Wrongful Death Suit Against Cabell Sheriff Stays In Mason County | Huntington News

Judge R. Craig Tatterson on June 13 denied a motion to transfer a wrongful death suit against Charles N. “Chuck” Zerkle filed by the estate of Mike Carter from Mason to Cabell Circuit Court.  The ruling came in the form of a letter, and following an April 22 hearing.

The letter gave no detailed explanation for denying the motion. 

According to initial media reports, Carter, 88, died following a collision with Zerkle just before 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 29, 2018 along W. Va. Route 2 in Lesage.  An initial investigation by West Virginia State Police found Carter caused the collision when he failed to obey a stop sign at intersection of Ohio River Rd. and Sanns Dr.

However, the suit filed by Jeffrey W. Carter, administrator of Mike Carter’s estate, places Zerkle at fault.  In his complaint filed Jan. 23, 2019, Carter maintains Zerkle was driving a 2018 GMC Sierra north on Ohio River Rd.“at a high rate of speed in excess of the posted speed limit,” when he struck the elder Carter in a 2002 Ford F-150 pick-up truck while attempting to turn south. 

Additionally, Carter alleges at the time of the collision, Zerkle “was working as an officer, agent and/or employee of …Z&Z Enterprises, Inc. in the course of job related activities.”  Named as a co-defendant in the suit, Z&Z Enterprises in the parent company of  Apple Grove Market, a grocery/convenience store Zerkle owns with his wife, Sandra. 

In the motion filed March 7, Camille E. Shora, with the McLean, Va. law firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Eldelman & Dicker, said the suit is in the wrong venue as the accident, and fatality occurred in Cabell, and not Mason, County  Also, though admitting Zerkle is the owner of Z&Z Enterprises, he was not “‘on the clock'” that morning.

In an affidavit attached to the motion, Zerkle avers he “was driving from my home in Cabell county to cut the grass at a property in Mason County.”  The location of the property is not specified.

Since Tatterson’s ruling, the sides have exchanged discovery requests.  Letisha R. Bika with the Charleston law firm of Farmer, Cline and Campbell represents the Carter estate.

No trial date is set. 

Mason Circuit Court, case number 19-C-6

Related posts

CPAC chair: Mitt Romney ‘NOT invited’ to upcoming event after Senator votes for witnesses

person

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney’s decision to side with Democrats and vote for witnesses in the impeachment trial earned him much criticism and now a dis-invitation.

The Utah lawmaker was “formally not invited” to attend this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, referred to as CPAC, after his stunt in a Senate vote Friday when he voted in favor of hearing from witnesses in President Trump’s impeachment trial.

“The ‘extreme conservative’ and Junior Senator from the great state of Utah, @SenatorRomney is formally NOT invited to #CPAC2020,” American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a mocking tweet on Friday.

The conservative conference scheduled for the end of the month will feature Trump as the keynote speaker.

BREAKING: The “extreme conservative” and Junior Senator from the great state of Utah, @SenatorRomney is formally NOT invited to #CPAC2020. pic.twitter.com/f35tYy73V1

— Matt Schlapp (@mschlapp) January 31, 2020

Romney and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine were the only Republicans who voted with Democrats on Friday in the failed attempt to allow additional witnesses to be heard in the trial. The final vote of 51-49 shot down a weeks-long Democratic effort to hear witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton and others, and set the stage for a final vote to acquit the president next week.

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska were ultimately the swing GOP votes, sticking with the party and voting against the effort while Democrats began to discredit the process as a “sham.” Romney, who is not up for reelection until 2024, was roundly condemned for bucking the party though some, like Utah’s Republican senior Senator Mike Lee did come to his defense.

Mitt Romney is a good friend and an excellent Senator. We have disagreed about a lot in this trial. But he has my respect for the thoughtfulness, integrity, and guts he has shown throughout this process. Utah and the Senate are lucky to have him.

— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) January 31, 2020

Lee is a frequent CPAC attendee as is Romney who has spoken at the annual conservative gathering in the past, including in 2013, following his 2012 failed presidential bid. It was not clear if the former Massachusetts governor was even planning to attend this year’s event which will include Diamond and Silk, Candace Owens and California Rep. Devin Nunes as speakers as well as conservative commentator Mark Levin, and Brexit leader Nigel Farage.

