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Technical Glitches Cause Iowa Caucus Chaos

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  • Democratic officials in Iowa confirmed Tuesday that the delay in announcing caucus results was due to a technical error in an app meant for caucus chairs to report results.
  • According to reports, the technical glitch is only one part of the problem— human error and communication problems with the party also played a role.
  • The app was developed by the for-profit tech firm Shadow, which has worked with 2020 presidential candidates including Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg.
  • Before results had been reported, candidate Pete Buttigieg declared himself the winner, prompting outrage on social media.

Technical Glitches

The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) blamed a technical glitch for the delayed results of the Iowa caucuses that threw the party into disarray Monday night.

In a statement Tuesday morning, IDP Chairman Troy Price said that the election results were held up by technical problems with an app caucus chairs were using to send results to the party.

“We have every indication that our systems were secure and there was not a cyber security intrusion,” Price said, noting that the systems were tested by independent cybersecurity consultants.  

When the results came in, Price said, it was clear there were “inconsistencies with the report,” which required the party to investigate.

“As part of our investigation, we determined with certainty that the underlying data collected via the app was sound,” he continued. “The application’s reporting issue did not impact the ability of precinct chairs to report data accurately.”

The party later announced that they will release the results at 5 p.m. Eastern. 

Shadow App

While the IDP contends that the error was caused by a “coding issue,” most reports indicate that is not the full story.

It is true that the main problem came from a technical issue with the app. 

According to reports, this was due to the fact that the election data was reportedly transferred from the app into another system built by the same vendor. But when party officials looked at the numbers, they found that the second system the data was sent to only gave them partial results.

The vendor allegedly discovered a coding error in that system which they fixed.

However, the other part of the problem not noted in the party’s statement was the element of human error.

Numerous reports have found that the app was not properly tested at a statewide scale, and that not all precinct chairs were taught how to use it before the election. 

Election officials have also told reporters that they had problems logging in to the app or even downloading it.

But this was not the first time that questions have been raised about this app.

The IDP first announced in January that it was going to use an app. The party, however, refused to say the name of the app or give any details about it, effectively preventing the public or experts from looking into it more.

Cybersecurity experts expressed concern that because of the secrecy, the app had not been properly evaluated or tested and was rolled out way too fast.

To that point, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said Tuesday morning that the department’s cyber agency offered to test the app, but Iowa declined.

Amid the Iowa debacle, it has now been confirmed that the app was developed by an independent, for-profit tech firm with the name Shadow.

Shadow, originally called Groundbase, was acquired by Acronym, a nonprofit digital firm in 2019. According to state finance records, the IDP spent about $63,000 on services from Shadow in November and December of last year.

The same app was reportedly set to be used in the caucuses in Nevada on February 22, although officials in Nevada said Tuesday that they no longer plan to use the app.

Shadow, for its part, responded to all of this in a statement on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. 

“We sincerely regret the delay in the reporting of the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses and the uncertainty it has caused to the candidates, their campaigns, and Democratic caucus-goers,” the company said.

Acronym also responded in a statement on Twitter Monday night, where it said that it did not provide any technology to the IDP or other Democratic Party organizations.

However, many people pointed to a tweet Acronym posted in January 2019, where it announced that it had bought the company Groundbase to form Shadow.

“We’ve acquired SMS tool Groundbase & are launching Shadow, a company focused on building the technology infrastructure needed to enable Democrats to run better, more efficient campaigns,” the company wrote.

Pete Buttigieg Connection

As more information about Shadow came out Monday night, it was revealed that 2020 presidential hopeful Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign had worked with Shadow in the past, according to election filings.

This raised questions about the mayor, especially after Buttigieg seemed to declare victory in Iowa, despite the fact that no official numbers had been released.

“Tonight, an improbable hope became an undeniable reality,” he said in a speech to supporters. “We don’t know all the results, but we know by the time, it’s all said and done, Iowa you have shocked the nation. Because by all indications, we are going on to New Hampshire victorious.”

