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An Anguished Congressional Black Caucus Is Trying To Figure Out What To Do About John Conyers


Drew Angerer / Getty Images

The allegations against Michigan Rep. John Conyers have shaken the Congressional Black Caucus, leaving the group’s members and staff in anguish over what to do about a man who is both a legend of the Civil Rights movement and accused of sexual harassment. Some privately hope he’ll resign.

One person close to Conyers seemed certain on Tuesday evening that the congressman would wait for the Ethics Committee to conduct an investigation, which Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called for to be “expedited” earlier in the day.

For decades, particularly in black political circles, Conyers has been regarded as a living legend, a veteran, a civil rights giant. He helped found the CBC — and was thought to be beyond reproach, because he was at the seat of power and had legislated for black causes. But now as doubts about these allegations linger, in private conversations, some expressed embarrassment that someone was held in such high regard.

In a dozen interviews, people inside or close to the CBC have seemed split over Conyers’s fate. Several expressed frustration that while no Democratic member has called for the resignation of Sen. Al Franken, who is facing allegations of groping from multiple women, New York Rep. Kathleen Rice has called for Conyers to step down.

In a carefully worded statement Tuesday night, CBC chairman Cedric Richmond said any decision for Conyers to resign “is John’s decision to make” and said that Congress must “treat members who have been accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other crimes with parity.”

But for others, Conyers’s alleged behavior had become an untenable distraction for a caucus that — among other top priorities — wants to help to turn out black voters for Doug Jones, the Democrat challenging Roy Moore, who is facing multiple allegations of making sexual advances toward teenagers, for an Alabama Senate seat. These black Democrats say you can both respect Conyers’s legacy and contribution making life better for black Americans, and demand swift and immediate accountability for alleged sexual harassment. Either way, it’s a difficult situation.

“We all just don’t know what to think,” said one senior Democrat, who agreed to speak to BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity. “You don’t want to believe anyone just would lie about something like this. But you don’t want to believe he would do it, either, because we know him. And it’s one thing if it’s Harvey Weinstein, but it’s another thing when it’s somebody you know.”

Last week, BuzzFeed News reported on a $27,000 settlement reached between Conyers and a woman who had worked for him and accused him of making inappropriate sexual advances. Since then, BuzzFeed News has also reported on a public document — a lawsuit later dropped after a judge denied a motion to seal it — that also alleged impropriety. A former Conyers aide, Deanna Maher, in an interview with the Detroit News, said that Conyers had sexually harassed her between 1997 to 2005.

Conyers has vehemently denied the allegations. He has stepped down from his post as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. Late Tuesday, Conyers was also seen on a flight bound for Detroit.

The Maher allegation further intensified sentiment that Conyers was becoming a distraction and should resign, according to three separate sources inside the CBC with knowledge of the inner-workings of the caucus. Several news outlets reported that an effort to urge Conyers to resign was underway.

Publicly, few Democrats have said much about the Conyers allegations. On Tuesday on Capitol Hill, several high-profile lawmakers, including Pelosi, walked past reporters ignoring questions.

If the external communication from senior Democrats has been limited, the inside one hasn’t. Richmond phoned members over the Thanksgiving weekend, one person familiar with the communications said. A senior aide to a Democratic member said that there was a series of calls between members last week after the initial report. Members discussed the substance of the allegations and received an overview of the situation. The Congressional Black Caucus Women — who most recently signed a letter demanding an apology from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly for his role in ascribing statements to Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson that she never made — also discussed the matter in a private call. An aide to Rep. Maxine Waters declined to confirm the call.

The prominence of Conyers has weighed on people involved. He re-introduces a slavery reparations bill every year, and has been one of the foremost legislative voice on civil rights and police brutality — core, emotional issues at the center of the black political debate for nearly a century. But a national senior Democrat said that the new climate of allegations had brought the question about how how you parse the line between wrongdoing and the restorative justice into sharp relief. The Democrat, who agreed to share their personal views based on anonymity, believes that Conyers’s is a test case for how Democrats handle misconduct allegations against major figures.

“When you have these iconic figures who have been on front lines, you just don’t want to hear about that human side of them, that they have their faults, especially for someone like Congressman Conyers,” the person said. “But when do we ask, ‘What does rehabilitation and restoration look like?’ Is it possible to bring someone back into community?”

The Beat DC, an email newsletter that covers people and issues of color in Washington, and which covers the CBC closely, felt it had a responsibility to cover the Conyers issue in a straightforward manner amid what could be a cultural change in Washington.

“We cover people of color in politics. And even when they make headlines for things that aren’t flattering, we want to make sure our readers across the country are informed,” said Tiffany D. Cross, a founder and editor. “Sexual harassment isn’t specific to race, ethnicity, or political party. While Congressman Conyers maintains his innocence, The Beat DC wants to make sure young politicos on their way to DC know what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t.”

