Indictment: Researcher secretly worked for China

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas associate professor concealed work he was doing for China while employed at the University of Kansas and tried to recruit other researchers and students for the Chinese government, according to revised federal charges filed Wednesday.

An extensively detailed superseding indictment charges Feng “Franklin” Tao, 47, of Lawrence, Kansas, with two counts of wire fraud and one count of program fraud for failing to disclose on conflict-of-interest forms the work he was doing for China while employed as a full-time associate professor at the University of Kansas’ Center for Environmental Beneficial Catalysis. Prosecutors said some of the Tao’s research at the Kansas university was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tao’s defense attorney did not immediately return an after-hours phone message and email seeking comment.

The 16-page indictment describes how China spurred its rapid economic growth by offering scholarships or funding to foreign students or visiting professors who were studying or working at U.S. universities. It also used “talent plans” designed to encourage the transfer of original ideas and intellectual property from U.S. universities to Chinese government institutions to enhance Chinese “scientific development, economic prosperity, and national security.”

Such talent plans have existed since early 1990s, but the Chinese government re-emphasized them in 2007 as part of its strategy to enhance economic development, federal prosecutors said. The Communist Party of China reviews all talent plan applicants, and the government administers and funds the program using other agencies within the Chinese government.

As of 2016, China had recruited more than 56,000 talent program participants. The indictment said the Changjiang Professorship was one such program sponsored by the Chinese government and the Communist Party. It alleges Tao did not disclose to the University of Kansas his selection for the Changjiang Professorship or the salary for his appointment to Fuzhou University in Fuzhou, China.

The Changjiang contract also required Tao to recruit two to three doctor students and three to four master’s students per year to work with him at Fuzhou University, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors also cited in the indictment email exchanges dealing with Tao’s efforts to recruit students and researchers for work in China, and the indictment alleges Tao sponsored at least four researchers and students visiting the University of Kansas from China. At least one of his researchers joined Tao’s research team at Fuzhou University, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors detailed in the indictment numerous trips Tao took in 2017 and 2018 to China. He also performed “some duties” at Nagoya University in Japan.

The unusually detailed superseding indictment came on the heels of a defense motion seeking to dismiss the original indictment against Tao after his attorneys claimed a visiting graduate student fabricated  the allegations against him. The judge said during a hearing on that request that a new motion could make some issues raised by the defense moot.

Prior to his arrest in August 2019, Tao was prominently listed as a member of the Fuzhou University on its website, according to the indictment. Shortly after his arrest, all mention of him was deleted from the Fuzhou website. Prosecutors said Tao never requested permission from the University of Kansas to work at Fuzhou University or Nagoya University.

Tau, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Kansas, was born in China and moved to the United States in 2002. He has been employed since August 2014 at the Kansas university’s Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis in Lawrence. The center conducts research on sustainable technology to conserve natural resources and energy.

Ukraiian backs claims of US extortion to smear Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — A close associate of President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer says he delivered an ultimatum in May to the incoming president of Ukraine that no senior U.S. officials would attend his inauguration and all American aid to the war-torn country would be withheld if an investigation into Joe Biden wasn’t announced.

Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, made several potentially explosive claims in a televised interview Wednesday night with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. The day after Parnas said he delivered the message, the State Department announced that Vice President Mike Pence would no longer be attending the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskiy.

Parnas alleged that Trump ordered Pence to stay away at the behest of Giuliani to send a clear message to the incoming Ukrainian administration that they needed to take seriously the demand for an investigation into Biden, a Democratic presidential candidate seen as a potential threat to Trump’s 2020 reelection.

Parnas said every communication he had with Zelenskiy’s team was at the direction of Giuliani, whom he regularly overheard briefing Trump about their progress by phone.

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on,” said Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman facing a raft of criminal charges related to campaign finance violations. “He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani, or the President.”

Trump’s press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, disparaged Parnas’ account today.

“Just to say ‘Rudy told me these things’ doesn’t mean that it has anything to do with the president,” she told “Fox & Friends.” “And it certainly doesn’t mean that the president was directing him to do anything. We stand by exactly what we’ve been saying: The president did nothing wrong.”

