Doug Jones doesn’t believe that sexual harassment is a ‘real issue.’ If it concerned enough voters, he argues, Trump wouldn’t be president

BuzzFeed reports: In the wake of Democratic Sen. Al Franken announcing his resignation after being accused of sexual misconduct, several Senate Democrats have called on Trump to step down because of the allegations against him leveled by more than a dozen women.

On Sunday, Jones broke with some of his fellow Democrats, saying he didn’t believe the president should resign and that “we need to move on and not get distracted by those issues.”

Speaking to CNN’s Jake Tapper, the Alabama senator-elect said, “Those allegations were made before the election, and so people had an opportunity to judge before that election.” [Continue reading…]

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Black voters and candidates might save America

Michelle Goldberg writes: The contest for Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination is between two women named Stacey, both progressive lawyers who grew up in poverty, and it looks like a political science experiment about the future of the Democratic Party.

It’s not just that Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader, is black, and Stacey Evans, a former state representative from suburban Atlanta, is white. More significant are their divergent strategies for victory, which show, in microcosm, the debate Democrats are having about how to rebuild the party in the age of Trump. Do they try to win back white voters who’ve abandoned them? Or do they assume that most of those voters are gone for good, and invest in turning out minorities and white liberals?

Evans, who has been endorsed by Roy Barnes, Georgia’s last Democratic governor, is running an education-focused campaign meant to lure white swing voters. As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, it’s an approach that “failed her party the past four elections, but it helped a generation of Georgia Democrats win office before them.” Abrams, by contrast, thinks she can prevail with a coalition of mobilized minority voters and white progressives. It’s a new, largely untried strategy for a Southern politician running statewide, but after Jones’s miraculous victory in Alabama, it suddenly looks possible.

We’ve all heard a lot about how the calamity of Donald Trump’s election has led women of all races to pour into politics. But it’s not just women; there’s a new political intensity among people of color more broadly. African-Americans in particular are once again shouldering the burden of redeeming America from its worst impulses. High black voter turnout last month in Virginia — where the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ed Gillespie, ran a campaign full of Confederate nostalgia — was crucial to the Democratic wave in that state. And in Alabama on Tuesday, black voters defied all predictions, as well as attempts at voter suppression, to turn out at historic levels. Though African-Americans are only 26 percent of the population, exit polls showed that they might have made up as much as 30 percent of voters. These voters went for Jones overwhelmingly; he won 98 percent of black women. “Let me be clear: We won in Alabama and Virginia because #BlackWomen led us to victory,” tweeted the Democratic National Committee chairman, Tom Perez. [Continue reading…]

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Kirsten Gillibrand, long a champion of women, finds the nation joining her

The New York Times reports: For much of the year, Kirsten Gillibrand’s critics — sensing a presidential aspirant in their midst — had assumed that the New York senator could not hear enough about herself. For one day at least, it appeared she had.

It had been about 10 hours since President Trump accused her of “begging” for campaign contributions that she “would do anything” to secure, and the Ms. Gillibrand, driving with her 14-year-old son on Tuesday evening, flipped on the radio looking for an update on the Senate race in Alabama. The top story, instead, was her. The radio went off again.

What, exactly, had the president said about her? her son asked.

“He thinks mommy is doing a bad job,” she recalled telling him, taking care to censor.

After a Senate career spent elevating victims of sexual harassment and assault as a defining political focus, Ms. Gillibrand has assumed her place at the head table of the Democrats’ anti-Trump movement. The reason is simple: Her cause became the country’s. And she has made sure to stay out front in the reckoning.

Ms. Gillibrand was the first in her caucus to say Senator Al Franken of Minnesota should resign. She was the first prominent Democrat to say President Bill Clinton should have left office for his own sexual misconduct in the 1990s. She called for Mr. Trump to step down, citing his “numerous” and “credible” accusers. Then came Mr. Trump’s Twitter counterpunch, which was widely viewed as innuendo-laden and which Ms. Gillibrand denounced as a “sexist smear.”

Yet Ms. Gillibrand’s strengthening hand in national Democratic politics owes to more than mere circumstance. Circumstance does not transform an upstate congresswoman, who once boasted of keeping guns under her bed and pushed English as the official language of the United States, into an avatar of progressivism in 2017.

