Dem Candidates Take Aim at Voter Suppression, Russian Interference at Urban League Convention

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Dem Candidates Take Aim at Voter Suppression, Russian Interference at Urban League Convention

Biden, Booker among five candidates addressing conference, with four more scheduled on Friday

INDIANAPOLIS-- Five Democratic presidential candidates took the stage at the Convention Center, just down the hall from a global cybersecurity conference ---and warned of the same dangers.

The National Urban League is hosting nine presidential hopefuls across two days of its four-day national convention. On Thursday, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Cory Booker and Amy Klobuchar, Congressman Tim Ryan, and former Congressman John Delaney outlined their plans for minority communities, but several turned unprompted to the ongoing attempts by Russia to disrupt the election.

Biden declared Russia will "pay a price" for interfering in the 2016 election and attempting to do so again in 2018. He vowed to take any information on foreign intervention in the election to the F-B-I, and blasted Trump's statement that he'd accept foreign assistance as "close to treason." He notes Trump's repeated dismissal of intelligence findings while accepting Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials, and denounced Trump for treating election meddling as "a funny joke" at a photo op with Putin at a summit last month.

Booker says instead of taking the threat, Trump treated the meeting like "two pals getting together."

Klobuchar says the common description of Russian "meddling" trivializes what happened. "Meddlilng is when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she's doing," Klobuchar says. She says Russia "invaded" the election. Delaney uses similar imagery, saying the Russian attacks were the equivalent of sending a battleship onto the coast.

Biden says he'd call Facebook to account for ignoring Russian troll farms. Klobuchar and Delaney are more specific, calling for legislation requiring disclosure of who's paying for digital ads on Facebook and other sites. Delaney says he'd also ban foreign ownership of any company which supplies voting equipment.

Booker says the Russian attacks sought to discourage African-American votes in particular. Klobuchar reminded the Urban League audience the interference included not just hacking attempts, but disinformation specifically targeting minority voters, like a Facebook ad falsely telling them they could vote by text. 

The candidates all vowed to seek a strengthened Voting Rights Act. 

"The new Voting Rights Act that we want to pass is about making our democracy far more robust with common sense things like making 'Voting Day' a national holiday, common sense things like having automatic registration. And as we saw yesterday in the Mueller hearing, we also need to make sure that we're not just protecting the ballot from voter suppression domestically, but from all the voter interference that we see the Russians doing as well," Booker said.

Biden says he'd repeal the Trump tax cut for "the superwealthy," and go after tax loopholes the tax bill didn't address. He says the tax code includes one-point-six-trillion dollars in loopholes, and contends more than a third serve no economic purpose and should be abolished. Biden says repealing just one would raise enough money to pay for community college for any student qualified to attend. 

Ryan says he'd name a chief manufacturing officer to flesh out ways to bring 21st-century industries to old-line manufacturing cpmmunities.

Friday's lineup includes Mayors Pete Buttigieg and Bill de Blasio and Senators Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand.

(PHOTO: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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