CPAC and Schlapp were slammed by some Twitter users for the rebuke of Romney and display of “cancel culture” politics.

— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) January 31, 2020

oh what a calamity how will Mitt ever be able to carry on https://t.co/7vsYOPzEuh

— George Conway (@gtconway3d) January 31, 2020

— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) January 31, 2020

CPAC has turned into an alt right clown show. I’m sure Mitt could care less.

— Marylou Culkar (@MarylouCulkar6) February 1, 2020

But many others on Twitter were happy to see the Utah senator get called out.

I am so disappointed in Romney. What a traitor and I don’t use that loosely. Trump supported him completely in his bid for the senate. Romney has done everything to betray Trump. I never would have believed it but there it is.

— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) January 26, 2020

— Sara A. Carter (@SaraCarterDC) February 1, 2020

Epic Burn. 🔥🤣

I am going to CPAC because my dreams became memes.

And I didn’t betray the president 40 times.

— Carpe Donktum🔹 (@CarpeDonktum) January 31, 2020

Good riddance… It’s about time Mitt Romney be held accountable for his actions.

Not sure why he’d want to be at #CPAC anyway, he’s no longer a conservative. https://t.co/KtXVM1tWZY

— Jason Lewis (@LewisForMN) February 1, 2020

Good! He’s NOT a Republican!

Senior Staff Writer

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.

Latest posts by Frieda Powers (see all)

Related posts

Bye Bye AOC? Democrat Socialist Ocasio-Cortez Could Lose House Seat After New Census ⋆ Conservative Firing Line

person

Based on the latest census projections, New York State may lose one congressional district, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fears the district that goes away will be hers.

The horror. 😉 A0C Fears Losing Seat Due to 2020 Census.

The Potential Loss of A0C’s District Highlights Why Democrats Fumed Over Trump’s Proposed 2020 Census Changes https://t.co/7xQu3sdo4K

— Junkyard Dogs (@baileyjer) January 1, 2020

Nothing is official yet. The Census Bureau will announce the final count in December 2020, and the congressional districts will be updated for the 2022 elections.

Party leadership is not happy with AOC, which is why her district is in danger.

As we reported in January of 2019, Congressional Democrats were growing sick and tired of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s antics, especially her use of Twitter to attack other Democrats and to get what she wants from the caucus.

Even some progressives who admire AOC, as she’s nicknamed, told Politico that they worry she’s not using her notoriety effectively.

“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” said one House Democrat who’s in lockstep with Ocasio Cortez’s ideology. “There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.

In  July, AOC used the race card against Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Responding to criticism from the speaker, she told WAPO:

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood. But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color,” she told The Post.

AOC appears to suggest that Pelosi is targeting her because Pelosi wants her to get death threats: “It’s singling out 4 individuals, and knowing the media environment that we’re operating in, knowing the amount of death threats that we get …. I think it’s just worth asking why” pic.twitter.com/cueiQi9XC8

— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) July 11, 2019

When one adds the fact that in her first election she primaried and beat Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, who was seen as Nancy Pelosi’s heir apparent to the fact that she’s attacked the party leadership as much as the other party, it’s understandable why AOC fears being left without a district in 2022

There is something that may hold party leadership back from gerrymandering  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional district out of existence. In 2022 Chuck Schumer will have to run for re-election. If she is left without a congressional district, AOC may attempt to primary Schumer. And who knows? Schumer is very powerful, but NY is VERY liberal, and a Democratic Socialist like AOC may be their cup of tea.

If you haven’t checked out and liked our Facebook page, please go here and do so.  You can also follow us on Twitter at @co_firing_line.  Facebook, Google and other members of the Silicon Valley Axis of Evil are now doing everything they can to deliberately stifle conservative content online, so please be sure to check out our MeWe page here, check us out at ProAmerica Only and the new social site, Hardcore Conservatives.

If you appreciate independent conservative reports like this, please go here and support us on Patreon and get your conservative pro-Trump gear here.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out our friends at Whatfinger News, the Internet’s conservative front-page founded by ex-military!And be sure to check out our friends at Trending Views:

Related posts

“Make America Great Again”: Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America Survive the Storm?

person

It’s a global village now.

