox’s Brian Kilmeade, who he claimed “kisses my ass like a little boy meeting Batman” when they see each other:

[Kilmeade] follows me on Twitter. He asked me to write a blurb for his book, which I did. He calls my agent, looking for projects. He’s dying to be a member of the Hollywood elite. The only reason he’s not a member of the Hollywood elite is because nobody will hire him to be one.
And, you know, the reason I’m talking about this is because my son had an open-heart surgery and has to have two more, and because of that I learned there are kids with no insurance in the same situation.
I don’t get anything out of this, Brian, you phony little creep. Oh, I’ll pound you when I see you.
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RedState’s Brandon Morse compared the reception of Kimmel’s threat to the criticism of the Blaze’s Dana Loesch several months ago after calling for the New York Times to be ‘fisked’ in an NRA ad. “Do you hear the cacophony of outrage over threatened physical violence coming from the same places that attacked Loesch for not threatening anyone?” he asked. “Me either. The rules seem to be that if you lean to the right, and you come on strong, then you’re a violent villain who needs to watch what comes out of your yapper. If you lean left, however, you can say whatever violent thing you want.”

Kilmeade responded to Kimmel on Fox:

Hope your son gets better. I hope your son gets all the care he needs. I’m glad you’re interested. You’re doing a great job bringing he dialogue out. But you should actually do what we’re doing. Talk to the people that wrote it—Senator Graham, Senator Cassidy ... and we’ll see where we go from here.

Hot Air’s Allahpundit faulted Sen. Bill Cassidy for starting Kimmel’s commentary after saying that an Obamacare replacement would have to pass the “Jimmy Kimmel test” and ensure a child with congenital heart disease would be able to recieve all the care they would need in the first year of life:

That was political malpractice on two levels. One: You don’t make any single person the moral arbiter of your legislation, especially a celebrity. Whatever Kimmel’s broader ideological leanings, he was destined to come under heavy pressure from his industry to attack any repeal bill the GOP offered. It was especially stupid of Cassidy to hand that power to a comedian, as the odds of a comic defending Republicans in their effort to undo the biggest part of Obama’s legacy were exactly zero. The whole thing is as ridiculous as if Obama had announced an “Adam Sandler test” for whether the Iran nuclear deal passed muster.
Two: The “Jimmy Kimmel test” is in keeping with Cassidy’s wider view of health-care reform, but that view isn’t shared by many members of his own party.

In other news:

Multiple outlets ran posts on Bush-era figure Valerie Plame Wilson’s tweeting of an anti-Semitic article about neoconservatives called “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars.” “Scratch a leftist and you inevitably find a raving, frothing anti-Semite just waiting to get out,” said the RedState writer known as Streiff. “But it is rare indeed when one of them waves as points to themselves and declares their Jew-hatred. That happened today on Twitter. The protagonist is the former faux deep cover, non-official cover CIA ANALYST (yeah, try to figure out how that worked) Valerie Plame who was ‘outed’ by Colin Powell’s minime Richard Armitage but somehow resulted in Scooter Libby getting a felony conviction.” The Washington Free Beacon highlighted a fundraiser Plame Wilson held for the Clinton campaign, while the Federalist’s Bre Payton noted other times she’d tweeted similar articles by the same author. “In 2015, she shared a link to a post criticizing the role of Jewish people serving in Congress,” Payon wrote. “In 2014, Plame Wilson tweeted a link to an article by the same author entitled: “Why I Dislike Israel.”

Sept. 21 2017 4:56 PM

Marriott Refuses to Cancel Conference Booked by Anti-Muslim Hate Group

One of the largest anti-Muslim grassroots hate groups in the United States, Act for America, is hosting its annual conference on Oct. 2–3 in Arlington, Virginia, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel. ACTCON2017 strives to be a massive gathering of people from across the country to strategize how to fight the “leftist Islamic coalition,” which is “waging war against the rule of law,” according to the group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel.

The group Muslim Advocates, a civil rights organization, sent Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson, a letter on Sept. 11 urging his company to cancel the hotel’s commitment to host ACTCON2017. As the letter points out, Marriott states on its website that “diversity and inclusion is fundamental to our core values and strategic business goals,” which, one would think, might include not hosting a group that works to advance hate speech and anti-Muslim legislation.