We Contacted Every Congressional Office To See If They’d Been The Subject Of A Workplace Complaint


Pool / Getty Images

Almost daily allegations of sexual misconduct against high-profile journalists, celebrities, and public servants have shaken the nation since the New York Times reported sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

Last week, BuzzFeed News reported on a settlement of sexual harassment allegations against Rep. John Conyers, the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and the longest serving member of the House. The settlement between Conyers and his accuser — who has since identified herself as Marion Brown — also uncovered more about the activities of a secretive office that handles workplace complaints on Capitol Hill, the Office of Compliance. The office has kept information about the offices and lawmakers who’ve been accused of wrongdoing in the workplace from the public, despite using taxpayer funds for case settlements. Claims to the Office of Compliance can range from racial discrimination, workplace safety complaints, to sexual harassment.

This week, BuzzFeed News reached out to every congressional office and asked whether the office — to their knowledge — had been the subject of an OOC request or if they had settled a complaint with any former or current staff members.

More than half of the congressional offices didn’t respond to requests to see if their offices were involved in any OOC requests: specifically, 244 House offices didn’t respond for comment, and 49 Senate offices did not respond for comment.

More than a third of House offices said they hadn’t been the subject of an OOC request and they had never reached a settlement with an employee related to a request.

Offices for Reps. Raul Grijalva, Lucille Roybal Allard, Blake Farenthold, and Danny K. Davis have all had OOC requests, according to spokespeople, but none had reached settlements with employees.

Grijalva and Roybal Allard had claims filed against their offices but they were both dropped before settlements were reached, according to spokespeople.

Davis said he was the subject of an OOC investigation because of a trip to Azerbaijan reported by the Washington Post in 2013.

A spokesperson for Farenthold referenced an OOC investigation into the sexual harassment allegations from a former employee that was settled out of court in 2015.

Spokespeople for 51 Senate offices said that the offices had not been the subject of an OOC request and that they had not settled any claims with employees, including a spokesperson for Sen. Al Franken, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by six women as of Thursday.

In Washington, Molly Hensley-Clancy, Sarah Mimms, Paul McLeod, Alexis Levinson, Lissandra Villa Huerta, Kate Nocera, Tarini Parti, Emma Loop, and Chris Geidner contributed reporting; in New York, Talal Ansari and Matt Berman contributed reporting.

The Secretive Office Of Compliance Doesn’t Have Good Answers For Why It’s So Secretive


T.j. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images

As Democratic and Republican leaders call on Democratic Rep. John Conyers to resign in the face of multiple allegations of sexual harassment, including one that led to a settlement, the office set up by Congress to handle sexual harassment and other workplace complaints says that it is barred by law from even acknowledging that settlement or where it came from.

Over the past two weeks, lawmakers and journalists have pressed for answers about the taxpayer-funded operations of the Office of Compliance (OOC), and why it is that so little information is publicly available about the public offices whose complaints it addresses.

Despite a week of emails back and forth between the office and BuzzFeed News, the OOC could not point to any provision explicitly barring the office from publishing an office-by-office breakdown of claims made on Capitol Hill. In fact, the OOC already publishes more information than it is required to by law in its annual report, and a spokesperson would not explain why they argue that same law prevents them from providing additional transparency that the OOC currently lacks.

Instead, the OOC takes the position that its secrecy — across the board — is required under law.

“The Congressional Accountability Act requires that the OOC maintain the confidentiality of contacts and claims filed with the office that do not result in a final decision,” OOC Outreach and Publications Manager Laura Cech told BuzzFeed News in an email. “The OOC cannot comment on whether matters have or have not been filed with the office.”

The OOC would not say whether the money in the Conyers settlement came out of a special fund established under law by the Treasury. “The OOC can’t confirm or deny the settlement you reported,” Cech wrote. The OOC also takes the position that it cannot, for the reason of confidentiality, publish an office-by-office breakdown of the settlements paid out with taxpayer money. Earlier Thursday, ABC News reported that close to $100,000 out of the fund went to settle sex harassment claims brought by two male former staffers of Eric Massa, a former member of the House who resigned in 2010. The OOC would not confirm the settlement information to ABC News.

In a report published each year, the OOC details some statistical information about claims brought to it, a requirement by law, though the amount of information the office includes has changed over time. The report provides no information about how many formal complaints are filed by employees of the House or Senate, and no information about what settlements are reached with employees of the House or Senate.

It is true that the CAA provides confidentiality for parts of the process. That first stage of initiating proceedings (a request for counseling) and the second step (mediation) “shall be strictly confidential,” per the law. Additionally, once a formal complaint has been filed, “all proceedings and deliberations” of hearing officers and appeals to the board are to be confidential. At the end of the process, apparently referenced by Cech, the law requires the board to make public certain types of "final decisions" of hearing officers or the board, but also allows the board to choose to make public any others.

It is not clear, however, where OOC draws the lines on its secrecy in instances that fall between initial proceedings and the final decisions, and whether there is any legal backing for it.

When asked, specifically, if OOC takes the position the law stops them from releasing office-by-office settlement information, Cech only pointed to the part of the CAA that describes what must be included in the annual report.

That section of the law says that OOC is required to:

“compile and publish statistics on the use of the Office by covered employees, including the number and type of contacts made with the Office, on the reason for such contacts, on the number of covered employees who initiated proceedings with the Office under this Act and the result of such proceedings, and on the number of covered employees who filed a complaint, the basis for the complaint, and the action taken on the complaint.”