The term “global village” was invented when the global reality was much less apparent. Today, I can read the The New York Times in real time in Oslo and Ottawa and Osaka just as easily as in the city of its publication. CNN brings the world to a global audience of viewers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I have digital subscriptions to The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and a Norwegian newspaper, and I sometimes read German or British newspapers online. This makes me an exception: newspapers and magazines compete for a shrinking audience. Visual news, by contrast, like CNN or Fox, is ubiquitous. We cannot avoid them even if we try.

And the subject — in print or on the television screen? There is more than one, but the main subject is President Donald J. Trump. He is the new chief in the global village; he attracts an audience; he keeps it up, tweet after tireless tweet. For the last four years, in outlets like CNN or Fox, there has not been one twenty-four-hour news cycle that failed to mention candidate Trump and later President Trump. Indeed, for the last four years, there has hardly been a twenty-four-hour news cycle when he was not the main subject.

I do not plan to engage this subject broadly. My focus will be narrow, announced in the headline. “Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America Survive the Storm?”

Why do I ask the question, why do I pose it as a matter of survival, and why do I ask it now? 

I have wondered about the impact of the political climate on the church on many occasions. A broad approach to my question would not be a waste of time, thinking particularly about the connection between the Sabbath and care for the world or the social conscience of the seventh day.[1] Here, my focus will be narrow; it will have one issue only. While some issues can be discussed dispassionately as matters belonging to gray zones, my concern cannot be discussed dispassionately, and it does not belong to a zone where there are varying shades of gray. Some things are black or white. This is one of those things.

On October 10, 2019, the President of the United States of America traveled to Minneapolis to give a speech. The stands were filled with people, twenty thousand in all. Many were dressed in the colors signifying support for the president’s aspiration to “Make America Great Again.” The president’s speech lasted one hour and thirty minutes. About one hour into the speech, the president turned to talk about the Somali-born Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the immigration and refugee resettlement programs that brought many Somalis to Minnesota.[2]

Donald Trump: (54:16)
So in desperate attempt to attack our movement. Nancy and Chuck, two beauties, have given control of the Democrat party entirely over to the radical left, including Minnesota’s own representative Ilhan Omar. I know you people. I know you people. I know the people of Minnesota, and I want to tell you, and I also, at the same time, it’s both a question and a statement, how’d the hell did that ever happen? How did it happen? How did it happen? Congresswoman Omar is an America-hating socialist.

Donald Trump: (01:21:05)
Thank you very much. Thank you. Great people. Thank you. What a group. I think your very weak mayor made a mistake when he took them on. As you know, for many years, leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers. I promised you that as president, I would give local communities a greater say in refugee policy, and put in place enhanced vetting and responsible immigration controls.

Donald Trump: (01:22:13)
And I’ve done that. Since coming into office, I have reduced refugee resettlement by 85%, and as you know, maybe especially in Minnesota, I kept another promise. I issued an executive action, making clear that no refugees will be resettled in any city or any state without the express written consent of that city or that state. So speak to your mayor. You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods, and that’s what you have the right to do right now.

Donald Trump: (01:23:12)
If Democrats were ever to seize power, they would open the floodgates to unvetted, uncontrolled migration at levels you have never seen before. Do you think you have it bad now? You would never have seen anything like what they want to do. But in the Trump administration, we will always protect American families first, and that has not been done in Minnesota.

What is the problem? The president is speaking about foreign-born generally non-White people who are already in the country, many of them by now American citizens, including Ilhan Omar. The speech was given in her district, in the same area where some fifty thousand Somali refugees are settled. They came there, the refugees have said, because they were well received and felt safe. And now? The President of the United States of America tracks them down in their neighborhood. He vilified one of them by name, twisting things she has said in the most negative manner. He accused her for minimizing the September 11 tragedy, charged to her “a history of launching virulent anti-Semitic screeds” before delving into her marital history. At the mention of “Somalis,” the president’s mostly white crowd broke out in boos — “in effect jeering their neighbors,” as one person present put it.

In better days, Ilhan Omar would be proof that America is a great country, the greatest there is. How she, a Somali-born refugee found a home in the United States, how she got an education, how she overcame obstacles to make herself into a person who exemplifies the best there is of diversity and opportunity in the U.S. In the president’s world, however, Omar is repeatedly thrashed. She has become one of the members of Congress targeted by the Trump-inspired chant, “Send her back!”