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Watch the full ACTCON promotional video:

Act for America said in a statement to Slate that Muslim Advocates are unfairly portraying the group as racist, noting that there will be a Palestinian, a Jewish person, and other underrepresented minorities speaking at the conference.

Act for America was behind the more than 20 anti-Muslim protests, dubbed “March Against Sharia,” held across the country during Ramadan this year, where participants, some of whom were armed, marched down streets and in front of mosques with the aim of opposing Islamic law and the presence of Muslims in the United States. The Facebook pages for March Against Sharia were likewise statured with calls for violence toward, and even murdering, Muslims.

But, as a spokesperson from Marriott confirmed for Slate, the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington will not be canceling its hosting. “We are a hospitality company that provides public accommodations and function space,” said the spokesperson. “Acceptance of business does not indicate support or endorsement of any group or individual.”

Marriott’s decision to host ACTCON is particularly curious given the company’s 2010 decision to cancel its hosting of American Renaissance, a white nationalist conference. Sorenson, the CEO of Marriott, previously noted that President Trump’s travel ban focusing on six Muslim-majority countries was broadly perceived as “a big deal” in the Middle East and that “the symbolism is wrong.”

Marriott recently started a new ad campaign called “Golden Rule,” which appears to promote a theme of treating every person with equality and dignity. One of the advertisements, for example, starts with images of strangers helping each other and the line: “It would be great if human beings were great at being human and if all of mankind were made up of kind women and kind men.”

This decision from Marriott comes after Airbnb decided last month to boot off its platform several white supremacists and neo-Nazis who booked nights at homes in Charlottesville, Virginia, for after-parties following the Unite the Right rally. After Airbnb stopped working with the organizers of the Unite the Right rally, which was largely being organized on the alt-right website the Daily Stormer, other online businesses decided to stop doing business with the the Daily Stormer as well, on account of the rampant hate speech hosted there, which violates many web companies’ terms of service. GoDaddy, Cloudflare, and Google all stopped worked with the Daily Stormer.* Later, numerous other web companies, like Spotify, PayPal, and OkCupid, all made efforts to remove accounts of individuals or groups that forward hate speech, too. These decisions give Marriott plenty of social and political cover if it would decide to stop providing a forum for Act for America. But Marriott isn’t using it.

*Correction, Sept. 21, 2017, at 5:15 p.m.: This article originally misspelled Cloudflare's name.

Sept. 21 2017 4:19 PM

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Voters Bump Trump for Repub Dump

The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Our man's approval rating is soaring! Per FiveThirtyEight's approval poll aggregator, he's almost up to the point of being a regular unpopular president rather than a historically despised one:

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Screenshot/FiveThirtyEight

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Wha' happen? A new NBC/WSJ poll indicates that the public was impressed when Trump rejected the typical Republican approach to budgeting—namely, shutting down the government for no reason while threatening to create an economic catastrophe by defaulting on the national debt—in favor of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer's plan to not do that:

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Not ruining things on purpose is apparently a better political move than praising the patrons of a white-power torch rally as "some very fine people." Who knew?

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Sept. 21 2017 4:00 PM

Report: GOP Is Trying to Buy Murkowski’s Obamacare Repeal Vote by Letting Alaska Keep Obamacare

On Tuesday I wrote that the chances for Senate Republicans’ last stab at Obamacare repeal, Graham-Cassdidy, “may well hang on what offer Republican leaders are willing to make on Alaska’s behalf in the next week” in order to secure Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s pivotal vote. A couple of reports Thursday afternoon show us how that offer may be shaping up. To put it as generously as possible, it’s not subtle.

The first report, from Politico, says that Alaska, along with some other large, sparsely populated Western states, would be exempt from the per-capita caps that Graham-Cassidy would place on traditional Medicaid spending through 2026. In other words, Alaska—at least in the near term—would not be subject to the enormous entitlement reform that just about every Republican health care bill this year has tossed in its repeal-and-replace package. A good start. What else you got, Graham and Cassidy?

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Independent Journal Review, citing a “Republican Senate aide,” reports what would be the most incredible package of carve-outs known to mankind. It would allow Alaska—and Hawaii, tossed in as a poor effort for political and legal cover—to keep Obamacare in the Obamacare repeal bill. And then some.