If Parnas’ allegations are true, his account undercuts a key Republican defense of Trump deployed during the ongoing impeachment fight — that Trump’s withholding of vital military aid to Ukraine last summer wasn’t a quid pro quo for Biden investigations because Zelenskiy didn’t know the money was being held up.

Giuliani called Parnas’ statements “sad.”

“I feel sorry for him,” Giuliani said Wednesday in a text message to an AP reporter. “I thought he was an honorable man. I was wrong.”

The new accusations came as House Democrats made public a trove of documents, text messages and photos from Parnas’ smartphones that appear to verify parts of his account.

A federal judge earlier this month ruled that Parnas could provide the materials to Congress as part of the impeachment proceedings. Democrats voted in December to impeach Trump for abuse of power and for obstruction of Congress.

A House committee chairman said Wednesday his panel will investigate what he says are “profoundly alarming” text messages among the newly disclosed materials that have raised questions about the possible surveillance of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch before she was ousted by the Trump administration last spring.

The messages show that a Robert F. Hyde, a Republican candidate for Congress from Connecticut, disparaged Yovanovitch in messages to Parnas and gave him updates on her location and cellphone use.

Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Wednesday that the messages are “profoundly alarming” and “suggest a possible risk” to Yovanovitch’s security in Kyiv before she was recalled from her post.

“These threats occurred at the same time that the two men were also discussing President Trump’s efforts, through Rudy Giuliani, to smear the ambassador’s reputation,” Engel said.

Democrats released the files this week as they prepared to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for Trump’s trial. The documents could add pressure on the Senate as it debates whether to hear witnesses in the trial.

The text and phone records show Parnas communicating with Giuliani multiple times a day before Yovanovitch’s removal, as well as a handwritten note that mentions asking Ukraine’s president to investigate “the Biden case.”

Among the documents is a screenshot of a previously undisclosed letter from Giuliani to Zelenskiy dated May 10, 2019, which was shortly after Zelenskiy was elected but before he took office. In the letter, Giuliani requests a meeting with Zelenskiy “as personal counsel to President Trump and with his knowledge and consent.”

One of the documents released by Democrats is a handwritten note on stationery from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that says “get Zalensky to Annonce that the Biden case will be Investigated.”

Parnas told Maddow he took the notes as he was speaking by phone to Giuliani, receiving precise instructions about the demands Trump wanted to convey to Zelenskiy’s team.

Trump asked Zelenskiy in a July 25 call to investigate the Bidens. Hunter Biden served on the board of a gas company based in Ukraine.

Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman, both U.S. citizens who emigrated from the former Soviet Union, were indicted last year on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records. Prosecutors allege they made outsize campaign donations to Republican causes after receiving millions of dollars originating from Russia. The men have pleaded not guilty.

Parnas’ lawyer, Joseph Bondy, told The New York Times that his client is looking to cooperate with prosecutors in his case, who are investigating Giuliani and his dealings in Ukraine.

“We very much want to provide substantial assistance to the government,” Bondy told the Times.

Parnas told the newspaper that although he didn’t speak with Trump directly about the efforts, he met with the president on several occasions and was told by Giuliani that Trump was kept in the loop.

In several of the documents, Parnas communicated with Giuliani about the removal of Yovanovitch. The ambassador’s ouster, ordered by Trump, was at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Yovanovitch testified in the House impeachment hearings that she was the victim of a “smear campaign.”

Trump on the July call told Zelenskiy that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things.” She had been recalled from her diplomatic post roughly three months earlier.

On April 23, just before Yovanovitch was directed to return to the United States, Giuliani texted Parnas, “He fired her again.” Parnas texted back, “I pray it happens this time I’ll call you tomorrow my brother.”

Parnas also received messages from Hyde, who referred to Yovanovitch as a “bitch.”

In a Twitter post Tuesday, Hyde called Parnas a “dweeb” and suggested the messages about surveilling the ambassador were a joke. 