Let us leave Omar out, if need be, for the conversation to proceed without allowing allegations about her to distract us. Let us not leave out the other more than fifty thousand refugees of Somali descent now living in Minnesota. The president had a special line for the mayor of Minneapolis, saying that he showed weakness when he took the refugees in. (33:57) “Minneapolis, Minneapolis, you’ve got a rotten man. You’ve got to change your mayor. You’ve got a bad mayor. You’ve got a bad mayor.” And now the Somali refugees, who fled one of the most broken countries in the world. They are there, in Minnesota, on October 10 the target of a viscerally hostile speech by the president of their new homeland.

Others are there, too. I am now referring to the people in the stands. Let the president do the vilification of the Somalis by himself. It is not necessary to become his accomplice in disparaging a vulnerable group. It is not necessary to attend the rally. It is not necessary to cheer.

This is where the question of survival comes in. Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America survive this storm? Eighty percent of evangelical Christians support this man and his policies. Fifty percent of Catholic white males are said to support him. How high is the percentage among Seventh-day Adventists? Were Adventists in the audience in Minneapolis? Did Adventists cheer the part of the speech that singled out the refugees? One journal, secular, of course, had a fitting headline afterwards. “Trump’s Minneapolis Rally Was a Demonstration of the Moral Suicide Pact He’s Made with His Supporters.”[3] The author, Jack Holmes, the political editor of Esquire magazine, does not want to be in on the moral suicide pact. 

This is a virulently racist tirade aimed at ginning up the worst instincts of the people in the crowd. It is not a coincidence Trump chose to come here, or to target a refugee community that is black and Muslim. This is how he thinks he can win reelection: by continuing to pull his base of support towards more vitriolic expressions of this vision of America as a country for and by white people; by scaring other constituencies away from speaking out; by using the Republican Party’s machinations to stop inconvenient voters from voting; by smearing his opponents as Just As Bad As Him, They Just Pretend to Be Prim and Proper; by soliciting foreign meddling that will benefit him in exchange for favors when he is reelected.

“I know you people. I know you people,” the president said as he began the part about the refugees. What does he know about them? Does he seek to unleash some hidden, inner hostility that resonates with his sentiment, knowing that it is there? What does he know? One of Adolf Hitler’s critics in the German Reichstag said before voices like his fell silent — before the Reichstag went into a twelve-year de facto hibernation — that Hitler had an uncanny ability to spot and stir to life a person’s “inner swine.” Surely, the talk about the Somali refugees in Minnesota, in public, before a cheering audience, some of whom are next-door neighbors to the Somalis, could be an example of inner swines cut loose from moral restraint.

Moral Suicide

In what sense does this qualify as moral suicide, a term that is well chosen? I will offer three reasons.

First is the biblical perspective. In the Old Testament, the refugee has special status as an object of God’s protection. Who will not be inspired and humbled by a walk-through of some of these texts? Their thrust is not only an obligation to treat refugees and immigrants with respect. It goes deeper than that. Believers are called to see themselves in the other person — to remember that we are in the same boat: what they are, we used to be. This should be easy to do for people in Minnesota. The ancestors of many in that state were not refugees but economic migrants from Scandinavia and Germany, but they came as aliens.

You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exod. 22:21).

You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exod. 23:9).

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien (Lev. 19:33).

Does it count as oppression when the president of your adopted country seeks you out in your back yard, there to call your mayor “a rotten person” for letting you in, there to make you be his foil for a vision of America that uses disdain for you to inspire them to be his supporters? Does it count as oppression when the speaker clearly intends to outsource to his audience to change the terms of the alien’s existence?

The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 19:34).

You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance (Num. 15:16).

What is most impressive in these texts is the insistent, unprecedented, vociferous call to remember. Historical amnesia is a dangerous and ever-present risk. To counter the risk, Deuteronomy inscribes the memory of past oppression as a constituent of the believer’s present identity.

Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today (Deut. 15:15). 

Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and diligently observe these statutes (Deut. 16:12).

You shall not abhor any of the Edomites, for they are your kin. You shall not abhor any of the Egyptians, because you were an alien residing in their land (Deut. 23:7).

Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this (Deut. 24:18).

There they are, the Edomites and the Egyptians. They are there, in the text, but they are here, too, in the neighborhood. Just look on the map to see how little has changed even though the world has expanded. Lucky ones, are they not, to have a verbal footprint left for them in the Bible, the people who are now coming from where the Edomites used to live (Syria, Iraq, Palestine) or from Egypt (close enough to Somalia to count).

