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On the roster: Can Congress keep the harassment dam from breaking? - Bannon helped convince Trump to stick with Moore - Tax blitz: Senate puts vote on rush order - RNC rakes in donations while DNC takes a hit - The Cheesehead’s dilemma
CAN CONGRESS KEEP THE HARASSMENT DAM FROM BREAKING?
Who knew that creating a secret slush fund to pay off claims of sexual harassment by members of Congress could backfire?
Any group of 535 powerful and privileged Americans would certainly include a share of cads, bounders, letches and creeps. But if you condition membership in that exclusive club on the possession of extroversion – sometimes bordering on social predation – you’re going to get some real doozies.
News today that 26-term (!) Congressman John Conyers, D-Mich., settled a 2015 claim from a former employee who said she was terminated for not reciprocating the now-88-year-old’s advances.
Conyers acknowledged the settlement which was sealed under the rules of a byzantine-sounding process in the House. But he also denied the underlying charges, essentially saying that the award of less than $30,000 was essentially a severance package.
Democrats, already feeling pangs of guilt over their mangled response over allegations against Sen. Al Franken, are acting much more quickly to denounce Conyers.
This will predictably fire up his fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who will observe that there seems to be something of an imbalance of privilege between a white Senator protected and a black congressman being shown the door.
But this is only the beginning. Every indication is that Conyers’ conundrum is only the match head that will light the fuse.
Let’s start with the stipulation that Congress was acting selfishly and cynically when it established rules for dealing with personnel complaints that would allow for such secrecy, especially relating to matters involving the expenditure of taxpayer funds.
But we’re also willing to stipulate that it was not unreasonable for politicians to have wanted some due process protections against politically motivated or otherwise spurious claims.
Where Congress erred, though, was in trying to act like a private company, not a bastion of the public trust. The consequences of this error look to be quite considerable.
If we grant Conyers the benefit of the doubt, he followed standard operating procedures, of which secrecy was a component. Now, he is subject to the accusation, but not permitted to mount a complete defense because of what remains of those secrecy provisions.
This secrecy also denies an individual the benefit of context. How many similar claims were lodged against House members in the same period of time? How large were typical payouts? Did arbitrators tend to be generous or stingy? Did Conyers have other claims against him?
Congressional leaders in both parties say they are focused on fixing the process for the future to provide more accountability and transparency, but that isn’t the matter for this moment.
The question tumbling, tumbling, tumbling through the minds of many in Congress is whether Conyers will have the chance to make a full defense. If he does, we may see 20 years’ worth of secret settlements coming pouring forth.
Prominent Democrats have taken the consequence-free position that if they understood gender and power dynamics the way they do now when Bill Clinton was accused of a variety of misdeeds that they would have pressured him to resign.
That’s fine to say about a former president in his dotage, but what about those individuals still in office. Octogenarian Conyers may hold the title for longest-serving member of the House, but it is not exactly a body populated by fresh faces.
There are presumably plenty of members still there who were part of the unknown number of harassment claims brought and settled secretly since 1997.
The question now for both Democrats and Republicans won’t be the future, but rather if they can keep the dam from breaking on the past. If you want to see bipartisan action in Washington, here’s your chance.
THE RULEBOOK: PLACES AND FACES
“This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.” – John Jay, Federalist No. 2
TIME OUT: HAVING CHEMISTRY
WSJ: “[Helen Fisher] is known for her research scanning the brains of people in various stages of love, and she went looking for neurological clues. She … developed a broad personality test that, unlike many others, is based on brain science rather than psychology. The Fisher Temperament Inventory measures temperament, which comes from our genes, hormones and neurotransmitters. … The four types are each associated with distinct traits. People high on the dopamine scale tend to be adventurous, curious, spontaneous, enthusiastic and independent. They have high energy, are comfortable taking risks and are mentally flexible and open-minded. Serotonin types are very social, traditional, calm and controlled, conscientious and detail-oriented. They love structure and making plans. Testosterone types are direct and decisive, aggressive, tough-minded, emotionally contained, competitive and logical. They have good spatial skills and are good at rule-based systems, such as math or music. Estrogen types are intuitive, introspective, imaginative, empathetic and trusting. They’re emotionally intelligent.”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -19 points
Change from one week ago: up 1.6 points
[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]
BANNON HELPED CONVINCE TRUMP TO STICK WITH MOORE
Daily Beast: “In the span of a single week, the White House and President Donald Trump’s top allies have gone from laying the groundwork to ditch Roy Moore – accused of, among other things, sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl – to laying the groundwork to celebrate his possible victory next month. The shift has been evident in the White House’s messaging on Alabama Senate race, which on Monday centered on warning against the election of his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. … Multiple sources in and out of the West Wing say that some of Trump’s closest advisers have recommended that he not criticize Moore publicly prior to the election in November. Among those privately encouraging him to stay mum have been Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor and former campaign manager, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist and current Breitbart chairman.”