In addition to the per-capita cap exemption that Politico reports, a new draft would allow Alaska and Hawaii to “continue to receive Obamacare’s premium tax credits while they are repealed for all other states.” Not only would they get to keep the Obamacare tax credits flowing, but they would also, according to the aide, still be able to receive the block grant money that Graham-Cassidy replaces those subsidies with. The last provision would increase Alaska and Hawaii’s federal Medicaid match rate.

As IJR writes, the changes aren’t final. (Maybe they’ll toss in a gift certificate to the Sizzler for Murkowski, too.) I’ve reached out to the offices of Sens. Murkowski, Graham, and Cassidy for comment on this overflowing chest of legislative treasures, and will update with any new information if they get back.

Few Republican health care reforms are great deals for Alaska. Republican health care reforms slash federal spending on health care, and Alaska's health care costs are extraordinary. The only way to get Murkowski’s vote for the Republican health care reform, then, is to exempt Alaska from the Republican health care reform. This proposal would let Alaska keep its Obamacare money, reap the Graham-Cassidy money on top of that, boost its Medicaid match rate, and not have to abide by the trade-offs of either bill. Nice deal, if you can swing it. Is it possible to expand this language to include all 50 states and the District of Columbia? Might pick up some votes!

By the way, if a deal like this is presented, shouldn’t that prompt Lindsey Graham himself to jump ship from his own proposal? He did say in June that if leaders started “that crap” of straight-up buying votes for their health care bill then “they’re going to lose me.”

Also in June, Murkowski warned that state-specific efforts to “get” her vote for a bad bill wouldn’t work anyway. “Then you have a nationwide system that doesn't work,” she said. “That then comes crashing down and Alaska's not able to kind of keep it together on its own.”

Sept. 21 2017 2:32 PM

Deaf Man Shot Dead by Oklahoma City Police Who Yelled Commands at Him

Oklahoma City police shot and killed a deaf man, Madgiel Sanchez, on Tuesday after he did not comply with an officer’s yelled commands to drop a metal pipe. From the New York Times:

Julio Rayos, a neighbor who lives a few homes away and knew the man was deaf, said he saw the confrontation unfold and sensed trouble.
He said that he ran toward the officer with his wife and his 12-year-old daughter, all three of them screaming that the man could not understand the officer.
“Don’t kill him, he’s deaf,” his daughter yelled. “Don’t do it!”
About six other neighbors joined in, frantically trying to get the officer’s attention. But less than a minute after the episode began, a second officer arrived and immediately pulled out his handgun, Mr. Rayos said. While people continued to scream, the first officer fired his Taser at Mr. Sanchez, while the second fired his handgun, the police said.
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Rayos told the Times that Sanchez, 35, often carried the pipe, using it to communicate and ward off stray dogs. The officer who shot Sanchez has been placed on paid leave as the Oklahoma City Police Department investigates. Police Capt. Bo Mathews said at a news conference that the officers who responded may not have been among those in the department trained in sign language. According to the Washington Post’s database, 712 people have been shot and killed by police so far this year; 32 were unarmed.

Sept. 21 2017 2:06 PM

Who’s More Qualified to Give Opinions About Health Care Policy, Jimmy Kimmel or Donald Trump?

In a turn of events that began when his child was born with a condition that required open-heart surgery, ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel has become the face of public opposition to Affordable Care Act repeal. Kimmel has been specifically critical of the way Republicans have proposed repeal bills that would allow states to waive the ACA's requirement that insurers offer reasonably priced coverage to individuals with pre-existing medical conditions. As he's (correctly) explained, such waivers—like the one in the Graham-Cassidy bill currently looming in the Senate—would likely make it impossible for many families like his whose breadwinners aren't well-compensated celebrities to afford care for their sick kids.

Some on the right have responded by telling Kimmel he should stick to entertainment:

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You may have noticed a flaw in this strategy, namely that the nation's most powerful Republican got elected president largely because he starred on a reality show for loud idiots. So: Who is more qualified to discuss public policy, Jimmy Kimmel or president of the United States? Let's break it down.

1. Attitude toward reading complicated material:

Kimmel's detailed Wednesday monologue would indicate that he has done a fair amount of research on the issue of ACA repeal.

Trump famously doesn't like to read briefing papers if they're long and don't involve pictures.

