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U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) speaks a news conference on Capitol Hill, on Jan. 16, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Michigan's Conyers reportedly settled sexual harassment case

11/21/17 08:40AM

The Washington Post had an interesting report late last week, noting that over the last 20 years, Congress' Office of Compliance paid "more than $17 million for 264 settlements and awards to federal employees." That led to some discussion about the total going entirely to targets of sexual harassment, but that wasn't quite right.

The settlements and awards have covered a variety of claims, ranging from alleged wage violations to alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That said, we can say with certainty that some of these cases involved members of Congress and claims of sexual misconduct.

BuzzFeed highlighted one such case over night.

Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not "succumb to [his] sexual advances."

Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.

The woman, whose identity was not revealed, made the complaint in 2014. She eventually received a settlement of $27,000. The article added, "Rep. Conyers did not admit fault as part of the settlement. His office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Monday."

There's no shortage of angles surrounding revelations such as these, including the quickly growing list of men in positions of authority who've been accused of sexual misconduct. It's a distinct possibility that BuzzFeed's report will end the Michigan Democrat's congressional career, which began way back in 1965.

It also seems very likely that the public is poised to learn quite a bit more about the scope of these congressional settlements -- because it's taxpayers who are picking up the tab.

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Image: TOPSHOT-US-POLITICS-TRUMP

Trump tries to shut down scandal-plagued charitable foundation

11/21/17 08:00AM

One of the ironies of the 2016 presidential campaign is that voters were led to believe that of the two major-party candidates, Hillary Clinton was the one with the controversial charitable foundation.

Donald Trump used his charitable foundation money to buy giant portraits of himself. He also used foundation money to make illegal campaign contributions, settle private-sector lawsuits, and support conservative political entities that could help further his partisan ambitions.

About a year ago, we learned that the Trump Foundation admitted in official documents that “it violated a legal prohibition against ‘self-dealing,’ which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.”

Making matters slightly worse, the president has been caught lying about all of this, arguing publicly that “all” of the money the the foundation raised was “given to charity.” He added soon after that “100%” of the millions raised went to “wonderful charities.” Neither claim was consistent with reality.

Nearly a year later, as Rachel noted on last night's show, the president is trying to close the foundation's doors.

President Donald Trump's charitable foundation, which last year admitted violating federal rules on "self-dealing," is in the process of dissolving, according to newly filed documents reviewed by NBC News. [...]

At the end of 2016, the foundation had assets of about $970,000, the document shows.

There is, however, a catch. I said Trump is "trying" to close the charitable foundation because the process is a little more difficult in this case than the president would probably like.

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Monday's Mini-Report, 11.20.17

11/20/17 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* As of this morning, 51% of Puerto Ricans are without electricity and 9% are without running water. Hurricane Maria made landfall 61 days ago.

* North Korea: "President Donald Trump on Monday designated North Korea a state sponsor of terror, a move aimed at increasing pressure on the regime."

* Keystone: "The Keystone XL pipeline cleared a major hurdle on Monday after a Nebraska regulator approved an alternate route for the $8 billion project. The Nebraska Public Service Commission voted to approve TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline in a 3-2 decision that cleared a regulatory hurdle for the proposed 1,179-mile pipeline."

* Zimbabwe: "Robert Mugabe, 93, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron grip until the military placed him under house arrest last week, shocked the nation on Sunday night by refusing to say whether he would resign."

* Glenn Thrush: "The New York Times suspended prominent political reporter Glenn Thrush on Monday following accusations of sexual misconduct, the paper said. The suspension came hours after the news outlet Vox published a report detailing an alleged pattern of inappropriate behavior toward women, particularly young female reporters."

* Charlie Rose: "Eight women have told The Washington Post that longtime television host Charlie Rose made unwanted sexual advances toward them, including lewd phone calls, walking around naked in their presence, or groping their breasts, buttocks or genital areas."

* Germany: "Negotiations to form the German government broke down, dealing a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel and throwing the leadership and direction of Europe's largest economy into doubt."