It was part of the liturgy of these believers to rehearse their story over and over in assembly, to say the following out loud:

You shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous” (Deut. 26:5).

The wandering Aramean, of course, is Abraham. In the New Testament, he is the role model for believers in Jesus (Rom. 4:16). In one New Testament iteration, Abraham never ceases to be an itinerant. For such a person and for such an itinerant faith-identity, understanding and empathy for those on the outside will only be stronger.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:8-10).

For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).

For anyone working with refugees and seeing their plight first-hand, it helps to ponder such a faith identity. To be a migrant or a resident alien, as a believer, is not a stage left behind, a distant chapter to remember. It is a stage — even a state — of present existence.

Second, we have a historical reason not to be part of the moral collapse playing out with respect to refugees and resident aliens. Now as then, at issue is not refugee status only. It is also minority status, ethnic, racial, or religious. Two immense historical realities obligate and inform us, the history of slavery and the Holocaust. Fifteen million Africans were brought to the New World against their will (not all of them to the US); six million Jews were gassed and cremated in the Nazi era. Might it be possible to see in the face of the Somalis seeking entrance the face of Africans who were forced to come against their will? Now they come willingly, in a state of need. Is this a time to shut the doors — or ever to shut them? Is there not still an unpaid debt from us to them, “us” the enslavers of European descent and “them” the enslaved?

And the Holocaust? It was “Not Long Ago, Not Far Away,” as an exhibit now on display in New York puts it. What happened had a toxic rhetorical antecedent. I am not suggesting that something on that scale is in the making today. But I am saying that there is a family resemblance at the level of rhetoric. I do not envision that today’s rhetoric will become tomorrow’s genocide. But yesterday’s genocide makes today’s rhetoric indecent, dangerous, and unconscionable even if it is only rhetoric. For a Somali minority in the US to be disparaged by the nation’s president with a crowd of mostly white Americans cheering him on is immoral because of what happened “Not Far Away, Not Long Ago.” We cannot go near it again; we cannot cheer except to put our souls in the gravest peril. Think of it this way, too: he speaks that way not to show us what he is like but because he thinks he knows what we are like.

I find sobering support for the unfinished work history teaches us to do in the recent book by the philosopher I admire the most. Susan Neiman says that “I began life as a white girl in the segregated South, and I am likely to end it as a Jewish woman in Berlin.”[4] Her remarkable geographic, intellectual, and professional journey is as compelling as her message: the need for Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, as they say it in German: the need for “working-off-the-past.” The spectacle in Minneapolis and other spectacles like it result, in Neiman’s story, “from America’s failure to confront its own history.”[5]

Third, we have a special Seventh-day Adventist reason not to condone, participate in, or in any way engage in the conduct on display in Minneapolis on October 10, 2019. This has to do with our history and self-understanding. Early Adventists saw themselves called to proclaim a message of everlasting good news or, as I propose to translate it, “an eternally valid message” (Rev. 14:6). The target audience is broadly specified in Revelation. The message is to be proclaimed “to those who live on the earth — to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev. 14:6). There are no favorites here, no national or ethnic or tribal preference. The first angel in Revelation takes the stage with an equal opportunity proposition with respect to “those who live on the earth.”

When Adventist pioneers contemplated the scope of this commission, they took comfort in how they saw Providence at work in the American experience. Human beings from “every nation and tribe and language and people” had come to the United States! The mission could be accomplished here, in the New World, because God had raised up a nation of migrants and immigrants, of refugees and fortune seekers, in the New World. It would not be necessary to go to them. God had brought them to us; God brought them here.

This vision has since undergone a much-needed correction. They did not all come here; it was necessary to go there to be faithful to the commission. But the early perception should not be abandoned without a trace. Seventh-day Adventists have a special reason to be welcoming to people from other nations and tribes. Not so long ago it was a settled Adventist conviction that God had brought them here as an element in God’s eschatological vision for the nations. God — not simply destitution or need or hope or opportunity.

It is a global village now. We are all in on this. “Immigrants and refugees are welcome in Minneapolis,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey after the president’s visit. I am glad he did. According to the transcript, verbatim, people chanted, “Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years” even though the visitors had told them that they have “a rotten mayor.”

