Al Franken should be investigated, and he should be held accountable

Ezra Klein writes: The allegation that Sen. Al Franken kissed and groped a woman with whom he was performing a comedy skit is serious, and should be taken seriously. It has also kicked off an energetic round of but-your-side-does-it-too on Twitter, where conservatives exhausted by the Roy Moore debacle of recent weeks are demanding that Democrats disavow Franken.

There are a couple of things to say about all this, but I want to start with this tweet by FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten:


1) The Democratic Party is full of men who have sexually abused women. The Republican Party is full of men who have sexually abused women. The mass of Americans who belong to neither party is full of men who have sexually abused women. Peer into socialist circles, libertarian circles, tech circles, media circles, the construction trades — you will find men who have sexually abused women. America has allowed a culture of sexual abuse and harassment to flourish, and all of our industries and political parties exist within that culture. This is a systemic rot, not merely a few bad apples. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Bannon sticking by Moore ‘through thick and thin’

Politico reports: Steve Bannon is not backing away from Roy Moore, the controversial Alabama Senate candidate facing a slew of accusations that he had inappropriate sexual contact with teenagers.

Two sources close to the former White House chief strategist and Trump campaign CEO, who helped turn the September Senate primary into a referendum on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, swatted down speculation that Bannon was reevaluating his support for Moore in the wake of the allegations.

“It is 100% fake news that Steve Bannon would abandon Judge Moore,” said a source familiar with Bannon’s thinking, comparing the situation with the Access Hollywood video scandal that prompted calls for Donald Trump to drop out of the presidential race.

“He is standing with Judge Moore through thick and through thin. The polls show the people of Alabama believe Judge Moore is innocent until proven guilty and these charges have not seen any evidence produced backing them up,” the source added. “The people of Alabama are smarter than the political class in Washington, the fake news locusts in the media, and the financial donor-class elites on the island of Manhattan. Judge Moore still has the support of the people of Alabama.” [Continue reading…]

Politico reports: Moore is trailing Democrat Doug Jones by 12 points in the Alabama special Senate election, according to a poll conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee after five women accused Moore of pursuing them as teenagers. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

GOP megadonor Adelson publicly breaks with Bannon

Politico reports: Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, the GOP’s most prominent megadonor, is publicly breaking with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon over his efforts to oust Republican incumbents in 2018.

“The Adelsons will not be supporting Steve Bannon’s efforts,” said Andy Abboud, an Adelson spokesman. “They are supporting Mitch McConnell 100 percent. For anyone to infer anything otherwise is wrong.”

The public pronouncement comes about a month after Adelson met with Bannon in Washington.

Bannon has been huddling with major Republican contributors across the country in hopes of building a war chest to take on party lawmakers. Bannon aides said they were not surprised by the news, given that Adelson has a long track record of generously backing establishment causes. They said they never expected Adelson’s financial support.

The former White House chief strategist appeared before the Zionist Organization of America’s annual dinner on Sunday night. ZOA is heavily funded by Adelson.

During the dinner, Bannon described himself as a “Christian Zionist” and lavished praise on the billionaire. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

America, I apologize for the South’s hypocrisy

Issac Bailey writes: As a native Southerner, I’d like to apologize to the rest of the country. My region repeatedly claims that we place God above all else, but our actions tell a different story, especially when we mix religion, politics and the mistreatment of women and girls. We have politicians who feel no compunction, even, misusing the story of a sacred virgin birth to ignore child molestation.

“Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter,” Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler told the Washington Examiner Thursday, in an attempt to defend Roy Moore, a candidate for the US Senate from Alabama, after a damning story about Moore’s alleged past was published by the Washington Post. “They became parents of Jesus,” Zeigler added.

Such assertions of support are likely why a man like Moore felt comfortable enough to fund-raise just hours later — while boldly proclaiming the name of God.