Alabama young Republicans pull support for Moore - NBC News: “…the Young Republican Federation, which represents members across the state ages 18 to 40, voted to suspend support for Moore unless – and until – he can discredit allegations that he had improper relationships with teenage girls and young women decades ago. ‘Obviously, I would never vote for Doug Jones,’ the Democratic candidate in the race, [Jackie Curtiss] said in a telephone interview with NBC News. ‘At this point, I would probably not even go to vote on Dec. 12.’ That’s not a position she ever thought she’d find herself in — and it’s not a comfortable one.”
Jones quotes Trump daughter, Shelby and Sessions in new ad - The Hill: “Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones’ newest campaign ad quotes prominent ‘conservative voices’ criticizing his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, over the many sexual misconduct allegations made against him. The ad includes quotes from Ivanka Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). ‘Ivanka Trump says ‘there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children,’ and ‘I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts,’’ a narrator says in the advertisement. ‘Jeff Sessions says ‘I have no reason to doubt these young women.’ And Richard Shelby says he will ‘absolutely not vote for Roy Moore.’’ ‘Conservative voices putting children and women over party – doing what’s right,’ it continues.”
Moore tells conservative columnist: ‘I will never give up’ - AL.com: “‘Republican voters in our state have spoken loudly and clearly by giving me an overwhelming victory in the primary and runoff. I will do everything in my power, and with the help of Almighty God, I will ensure that we win the election and keep this seat.’”
Graham warns Moore meltdown will threaten GOP agenda - The Hill: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Monday said Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore poses a threat to the Republican agenda, adding that he favors maneuvering that would trigger a new special election. ‘We’re about to give away a seat that can determine the future of Trump’s agenda, and I hope the good people of Alabama on the Republican side will try to find a way to pick a nominee that can represent the conservative cause in an effective way,’ Graham said on Fox News Radio’s ‘The Brian Kilmeade Show.’”
Moore’s wife was as young as 15 when she caught his eye - AL.com: “When Roy Moore first took notice of Kayla she would have been as young as 15. There’s a little fuzziness, to be sure, in the timeline. ... Eight years before could have been slightly too early to put Moore in Gadsden, he started work as an deputy district attorney there in 1977. So maybe she was 15, or maybe she was 16. But still, here is a grown man at about 30 years old attending a girls’ dance recital…”
TAX BLITZ: SENATE PUTS VOTE ON RUSH ORDER
Bloomberg: “The Senate released the 515-page text of its sweeping tax legislation for the first time Tuesday -- and Republican leaders plan to hold a floor vote on it within 10 days. That short span reflects an unusually fast process in both chambers, said William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based policy group. The House passed its tax bill 14 days after releasing its text. ‘‘Unusually fast’ understates how remarkable this legislative process is,” Galston said. … The last time that Congress rewrote the tax code, in 1986, ‘the actual legislative deliberations over the bill stretched out over months -- and it was a good thing,’ he said. … At least one GOP senator has complained about the pace. ‘I’ve got a real problem with this process,’ Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said Monday on WISN radio. ‘I would prefer that this bill would’ve been introduced months ago.’”
Wall Street likes what it sees in tax plans - Bloomberg: “Investors in billion-dollar hedge funds might be able to take advantage of a new, lower tax rate touted as a break for small businesses. Private equity fund managers might be able to sidestep a new tax on their earnings. And a combination of proposed changes might allow the children and grandchildren of the very wealthy to avoid income taxes in perpetuity.”