The OOC, however, always has included more information than that in its annual reports — so it’s not clear how the office can say that the same requirements for what must be included in the report are also limitations on what can be included in the report.

For example, every year’s report includes the number of employees who initiate proceedings under the OOC broken by entity — detailing the number of employees of the House, Senate, Capitol Police, Architect of the Capitol, or other entities who did so each year. That specificity is not required by the law — and relates to information from a part of the process before a "final decision" is reached — but it has been included in all of the reports.

Further still, OOC Executive Director Susan Tsui Grundmann acknowledged earlier this month that OOC could release additional information beyond what is required by the statistics provision of the law. "Nothing in this subparagraph requires the Office to release award and settlement figures referenced in [fund provision] of the CAA," she wrote in a letter that nonetheless provided a list of the total number and amounts of awards and settlements disbursed each year since the CAA’s passage. Those settlement figures were included in five years of the annual reports, as well, although no settlement information was included in the two most recent annual reports produced by the OOC. Cech did not respond to a request for comment on why that was so.

It is not clear why OOC believes it has the authority to provide breakout numbers for House and Senate and the Capitol Police, for example, in its reports on the requests for counseling but chooses not to do so for the other stages of the process: mediation, formal complaint, settlement, or final decision. It’s also not clear why OOC does not provide a more specific breakout by congressional office for its reports.

Asked where OOC would point to in the law for the claim by Cech that office-by-office breakdowns "would violate the confidentiality required by the CAA,“ Cech only repeated the statement: “The Congressional Accountability Act requires that the OOC maintain the confidentiality of contacts and claims filed with the office that do not result in a final decision.”

John Conyers’ Nephew: If The Congressman Resigns Or Retires, I Will Run


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

As Michigan Rep. John Conyers Jr. has resisted calls from within the Democratic Party to resign over allegations of sexual harassment, some people close to his grandnephew, Michigan Sen. Ian Conyers, have been asking a different question: When is the time for the 29-year-old to seriously consider running if there is a special election?

Apparently that time is now.

Reached by BuzzFeed News, Ian Conyers said he was focused on his re-election campaign for state Senate, but had given serious thought to running for his great uncle’s seat.

Ian Conyers

“If he resigns or retires, I will run for the seat,” he said. "The work of representing the working families must continue.”

The news comes amid increased uncertainty over what the elder Conyers, who is 88, will do following allegations, first reported by BuzzFeed News, that he sexually harassed women in his orbit, including an accuser, Marion Brown, who said in a televised interview that Conyers had "violated my body." Conyers has denied any allegation of sexual harassment, though he did confirm that he had reached a settlement with one woman, while denying the underlying allegations.

Conyers’ attorney on Friday struck a slightly less strident tone in discussing his client’s future than he has in previous days.

"We will discuss in the next day or so what Mr. Conyers plans to do," the attorney, Arnold Reed, said at a press conference Friday. “As you know his health is not the best, is not what it should be, he has undergone a second round of examinations. I will meet and confer with doctors and it will be Congressman John Conyers who will be the one to decide what it is he’s going to do.”

On Thursday, Ian Conyers hosted a kickoff reception for his re-election campaign in Detroit. A former Democratic Party treasurer for Michigan's 13th Congressional District, Conyers was a regional field director for Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign and is considered one of the rising stars in Michigan Democratic politics.

While it still may not be certain whether Conyers will resign or retire, colleagues have said that much of his fate lies with his constituents; the Congressional Black Caucus has said that choosing to retire is his decision to make, though some Democrats in Congress have said that he should resign.

“Nothing will happen to Conyers if his constituents have their way,” Joe DiSano, a Michigan-based Democratic strategist, told BuzzFeed News. “They love him. When Conyers becomes a burden to his colleagues is when he hits the bricks. Of course, more revelations about other members may make this seem tame by next week. This is just the first shot. Certainly, more to come.”

Trump Wants The Mueller Investigation Over By New Year's. It Won't Be.


Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty on Friday to making false statements, but his sentencing is being delayed while he cooperates — a sign that the special counsel probe won't be over by the end of the year, contrary to President Donald Trump's reported predictions.

Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the FBI in January. As part of the plea deal Flynn reached with special counsel Robert Mueller's office, Flynn agreed to cooperate with the government, with the understanding that if he's helpful, prosecutors will ask the judge to consider a reduced sentence.

Flynn agreed to delay his sentencing until his cooperation is complete. When asked by the judge on Friday how much time the government wanted before they filed an update with the court, the special counsel prosecutor suggested three months — which would go into March 2018. The judge, however, set a due date of Feb. 1 for a status report.

The 2018 date undermines assertions by both Trump and White House lawyer Ty Cobb in recent weeks that Mueller's probe would finish and Trump would be exonerated by the end of the 2017 or, per Cobb, by the end of the year or soon after, as reported by the Washington Post. It's not even guaranteed that Flynn's cooperation will end by Feb. 1 — that's just the date when prosecutors have to update the court. The government could then ask for more time.