Ever since her long-shot entrance into a 2006 House race against an entrenched Republican in a conservative district, Ms. Gillibrand has been underestimated. Colleagues in the House once derided her as “Tracy Flick,” the hyper-ambitious blonde played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie “Election.” And when David A. Paterson, New York’s governor at the time, made her the shock pick to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009, she was immediately seen as vulnerable, especially from the left.

“She had very middle-of-the-road points of view,” Mr. Paterson said. “It just kind of appeared that she sort of flipped. I think in retrospect, it would have been better to evolve.”

That knock has not stuck, and she appears to be looking at the next rung of the political ladder. While Ms. Gillibrand and her political team play down all talk of 2020, saying she is focused on her own 2018 re-election and those of her fellow Senate Democrats, she has for months been doing the type of spadework endemic to past presidential candidates: expanding her fund-raising network, courting key constituencies like black voters and polishing her image nationally. [Continue reading…]

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FBI agent removed from Russia probe held views about Trump similar to those expressed by Tillerson

The Wall Street Journal reports: Two FBI employees who used to work for Special Counsel Robert Mueller have already been criticized by Republicans for texts they shared insulting President Donald Trump.

A review of their correspondence shows Mr. Trump wasn’t their only target: They held dim views of other prominent figures, from Chelsea Clinton to Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder to their new boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The 300-plus texts, contained in 90 pages of Justice Department documents handed over to Congress late Tuesday, reveal a more complete portrait of Peter Strzok, a senior counterintelligence agent, and lawyer Lisa Page, dealing with the stresses of their jobs, handling politically sensitive investigations, and their extramarital relationship.

Mr. Strzok was the lead investigator into Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information on her email server, and he later was spearheading the work of agents assigned to Mr. Mueller’s team. When Mr. Mueller learned of his text messages this summer, Mr. Strzok was reassigned to the bureau’s human-resources division. Ms. Page worked temporarily for Mr. Mueller but has been reassigned.

Neither Mr. Strzok or Ms. Page could be reached for comment, and a spokesman for Mr. Mueller has declined to comment on the matter.

Mr. Trump’s allies say that their critiques of Mr. Trump—they called the then-candidate “an idiot,” “douche” and “TERRIFYING”—call into question whether Mr. Mueller’s probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election can be free of bias.

At a congressional hearing Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended the integrity of the Mr. Mueller’s investigation, saying it was free of any bias or taint.

Officials described the messages as having been flagged by the Justice Department’s inspector general as relevant to its investigation into how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled its probe of Mrs. Clinton’s server.

Although many of their texts targeted Mr. Trump, others also drew their ire. Over the course of 16 months of correspondence, starting in August 2015 and ending on Dec. 1, 2016, that was culled from their work phones, Mr. Strzok said he loathed Congress and called presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) an “idiot.” He suggested the death penalty was appropriate for Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor who pilfered reams of sensitive information. He said Ms. Clinton, daughter of Bill and Mrs. Clinton, was “self-entitled.” And he described House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) as “a jerky.”

He said, “I’m worried about what happens if HRC is elected,” apparently referring to Mrs. Clinton. He didn’t elaborate on his concerns. [Continue reading…]

What would be truly nightmarish would be to live in a country where government officials on all ranks felt duty bound to publicly and privately express unqualified admiration for political leaders.

Would Trump and his supporters prefer we live in a fascist state? Perhaps.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand calls on Trump to resign

CNN reports: Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York told CNN on Monday that President Donald Trump should resign over allegations of sexual assault.

“President Trump has committed assault, according to these women, and those are very credible allegations of misconduct and criminal activity, and he should be fully investigated and he should resign,” Gillibrand told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview.

“These allegations are credible; they are numerous, ” said Gillibrand, a leading voice in Congress for combating sexual assault in the military. “I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

If he does not “immediately resign,” she said, Congress “should have appropriate investigations of his behavior and hold him accountable.” [Continue reading…]

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Is the Supreme Court finally ready to tackle partisan gerrymandering? Signs suggest yes

Richard L. Hasen writes: Is the Supreme Court about to cause great political upheaval by getting into the business of policing the worst partisan gerrymanders? Signs from last week suggest that it well might.