That statement received backlash, especially after the candidate defended his statement while speaking on Morning Joe Tuesday morning. 

Buttigieg’s also released his campaign’s internal numbers from Iowa returns that showed him in the lead, prompting #MayorCheat to trend on Twitter.

Regarding Shadow, Buttigieg’s campaign said in a statement that they “have contracted with this vendor in the past for text messaging services to help us contact voters. Totally unrelated to any apps they built for the party.” 

Notably, elections filings show that other candidates such as Joe Biden and Kirsten Gillibrand also had contracts with Shadow, as did other state Democratic and Republican parties. 

See what others are saying: (Vox) (CNN) (Fox News)

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Biden Outlines $1.9 Trillion Stimulus Plan

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  • President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus proposal on Thursday.
  • Under the plan, $1 trillion would go to direct relief for Americans. This includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, an extension and $400 weekly increase to federal unemployment benefits, and a $15 minimum wage.
  • The proposal would also allocate $440 billion for aid to local governments and businesses, as well as provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus with more testing and vaccinations, among other efforts.

Biden Outlines Direct Aid in Stimulus Plan

President-elect Joe Biden announced the details of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package while speaking at an event in Wilmington, Delaware on Thursday.

Biden described the package, titled “American Rescue Plan,” as a set of emergency measures to immediately address the country’s economic and healthcare needs. The package will be followed by a second, broader relief package in February, which will aim to address more long-term economic recovery efforts.

Most significantly, $1 trillion — more than half of the funding allocated in the first package — will go to direct relief for Americans. Among other measures, the direct aid provisions in the plan include increasing federal unemployment benefits from $300 a week to $400 a week and extending them from March to September.

Biden’s plan also includes $1,400 stimulus checks to top off the $600 already approved in the December stimulus package. However, eligibility for the direct payments would be expanded to families of non-citizen immigrants as well as families with adult dependents.

Additionally, the proposal includes several other measures targeted at directly helping struggling Americans, such as raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, adding billions in funding for child care, and expanding the child tax credit to poor and middle-class families.

Broader Goals

As for the broader economic and pandemic-centered measures, Biden’s package would allocate $440 billion for aid to states, local governments, and businesses. It would also provide $400 billion to directly fight the coronavirus, with a major focus on expanding testing and accelerating vaccine distribution.

Biden has set the dual goals of delivering 100 million vaccines and reopening the majority of K-12 public schools in his first 100 days. To meet that objective, his plan includes $20 billion for a universal vaccination program, $50 billion to expand testing, and $130 billion to help schools reopen safely.

The proposal, overall, meets many of the demands for direct aid that Democrats have pushed for months but have been unable to approve with the Republican-controlled Senate. Now that Democrats hold the presidency and control of both chambers, many members have urged Biden to ask for an even higher price tag.

Biden, for his part, has said he would like to try for a bipartisan majority on his first piece of legislation, but given Republicans months-long resistance to many Democratic asks, that desire is likely a pipe-dream.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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Democrats Ask for Investigation into GOP Members Aiding Rioters

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  • More than 30 House Democrats signed a letter Wednesday demanding that security officials look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” at the Capitol the day before last week’s insurrection.
  • The lawmakers claimed they “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting, including guests who “appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day.”
  • The letter comes one day after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) accused her Republican colleagues of bringing rioters into the Capitol the day before for “reconnaissance.” 
  • Notably, neither the letter nor Sherill herself directly named any members, and these claims have not yet been verified.

Demands for Investigation

Congressional Democrats are demanding an investigation into whether Republican representatives aided the Capitol rioters who lead last Wednesday’s insurrection.

In a letter signed by 31 members Wednesday, lawmakers asked the acting House and Senate Sergeants at Arms to look into “suspicious behavior and access given to visitors” the day right before the attack. 

In that letter, the Democrats say that they as well as some of their staffers “witnessed an extremely high number of outside groups” visiting the Capitol.