The text messages show that Parnas consulted Giuliani in January 2019 after the U.S. denied a visa to former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Giuliani replied: “I can revive it.”

The following day, Giuliani told Parnas, “It’s going to work I have no 1 in it.” Giuliani then predicted “he will get one,” before giving Parnas the phone number for Jay Sekulow, the leader of the president’s personal legal team. Sekulow is expected to be part of Trump’s legal team during the impeachment trial.

 

TRUMP HAS repeatedly denied knowing Parnas and Fruman, despite numerous photos that have emerged of the men together. Among the materials released from Parnas’ phone this week were more photos of him with Trump, as well as the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., first daughter Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner.

Asked by Maddow about Trump’s denials of knowing him, Parnas said he had spoken one-on-one with the president numerous times.

“He lied,” Parnas said of the president. “I mean, we’re not friends. Me and him didn’t watch football games together, we didn’t eat hot dogs. But he knew exactly who we were, who I was especially.”

Toland to speak at SEK, Inc. meeting

Iolan David Toland, who serves as secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce, will speak at SEK, Inc.’s annual meeting Thursday, Jan. 23, at the Kansas Crossing Casino south of Pittsburg on US highway 69.

Activities begin at 5 p.m. with a social hour, followed by dinner at 6 and then Toland’s remarks and other meeting items.

Members and non-members are welcome to attend the meeting, dinner and social. Cost is $30 for members and $35 for non-members.

SEK, Inc. is a regional alliance of business leaders represents manufacturing, retail, and service businesses along with county and city governments from 12 counties in Southeast Kansas.

To register, please call, text or email Steve Davis at 620-235-9990, sdavis1491@gmail.com, by Friday.

Kansas license plates tout renewable energy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will begin issuing new personalized license plates Wednesday that emphasize the state’s growing use of renewable energy.

The “Powering the Future” plates feature wind turbines profiled against a sunrise.

Wind-generated power in Kansas grew six-fold from 2009 to 2018, and a report last year said the state was the nation’s top producer of wind energy, with more than 36% of total electricity coming from wind power, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“I am pleased that this license plate design comes on the heels of Kansas being ranked first in the nation for percentage of electricity produced by wind,” said Gov. Laura Kelly. “At the same time, it is a display of an expanding industry that contributes so much to the economic fabric of our state.”

Residents can order the plates through their county treasurer’s office for $45.50, plus normal registration fees and taxes.

New law on polling places likely won’t be ready this year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new law that would allow Kansans to vote at polling stations that are most convenient to them likely will not be ready for this year’s elections, Secretary of State Scott Schwab said.

Schwab told the state Senate’s election committee Tuesday that drafting rules for implementing the law is difficult, in part because of technical issues in the state’s 105 counties, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

The program, which was part of a voting reform bill signed last year by Gov. Laura Kelly, won’t be finalized until 2021, Schwab said.

“They are not going to be ready by this year simply because we don’t want to screw up,” he said. “If we rushed it through for this year, I promise you there would be a lot of mistakes.”

Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, a Democrat from Wichita, said voters in Sedgwick County expected to be able to vote this year at polling places of their choice rather than a site assigned by election officials. She recommended the secretary of state’s office conduct a statewide public service campaign to notify potential voters about the delay.

Schwab urged lawmakers not to aggressively change Kansas election laws this year in response to concerns about potential interference in the voting process.

“If you change one thing in a law, it creates a lot of things on our end to make sure clerks are trained appropriately,” he said. “When you start getting those moving pieces in an election year, it can create a lot of voter confusion.”

The secretary of state’s office will use millions of dollars of federal funding to prevent hacking of poll books used in Kansas to monitor individuals who cast votes. His office also plans to hire an employee to work as an election security commissioner. In the future, Schwab said, federal grants could be used to help counties update their election machines.

Temple upsets Shockers as winning streak ends in ugly road loss

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Temple put the clamps on Wichita State.

Quinton Rose scored 19 points and the Owls used a strong defensive performance to upset No. 16 Wichita State 65-53 on Wednesday night.