Cobb said in a statement on Friday that, "The conclusion of this phase of the Special Counsel's work demonstrates again that the Special Counsel is moving with all deliberate speed and clears the way for a prompt and reasonable conclusion.”

The White House this fall has downplayed the anticipated duration of the special counsel's work. When the first round of charges stemming from Mueller's office were announced in late October — against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, Manafort's longtime associate Rick Gates, and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that they expected the probe to "conclude soon."

But at that point, there were indications that the investigation was far from over. At a sealed plea hearing for Papadopoulos on Oct. 5 — he pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements — special counsel prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky described the investigation as "large-scale" and said that Papadopoulos' case was "a small part," according to a transcript.

A sentencing date hasn't been set yet for Papadopoulos. Zelinsky said at the Oct. 5 hearing that Papadopoulos was cooperating with the investigation, and his plea deal, like Flynn's, includes a section stating that his sentencing may be delayed while he's working with Mueller's team. The lawyers are scheduled to check in with the court by phone on Jan. 22.

Flynn agreed to "cooperate fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly" with Mueller's office and other law enforcement authorities on "any and all matters" that the special counsel's office considers relevant. His cooperation could include interviews, giving written statements, taking a polygraph exam, and participating in undercover law enforcement activities, according to the plea agreement.

He's required to turn over evidence of any crimes that he's aware of, and to testify before grand juries or at trial if the special counsel's office believes he has relevant testimony.

Mark Lee, a white collar defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, said that with a cooperator as high up in the chain as Flynn, Mueller's team will be taking the time to make sure they've learned all they can from him, as well as to consult with him on any information they're getting from interviews with other individuals and other evidence.

"You are going to have to do all of your diligence to make sure you're checking what Mr. Flynn knew against what other witnesses told you, the other information, and objective evidence," Lee said. "It could be a lengthy process."

The Justice Department Goes To The Supreme Court To Keep DACA Documents Secret


Chris Geidner/BuzzFeed

The Justice Department filed two requests at the Supreme Court late Friday, asking the justices to stop a lower court ruling that ordered the federal government to compile and turn over documents regarding the decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in a lawsuit challenging that decision.

The Trump administration is pushing back against lower court orders that it says would force the Trump administration to turn over "deliberative and other privileged materials, including White House documents covered by executive privilege."

The lawsuits opposing Trump's action were filed by the University of California; the states of California, Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota; the city of San Jose, California; the county of Santa Clara, California; a union; and several individuals.

Justice Anthony Kennedy requested a response to the Justice Department's filings by 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6.

The latest Trump administration fight at the Supreme Court comes out of Acting Homeland Security Department Sec. Elaine Duke's September decision to end DACA on March 5, 2018.

Several lawsuits were filed challenging the action, and they are being heard by US District Judge William Alsup. In October, Alsup issued an order agreeing with the challengers that the administrative record compiled by the Justice Department as required under the Administrative Procedure Act was incomplete. That order required the federal government to prepare additional documentation to complete the record.

The Justice Department asked the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to block Alsup's order. Although the 9th Circuit issued a temporary stay while it considered the request, it ultimately denied the Justice Department's request in a 2-1 decision on Nov. 16 — over one judge's dissenting opinion.

On Nov. 20, the district court granted the federal government additional time — until noon, Dec. 22 — to compile and file the expanded administrative record required under the earlier order.

Terry McAuliffe's Dead-Serious Advice For Democrats: Have Some Fun!


There’s a joke about Terry McAuliffe. He made it up himself.

“Lot of history here,” he’ll tell guests at the Virginia Executive Mansion. “Our first governor, Patrick Henry. Our second governor, Thomas Jefferson. And now” — he pauses, and by this point he’s already smiling — “TERRY MCAULIFFE! Is this not a great country we live in?!”

Somehow, you don’t need to know everything about the Virginia governor, or his life in politics, to understand the unlikely comedy of his name on a list with an American revolutionary and a Founding Father. But if there is something improbable, even innately funny, about McAuliffe in statewide elected office, the governor doesn’t just know it — he’s laughing along. He’s in on the joke. “Mika! Mika! Mika!” he yells to Mika Brzezinski at the end of a hit on Morning Joe. “I want to say one thing to Mika. Think of this tonight when you go to bed, Mika! Our first governor, Patrick Henry…” And just like that, before 9 a.m., he’s cracking himself up on live TV.

For a long time, there was one story about Terry McAuliffe, and it went something like this: record-breaking fundraiser, Bill Clinton’s best friend, fixture of Washington, wealthy by way of business by way of politics (screw optics!), an all-out all-the-time Democratic Party chairman who never napped, hardly slept, always had fun. It started, perhaps, in Syracuse, N.Y., at age six, when he worked his first fundraiser for his father. (“Terry,” he told his son, “if they don’t give you the money, they don’t get in the door!”) Or maybe it was in 1980s Washington, where he said he made as many as 100 calls a day, many on a clunky cell phone, driving through the city in his windowless, open-air Jeep. By the end of the Clinton administration, he was known as a man who could charm any donor and would do anything for a check. (See: wrestling an alligator for $15,000 from the Florida Seminole tribe.) (Also see: selling Clinton inaugural memorabilia on QVC.) His nickname, “the Macker,” became a kind of onomatopoeic shorthand for the fundraiser and political operative he embodied: a backslapper, a glad-hander, a man who loved the game and didn’t pretend otherwise; who got along with people like Bill Clinton because “to us,” he once said, “the glass isn’t half-full, it’s overflowing”; and who named his memoir, of all things, What A Party! — “because the bottom line is that you gotta have fun in life!”

