Woman’s effort to infiltrate The Washington Post dated back months

The Washington Post reports: The failed effort by conservative activists to plant a false story about Senate candidate Roy Moore in The Washington Post was part of a months-long campaign to infiltrate The Post and other media outlets in Washington and New York, according to interviews, text messages and social media posts that have since been deleted.

Starting in July, Jaime Phillips, an operative with the organization Project Veritas, which purports to expose media bias, joined two dozen networking groups related to either journalism or left-leaning politics. She signed up to attend 15 related events, often accompanied by a male companion, and appeared at least twice at gatherings for departing Post staffers.

Phillips, 41, presented herself to journalists variously as the owner of a start-up looking to recruit writers, a graduate student studying national security or a contractor new to the area. This summer, she tweeted posts in support of gun control and critical of Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigrants — a departure from the spring when, on accounts that have since been deleted, she used the #MAGA hashtag and mocked the Women’s March on Washington that followed Trump’s inauguration as the “Midol March.”

Her true identity and intentions were revealed only when The Post published a story on Monday, along with photos and video, about how she falsely told Post reporters that Moore had impregnated her when she was a teenager. The Post reported that Phillips appeared to work for Project Veritas, an organization that uses false cover stories and covert video recordings in an attempt to embarrass its targets.

Phillips’s sustained attempt to insinuate herself into the social circles of reporters makes clear that her deception — and the efforts to discredit The Post’s reporting — went much further than the attempt to plant one fabricated article.

Phillips’s encounters with dozens of journalists, which have not been previously reported, typically occurred at professional networking events or congratulatory send-offs for colleagues at bars and restaurants. She used three names and three phone numbers to follow up with Post employees, chatting about life in Washington and asking to be introduced to other journalists.

In one case, Phillips kept a conversation going for five weeks with a Post employee over text message, repeatedly asking whether she and her husband could meet Phillips for dinner. After the employee shared that she was experiencing a family tragedy, Phillips wrote: “Let me know if I can do anything to help, even if just to talk or something small. We’d like to send flowers or a donation… Thoughts & prayers.” [Continue reading…]

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James O’Keefe tweeted about his ‘confrontation’ with a Post reporter. Here’s what really happened

The Washington Post reports: The Washington Post on Monday published a report about a woman who falsely claimed Roy Moore sexually assaulted her as a teenager — and who appeared to work with Project Veritas, an organization that uses deceptive tactics and secretly recorded conversations in an effort to embarrass its targets.

Shortly after the investigation was published, Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe tweeted a video of what he called his “confrontation” with one of the authors of The Post investigation, Aaron C. Davis. The video was heavily edited, a tactic for which Project Veritas has drawn criticism.

The Post filmed the entire encounter.

Davis and another Post reporter, along with two video reporters, went to the Project Veritas offices in Mamaroneck, N.Y., on Monday morning to try to determine whether the woman, Jaime T. Phillips, worked there. They watched as she walked into the office. O’Keefe, who appeared minutes later, declined to answer questions. He invited Davis back for an interview shortly after noon. [Continue reading…]

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Reality scores a win over the perverse drive to discredit honest reporting

Margaret Sullivan writes: In the right-wing campaign to discredit the truth, every day brings a new low.

I don’t mean Roy Moore’s campaign for U.S. Senate, though that certainly has been at the center, lately, of the broader crusade.

No, I mean the insidious drive — led, sadly, by President Trump — to undermine the reality-based press in America and in so doing to eat away at the underpinnings of our democracy: a shared basis in credible, verifiable facts.

Breitbart News, as that pro-Trump propaganda machine calls itself, was part of the campaign when it sent staffers (I won’t call them reporters) to Alabama for the express purpose of knocking down a Washington Post story. In it, multiple women agreed to use their real names and to be quoted about Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct or assault when they were girls. (Breitbart ended up confirming The Post’s story but crowed about its own non-findings anyway.)

Trump was part of the campaign when he called this week for a trophy to be given for “fake news,” disparaging CNN in particular. And again when he reportedly cast doubt on the validity of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about grabbing women’s genitals. There is no question as to the tape’s authenticity.

But the new low came Monday as Project Veritas — could its name be any more Orwellian? — was exposed for its clumsy effort to lure The Post into publishing a false story about a woman whose girlhood affair with Moore led to an abortion.