At the very beginning of its term back in October, the court heard oral arguments in Gill vs. Whitford, a case challenging Wisconsin’s plan for drawing districts for its state Assembly. Republican legislators drew the lines to give them a great advantage in these elections. Even when Democrats won more than majority of votes cast in the Assembly elections, Republicans controlled about 60% of the seats.

The court has for many years refused to police such gerrymandering. Conservative justices suggested that the question was “nonjusticiable” (meaning the cases could not be heard by the courts) because there were no permissible standards for determining when partisanship in drawing district lines went too far. Liberals came forward with a variety of tests. And Justice Anthony M. Kennedy stood in the middle, as he often does. He argued that all the tests liberals proposed didn’t work, while trying to keep the courthouse door open for new tests. [Continue reading…]

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Roy Moore’s Alabama

Howell Raines writes: The hickory tree, which stood hard by the unpaved road at the northeast corner of my grandparents’ front yard, is gone. So is the bipartisan flexibility it symbolized in the alliance of an anti-Wallace Democrat like Mr. Elliott and my grandfather, a conservative populist Republican. Like much of Appalachia, Winston County had very few slaves, and black people now account for less than 1 percent of the residents. A visiting Canadian journalist wrote recently that folks here are tight-lipped around outside reporters. The Walker graves in the Baptist cemetery give me dirt-road cred, but I didn’t push too hard. These people fear being depicted as “total rednecks” and argue urgently that they do not fit the stereotype. Neat brick bungalows have replaced ramshackle farmhouses. The community center conducts weekly yoga and aerobics classes, and the literary society convenes once a month.

But if you scratch this hard North Alabama soil, you’ll find Native American arrowheads and a secret dissent, like the patriotism that led rampaging Confederate guerrillas to loot the farms of Winston men who joined the Union Army. Lost Cause historians at the University of Alabama watered down the radical nature of Winston’s devotion to the Union. A misleading statue in Double Springs, showing a soldier in a uniform that is half Union and half Confederate, disguises the fact that Winston provided more troops to the Union Army than to the Confederate. Records in the National Archives show that my great-great grandfather, Hial Abbott, who farmed near here, was a key figure in a local underground that sneaked mountain boys through the Confederate lines to enlist for the North.

In Arley, women are the rebels in the current election. “All those women who are coming forward, they’re not making it up,” a female civic leader told me over coffee within sight of the “liars’ table.” This gender division exists in the household of Mavinee and Odis Bishop. Mrs. Bishop greeted me at the door saying, “Your grandfather married us 72 years ago when my husband was home from the war.” Mr. Bishop, a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, said he had drifted over to the Democrats when Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal paid him and his jobless friends to work on the kind of infrastructure projects promised by candidate Trump. But he sees modern Democrats as detached from common folk. He’ll vote for Mr. Moore and intends to “sway” his wife from her plan to support Mr. Jones.

“No, he won’t,” Mrs. Bishop said in that firm Free State way as she stepped in from the kitchen.

There in a nutshell are the swing factors that will determine this election. Upper-income suburbs in the state’s major cities are covered with Doug Jones signs, foreshadowing a powerful Republican soccer-mom rejection of Mr. Moore’s purported predation. Older Republican women whisper about lobbying their female friends to do the unthinkable and vote for the Democrat. [Continue reading…]

Politico reports: Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said Sunday that his home state “deserves better” than to be represented by Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls, including one as young as 14, when he was in his 30s.

Shelby, a Republican and the state’s senior senator, said he had already cast a ballot ahead of Tuesday’s special election and did not vote for Moore, opting instead for a write-in candidate that he declined to name in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I’d rather see the Republican win, but I would hope that Republican would be a write-in. I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name,” Shelby said. “I’d rather see another Republican in there, and I’m going to stay with that story. I’m not going to vote for the Democrat, I didn’t vote for the Democrat or advocate for the Democrat. But I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore.

“The state of Alabama deserves better.” [Continue reading…]

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Kirsten Gillibrand’s moment has arrived

David Freedlander writes: The Washington sky was darkening outside her window, and Kirsten Gillibrand slumped down in her chair. It had been a long day. In the morning, the New York senator hosted a news conference with a mother whose twin 6-year-old daughters had been allegedly raped by their father’s military commander. As she walked off the podium, she’d been confronted by questions about her colleague Al Franken’s reported history of groping women, news that broke for the first time that morning. “Deeply concerning,” she replied, adding that she believed the story of his accusers. “I expect to hear more from Senator Franken.” And she had just come from a podcast interview with the New York Times in which she’d blown through the Democratic code of silence on Clinton misdeeds by saying that yes, if Bill Clinton were president now, he would have to resign after something like the Monica Lewinsky affair.