In 2017, at age 60, Terry McAuliffe is “his excellency, the 72nd governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” He is a leader in the party, Governing magazine’s Public Official of the Year, popular in his state. He will leave office in fewer than 50 days as a possible presidential candidate. He is seen as both the most progressive governor in Virginia history and the best in economic development, racking up a record-breaking $18.7 billion in new capital. This summer in Charlottesville, he found himself at the center of a national inflection point, when he told white supremacist and neo-Nazi protesters what President Donald Trump would not. (“There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”) He has surrounded himself with a team of political operatives and informal advisers, including top aides from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. And last month, voters in Virginia elected his hand-picked successor, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, a candidate who once said that when “people ask me if I am going to continue what Terry McAuliffe has been doing,” his answer is nothing less than this: “Damn right, I am!”

There are obvious differences between McAuliffe’s last four years and the previous 40. He’s got all the trappings of high office now (the title, the black car, the helicopter). His accent, an indefinable Syracuse-southern-folk drawl, is perhaps more Virginian than before: final Rs and Gs are dropped (it’s “hurtin’,” never “hurting”), long Is and short As are drawn-out into new vowels (“ecaahnomy,” not “economy”). And day to day, the requirements of the job itself mark a significant shift for McAuliffe: Before the Charlottesville press conference, his most well-known TV appearance would have been on Morning Joe, in June 2008, when he celebrated Hillary Clinton’s primary win in Puerto Rico by wearing a Hawaiian shirt and hoisting a handle of Bacardi on air.

But in more moments than not, today’s governor looks and sounds just like the Macker.

The fundraiser who said he’d “stop at nothing to try to get a check from you” now spends his time courting business to the state with the same vigor. The chairman who led the party as its “chief cheerleader” now heads one long continuous pep rally for Virginia. The entrepreneur who started an estimated 30 companies — maybe simply because of an impulse to, as he once said, “have 25 balls in the air at the same time” — is still trailed by headlines about his business dealings.

"People want to be with winners. They don’t want to be with whiners."

And the man who described his “bottom line” as “you gotta have fun” leads the state with the same management style. To McAuliffe, it’s not just “fun.” It’s a philosophy for governing.

“You want to move people with you? You’ve got to have fun doing it,” McAuliffe says in an interview, seated on the back patio of the Executive Mansion. “People want to be with winners. They don’t want to be with whiners. Too many lemon-suckers in this business!”

The approach, to the surprise of many who would have never predicted McAuliffe in statewide office, has translated to a distinct economic message and legislative wins in a state that is trending liberal but still controlled by a Republican assembly. Yet it also makes him, then and now, an embodiment of the very thing many progressives have rejected over the last few years: an establishment insider; a creature of Washington; a pro-business, corporate dealmaker; a Democrat known perhaps best of all as a loyal Clintonite, all at a time when Bill Clinton’s legacy is under new scrutiny and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign continues to divide the party.

But if you ask McAuliffe, he will tell you he’s found a “template” for the rest of the party. And if you ask the inner rungs of his rolodex — a loyal circle of friends, former aides, and donors now eyeing his future in a possible presidential race — they will return again and again to the same point: that the qualities that made him a great fundraiser are the same ones that have helped him find success as governor, and set him apart in substance and style.

To start, they say, he may be the only guy in Democratic politics still having any fun.

Courtesy LIFE Magazine

On a Saturday afternoon this summer, a small troop of volunteers assembles in the Washington suburb of McLean, Va., ready to canvass the neighborhood for Ralph Northam. Near the front of the living room, a supporter is running through instructions: “So when we're knocking on a door,” she tells the group, “I'll just quickly go through the script with you—”

All at once, the presentation comes to a halt, get-out-the-vote scripts are put aside, and the living room's collective center of gravity shifts as Terry McAuliffe lets himself in through the front door and pops into view, his voice booming. “Hey! HEY! Hello, everybody! How you all doing today! Good crowd! How are you! Great to see you again! How ya been! How you doin' everybody! Fired up! Yeah! We got a whole crowd here!"

“People like me because I'm a man of the people," he once said, “a hustler.”

The next day, McAuliffe blasts into a small conference room, late for a bill signing. He circles the table for hellos. In the back, a woman turns to her friend: “He must have, like, five energy drinks a day.” Later that week, he joins tribe leaders at the Mattaponi Pow Wow in West Point, Va. After the official ceremony, intricately dressed performers move into the reservation circle, dancing in tight, coordinated movements. Suddenly, McAuliffe darts back into the circle, jogging in place, clapping to his own quick rhythm while the Mattaponi drums beat slowly behind him. “Alright," an aide says, chasing after him, "I guess we're going dancing again."