This would-be scam won the race to the bottom — so far — because, at its black heart, it mocked the bravery of women telling their own true, painful experiences. It tried to make a brazen lie the reason the women’s stories would be dismissed.

Happily, The Post’s reporting was rigorous. And luckily, the scheme had all the savvy of a bully who tries to steal your lunch with the principal watching.

“Beyond boneheaded,” was the characterization of Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner, aptly noting that stupidity and maliciousness are a bad combination.

A win, then, for reality. But a troubling question arises: Who will be believed? Journalists and many thoughtful citizens may have been high-fiving Monday. And for good reason: The Post’s video of the encounter with the would-be source was like a master class in reporting as high-wire act.

But Project Veritas quickly turned this into a fundraising opportunity for itself, claiming victory and releasing a video that purported to show The Post’s bias against Trump. (It depicted a Post reporter explaining the difference between news-side reporting and editorial-page opinion, which has been openly critical of the administration.) Some, undoubtedly, believed Project Veritas’s take, cheered and opened their wallets.

Are we as a nation so deep into our social-media bubbles and echo chambers that many have lost track of what’s real and what’s fake?

It’s a deeply troubling problem but hardly a new one.

“If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer,” wrote the German-born political theorist Hannah Arendt many decades ago.

“And with such a people you can then do what you please.”

That frightening change is happening in America, and at a shocking pace. But there are encouraging signs, too. [Continue reading…]

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Botched sting with a phony Roy Moore ‘accuser’ was supposed to discredit the media. Like similar schemes, it did the opposite

The Washington Post reports: A failed effort to dupe The Washington Post into publishing a woman’s fabricated account of underage sex with Roy Moore represents the latest entry on a list of schemes that attempted to expose fake news in the mainstream media and wound up doing the opposite.

The Post’s Shawn Boburg, Aaron C. Davis and Alice Crites reported Monday that a woman who appears to have been working for Project Veritas, the conservative activist group run by James O’Keefe, approached the newspaper with a false claim that she had an abortion at age 15 after Moore impregnated her.

As Boburg, Davis and Crites wrote, “the group’s efforts illustrate the lengths far-right activists have gone to try to discredit media outlets for reporting on allegations from multiple women that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s.”

Instead of discrediting prior reporting, however, the botched sting showcased the journalistic rigor that news outlets such as The Post exercise before publishing accusations like those against Moore, the Republican Senate candidate from Alabama. [Continue reading…]

As Jonathan Chait notes, a fundamental problem with O’Keefe’s enterprise “is that the people who are dumb enough to believe these conspiracy theories [that he is trying to promote] are not generally smart enough to carry out a competent entrapment scheme.”

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Republicans offer a sham defense of Roy Moore

William Saletan writes: The battle within the Republican Party has come down to this: Is it OK for a 32-year-old man to seduce a 14-year-old girl?

On one side are the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker Paul Ryan. They have disowned Roy Moore, the party’s nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, over allegations that he targeted, and in some cases molested, minors and other teen girls. On the other side are social conservatives, including Alabama’s state auditor, who argue that courtship between an older man and a teenage girl is consensual, biblical, good for the girl, and grounded in the natural attraction of a godly man to the “purity of a young woman.” Alongside the purity camp is the tolerance camp, led by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey. These Republicans don’t deny the allegations or endorse Moore’s conduct, but they support him anyway, reasoning that other issues are more important.

Many Republicans are afraid to take sides in this debate. They want to stick with the GOP nominee, or at least avoid antagonizing voters who support him. But they don’t want to defend the sexual exploitation of minors. So they’ve staked out a neutral position: Moore is innocent until proven guilty. President Trump adopted this position on Tuesday, urging voters not to elect Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. A reporter asked Trump: “Is Roy Moore, a child molester, better than a Democrat?” The president replied: “Well, he denies it. … He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.”

This position sounds reasonable, but it’s a sham. Moore’s denials are designed to provide cover for Trump, Sean Hannity, Alabama’s Republican congressmen, and others who don’t want to acknowledge Moore’s sins. But factually, the denials have already collapsed. It’s time to sweep them out of the way.