2. Ability to explain health care reform in layman's terms:

Kimmel, again, did this on Wednesday.

Trump has famously never demonstrated, in either public or private, any understanding of how Republican health care plans work.

3. Intellectual pedigree of TV co-stars:

Kimmel worked with a former presidential adviser and Yale Law School graduate on a distinguished high-brow program that involved tests of knowledge in areas such as literature and history.

Trump's Celebrity Apprentice co-stars included Gene Simmons and Jose Canseco.

4. History of being so bad at his ostensible occupation (business, for Trump; being a comedian, for Kimmel) that investors in one of his enterprises insisted shortly before its second bankruptcy filing that he resign from any role in its management:

In 2009, bondholders in Trump's publicly traded Trump Entertainment Resorts organization forced him out of his role running the company shortly before it filed for its second bankruptcy.

This sort of thing has never happened, to my knowledge, to Jimmy Kimmel. His relationships with the other creators of Crank Yankers appear to be solid. The Man Show, its problematic sexual politics aside, never filed for bankruptcy even one time.

My verdict? Neither of these people should probably be president, but especially not Donald Trump.

Sept. 21 2017 10:51 AM

Sean Spicer Threatens Legal Action Against Reporter for Asking Him Question via Text

Axios' Mike Allen writes Thursday that Sean Spicer apparently took extensive notes during his time working with Donald Trump both before and after the 2016 election. This is ostensibly of interest because it means Robert Mueller could seek to examine Spicer's notebooks for potential evidence that the Trump campaign/administration colluded with Russia or obstructed justice by firing James Comey. But the big takeaway from Allen's piece is really just that Spicer is a big weirdo:

When we texted Spicer for comment on his note-taking practices, he replied: "Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore."
When I replied with a "?" (I have known Spicer and his wife for more than a dozen years), he answered: "Not sure what that means. From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities."
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Spicer further sent Allen an email threatening to "contact the appropriate legal authorities to address your harassment."

This would be pretty mystifying behavior for a professional spokesman to engage in even if Allen were a notoriously confrontational reporter, which he's not; on the contrary, he's actually notorious for being a deferential, even obsequious figure.

Sean Spicer is definitely the kind of guy who has shouted the phrase "you'll be hearing from my attorneys" while being physically removed from Sears after a dispute over the price of a surround-sound speaker system.

Sept. 20 2017 9:50 PM

Manafort's Now Working Against U.S. Stated Interest by Helping Kurds in Iraq Hold Independence Vote

Paul Manafort’s global web of business and political dealings has come under increasing scrutiny in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, but that hasn’t stopped the former Trump campaign chairman from working out on the rough and tumble fringes of global politics. The New York Times reported Wednesday that Manafort has been working since the summer with Kurdish leaders in Iraq to help the autonomous region hold a referendum on independence. The United States opposes the non-binding referendum and has lobbied hard to postpone the measure over fears that it would destabilize the already delicate political situation in Iraq, making it harder to snuff out ISIS. The international community agrees and has lined up against the symbolic vote. The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is set to vote on the referendum on Monday.

Enter Paul Manafort.

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According to the Times’ reporting, Manafort signed on with Iraqi Kurdish leader, Massoud Barzani and his allies “to help administer and promote” the referendum. The referendum is the latest effort of a multifaceted push by Kurdish leaders to build support for their cause in Washington.

Here’s more from the Times:

Mr. Manafort agreed to assist with the referendum, including a planned push for Western recognition, after he was approached several months ago by an intermediary for Mr. Barzani’s son, Masrour Barzani, according to two people familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Manafort has traveled to the region since then to advise the Barzanis’ allies on the referendum, according to Kurdish independence advocates. One of Mr. Manafort’s lieutenants is in Erbil preparing for the referendum, and Mr. Manafort himself may return to the region in the coming days for the vote, according to the advocates…
The Kurdistan Regional Government had paid millions to Washington lobbying firms with deep connections to both Democrats and Republicans, including more than $1.5 million over the last three years, according to Justice Department records. But it has also worked to build support for independence from think tanks and scholars who might be willing to vouch for the referendum’s fairness, and use it to win bipartisan support in Washington for Kurdish independence, according to people familiar with the outreach.

It’s unclear how much Manafort is being paid for his referendum consulting work.

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