This is how the governor enters a room: in a whirlwind, tearing through it, jolting the people around him awake. This particular week was a normal one for McAuliffe: 51 events across Virginia, plus a quick trip to New York.

McAuliffe has always moved at a pace of "one thousand miles an hour," as he put it in 1998. “People like me because I'm a man of the people," he once said, “a hustler.” His approach is all-out to the point of extravagance. At the age of 14, he started his own driveway sealing business and built it into a small empire. (“I used to make my mother answer the phone, ‘McAuliffe’s Driveway Maintenance.’”) His classmates at Bishop Ludden Junior-Senior High School elected him president in 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. As a senior, McAuliffe mounted a bid for student body president. On the day candidates made their pitch, he and his friends borrowed two golf carts, stuck police lights on top, dressed up in trench coats and sunglasses like Secret Service agents, and, lights flashing, came flying into the Bishop Ludden auditorium to the sound of Hail to the Chief. “The place was going berserk,” says Duke Kinney, one of McAuliffe’s best friends since kindergarten. “Behind our school was this big hill called Hawk's Hill. And Terry finishes his speech with, 'If it takes a keg of beer on a Friday night up on Hawk's Hill to win this election, I'll sponsor the keg of beer!’” (“He won that in a landslide,” Kinney says.)

As a young fundraiser, he’d tell his deputies to “scorch the earth!” and “be animals!” He’d call donors every year on their birthdays. He’d send drugstore valentines every Feb. 14. When he started to work on his memoir, McAuliffe’s co-author, Steve Kettman, ended up moving into the family’s guest house for weeks at a time just to keep up with the pace. (“He didn’t sleep for like a year,” McAuliffe says of Kettman. “He hated it! But he had fun!”)

Staffers who have served as McAuliffe’s body man, trailing him each day from early morning to late evening, can’t recall him ever taking a nap. More often than not, they say, on long car rides or flights back to Washington, they’d be the ones asleep. “We had a game where he would find my seat, write a card that said, ‘You're an embarrassment,’ put that in my lap, and then take a picture of it and send it to the entire DNC,” says Justin Paschal, his former body man and longtime close aide.

“Few people work harder than me,” McAuliffe says now. “I will out-work you.”

The job of governor, as he sees it, is a “perfect” fit for his personality, work ethic, and affinity for executive roles. “I'm happy doing whatever I'm doing. I really am.” But governor — "it's the perfect job for me. Most people will say, 'This is the perfect job for Terry.'" He couldn’t be a U.S. senator or a member of Congress, he says. “I could never do it. It’s just not who I am. I know who I am. I don’t mean it negatively. It’s just I like executive roles."

But governor — "it's the perfect job for me. Most people will say, 'This is the perfect job for Terry.'"

The approach has helped him rack up some high-profile achievements, which he will list for you in rapid succession: a long battle to restore voting rights for 206,000 felons; a four-year campaign to court $20 billion in new capital; a series of investments in education, childhood hunger, and cybersecurity. At the canvass kick-off in McLean, he quickly launches into a speech about his tenure, punctuating every other point with his own system of exclamations: “Folks!” he says. “Truly historic!” “Truly, truly extraordinary!"

"You know the numbers!" he says.

You will hear dozens of them in a Terry McAuliffe stump speech, which is not so much a speech as a list of personal benchmarks, curated by the governor and his staff: stats, achievements, and special designations that might apply to McAuliffe ("most traveled governor in America!"), his administration ("most vetoes" in state history, and not one overridden by Republicans!), and his policy efforts (more voting rights restored than under "any administration in the history of the United States of America, folks!"). McAuliffe seeks out these distinctions, asking his staff to research and vet and verify each one. “Before I’m allowed to say it, these guys have to fact-check it,” McAuliffe says. If he is the first governor to visit some far-flung part of the state, aides clip and save the coverage in the local papers. “Eighty, 90, 100 events now,” McAuliffe says. “We enjoy it… We love it!”

No distinction is too small. This is “Gov. Superlative,” says Brian Coy, a longtime aide.

McAuliffe holds his notes before delivering at the First Baptist Church in Charlottesville after the white supremacist march and subsequent violence in August.

Win Mcnamee / Getty Images

McAuliffe gets worked up about nearly every aspect of the job. Routine bill signings are "great!" — "really great!" Speeches (he gives about six to eight a day) always get “a little flavor.” Every vetoed Republican bill is a mark in the W column. "They can't beat me on the vetoes!” he says. "We had one of my favorite Democratic senators, a new one — the [Republican] leader went to him and said, Please give me one vote. I just want to beat the guy once.” Even McAuliffe’s failures are “spectacular” — namely, his five attempts to push Medicaid expansion through a Republican legislature. He’s made a habit out of mentioning the defeat. “The one thing I’ve tried — and I apologize, I’ve been a spectacular failure at it — is getting Medicaid expansion done,” he tells the crowd in McLean. “It hasn’t been for want of tryin’.” His point, he explains later, is that “I work my heart out. People fail in life, you know? And admit it! But you tried.” (McAuliffe plans to make a sixth attempt in his final budget as governor, hoping that last month’s sweep of down-ballot Democratic wins may convince GOP lawmakers to bend.)