Moses wasn’t there, but he gave a different speech to his migrant congregation before they took possession of the Promised Land. Then, too, there was a big crowd. Then, too, there was a pact. It was not a moral suicide pact but a moral pact meant to bring security to the most vulnerable. “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice,” said Moses.

And the people, back then, what did they say?

“All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” (Deut. 27:19)

Notes & References:

Sigve K. Tonstad is Research Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University.

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

Related posts

Russia and 2020 Elections

One week after Robert Mueller’s testimony shined a spotlight, once again, on election interference, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is feeling the heat. The leader turned heads on the Senate floor Monday as he rose to decry critics who have dubbed him “a Russian asset” and “Moscow Mitch” for stonewalling congressional measures to improve election security. And with momentum building in the House to formally start impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the pressure is unlikely to let up anytime soon.

Focusing on election interference from 2016 is backwards thinking, though, at least according to Virginia Senator Mark Warner. With 2020 just around the corner, he tells WIRED—in an exclusive interview—that the upcoming election is where both parties need to direct their attention right now.

As the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Warner has long been a vocal proponent of new legislation to strengthen election protections, such as the Honest Ad Act, which would compel Silicon Valley firms to disclose when political ads are paid for by a foreign nation. He’s also behind a bill that would require campaigns to alert federal officials if they’re approached by a foreign operative offering information or other assistance. Both bills have bipartisan support—Senator Susan Collins became the first Republican to cosponsor the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act earlier this week.

Even as GOP leaders try to position election security as a partisan issue, Warner—a former governor of Virginia and a cofounder of the firm that eventually became Nextel—has maintained the respect of his colleagues across the aisle. But his frustration seems to be growing, especially now that Trump has tapped Representative John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) to be his next director of national intelligence. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has already come out opposed to Ratcliffe, Warner tells WIRED he’s still got some patience left. Even if it’s wearing thin.

This transcript is slightly edited for length and clarity.

WIRED: After Mueller testified, the president and Republicans say case closed. What do you make of that?

Mark Warner: I’m not here to relitigate 2016, or the Mueller testimony, specifically. I would point out, out of the Mueller investigation: 37 indictments, the president’s national security adviser pled guilty. The president’s campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s deputy campaign manager pled guilty. The president’s chief political adviser is coming to trial in the fall, Roger Stone. The attorney general had to resign. There were literally hundreds of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

That’s not normal. And I think the biggest takeaway from the Mueller testimony was that the Russians who attacked us in 2016 are still attacking us and, in Bob Mueller’s words, on a daily basis. You combine that with the warnings from Trump’s own FBI director [Christopher Wray] and Trump’s own director of national intelligence [Dan Coats]. And one of the things that concerns me the greatest is that we’ve not done more to protect the integrity of our election system in 2020.

I was just talking to your [Intelligence Committee] cochair, Senator [Richard] Burr, and he was saying the states in 2018 weathered these attacks, the national infrastructure is good on election security. Basically, case closed, again, not much more is needed.

I think everyone picked up their game in 2018, including the Department of Homeland Security, and our intelligence community was more active as well. But the intelligence community’s own reporting was that Russia didn’t throw its full force of efforts in 2018. Chances are they’ll reserve those for the presidential election. So I think there is some low-hanging fruit that would get 75 votes on the floor of the Senate—if we could get these bills to the floor of the Senate.

I think there ought to be an affirmative obligation that if a foreign government, the Kremlin, offers you campaign help, your obligation ought to be not to say thank you, but to report to the FBI. I think we ought to make sure that every polling station in America has a paper ballot backup, so that if a machine was hacked, you’ve still got ability to protect the integrity of the voting system. And I haven’t met anyone that doesn’t think we need some basic guard rails around the manipulation of Facebook, Twitter, and Google by foreign entities and others. So at least there ought to be the requirement that if somebody advertises on a political basis on Facebook, but in truth it’s a foreign government, they ought to have the same disclosure requirements as somebody who advertises on radio or television.

Isn’t it a little bit ironic that in this highly digital era, we’re going back to paper ballots?

I think we need to make sure that we use the best technology, but if technology, as we see from banks this week, can continue to be hacked into, if voting machines are not as protected as needed, if the private companies who control the voter files could have their information moved around … You don’t need to change votes to cause chaos. I think people’s overall confidence in the system goes up if there is that back check of having a paper ballot backup. Again, this is not saying we wouldn’t still use voting machines, but across the election community everyone believes it’s safer if you have that paper ballot backup that goes along with the voting counting machines.