That last one wasn’t a piece of news Gillibrand had planned on making that morning. She had long been a supporter of the Clintons, both of them. She inherited Hillary Clinton’s seat in the Senate, and credits her with the decision to run for office in the first place. Bill Clinton campaigned for her in her first run for Congress. She strongly supported both of Hillary’s campaigns for president. But Gillibrand is no longer a rank-and-file Clinton Democrat. As the nation is convulsed with a deluge of allegations of sexual harassment and assault, one that seemingly every day fells another star, Gillibrand is at the political center of it. For years she has been battling against sexual assault in the military and on campus, and talking about sexual harassment in politics, and now at last it seems as if the rest of the world has caught up to her concerns. And so once the question has been put before you, in this political moment, when at long last it looks like all of that work is finally paying off and progress is being made, what else can you say about Bill Clinton lying about having oral sex with his 22-year-old intern other than that he should have stepped down and “things have changed today”?

The blowback was immediate. “Over 20 yrs you took the Clintons endorsement, money and seat. Hypocrite,” wrote Philippe Reines, a longtime Clinton confidant, on Twitter. “Interesting strategy for 2020 primaries. Best of luck.”

The first half of the tweet was predictable, a Clinton loyalist biting back at a perceived threat to the family. But the second half was telling. The world is paying attention to Gillibrand in a new way. At least since the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, when Gillibrand thrilled the crowd at the Women’s March, jabbing the air with her finger and telling them, “This is the moment of the beginning of the revival of the women’s movement. This is the moment you will remember when women stood strong and stood firm and said never again. This is the moment that you are going to be heard!” The 51-year-old Gillibrand has come to represent a rising generation of Democratic leaders, one who came of age in an era when equality of the sexes was something almost taken for granted. And the buzz about her presidential ambitions has only grown. [Continue reading…]

 

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Al Franken’s resignation and the selective force of #MeToo

Masha Gessen writes: On what he called the worst day of his political life, Senator Al Franken articulated two points that are central to understanding what has become known as the #MeToo moment. In an eleven-minute speech, in which Franken announced his intention to resign from the Senate, he made this much clear: the force that is ending his political career is greater than the truth, and this force operates on only roughly half of this country’s population—those who voted for Hillary Clinton and who consume what we still refer to as mainstream media.

There was one notable absence in his speech: Franken did not apologize. In fact, he made it clear that he disagreed with his accusers. “Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” he said. “Others I remember very differently.” Earlier, Franken had in fact apologized to his accusers, and he didn’t take his apologies back now, but he made it plain that they had been issued in the hopes of facilitating a conversation and an investigation that would clear him. He had, it seems, been attempting to buy calm time to work while a Senate ethics committee looked into the accusations. But, by Thursday morning, thirty-two Democratic senators had called on Franken to resign. The force of the #MeToo moment leaves no room for due process, or, indeed, for Franken’s own constituents to consider their choice.

Still, the force works selectively. “I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” said Franken, referring to Donald Trump and the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Trump and Moore are immune because the blunt irresistible force works only on the other half of the country.

That half is cleaning its ranks in the face of—and in clear reaction to—genuine moral depravity on the other side. The Trump era is one of deep and open immorality in politics. Moore is merely one example. Consider Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican who won his congressional race earlier this year after not only being captured on tape shoving a newspaper reporter but then also lying to police about it. Consider the tax bill, which is stitched together from shameless greed and boldface lies. Consider the series of racist travel bans. Consider the withdrawal from a series of international agreements aimed at bettering the future of humanity, from migration to climate change to cultural preservation. These are men who proclaim their allegiance to the Christian faith while acting in openly hateful, duplicitous, and plainly murderous ways. In response to this unbearable spectacle, the roughly half of Americans who are actually deeply invested in thinking of themselves as good people are trying to claim a moral high ground. [Continue reading…]

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Twelve Senate Democrats call on Franken to resign amid further allegations of sexual harassment

The Washington Post reports: A dozen Senate Democrats called Wednesday for Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to resign amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment, raising the possibility he will become the second lawmaker to step aside over recent accusations of inappropriate behavior.