Jake Forrester and Monty Scott each chipped in 11 points for the Owls (10-6, 2-3 American Athletic Conference), who snapped a three-game losing streak while defeating a ranked opponent for the 13th consecutive season.

“Coach always wants us to be aggressive and pressure the ball,” Scott said. “We do that against every team, but we knew today playing a ranked team we had to be more aggressive than usual.”

James Echenique scored 20 points and Jamarius Burton added 16 for the Shockers (15-2, 3-1), who had won nine straight.

The Owls, under first-year coach Aaron McKie, shut down the Shockers. They held Wichita State to a season-low in points while forcing them to shoot 30.2% (19-for-63) from the field and 14.3% (3-for-21) from 3-point range.

“We wanted those guys to feel us all game long; it’s tiring,” McKie said. “Our guys were active. We wanted to push their offense out some. We forced them to have to do something different offensively.”

Shockers leading scorer Erik Stevenson went scoreless, missing eight shots and five from 3-point range. Tyson Etienne, who entered tops in the conference with 37 3-pointers made, also was scoreless and missed three 3-point tries.

“They do a really good job of getting those guys shots, and we were well aware of that,” McKie said. “We wanted to use our length and athleticism against those guys, make them put it on the floor and play in a crowd.”

The Owls opened the second half on an 11-0 run over the first 4:06, going up 37-32 on Nate Pierre-Louis’ jumper with 15:54 left. Wichita State missed all four of its field-goal attempts, and Temple forced the Shockers into four turnovers during the stretch.

“They turned it up in the second half and we remained in our slumber,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said.

Temple, helped by getting in the bonus with nearly 11 minutes left, kept control from that point. The Owls went up by as many as 10, 55-45, on Forrester’s layup with 4:26 left. Temple’s defense kept the Owls in control, and they clinched the win on Rose’s driving layup that made it 61-53 with 1:39 remaining.

“We played with desperation, almost,” Rose said.

The Shockers jumped to an early lead behind consecutive Burton 3-pointers and were up by as many as nine, 21-12, after a pair of Echenique free throws with 9:53 left in the first half.

The Owls got as close as within 28-26 on Rose’s second straight two-point jumper with 3:02 left before intermission. But the Shockers scored the final two buckets of the period, on layups by Trey Wade and Morris Udeze, to lead 32-26 at the break.

But the Shockers couldn’t get on track after halftime.

“When those guys turned (Burton’s) water off, no one else could make a shot,” Marshall said.

 

PRESS-URE

After falling behind early, Temple used a 1-2-2 three-quarter court press to limit Wichita State’s offense for much of the first half to close the gap.

“It helped us out a lot,” Rose said. “We slowed them down.”

The Owls didn’t use much press in the second half but didn’t need to after wearing down the Shockers in the opening 20 minutes.

“Our guys were active,” McKie said. “We wanted to push their offense out some. We forced them to have to do something different offensively.”

 

NOT AGAIN

Marshall knows the Shockers need to shake this performance from their system – and quickly.

“I hope we can figure it out,” he said. “We have to play better than this Saturday (against Houston) or we’ll lose again.”

 

BIG PICTURE

Wichita State: The Shockers still are in first place in the conference and will try to get back on track on Saturday against Houston.

Temple: The Owls avoided falling into a last-place tie with Central Florida in the 12-team league. They’ll try to pull out of the middle of the pack on Saturday at SMU.

 

UP NEXT

Wichita State: Host Houston on Saturday.

Temple: At SMU on Saturday.

Powell’s return lifts Raptors past OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Norman Powell doesn’t need to work his way back into form.

The Toronto guard missed 11 games with a left shoulder injury before returning to action this week. In his second game back, he scored 23 points, and the Raptors held off a furious rally to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 130-121 on Wednesday night.

Powell scored 20 points on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs in his first game back, then followed up with another strong performance. He made 9 of 11 shots, including 3 of 4 3-pointers.