Shutdown fears over ‘dreamer’ impasse - Politico: “Concern is growing in both parties that a clash over the fate of Dreamers will trigger a government shutdown this December. House conservatives have warned Speaker Paul Ryan against lumping a fix for undocumented immigrants who came to the country as minors into a year-end spending deal. They want him to keep the two issues separate and delay immigration negotiations into 2018 to increase their leverage — which both Ryan and the White House consider reasonable. But many liberal Democrats have already vowed to withhold votes from the spending bill should it not address Dreamers, putting Democratic leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York in an awkward spot if they don’t go along.”
Judge block Trump’s effort to cut funds to ‘sanctuary cities’ - Fox News: “A federal judge in California on Monday permanently blocked President Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funding from sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with U.S. immigration authorities. U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick ruled that the White House does not have the authority to impose new conditions on spending already approved by Congress.”
RNC RAKES IN DONATIONS WHILE DNC TAKES A HIT
WashEx: “The Republican National Committee raised $9.2 million in the month of October and has brought in more than $113 million so far this year, far outpacing their Democratic counterparts, according to the latest filings with the Federal Election Commission. The RNC ended October with $42.5 million in the bank and no debt. The Democratic National Committee, meanwhile, raised $3.9 million in October and $55 million this year. The DNC has $5 million cash-on-hand and $3.2 million in debt. Most of the money — 60 percent — raised in direct contributions to the RNC came from donations under $200. The party raised $4.29 million in small-dollar donations, bringing its total for the year to $48 million. The RNC’s latest fundraising haul marks a successful year so far for the party, which has continued to bring in more money than the DNC.”
Pence rewards loyalty with PAC cash - WSJ: “Vice President Mike Pence will dip into his new political-action committee … contributing more than $200,000 to candidates in dozens of races across the country, his office said. The money will go to 36 GOP candidates for U.S. Senate, House and gubernatorial seats, a list drawn up by both the vice president and President Donald Trump’s political advisers. Donations coming from Mr. Pence’s Great America Committee range from $1,000 to $10,000. Some of the recipients include some of the White House’s reliable allies: Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas ($5,400), Rep. Chris Collins of New York ($5,400), who was the first member of Congress to endorse Mr. Trump in the 2016 election, and Sen. David Perdue of Georgia ($5,400). Mr. Pence is also doling out money to some erstwhile rivals of the president, including Sen.Ted Cruz of Texas ($5,400), who lost to Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries.”
TRUMP SHUTTING DOWN FOUNDATION OVER CONFLICTS
Axios: “President Trump is shutting down the Donald J. Trump Foundation, NBC News reports. The foundation came under great scrutiny during the presidential campaign for unusual practices, and afterward as a source of potential conflicts of interest. After a Washington Post report, the foundation acknowledged last year in IRS paperwork that it had violated a prohibition against ‘self-dealing.’ Trump pledged in December to shut it down. Trump’s December statement: ’The Foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children. However, to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President I have decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways.’”
Trump golf course reimburses Trump charity - WaPo: “One of President Trump’s golf courses paid back more than $158,000 to Trump’s charitable foundation this year, reimbursing the charity for money that had been used to settle a lawsuit against the club, according to a new tax filing. The March 2017 payment came after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, launched an investigation into how the Donald J. Trump Foundation collects and disburses funds. The inquiry is ongoing. The Washington Post reported last year that Trump had used the charity for questionable purposes, including to make a political contribution, to settle legal matters involving his for-profit companies and to buy a large portrait of himself that he hung at one of his golf resorts.”
Not just Javanka: Trump admin stacked with 20 family members - Daily Beast: “Most people have heard of Ivanka and Jared, but the first family is far from the only group of relatives staffing the Trump administration. A Daily Beast examination of public records reveals that there are at least 20 families, joined by either blood or marriage, in which multiple members hold some federal post or appointment. They include the families of some of Trump’s most prominent campaign supporters and agency officials, including one cabinet officer. The posts range from senior White House staff to more ceremonial and advisory positions.”
Manafort seeks Thanksgiving break from house arrest - Fox News: “Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is asking a federal judge to ease the conditions of his arrest in the Russian meddling investigation so he can travel over the Thanksgiving holiday -- with the caveat he will not drink alcohol or remove his GPS ankle monitor.”