Franken’s office said he would make an announcement about his political future on Thursday. No other details were provided.

In a campaign started by Democratic women, nearly a dozen senators said Franken should leave Capitol Hill. Franken faces multiple accusations of inappropriate touching and unwanted advances. He has denied intentional wrongdoing and has apologized.

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) told reporters at a news conference. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay, none of it is acceptable. We as elected leaders should absolutely be held to a higher standard, not a lower standard, and we should fundamentally be valuing women. That is where this debate has to go.” [Continue reading…]

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The odds of impeachment are dropping

Peter Beinart writes: Now that Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., and agreed to dish on his former boss, some Trump-watchers are suggesting that impeachment may be around the corner. “It’s time to start talking about impeachment,” announced a Saturday column on CNN.com. The Flynn deal, declared former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman in Friday’s New York Times, “portends the likelihood of impeachable charges being brought against the president of the United States.”

That may be true. But bringing impeachment charges against Trump, and actually forcing him from office, are two vastly different things. And while the former may be more likely today than it was half a year ago, the latter is actually less likely. Since Robert Mueller became special counsel in May, the chances of the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment—and the Senate ratifying them—have probably gone down.

That’s because impeachment is less a legal process than a political one. Passing articles of impeachment requires a majority of the House. Were such a vote held today—even if every Democrat voted yes—it would still require 22 Republicans. If Democrats take the House next fall, they could then pass articles of impeachment on their own. But ratifying those articles would require two-thirds of the Senate, which would probably require at least 15 Republican votes.

That kind of mass Republican defection has grown harder, not easier, to imagine. It’s grown harder because the last six months have demonstrated that GOP voters will stick with Trump despite his lunacy, and punish those Republican politicians who do not. [Continue reading…]

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The men who cost Clinton the election

Jill Filipovic writes: Matt Lauer, like Charlie Rose and Mark Halperin before him, is a journalist out of a job after his employer fired him for sexually harassing female colleagues. It’s good news that real penalties are now leveled on men who harass — after centuries of the costs mostly befalling the women who endure harassment. But the deep cultural rot that has corroded nearly all of our institutions and every corner of our culture is not just about a few badly behaved men. Sexual harassment, and the sexism it’s predicated on, involves more than the harassers and the harassed; when the harassers are men with loud microphones, their private misogyny has wide-reaching public consequences. One of the most significant: the 2016 election.

Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official “commander-in-chief forum” for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer’s with Mrs. Clinton — talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico.

A pervasive theme of all of these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable. These recent harassment allegations suggest that perhaps the problem wasn’t that Mrs. Clinton was untruthful or inherently hard to connect with, but that these particular men hold deep biases against women who seek power instead of sticking to acquiescent sex-object status.

A month ago, Rebecca Traister wrote in New York magazine that with the flood of sexual harassment charges, “we see that the men who have had the power to abuse women’s bodies and psyches throughout their careers are in many cases also the ones in charge of our political and cultural stories.” With the Lauer accusations, this observation has come into sharper focus on one particular picture: the media sexism that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s loss.

The 2016 presidential race was so close that any of a half-dozen factors surely influenced the outcome: James Comey, racial politics, Clinton family baggage, the contentious Democratic primary, third-party spoilers, Russian interference, fake news. But when one of the best-qualified candidates for the presidency in American history and the first woman to get close to the Oval Office loses to an opponent who had not dedicated a nanosecond of his life to public service and ran a blatantly misogynist campaign, it’s hard to conclude that gender didn’t play a role. [Continue reading…]

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Mueller removed top agent in Russia inquiry over possible anti-Trump texts

The New York Times reports: The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, removed a top F.B.I. agent this summer from his investigation into Russian election meddling after the Justice Department’s inspector general began examining whether the agent had sent text messages that expressed anti-Trump political views, according to three people briefed on the matter.

The agent, Peter Strzok, is considered one of the most experienced and trusted F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators. He helped lead the investigation into whether Hillary Clinton had mishandled classified information on her private email account, and then played a major role in the investigation into links between President Trump’s campaign and Russia.