“I’ve just tried to come back and assert myself and be aggressive in the flow of the offense and play my game and continue to take what the defense is giving me,” Powell said.

Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby each added 21 points for the Raptors, who shot a season-high 61.2% from the field.

Dennis Schroder scored 25 points, Danilo Gallinari scored 23 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexader added 21 for the Thunder, who cut a 30-point deficit to three before Toronto held on.

“Just calmed down a little bit,” Toronto guard Kyle Lowry said. “Just got a little bit more patient. Got the ball in the guy’s hands that we need to have the ball in. That’s what we need to do. We find a way, but we can’t put ourselves in those positions all the time.”

Toronto led 73-43 in the second quarter before the Thunder closed the first half on a 12-0 run. Gilgeous-Alexander hit a 3-pointer as time expired in the second quarter to cut Toronto’s lead to 73-55. Former Thunder player Serge Ibaka scored 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting before the break. The Raptors led 97-83 heading into the fourth, and had a 21-point lead with 6:39 to play.

Oklahoma City made a huge comeback try late. Gallinari threw down a monster dunk and was fouled with 2:39 to play. The free throw cut Toronto’s lead to three, but Toronto closed the game on an 8-2 run.

The Raptors remained composed during Oklahoma City’s run.

“You don’t want to go outside yourself,” Powell said. “When they go on a run like that, you just try to get everybody on the same page.”

The Thunder have made several big rallies this season, but like Saturday against the Los Angeles Lakers, a large deficit was too much to overcome.

“I think to start the game, we don’t bring it every game,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “When we do bring it, we’re tough to beat and can play with anybody. But obviously, you guys see that when we don’t, we get down against a lot of teams. That’s something we’ll fix and we’ll get better at. I’m not worried about that.”

 

TIP-INS

Raptors: Coach Nick Nurse said G Fred VanVleet should be ready to play this weekend. VanVleet has missed four consecutive games with a right hamstring strain. … C Marc Gasol returned after missing 12 games with a left hamstring pull. He finished with 15 points in 31 minutes. … Had five players score in double figures in the first half. … G Kyle Lowry was called for a technical in the third quarter.

Thunder: C Nerlens Noel missed his sixth straight game with a left ankle sprain. … C Steven Adams left the game in the first half with a right knee contusion and did not return. … C Justin Patton scored 45 points in a G-League game on Tuesday. … G Chris Paul had 16 points and 11 assists.

 

STAT LINES

Thunder center Mike Muscala had a season-high 17 points while filling in for Adams and Noel. He made 6 of 11 shots in a season-high 30 minutes.

The seventh-year player from Bucknell fell two points short of his career scoring high.

 

HE SAID IT

Paul on the rally: “We just started scrapping and fighting. Those are the ones (games) we used to talk about early in the season. We can’t wait that long to impose our will.”

 

UP NEXT

Raptors: Host the Washington Wizards on Friday.

Thunder: Host the Miami Heat on Friday.

Coco vs. Venus, Part II, headlines 1st round of Australian Open

 

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Get ready for Coco Gauff vs. Venus Williams, Part II.

That headline-grabbing pair of tennis players — Gauff, 15, is the youngest woman in the Australian Open; Venus is the oldest — will meet again in the first round of a Grand Slam tournament after Thursday’s draw at Melbourne Park put them in a tough quarter that also includes Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff had a breakout run at Wimbledon last year, when she became the youngest qualifier in tournament history, upset Venus Williams to start her main draw run and became the youngest player to reach the round of 16 there since Martina Hingis in 1996.

The winner of Coco vs. Venus — no last names required — could meet defending champion Osaka in the third round. The winner there potentially faces Venus’ younger sister, 23-time major winner Serena, in the quarterfinals.

Serena Williams is coming off a victory in the ASB Classic in Auckland, her first title since her victory at the 2017 Australian Open and her time off the tour to have her daughter. She is seeded eighth in Melbourne and will meet Anastasia Potapova in the first round. Osaka opens against Marie Bouzkova.

Defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer were drawn into the same half of the field at Melbourne Park, where play begins Monday, so they could meet in the semifinals.