That’s right. A man in a high-profile political race representing the supposed “family values” party, after being named in an eye-popping report alleging that when he was a 32-year-old man he tried to have a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl, not only did not drop out of the race or hide in shame, he doubled down. Moore denied the allegations and evoked the term “spiritual warfare,” which is well known in Southern Christian churches, black and white, to elicit as much sympathy from the faithful as possible.

“The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal — even inflict physical harm — if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me,” Moore pronounced in an email to supporters asking for emergency donations. “Their goal is to frustrate and slow down our campaign’s progress to help the Obama-Clinton Machine silence our conservative message. That’s why I must be able to count on the help of God-fearing conservatives like you to stand with me at this critical moment.”

Moore plans to weather this political storm with help from the same God-fearing conservatives who made sure Donald Trump remained on a path to the presidency after being caught on video bragging about sexually assaulting women. And there’s no reason Moore won’t survive it, for in our region, in the eyes of many conservative Christians, the only evil greater than Satan himself is a Democrat with political power. Increasingly, little else seems to matter. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The evil of sexual predators is that they attack the weak, make them weaker, then discredit them because of their weakness

Nancy French writes: I used to admire men like Roy Moore, because I loved everything about church — the off-key a cappella rendition of “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” the typos in the bulletin, the ladies who smelled like Aquanet with little round rouge circles on their cheeks, and — yes — men like Moore who said long prayers and ran the show.

This changed one hot summer day when I needed a ride home from Vacation Bible School. I was delighted when the preacher volunteered to drop me off. As we drove, I chatted incessantly, happy to have him all to myself without people trying to get his attention in the church parking lot. When we got to my house, I was shocked that he walked me inside my dark house, even more surprised when he lingered in conversation, and thunderstruck when he kissed me right on the lips.

At 12 years old, I swooned over my good luck. He picked me out of all the girls at church. But the relationship, especially after he moved on, reset my moral compass. If all the church conversation about morality and sexual purity was a lie, what else was fake? Now that the “family of God” felt incestuous, I rejected the church and myself. Didn’t I want the preacher’s attention? Didn’t I cause this? When I careened from faith, I made a series of poor romantic decisions that later almost cost me my life. Still, I couldn’t very well criticize the church because I was an utter emotional mess.

On Thursday, all this came back to me after I read one sentence in The Washington Post. The article was about allegations that Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually touched a teenager when he was in his 30s. A sentence from Leigh Corfman, who was 14 at the time, jumped out at me.

“I felt responsible,” she said. I swallowed back tears as I read the rest. “I felt like I had done something bad. And it kind of set the course for me doing other things that were bad.” After her life spiraled “with drinking, drugs, boyfriends,” she attempted suicide two years later. In fact, she didn’t come forward earlier because she worried that her three divorces and poor financial history would make people doubt her story. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The Republican Party is now a freak show with Steve Bannon its ringleader

Jennifer Rubin writes: [Republican Senate candidate Roy] Moore, Stephen K. Bannon’s first endorsed candidate, was already thought to be in an unusually competitive race. Now his candidacy seems doomed, and the GOP is left without a viable “R” on the ballot.

This miserable state of affairs, in addition to the personal harm to the victims, would not have come about, of course, had the Republicans primary voters of Alabama rejected someone with overtly racists and extreme views whose contempt for the Constitution led to two dismissals from the bench. He quite simply should never have been the nominee, and Republicans who subsequently backed him were once more placing party over country and Constitution.

Bannon did not create Moore, but he found him and backed him, disregarding (embracing, even) Moore’s views. Bannon’s brand of incendiary politics and nihilism doesn’t believe in qualifications, experience or mental stability; the wackier the better. Perhaps this sordid episode will undercut his plan to run freakish candidates in GOP primaries.

The Republicans Party stumbles now from one crisis to the next, never learning that vetting candidates, demanding qualifications and rejecting bizarre characters is mandatory. The alternative is a trail of humiliating defeats. The impression of untrustworthy amateur is now firmly affixed to Trump’s GOP. [Continue reading…]

Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler was interviewed by the Washington Examiner: “He’s clean as a hound’s tooth,” Ziegler claimed, before relying on Scripture to defend Moore.