But Mr. Strzok was reassigned this summer from Mr. Mueller’s investigation to the F.B.I.’s human resources department, where he has been stationed since. The people briefed on the case said the transfer followed the discovery of text messages in which Mr. Strzok and a colleague reacted to news events, like presidential debates, in ways that could appear critical of Mr. Trump.

“Immediately upon learning of the allegations, the special counsel’s office removed Peter Strzok from the investigation,” said a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, Peter Carr.

The inspector general’s office at the Justice Department said that as part of a larger inquiry it was conducting into how the F.B.I. had handled investigations related to the 2016 election, the office was “reviewing allegations involving communications between certain individuals, and will report its findings regarding those allegations promptly upon completion of the review of them.” [Continue reading…]

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How Donald Trump ruined Thanksgiving

Politico reports: In the 10 months since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has been accused of torching everything from America’s stature on the global stage to the country’s most treasured political norms. He “ruined the eclipse,” noted one observer; he “ruined all my favorite TV shows,” lamented another. He’s been accused of destroying workplace morale, irony and Bachelor in Paradise, too.

It’s only natural: To be a leader is to accept your fair share of blame, and then some. No doubt Americans will spend the next four to eight years debating whether or not the president trashed U.S. foreign policy and reality TV and everything in between. But a new study by economists Keith Chen of UCLA and Ryne Rohla of Washington State University seems to have proved at least one point conclusively: Trump really did ruin Thanksgiving.

With the help of data-tracking service SafeGraph, Chen and Rohla traced the movements of more than 10 million Americans across the past two Thanksgiving holidays. They focused specifically on people who traveled from Republican-leaning areas to Democratic-leaning areas and vice versa, and found that politically divided families spent on average 20 to 30 minutes less time around the dinner table in 2016 than they did in 2015. That added up to a loss of 62 million person-hours of Thanksgiving time across the country—and specifically, the authors estimated, a loss of “27 million person-hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse.” [Continue reading…]

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‘So much about working in Washington is about loyalty’

The Washington Post reports: A high-profile Washington lawyer specializing in congressional ethics said Wednesday that Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) harassed and verbally abused her when she worked for him on Capitol Hill in the 1990s and that her repeated appeals for help to congressional leadership were ignored.

“There was nothing I could do to stop it,” Melanie Sloan said in an interview. “Not going to leadership, not going to my boss, not going to a women’s group, not going to a reporter. I was dismissed and told I must be mentally unstable.”

Sloan, the former executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was hired by Conyers in 1995 as minority counsel to the House Judiciary Committee, where he served as the ranking Democrat. She held the job until 1998.

During that time, Sloan said, she witnessed and experienced behavior by Conyers similar to episodes described in claims against him that on Tuesday prompted the House Ethics Committee to open an investigation.

In addition to accusations of sexual misconduct, the claims against Conyers included “mistreatment of staff.” Sloan said she did not believe she was sexually harassed by the congressman, but she said his behavior toward her was inappropriate and abusive. She said she was speaking publicly after seeing Conyers dismiss former staff members’ accounts of misconduct.

Sloan said that Conyers routinely yelled at and berated her, often criticizing her appearance. On one occasion, she said, he summoned her to his Rayburn Building office, where she found him in his underwear.

“I was pretty taken aback to see my boss half-dressed,” she said. “I turned on my heel and I left.”

Arnold Reed, Conyers’s legal counsel, denied Sloan’s allegations and said Conyers will address complaints about his conduct after Thanksgiving. “Representative Conyers has never done anything inappropriate to Melanie Sloan,” he said.

Sloan is the first former Conyers staff member to speak on the record about the 88-year-old congressman, the longest-serving member of the House and the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. She said she kept quiet about the incidents for 20 years because her earlier complaints were not taken seriously. She agreed to speak about her experience with Conyers after a Washington Post reporter contacted her.

“The reason I decided to go on the record is to make it easier for other people,” she said. “People are afraid to come forward. So much about working in Washington is about loyalty, and you are supposed to shut up about these things.” [Continue reading…]

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Sebelius: The Clinton White House doubled down on ‘abusive behavior’ and it’s fair to criticize Hillary Clinton

CNN reports: As a wave of stories unfold about sexual harassment and assault by men in power, a senior Democratic leader says her party should reflect on how it handled such charges when they were leveled against former President Bill Clinton.