The second-ranked Djokovic has won a record seven Australian Open trophies and is coming off his unbeaten run at the inaugural ATP Cup, where he guided Serbia to the title. Federer hasn’t added to his 20 Grand Slam titles since winning the Australian Open in 2018, his sixth title at Melbourne Park.

Top-ranked Rafael Nadal could face a fourth-round match against Nick Kyrgios — their blockbuster at Wimbledon last year was memorable — and a projected quarterfinal against Dominic Thiem, the man he has beaten in the last two French Open finals.

The so-called Big Three of men’s tennis joined other stars, including Serena Williams, Osaka and Gauff, at the Rally for Relief on Wednesday night, an exhibition event that raised millions of dollars for relief efforts for the wildfires that have devastated parts of Australia, leaving at least 27 people and millions of animals dead. Smoke from the bush fires had the air quality in Melbourne ranked among the worst in the world earlier in the week.

On the court, Gauff looked comfortable and relaxed in the company of champions.

Osaka, speaking before the draw was revealed, said she didn’t like to look at who she was playing until the day before her match. She joked in a TV broadcast that she’d leave the studio if she was forced to watch the draw.

It will certainly have her interest.

Osaka won back-to-back majors, claiming her first Grand Slam title at the 2018 U.S. Open before winning in Australia last year. Her best run since then was to the fourth round at the U.S. Open, where she thinks she got some benefit from the experience.

“I had a try at being defending champion at the U.S. Open. I’m more prepared this time,” she said.

Top-ranked Ash Barty is in the same half of the field and is a potential semifinal opponent for Osaka.

Barty will open against Lesia Tsurenko. That quarter includes 10th-seeded Madison Keys, the U.S. Open runner-up in 2017, and seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, a two-time Wimbledon champion and the runner-up in Australia last year in her first major final since a violent home invasion in late 2016 left her with career-threatening hand injuries.

Serena Williams is aiming to equal the all-time record for most women’s majors, held by Australia’s Margaret Court.

After her drought-breaking run to a 73rd career singles title in Auckland, Williams will again be among the favorites at Melbourne Park, where she has won the title seven times dating back to 2003.

In other standout first-round matches, five-time major champion Maria Sharapova, playing as a wild card because of an injury-interrupted 2019, will meet 19th-seeded Donna Vekic, and two-time major champion Simona Halep, the runner-up here in 2018, will take on Jennifer Brady, who upset Barty at the Brisbane International last week.

On the men’s side, U.S. Open finalist Daniil Medvedev, seeded No. 4, will take on Frances Tiafoe, who made a breakthrough run to the quarterfinals in Australia last year.

The projected men’s quarterfinals are Nadal vs. Thiem, Medvedev against Alexander Zverev, Djokovic against Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Federer against Matteo Berrettni. The injury-enforced absence of Alex de Minaur lifted Milos Raonic, the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up finalist, into the 32nd and last spot among the men’s seeds.

US firm offers free cybersecurity help to federal campaigns

WASHINGTON (AP) — A major U.S. web infrastructure and security company will provide free support to federal election campaigns to help thwart any repeats of the 2016 effort by Russian agents to steal and leak sensitive campaign emails and documents.

San Francisco-based Cloudflare said Wednesday it will be providing to eligible campaigns free access to several of its security services, including enhanced protection of firewalls, which defend systems and networks from unauthorized access. Other services include protection and mitigation of any denial-of-service attacks, which can paralyze a network by overwhelming it with data.

The effort is being offered in conjunction with Defending Digital Campaigns, a nonprofit group that last year received approval from the Federal Elections Commission to provide free or discounted cybersecurity services to federal candidate committees and national party committees.

To qualify, a U.S. House candidate’s campaign must have received at least $50,000 in contributions, with the minimum of $100,000 in contributions for U.S. Senate candidates. In addition, any House or Senate campaign that has qualified for the general election also will be eligible.

“This is our way of providing best practices and no-brainer solutions to not only large campaigns, but also smaller, but equally important campaigns that may have limited resources,” Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince said in a statement.