* This guy was the chair of Donald Trump's campaign in Oklahoma: "Former state Sen. Ralph Shortey has agreed to plead guilty to a child sex trafficking offense for offering to pay a 17-year-old boy for sexual 'stuff' last March."

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Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) speaks to reporters at a news conference outside the Capitol on June 9, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Gabriella Demczuk/Getty)

New accuser says Franken put his hand 'on my rear'

11/20/17 02:12PM

Once someone is accused of sexual misconduct, there are a series of important questions that immediately follow, including the number of accusers.

In Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) case, Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor with KABC in Los Angeles, came forward last week with accusations stemming from a USO show in 2006. Franken has apologized -- Tweeden has said she accepts the apology -- and at least initially, no one else made similar accusations. On the contrary, several women who worked with Franken in his Senate office issued a joint statement praising him for his professionalism.

Today, however, the story changed.

A new woman has come forward with an allegation against Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., days after a radio host accused the lawmaker of forcibly kissing and groping her more than a decade ago.

Lindsay Menz, 33, told CNN in an interview that Franken grabbed her buttocks when they posed for a photo together in 2010. The accusation was first reported by CNN. Menz also appears to have tweeted about the encounter several days ago.

Menz said she met Franken at the Minnesota State Fair seven years ago with her husband and father and asked for a photo with the lawmaker.

The woman said that while she and the senator posed for a photo, Franken "put his hand full-fledged on my rear." She added, "It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek."

In a response, Franken said yesterday, "I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

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A U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber flies over Osan Air Base, Sept. 13, 2016, in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. (Photo by Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

U.S. nuclear commander would balk at any 'illegal' order

11/20/17 12:54PM

For quite a while, the topics of Donald Trump and nuclear policy have been an area of concern. As a Republican presidential candidate, he didn't seem to have any idea what the nuclear triad was; he was equally baffled by the first-use policy; and didn't seem to understand what "proliferation" meant.

During the presidential transition process, Trump made matters worse, tweeting senselessly about expanding the U.S. nuclear arsenal and welcoming a new international "arms race."

Once in the Oval Office, Trump struggled some more, flunking the basics of nuclear modernization and missile defense, even while threatening to rain "fire and fury" on nuclear-armed North Korea.

But there's a related concern that goes well beyond the president's ignorance: what if Trump decided he actually wanted to use the world's most dangerous weapon? There was some notable commentary on the subject over the weekend.

The top U.S. nuclear commander said Saturday he would push back against President Trump if he ordered a nuclear launch the general believed to be "illegal," saying he would hope to find another solution.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), told an audience at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Saturday that he has given a lot of thought to what he would say if Mr. Trump ordered a strike he considered unlawful.

Hyten told the audience that he and his colleagues "think about these things a lot," adding, "When you have this responsibility, how do you not think about it?"

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Monday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.20.17

11/20/17 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* In Alabama yesterday, the front page of the Birmingham News featured an all-caps headline that read, "Stand for decency, reject Roy Moore." It was followed by this endorsement of the Republican's opponent, Doug Jones (D).

* Last week, Kellyanne Conway was asked about Moore's candidacy, and said, "The incontrovertible principle is that there is no Senate seat worth more than a child." This morning, however, the White House aide, asked if Alabamans should vote for Moore, replied, "I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through."

* Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said over the weekend that she has "no reason to disbelieve" Moore's accusers, but she's voting for him anyway because he's a Republican.

* The Moore scandal has apparently given Doug Jones' campaign a fundraising boost.

* A progressive group called Not One Penny is launching a seven-figure ad buy, targeting 25 House Republican districts, slamming GOP lawmakers for supporting their party's regressive and unpopular tax plan.

* If you contribute $10 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the NRCC will enter you into a lottery to spend the weekend at Donald Trump's hotel in D.C. -- which the president still profits from.

* With Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) resigning in the wake of a sex scandal, local Democrats have chosen a candidate in the special election to replace him: Conor Lamb, a 33-year-old Marine veteran and assistant U.S. attorney. Republicans, meanwhile, have chosen state Rep. Rick Saccone (R) for the March 13 election. Both nominees were chosen at party conventions; there will be no primary.

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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