“Not only did people look the other way, but they went after the women who came forward and accused him,” says Kathleen Sebelius, the former secretary of Health and Human Services and Kansas governor. “And so it doubled down on not only bad behavior but abusive behavior. And then people attacked the victims.”

Sebelius extended her criticism to Hillary Clinton, and the Clinton White House for what she called a strategy of dismissing and besmirching the women who stepped forward—a pattern she said is being repeated today by alleged perpetrators of sexual assault—saying that the criticism of the former first lady and Secretary of State was “absolutely” fair. Sebelius noted that the Clinton Administration’s response was being imitated, adding that “you can watch that same pattern repeat. It needs to end. It needs to be over.” [Continue reading…]

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Once again, Trump displays ‘a psychopath’s inability to accept that social norms apply to him’

The New York Times reports: Last fall, Donald J. Trump inadvertently touched off a national conversation about sexual harassment when a recording of him boasting about groping women was made public at the same time a succession of women came forward to assert that groping was something he did more than talk about.

A year later, after a wave of harassment claims against powerful men in entertainment, politics, the arts and the news media, the discussion has come full circle with President Trump criticizing the latest politician exposed for sexual misconduct even as he continues to deny any of the accusations against him.

In this case, Mr. Trump focused his Twitter-fueled mockery on a Democratic senator while largely avoiding a similar condemnation of a Republican Senate candidate facing far more allegations. The turn in the political dialogue threatened to transform a moment of cleansing debate about sexual harassment into another weapon in the war between the political parties, led by the president himself.

Indeed, Republicans on Friday were more than happy to talk about Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, who apologized this week after a radio newscaster said he forcibly kissed her and posed for a photograph a decade ago appearing to fondle her breasts while she was sleeping. Democrats, for their part, sought to keep the focus on Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate in Alabama who has been accused of unwanted sexual conduct by multiple women going back even further, including one who was 14 at the time.

But the notion that Mr. Trump himself would weigh in given his own history of crude talk about women and the multiple allegations against him surprised many in Washington who thought he could not surprise them anymore. A typical politician with Mr. Trump’s history would stay far away from discussing someone else’s behavior lest it dredge his own back into the spotlight. But as Mr. Trump has shown repeatedly during his 10-month presidency, he is rarely deterred by conventional political wisdom even as he leaves it to his staff to fend off the cries of hypocrisy.

“Like everything else Trump touches, he hijacks it with his chronic dishonesty and childishness,” said Mark Salter, a longtime adviser to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. “The intense, angry and largely ignorant tribalism afflicting our politics predates Trump’s arrival on the scene. But he has infused it with a psychopath’s inability to accept that social norms apply to him.” [Continue reading…]

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Gillibrand says Bill Clinton should have resigned over Lewinsky affair. What might have happened?

The New York Times reports: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton’s former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.

Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.”

But she also appeared to signal that what is currently considered a fireable offense may have been more often overlooked during the Clinton era.

“Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him.” [Continue reading…]

As Democrats gain a semblance of retrospective moral clarity on the Clinton presidency, this isn’t going to carry much weight among Republicans. That is, it won’t — unless this resuscitation of conscience also includes the Clintons themselves.

How likely is that to happen?

Probably as likely as Donald Trump spontaneously declaring he’s realized he’s not fit for the presidency.

Nevertheless, it’s worth considering the likely consequences had Clinton resigned, not simply because of the current context but also because of the likely results of Al Gore having become president in 1998.

In the 2000 presidential election, there’s a reasonable chance that, as the incumbent, Gore would have comfortably defeated George W Bush.

We can assume that this wouldn’t have changed al Qaeda’s calculus and likewise that the U.S. intelligence agencies would have remained as ineffective in thwarting 9/11.

But what would have followed would have been vastly different: no war in Iraq; no fanciful promises to eradicate evil; no war on terrorism.

President Gore would surely have been capable of mustering the required gravitas demonstrating America’s capacity to demonstrate strength and restraint.

In other words, he could have responded to 9/11 with a sense of proportion, thereby ensuring that the aftermath was not more calamitous than the event.

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