“Take the Bible. Zachariah and Elizabeth for instance. Zachariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist,” Ziegler said choosing his words carefully before invoking Christ. “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

“There’s just nothing immoral or illegal here,” Ziegler concluded. “Maybe just a little bit unusual.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Offshore cash helped fund Steve Bannon’s attacks on Hillary Clinton

The Guardian reports: Eighteen months before guiding Donald Trump to election victory, Steve Bannon delivered the opening shot in the ruthless Republican campaign to paint their Democratic opponent as corrupt.

The future White House chief strategist produced a book in May 2015 accusing Hillary Clinton of trading favours for donations to her charitable foundation. Its questionable central charge, on the sale of a uranium company to Russia, recently became the subject of a House inquiry and feverish talk on conservative media.

But the financial arrangements of another foundation, which bankrolled Bannon’s creation of the book, Clinton Cash, have received less scrutiny.

Leaked documents and newly obtained public filings show how the billionaire Mercer family built a $60m war chest for conservative causes inside their family foundation by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.

The offshore vehicle was part of a network of companies in the Atlantic tax haven of Bermuda led by Robert Mercer, the wealthy hedge-fund executive and Bannon patron whose spending helped put Trump in the White House and aided a resurgence of the Republican right. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

How Bob Corker left President Trump, and why it may not be over

The Washington Post reports: Sen. Bob Corker was on his way to the Senate chamber for a vote, drinking coffee from a foam cup — and resolutely mum when asked about President Trump’s upcoming trip to Asia, his tax-reform strategy and what the Tennessee Republican meant when he called the White House an “adult day-care center.”

“I have no desire to enter into, you know, 24/7, you know, disagreement,” Corker explained in a brief interview. “When I have strong disagreements, I’m going to express them strongly.”

Corker seized the role of presidential critic in chief last month, when he accused Trump, in a rapid-fire series of conversations with reporters, of “debasing” the country with his “untruths” and “name-calling.” If he could do it all over, he added, he would not have supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Lindsey Graham’s ‘religious war’

Peter Beinart writes: On Tuesday night, hours after the terrorist attack in New York City, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham went on Fox News to express his gratitude that, at times like these, Donald Trump is president. “The one thing I like about President Trump, he understands that we’re in a religious war,” Graham declared. “Here’s what I like about President Trump,” he added later, “the gloves are off.” Trump, Graham explained, “is right to make sure when somebody comes into the country from a place where radical Islam [flourishes] … we’re going to ask extra hard questions.” And Trump is—you guessed it—“right to slow down who comes into this country.” When the Fox anchor turned to Robert Mueller’s indictment of two former Trump campaign officials, Graham’s enthusiasm didn’t flag. “If I’m the Trump team,” Graham declared, “I’d rest pretty good tonight.”

Graham’s comments illustrate one of the most fascinating dynamics of the Trump era: Trump exposes the character of the politicians around him. As a political force, anti-Trump conservatism is dead. That means GOP members of Congress who consider Trump an ignorant, narcissistic, lying, authoritarian bully (and according to Bob Corker, many do) face a choice between their principles and their jobs. Corker and Jeff Flake have chosen the former. Most of their colleagues have chosen the latter. But none has done so as loudly as Lindsey Graham. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Both Bush presidents worry Trump is blowing up the GOP

The New York Times reports: President Trump is not a favorite in the extended Bush household. Former President George Bush considers him a “blowhard,” only interested in feeding his own ego. Former President George W. Bush, his son, thinks Mr. Trump fans public anger and came to office without any understanding of the job.

And both worry that Mr. Trump has blown up a Republican Party that they spent two lifetimes building, a party that was once committed to removing boundaries to trade and immigration, promoting democracy and civil society and asserting a robust American leadership role in the world, according to an author who has interviewed them.