For Republicans like Emmett Hanger, a 69-year-old who has served for more than three decades in the General Assembly, the governor’s style is “always out there,” he says after a pause. “He tends to be just borderline flamboyant. But, yeah... he’s fun to work with.”

This is perhaps most true when McAuliffe is entertaining at the Executive Mansion, a blonde brick Federal-style building that sits atop a sweep of lawn in downtown Richmond. It’s not unusual for the governor and his wife to host two receptions in one night. He will happily give you a tour of the house, bounding up the stairs — two steps at a time — to show off this painting or that architectural feature. On the first floor, the bar has become a permanent fixture, lined with gleaming bottles of vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, and liqueur. A kegerator sits in the back corner. The handle is engraved with his name. Music fills the room via Pandora stations like “Jimmy Buffett Radio” and “Happy Hipster Holiday.”

On this particular night, the day after his McLean visit, McAuliffe gives a typical welcome to a delegation visiting from out of state: “I'm the only governor to install his own kegerator over here,” he tells them. “Take advantage! We've got Stone IPA in there! I just opened our 199th craft brewery! Three hundred wineries now here in Virginia, believe it or not! We just moved into fifth place: California, Oregon, Washington, New York. I don't count New York — they use their grapes for jam. We don't do that," he says, and the room laughs along. “We're movin' to number one! Forty-six distilleries! Eight varieties of oysters! Virginia's for lovers! You get it!"

“Alright," he finally yells.

"Crank up the music now!”

McAuliffe cheers as Hillary Clinton takes the stage at the DNC in 2016.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP / Getty Images

Trump Just Endorsed A Senate Candidate Accused Of Child Molestation


Joe Buglewicz / Getty Images

President Trump, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women, has endorsed Judge Roy Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers, in the Alabama race for US Senate.

After weeks of less than full-throated support, Trump endorsed Judge Roy Moore on Monday, according to Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah. The support was announced following a "positive call" between the president and Moore, Shah said.

Trump had tweeted Monday morning that Republicans "need" Moore to win in order to get his vote on issues including the border wall, military, and abortion.

Judge Moore tweeted Monday afternoon about the call, saying that the president had said he "needs a fighter to help in the US Senate."

Following allegations of sexual misconduct against the judge, including an instance in which a woman said he undressed and touched her inappropriately when she was 14 years old, the president had previously defended Moore from criticism, citing his denials.

"He says it didn’t happen,” the president had told reporters. “You have to listen to him, also.”

But Trump had stopped short of endorsing the candidate until Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, and many other top Republicans have previously said they believe the women who have accused Moore of misconduct and called on him to drop out of the race.

The special election is slated for Dec. 12.

Supreme Court Allows Trump's Third Try At A Travel Ban To Go Into Effect


Chris Geidner/BuzzFeed

The Supreme Court on Monday issued an order allowing President Trump's third travel ban to fully go into effect for now.

The court's move puts two lower court rulings on hold that had halted parts of the September travel ban proclamation from taking effect. It means the Trump administration can fully implement the travel ban order — which includes Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen — while the appeals of those lower court rulings are heard later this week.

The justices noted, however, that "we expect that the Court of Appeals will render its decision with appropriate dispatch" — suggesting a desire for the appeals courts to move quickly.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor noted that they would have denied the Justice Department's requests.

The September proclamation followed two earlier executive orders by Trump to put a travel ban in place. Both — the first was signed in January and the second in March — faced significant opposition from the courts, leading to a review over the summer that the Trump administration asserts is the basis for the September proclamation.

Trump signed the administration's third attempt at a travel ban on Sept. 24. It imposed broad travel restrictions on five majority-Muslim countries that had been included under previous travel ban executive orders — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — as well as three new countries, Chad, Venezuela and North Korea. The restrictions on Venezuela were limited to certain government officials and their families. Unlike Trump's earlier orders, the September proclamation date has no expiration date; Trump has the power to decide whether to lift or add restrictions.

Neither North Korea nor Venezuela had been included in the lower court injunctions putting the proclamation on hold, so those bans already had been in effect before Monday's order.

Zoe Tillman contributed to this report.

The RNC’s Silent Decision To Back Roy Moore Again — And How It Upset Everyone


Roy Moore campaigns last month.

Joe Buglewicz / Getty Images

The Republican National Committee’s renewed support for Roy Moore comes with a peculiar caveat: No one at the RNC is actually defending the decision publicly.

The news broke late Monday, via Breitbart, the far-right website that never wavered in its support for Moore, even after accusations that the Alabama Senate candidate dated teenage girls as an adult and made sexual advances on a minor. Moore denies the allegations.

RNC officials subsequently confirmed the move to BuzzFeed News and others on the condition that they not be identified in the stories. On Tuesday — as the national party took a beating for the decision — including from many fellow Republicans, the RNC remained silent. Several RNC committee members acknowledged frustrations but would not speak on the record. Senior party leaders punted questions to spokespersons who declined to comment.