L.A. MAYOR GARCETTI SOUNDS READY FOR 2020 RACE
NYT: [Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti] has traveled to Florida, Louisiana, and New Hampshire, and was in Las Vegas on Saturday, speaking to a convention of carpenters. He went to Indiana, to announce the creation of a group of mayors, business and labor leaders to promote infrastructure investments, and appeared on Chris Matthews’s ’Hardball’ to talk national politics. And in the course of an hour-long interview in his office, Mr. Garcetti, 46, a Democrat, made clear that, as unlikely as it might sound, he is considering a run for president, after announcing he would not run for governor. ‘There are 23 states that have a population smaller than Los Angeles,’ he said.
DeBlasio too? N.Y. mayor heading to Iowa for event - Des Moines Register: “New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will headline a political fundraiser in Iowa next month, a visit sure to stoke 2020 speculation for one of the country’s most prominent liberal officeholders. De Blasio, who was elected to a second term as mayor earlier this year, will be the featured guest for Progress Iowa’s ‘holiday party’ fundraiser Dec. 19 at the Temple for the Performing Arts in Des Moines.”
O’Malley starts super PAC aimed at state races - The Hill: “[Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s] Win Back Your State PAC will focus on getting national Democratic names to share their political assets with other local candidates. He says he’s been leading by example, stumping across the country for local candidates, doing what he calls an ‘a priori good: Helping other people win back their states to save our country.’’
FCC plans total repeal of Obama-era Internet regulations - Politico
Glenn Reynolds: Early cities learned to deal with plagues, so can Twitter - USA Today
AUDIBLE: PEN, PHONE, HATCHET…
“I have been informed by the White House counsel’s office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot be revoked.” – President Trump discussing the turkeys pardoned last year by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I, regretfully, believe that many representatives in Congress, Senate and House, are guilty of sexual harassment. I am a registered Republican, and consider myself to be a moderate. I firmly believe that the guilty ones should be thrown out. The sad part of the sexual claims is that it is so easy to ruin someone’s reputation by giving false statements to the press. I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg. Wonder how many guilty ones in Congress are sweating just when they will be named?” – Gary Sullivan, Savannah, Ga.
[Ed. note: The diminished power of valuable institutions in our society very often has derived from the exposure of abuses of that power granted for that necessity. Congress would seem to stand a top that list.]
“Here’s an idea for the Creative Ones among us. Understanding the personal dollar and cents impact of various tax reform proposals is virtually impossible. Do you believe the claims of GOP proponents or the Democratic opposition? And what does it mean for me? The vast majority of Americans are most interested in the impacts on themselves, not in the grand promises of massive job creation or warnings of middle class demise. So, how about creating a way to test each tax proposal’s impacts on one’s own taxes? In real time. Not after the fact, but as tax plans and amendments are introduced and debated. How to accomplish this? For each proposal before Congress, require a personal income tax ‘template’ to be made available free, on-line. That way you could plug in your personal financial information from the previous year and see immediately how each proposal before Congress would affect you personally. Then make a more informed decision about your support or opposition based on personal reality, not theoretical macro-economic bluster.” – Dave Wiltsee, Applegate, Calif.
[Ed. note: Your idea is a good one, Mr. Wiltsee – but for one thing: Congress doesn’t want you to be able to do that. With this tax legislation as with most of its predecessors, the measures that shimmied out of the House and the Senate Finance Committee will bear only passing resemblance to the final proposal. And this time, I would be surprised if there were even a few days between the final proposal and the final vote. There wouldn’t be enough time to set up a calculator, let alone have a real debate on the subject. If this plan passes it will not be on the force of reason, but rather partisan unity.]
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THE CHEESEHEAD’S DILEMMA
WXYZ: “Green Bay Packers fans at one Milwaukee-area brewery didn’t have to pay for a single beer Sunday during the game after the team was shut out by the Baltimore Ravens. The Bavarian Bierhaus restaurant and brewery offers a special during Packers games: free beer until the green and gold scores. On Sunday, that backfired as the Packers lost to the Ravens 23-0 and fans were able to drink for free the entire game. So if fans were more than a little upset by the prospect of their team’s first home shutout loss since 2006, they at least had the prospect of a free pint to console them. The Bierhaus may be in for another long day Sunday night, as the Packers travel to Pittsburgh to face off against the Steelers - allowing just 16.5 points per game, good for second-best in the NFL.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.