A new book on the two Bushes who served in the White House provides a glance at their apprehension over Mr. Trump’s rise to power and what it means for the country. The first book ever written with their cooperation about their relationship, it also opens a window into the only father-and-son tandem to hold the presidency since John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

In “The Last Republicans,” Mark K. Updegrove chronicles an era that feels almost dated in today’s reality-show politics, when the Republican establishment controlled the party and Washington, and when a single family could occupy the presidency and vice presidency for a combined 20 years. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Conservatives introduce measure demanding Mueller’s resignation

Politico reports: Three House Republicans on Friday moved to pressure special counsel Robert Mueller to resign over what they contend are “obvious conflicts of interest,” the latest instance of rising GOP resistance to his Russia probe.

Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), introduced a measure that, while nonbinding, would put the House on record describing Mueller, a former FBI director, as unfit to lead the probe because of his relationship with James Comey, his successor at the bureau.

“[B]e it Resolved, That House of Representatives expresses its sense that Robert Mueller is compromised and should resign from his special counsel position immediately,” the resolution states. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

The Republican Party is gearing up for war on the rule of law

Jonathan Chait writes: The Republican Party has sent mixed signals for months about how it plans to respond to Robert Mueller’s investigation of the Russia scandal — President Trump’s ragetweets have been alternating with silence, and his Congressional allies have mostly urged patience. But in the days leading up to the first arrests, beginning today with former campaign manager Paul Manafort, the signals have changed, and the dashboard is now flashing red. The party apparatus is gearing up for a frontal attack on Mueller in particular, and the idea that a president can be held legally accountable in general.

The Republican Congress is using its investigative apparatus not to discover the extent of Russian interference in the election, but instead to lash out at Trump’s political opponents. The Republicans have developed a bizarre theory of alt-collusion, which holds that the real interference was Russia feeding false allegations against Donald Trump to private investigator Christopher Steele. Since the FBI investigated Steele’s charges, the FBI is the agency that colluded. And since Robert Mueller is close with the FBI, Mueller, too, is tainted.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page has been serving as a barely filtered outlet for this line of attack from Republicans in Congress. The page has called for Mueller to resign, and other Republican media outlets spent the weekend amplifying this message. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Republicans need to say, before the fact, what they will do if Trump fires Mueller

Jennifer Rubin writes: President Trump and his surrogates — most especially the Fox News lineup (which includes a fleet of conservative pundits who disgrace themselves by facilitating a political distraction game for Trump), obsequious Republicans in Congress, old allies such as Roger Stone (who wound up getting banned by Twitter) and the talk radio crowd — have been frantically fanning Hillary Clinton non-scandals about Uranium One (it was baseless before and baseless now) and the dossier’s funder. (Fusion GPS initially was hired by the conservative Free Beacon, which at one time claimed not to know the identity of the Republican outfit that first hired Fusion.) The unhinged rants from Trump’s defenders demanding Clinton be locked up for one or both of these reveal how tightly Trump and the right-wing ecosystem that supports him rely on Clinton as an all-purpose distraction.

Upon a moment’s reflection, the non-scandals make no sense (Clinton was colluding with Russia to beat herself in the election?), have been debunked before and in no way affect the liability, if any, of current or ex-Trump administration figures. This is “whataboutism” run amok. It does expose the degree to which Fox News has given up the pretense of a real news organization, preferring the role of state propagandist. (And it’s not just the evening hosts; the non-scandals now monopolize the rest of the schedule.)

The intensity of Trump’s frenzy underscores the peril in which the president now finds himself. Beyond the indictments unsealed this morning, Trump does not know what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has uncovered; which witnesses are flippable; what financial documents have revealed about the Trump business empire; and whether, for example, Mueller finds support for an obstruction of justice charge from Trump’s own public dissembling (e.g., hinting at non-existent tapes of former FBI director James B. Comey). For someone who insists on holding all the cards and intimidating others, Trump finds himself in a uniquely powerless position.

As I have argued, Republicans should be saying publicly that efforts to fire Mueller and/or pardon indicted figures will commence impeachment proceedings. Those moves would set off a constitutional crisis in which the president is using his powers to protect himself from the Justice Department. Even former senator Rick Santorum concedes that it would be “very perilous” for Trump to fire Mueller.