And now we know we’re getting attacked, cybersecurity is on the top of many minds. And then the president this week announced he’s nominating Representative John Ratcliffe to be DNI, who seems like more of a politician and a Trump supporter than someone from the intel community. Does that worry you?

It worries me greatly. The irony is that Donald Trump’s appointees in the intel world—his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; his director of the FBI, Chris Wray, his director of the CIA, Gina Haspel—have been pretty good about speaking truth to power, even when Trump did not want to hear the truth. They’ve been very good at not allowing America’s intelligence to get politicized—while I’m going to give Mr. Ratcliffe the courtesy of a meeting, I fear that he is being appointed in the mold of a Bill Barr, the attorney general, who basically is simply a loyalist first to Donald Trump and doesn’t maintain that kind of independence.

If there’s ever been a time when everyone says that Russians and others will be back, when we’ve got as many potential conflict spots around the world, we need to make sure that the head of our national intelligence is not going to politicize the intelligence. That intelligence product goes to our military, it goes to the executive, it goes to us in the Congress. It cannot be a political product. And we’ve got to make sure that the intelligence community is going to be willing to speak truth to power, and that means telling Donald Trump the truth, even if he doesn’t want to hear it. And so far it appears to me that Mr. Ratcliffe, who doesn’t have much experience and who seems—based upon press reports—that his audition was based on questioning Mueller and questioning the legitimacy of the Russian’s intervention in our electoral system, is pretty chilling.

What do you see as the biggest threats—or are there any new threats—facing America in 2020?

So I think there are a couple of new threats. One, Russia in 2016 was surprised at how vulnerable our systems were, our electoral systems. And how easy Facebook and Twitter and YouTube were to be manipulated. So I think that playbook is now out there, they’ve used the same tactics in the Brexit vote [and] the French presidential elections. So my fear is we may not only see Russia, we can see Iran, we could potentially see China, who has a great deal of control over a number of their Chinese tech companies, start to use these tools because they’re cheap and effective. I like to point out that if you add up all Russia spent in the Brexit vote, the French presidential elections, and the 2016 American elections, it’s less than the cost of one new F-35 airplane. So Russia and our adversaries, I think, have decided the way to engage with us in conflict is not through straight up old-school military but through cyber activities, misinformation and disinformation, increasingly trying to weaken and interfere, for example with our space communications, and I think Russia will up their game … and others … [It] means there will be more adversaries in 2020.

Second is, I think in 2016 we saw Russia try to misrepresent—the Russian agents misrepresent themselves as Americans on Facebook and Twitter by simply posting fake messages. The next iteration, the next generation of that will be the so-called “deepfake” technology, where an American may not be able to view what his eyes are telling him, because you’ll see an image of you or me or a political figure that may sound like that person but isn’t that person at all.

Now, if McConnell doesn’t allow some of these bills, like the Honest Ads Act or just broader election security bills, to come up, what do you think the Silicon Valley tech firms can do on their own?

Look, we’ve seen progress made by Facebook, Twitter, some progress made by Google. But I don’t think self-regulation, particularly when a regulation may mean they may not be collecting as much information as they like, or self-regulation may mean they have to go against or limit some of the fake content. It goes against their very business model. So I think Facebook has made progress in particular, but some of the tools they have—for example, the ability to access on an easy basis the campaign ads that they promised, that tool is not effective at all.

So at the end of the day, when we’re talking about something as critical as protecting the integrity of our democracy, when Americans lack faith in so many of our institutions to start with, if we don’t go the extra mile and put in place a set of rules and regulations—and god forbid should Russia or Iran or another foreign enterprise massively interfere again—and we didn’t do our duty, then shame on all of us.

This week, two fairly senior Senate Democrats called for impeachment proceedings to begin. Where are you on that? We started this conversation with you saying you don’t want to relitigate 2016, but it seems like there’s this growing chorus amongst Democrats to impeach.

I actually think Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi has navigated that challenge very well. I understand the frustrations with President Trump—his activities and tweets and antics. I think, though, the best way we can show that that’s not who we are as Americans is to defeat him at the ballot box in a free and fair election. And what I worry about is if we don’t guarantee that free and fair election, then we haven’t done our job.


Related posts