They pointed out that was unusual because the building has restricted public access since March as part of pandemic protocols. Since then, tourists have only been allowed to enter the Capitol if they were brought in by a member of Congress.

The members found the tours “so concerning” that they reported them to the Sergeant at Arms the same day.

“The visitors encountered by some of the Members of Congress on this letter appeared to be associated with the rally at the White House the following day,” the letter continued. “Members of the group that attacked the Capitol seemed to have an unusually detailed knowledge of the layout of the Capitol Complex.” 

The demands come after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (R-NJ) claimed during a Facebook livestream Tuesday that she saw Republican representatives bringing now-identified rioters into the Capitol the day before the riots for “reconnaissance.” Sherrill also alleged that some of her GOP colleagues “abetted” Trump and “incited this violent crowd.”

Members Under Fire

Neither the letter nor Sherill have directly named any members, and none of these claims have yet been verified. However, over the last few days, a number of Republicans have been condemned for their perceived involvement in inciting the rioters.

In a now-deleted video, right-wing conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” organizer Ali Alexander claimed he had planned the rally that took place before the riot with the help of three House Republicans: Paul Gosar (Az.), Andy Biggs (Az.), and Mo Brooks (Al.). All three men voted to undermine the will of the American people and throw out the electoral votes in Arizona following the insurrection. 

Biggs and Brooks have both denied that they have any involvement, but Gosar, who tagged Alexander in a tweet he posted just hours before the attack, has not responded to any requests for comment from several outlets.

“Biden should concede,” Gosar wrote. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there. #StopTheSteaI2021”

While Brooks has denied any involvement in planning the rally, his remarks to the would-be domestic terrorists at the event have sparked widespread condemnation.

“Today is the day that American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” he told the crowd. “Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?”

Some House Democrats introduced resolutions to censure Brooks for his comments. Other members have also been pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, a relic of the post-Civil War era which disqualifies people who “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. from holding public office. 

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) has also received 47 co-sponsored on her proposed resolution that would start investigations for “removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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House Impeaches Trump By Largest Bipartisan Margin in History

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  • The House voted to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.
  • Ten Republicans broke party ranks to vote in favor of impeachment, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.
  • Ahead of the vote, sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he believes Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he was pleased Democrats were moving forward with a vote because it will make it easier to “purge” Trump from the party.
  • McConnel later said he has not yet decided whether he will vote to convict Trump. Still, he has refused to convene the Senate before Jan. 19, meaning that as of now, there is little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before his term ends.

House Debates Impeachment

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 232 to 197 to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “inciting an insurrection,” making him the first-ever president to be impeached twice.

All Democrats voted in favor of the single article. They were also joined by 10 Republicans, which means this is the most bipartisan impeachment in U.S. history.

The decision was debated on the floor after Vice President Pence rejected Democrats’ calls to invoke the 25th amendment and remove Trump from office.

Most notable among the Republican members who voted to impeach was Liz Cheney (R-WY), the number three House Republican who announced her decision Tuesday night.

“There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution,” she said in a statement.

Questionable Path in Senate

No Republican Senators have publicly said they support removing Trump from office.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that sources close to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he “has told associates that he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him from the party.”

Sources separately told Axios that “there’s a better than 50-50 chance” that McConnell would vote to convict Trump.

McConnell responded to the reports earlier on Wednesday but did not outright dispute many of the claims.

“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.

As for whether or not other members of the GOP would follow suit, a top Republican close to McConnell also told Axios that “Senate institutional loyalists are fomenting a counterrevolution” to Trump. 

Additionally, McConnell’s advisers have said that he has “privately speculated that a dozen Republican senators — and possibly more — could ultimately vote to convict.” Notably, it would most likely require 17 Republicans to join Democrats in order for Trump to be found guilty.

In regards to a timeline, the Senate is in recess and not set to reconvene until Jan. 19, the day before Joe Biden’s inauguration. McConnell has rejected calls to ask that members return before then, meaning that as of right now there is very little chance that the Senate will conduct a trial and oust Trump before he leaves office.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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