The company said it’s already providing services to eight 2020 presidential candidates. For context, it said it defends an average of 400,000 attacks daily on U.S. election campaigns, which includes the presidential campaigns and at least 23 U.S. Senate campaigns.

Since 2017, Cloudflare also has offered free security services to more than 150 state and local election websites.

Rival GOP Senate hopefuls say both talked to Trump

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Rival Kansas Senate candidates Kris Kobach and Rep. Roger Marshall have talked to President Donald Trump, with Marshall looking to boost his chances of defeating Trump’s earliest prominent supporter in the state.

Marshall’s campaign confirmed that the western Kansas congressman met Monday with Trump in the Oval Office. His campaign said in a statement Tuesday only that, “It was a positive meeting.”

Kobach told The Associated Press on Tuesday that Trump called him Monday from Air Force One to talk to him about the Senate race and immigration issues. Kobach has advised Trump regularly about immigration issues since Trump’s campaign for president in 2016.

A White House official also said both conversations occurred, though the official said Kobach reached Trump by phone. Marshall also met with the president’s political team last week.

Kobach said he doesn’t read too much into Marshall’s meeting with the president.

Marshall votes almost all the time with Trump in Congress and has been a vocal critic of the impeachment proceedings against Trump. However, Kobach publicly endorsed Trump ahead of Kansas’ 2016 presidential caucuses — well before any other top-level state officials — and served as vice-chairman of a short-lived presidential commission on election fraud.

“I speak with the president more frequently than I speak with anyone else in the White House,” Kobach said. “I assume that Marshall is hoping that the president endorses him or at least doesn’t endorse me, but I don’t read anything beyond that.”

Trump endorsed Kobach the day before the 2018 GOP primary in the Kansas governor’s race, and Kobach narrowly defeated then-Gov. Jeff Colyer. But Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, has built a national profile by advocating stricter immigration policies, and he alienates many moderate voters. He lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly.

Trump has told advisers that he likes Kobach but is aware of his liabilities, according to an administration official not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations. Trump and Kobach are aligned on hard-line immigration policies. The president had not yet determined how involved he will be in the primary race.

Kobach and Marshall are running for the seat held by four-term Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, who is not seeking re-election. Some Republicans fear that if Kobach is nominated, Democrats will have an opening to win their first Senate race in Kansas since 1932, putting a normally safe seat in play.

The leading Democratic candidate, state Sen. Barbara Bollier, a retired Kansas City-area anesthesiologist, has said she raised more than $1 million by the end of last year, a sizeable sum in a low-cost media state like Kansas.

Other GOP candidates in the race include Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle and Dave Lindstrom, a Kansas City-area businessman and former Kansas City Chiefs football player.

Kobach’s and Marshall’s conversations with Trump occurred the same day Kansas political icon and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the 1996 GOP nominee for president, endorsed Marshall. Dole praised Marshall as “dedicated to preserving common-sense Kansas values.”

Two GOP operatives said they believed Dole was acting as a free agent and said his endorsement was not a signal that national Republicans were preparing to line up behind Marshall. They said party leaders were still evaluating the GOP’s primary field, including watching fundraising. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

One GOP strategist said Republicans in Washington are still deciding which candidate to back, examining such things as their fundraising and the excitement they generate among voters. The operative, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the thinking of leading Republicans, said Kobach’s loss in the governor’s race and current polling is “disqualifying” for his candidacy.

The operative said they’re open to Marshall or other candidates already in or not in the race. The operative also said that while some Republicans still nurture “hopes and dreams” that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, will reconsider  not running, his decision seems pretty definitive.

Marshall called Dole “a mentor, adviser, sounding board and a constant source of encouragement.”

Kobach touted endorsements from two gun-rights group, the National Association for Gun Rights over the weekend and Gun Owners of America on Tuesday. Kobach said endorsements from individuals are “ambiguous” in their reasoning, while an endorsement from an advocacy group “sends a much clearer message” to voters.