Let’s start with the premise of the innocence argument: that voters should discount the allegations until they’re proven in court. That sounds fair, but it’s impossible. The alleged offenses took place decades ago, well outside Alabama’s statute of limitations. Moore can’t be charged or sued. His accusers will never get their day in court, unless he agrees to testify under oath, which could subject him to prosecution for perjury. Naturally, he has declined this challenge. So anyone who tells you to ignore the allegations until they’re validated in court is telling you, in effect, to ignore them forever. [Continue reading…]

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Congressman, on tape, threatened woman he would report her to Capitol Police

The Washington Post reports: In the 2015 phone call, [Rep. Joe] Barton confronted the woman [to whom he had sent sexually explicit photos, videos and messages] over her communications with the other women [who engaged in relationships with Barton], including her decision to share explicit materials he had sent. In that context, he mentioned the Capitol Police, a comment the woman interpreted as an attempt to intimidate her.

“I want your word that this ends,” he said, according to the recording, adding: “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.”

“Why would you even say that to me?” the woman responded. “The Capitol Hill police? And what would you tell them, sir?”

Said Barton: “I would tell them that I had a three-year undercover relationship with you over the Internet that was heavily sexual and that I had met you twice while married and had sex with you on two different occasions and that I exchanged inappropriate photographs and videos with you that I wouldn’t like to be seen made public, that you still apparently had all of those and were in position to use them in a way that would negatively affect my career. That’s the truth.”

In a statement late Wednesday, Barton said a transcript of the recording provided by The Post may be “evidence” of a “potential crime against me.” [Continue reading…]

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Russia regarded Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name

The New York Times reports: For two decades, Representative Dana Rohrabacher has been of value to the Kremlin, so valuable in recent years that the F.B.I. warned him in 2012 that Russia regarded him as an intelligence source worthy of a Kremlin code name.

The following year, the California Republican became even more valuable, assuming the chairmanship of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee that oversees Russia policy. He sailed to re-election again and again, even as he developed ties to Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia.

Then came President Trump.

As revelations of Russia’s campaign to influence American politics consume Washington, Mr. Rohrabacher, 70, who had no known role in the Trump election campaign, has come under political and investigative scrutiny. The F.B.I. and the Senate Intelligence Committee are each seeking to interview him about an August meeting with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, Mr. Rohrabacher said. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is said to be interested in a meeting he had last year with Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.

At the same time, fellow Republicans — questioning his judgment and intentions — have moved to curtail his power as chairman of the Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats. And back home in Southern California, where Democrats and Republicans alike smell blood, the 15-term congressman is facing his toughest re-election contest in decades, with well-funded candidates from both parties lining up to unseat him. [Continue reading…]

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Racist white Americans overwhelmingly disavow racism while supporting racist policies

Adam Serwer writes: A few days after [David] Duke’s strong showing [in the 1990 election to become a U.S. senator for Louisiana], the Queens-born businessman Donald Trump appeared on CNN’s Larry King Live.

“It’s anger. I mean, that’s an anger vote. People are angry about what’s happened. People are angry about the jobs. If you look at Louisiana, they’re really in deep trouble,” Trump told King.

Trump later predicted that Duke, if he ran for president, would siphon most of his votes away from the incumbent, George H. W. Bush—in the process revealing his own understanding of the effectiveness of white-nationalist appeals to the GOP base.

“Whether that be good or bad, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Pat Buchanan—who really has many of the same theories, except it’s in a better package—Pat Buchanan is going to take a lot of votes away from George Bush,” Trump said. “So if you have these two guys running, or even one of them running, I think George Bush could be in big trouble.” Little more than a year later, Buchanan embarrassed Bush by drawing 37 percent of the vote in New Hampshire’s Republican primary.

In February 2016, Trump was asked by a different CNN host about the former Klan leader’s endorsement of his Republican presidential bid.

“Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. Okay?,” Trump said. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know.”

Less than three weeks before the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump declared himself “the least racist person you have ever met.”

Even before he won, the United States was consumed by a debate over the nature of his appeal. Was racism the driving force behind Trump’s candidacy? If so, how could Americans, the vast majority of whom say they oppose racism, back a racist candidate?

During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans—those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue—had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked. [Continue reading…]

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17 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. It’s time to revisit those stories

Elisabeth Ponsot and Sarah Slobin write: After a fifth woman accused Roy Moore of sexual misbehavior or assault, US senate majority leader and fellow Republican Mitch McConnell urged the Alabama senate nominee to withdraw, saying, “I believe the women.”

His visible and vocal stance regarding Moore sharply contrasts with how supporters of Donald Trump have responded to at least 17 women who have accused him of various degrees of sexual harassment, voyeurism, and assault. Their claims against the US president span three decades. During his campaign, Trump vociferously denied each accusation, adding in one instance that the woman in question “would not have been my first choice.”