Right now that is a theoretical question, but given how rattled Trump seems to be we shouldn’t rule out the possibility. It is incumbent on media interviewers to ask Republicans if that is their position and if not to justify giving a green light to what would be an unprecedented scheme to protect himself from investigation. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Key Russia probe splinters as Grassley, Feinstein set own paths

Bloomberg reports: The Senate Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan Russia probe has fractured, with Chairman Chuck Grassley and ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein saying they’re each going to set their own path on the investigation.

The two senators spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday, where they agreed to pursue different issues without giving up on the original probe — into the reasons President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey and Russian attempts to interfere in the election.

Feinstein of California said she doesn’t understand a push by Republicans to once again investigate Hillary Clinton’s emails or pursue a 2010 Obama-era deal by a Russian-backed company to purchase American uranium mines.

“We have kind of agreed that each side is going to do its own thing,” she said. “I think they want to do some things that we don’t want to do. And that is go into the emails, and go into the uranium thing.”

Grassley spokesman Taylor Foy said Wednesday that the chairman will continue his broad focus on multiple administrations, “even if the ranking member is only willing to focus on President Trump and unwilling to examine the role of the DNC and Clinton campaign,” referring to the Democratic National Committee.

Their remarks signal a significant rupture to what has been a bipartisan probe, which kicked off in June with some fanfare. At the time, Grassley’s move appeared to indicate new trouble for Trump, with the independent-minded chairman potentially opening up new — and more public — lines of inquiry into his campaign and his administration. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Sen. Jeff Flake: ‘Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy’

 

Full transcript: Jeff Flake’s speech from the Senate floor.

Politico reports: Just hours after publicly trading insults with a key GOP senator, President Donald Trump kept to the script and held a “productive,” hour-long meeting with Senate Republicans, according to several senators.

Trump outlined at length his accomplishments since taking office, and then asked for Senate Republicans to help him push through a major tax-reform package. The assembled GOP senators responded to Trump’s appearance with three standing ovations.

While the “feel good” moment only papered over serious divisions in the party — both personal and policy — Senate Republicans were hopeful that it signaled a chance to cooperate with Trump on taxes, which many rank-and-file lawmakers consider critical to keeping their majorities on Capitol Hill.

Yet soon after the meeting ended, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) made a stunning announcement that he would not run for reelection, quickly diverting attention from what had been a hopeful moment for Trump and Senate Republicans. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier

The Washington Post reports: The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.

After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the company in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. Before that agreement, Fusion GPS’s research into Trump was funded by an unknown Republican client during the GOP primary. [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail

Once a ‘jackass’ and ‘idiot,’ Trump and Graham now pals

Politico reports: Once upon a time, Lindsey Graham called Donald Trump a “jackass.” Never to be outdone in the put-down department, Trump labeled the South Carolina senator a “lightweight” and an “idiot” who “seems to me not as bright as Rick Perry.”

Two years after that campaign smackdown, Trump and Graham act like longtime friends, hitting the links and plotting legislative strategy together. The two have formed a surprising kinship even as Graham’s best friend, John McCain, is chilly toward a president who once mocked his capture in Vietnam.

In a sign of the dramatic turn in their relationship, during a flight back from South Carolina last week, the president turned to the South Carolina senator and asked if he’d like to take a helicopter back to the White House with him, offering Graham a guided tour.

“How can you not like that?” Graham said in a lengthy interview. “I mean I grew up in the back of a liquor store, first in my family to go to college. I never thought I’d be on Marine One with the president.”

Graham is transforming himself from one of Trump’s fiercest critics to his chief congressional translator, talking to the president sometimes multiple times in a day. He insists Trump is “growing into the job” and becoming more somber, a far different figure than who Graham once railed against as a long-shot presidential candidate. A White House official said that Graham’s alliance with Trump “is one of the best we have on the Hill.” [Continue reading…]

Facebooktwittermail