Republican leaders spoke out against Trump in October 2016, when an Access Hollywood tape emerged in which Trump can be heard bragging that he could “grab [women] by the pussy.” But they did not defend the women who came forward with assault allegations against Trump, nor did they suggest their claims were credible.

As the calendar ticked forward to the presidential vote, GOP figures who had briefly distanced themselves from Trump got behind him again. His accusers’ stories faded to the background. The media moved on to other things. Trump was elected.

Now that he has sided with Moore’s accusers, McConnell was asked on Nov. 15 if he believes the women who similarly accused Trump. He would not answer. “Look, we’re talking about the situation in Alabama,” he told reporters. “And I’d be happy to address that if there are any further questions.” [Continue reading…]

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As we rethink old harassers, let’s talk about Clarence Thomas

Joy-Ann Reid writes: Long suppressed talk about the sexual predation of men, in Hollywood, politics, business, the news industry, professional sports and life in general has swept across the country, exposing decades of dirty laundry and putting an entire nation of men on notice and on edge.

“The discussion” in which the nation is engaged almost daily at this point, has exposed the rank hypocrisy of a right-wing “Christianity” that would sooner see a child molester stalking the well of the United States Senate than free its captive base to support a Democrat, and which still stands foursquare behind braggadocious predator-in-chief Donald Trump.

It has put on display the Republican Party’s radical lack of moral conviction as its leaders rush to condemn the gross, decade-old antics of now Sen. Al Franken, who has at least apologized for his past misbehavior, while they smirk from behind the cameras at Fox News where they are surrounded by anchor women in the required uniform of tight sweaters, mini-skirts, and four-inch heels. Among the Republicans ripping Franken for kissing a woman without her consent and snapping a juvenile “groping” picture in 2006: the great hypocrite Trump himself, of the “I just kiss beautiful women and grab ’em by the pussy” un-humble brag of 2005.

The national moment of self-reflection on the culture that produces such entitled men has compelled the left to indulge in its favorite ritual: curling into the fetal position as it self-flagellates over the eternal sins of the Clintons. It’s as if they’ve forgotten that the former president who left office 17 years ago indeed paid a price, including years of forensic investigation culminating in impeachment for his illicit affair with a 24-year-old White House intern.

Well if we are getting about the business of re-examining the past indecency of powerful men, we’d be remiss not to include the moment in 1991 when a woman was not believed and her alleged abuser was elevated to the highest court in the land, where he remains 26 years later. [Continue reading…]

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When the right pushes fake Jews

Jonathan Weisman writes: Bernie Bernstein pretty much fits the mold of a Jew — at least as the alt-right sees us.

A strange Northeastern accent, somewhere between New York and Boston? Check. Tossing money, but not too much money, around to no good end (remember, we’re rich, but cheap)? Check. Pursuing the agenda of the liberal fake-news media? Check. Riling the worst instincts of the South’s conservative base? Check.

But there was something a little too on the nose, forgive me please, about those robocalls in Alabama from a mythical Washington Post reporter named Bernstein seeking women to dish dirt on Roy Moore, something too “Jewy” to be actually Jewish. And that’s where the rising anti-Semitism of the new white nationalists loses its punch.

He may be Bernie Bernstein; he may be Lenny Bernstein — it’s a little hard to tell from the tape. Regardless, as the Princeton historian Kevin Kruse wrote on Twitter, “Whoever’s behind this is a horrible anti-Semite. I mean, just really bad at being an anti-Semite.”

Last week, voters in Alabama — rocked, befuddled or riled by allegations that Mr. Moore, the Republican nominee for the Senate, sexually assaulted teenage girls — were treated to an electronic “robocall” that intoned, or really whined:

I’m a reporter for The Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old, willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000. We will not be fully investigating these claims however we will make a written report.

I could be charitable and suggest that the name is a play on the Post’s legendary Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein. There really is a Lenny Bernstein at the paper, a health care reporter who most certainly does not share the caller’s voice or penchant for journalistic duplicity. But honestly, I’m more inclined to invoke Occam’s razor: The most logical explanation is usually the right one. Bernie Bernstein is the creation of an anti-Semite — or at least an opportunist appealing to Alabama voters’ willingness to believe the worst about a man named Bernie Bernstein. [Continue reading…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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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…]

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