“Oh man,” said a source close to the RNC. “It’s embarrassing.”

The silence, several GOP sources speculated, is reflective of tensions between the RNC and the White House, and of staffers being uncomfortable attaching their names to a man accused of improper behavior with teens. Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel cut off Moore from the party’s fundraising and field operations last month. She did so after consulting with President Donald Trump and after the National Republican Senatorial Committee dumped Moore. But Trump offered an unequivocal endorsement of Moore on Monday. The RNC, which acts as the political arm of the White House, is essentially following Trump’s lead.

"I think it's further proof that Trump is remaking the party in his own image,” one Senate staffer told BuzzFeed News. “Which is exactly what I predicted would happen when he got elected. Elected Republicans in Congress have little (if any) leverage over him and principled conservatives have very little (if any) left of the party we once belonged to.”

A former RNC official called the decision “disappointing, frustrating, and gutless.”

“My immediate reaction was, are you kidding me?” the former official said. “I just think it makes them look foolish and indecisive. I think it’s ridiculous. It’s just bad for credibility. It’s a bad move. You have to make decisions and stick with them. The fact is, nothing has changed. If there had been a development that exonerates Moore, that’d be one thing, but there hasn’t been.”

The first on-the-record acknowledgement of the RNC’s involvement came Tuesday afternoon, in a statement emailed on behalf of Alabama Republican Party Chairwoman Terry Lathan: "The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, has contacted us and confirmed that the RNC is transferring funds to the Alabama Republican Party for the Roy Moore campaign for the December 12 US Senate election. We are grateful for the RNC's partnership with the ALGOP in this race.”

Some Republicans see the overall decision as a frank admission of reality: Moore’s poll numbers have rebounded, and he seems likely to win the Dec. 12 special election against Democrat Doug Jones. If he wins, Republicans who have spent the past weeks attacking him will have to deal with him in their ranks, like it or not. On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who initially called on Moore to step aside and threatened expulsion hearings should he win and be seated, took a milder approach, acknowledging that the decision was in the hands of voters.

"It's Moore's race to lose," Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican who does not support Moore, told reporters Tuesday at the Capitol. "I've always thought he would win the race."

As for Trump, “the president's interested in keeping 52 votes up here,” Shelby said. “I'd like to, too. But a lot of us have different views on it, you know."

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Tuesday that the organization has no plans to follow the RNC’s lead and resume support for Moore. Chris Pack, a spokesperson for the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, told BuzzFeed News that operatives there would follow the NRSC’s lead in Alabama.

Among other issues, Washington Republicans also worry about the political toll a Moore victory could take on GOP lawmakers up for reelection next year. “Fast forward eight to ten months, when every House and Senate Republican accepting help from the RNC will have to answer questions from their opponent on why they’re taking funding from the organization that carried Roy Moore over the finish line in Alabama,” said Jeff Sadosky, a Republican strategist who has worked for George W. Bush, John McCain, Rob Portman, and others.

An Alabama Republican on Capitol Hill agreed: "Every Senate Republican up [in the 2018 midterms] is going to get attacked with ads featuring Roy Moore in a cowboy hat waving a gun. The RNC just made it that much harder for Senators to distance themselves from him."

Others wondered about the hypocrisy in the RNC reinvesting in Moore shortly after pushing Democrats to return donations from movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, whom many women have recently accused of sexual assault or harassment. But Tim Miller, a former RNC spokesperson who was involved in anti-Trump efforts during last year’s election, noted that Trump faced accusations of repeated sexual misconduct and nonetheless enjoyed the RNC’s support.

“They made their bed with Trump,” Miller said. “Now they have to lie in it.”

Donald Trump's Allies Are Going To Run Ads For His Biggest Republican Critics


Sens. John McCain (left) and Jeff Flake.

Alex Wong / Getty Images

A nonprofit advocacy group loyal to Donald Trump is spending money to praise two of the president’s most prominent Republican adversaries: Jeff Flake and John McCain.

America First Policies will air TV ads to thank the two Arizona senators, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, for supporting the tax overhaul bill that cleared the Senate last week.

The legislation is a key agenda item for the White House and GOP-controlled Congress. Full approval by the end of the year would give Trump his first major legislative win.

"We wanted to thank Senators McCain, Flake, and Collins for putting politics aside and doing the right thing for the people of Arizona and Maine — and the country,” America First President Brian O. Walsh said. "Their vote for the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act will pave the way for the largest tax cut in decades."

A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News that America First will spend roughly $500,000 on the ad campaign.

The move is a surprise olive branch from Trump's allies. Flake has been highly critical of Trump’s politics and demeanor and announced in October that he would not seek reelection next year. (On Tuesday, though, he talked trade with Trump during lunch at the White House.)

“The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is a historic and, I believe, profoundly misguided,” Flake said from the Senate floor when announcing his retirement.

Polls had shown Flake facing a tough race if he chose to seek another term. Trump and his former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, had made supportive overtures to other Republicans interested in a primary challenge.

McCain also has been an object of Trump’s ire. In September, his "no" vote helped sink a Trump-backed measure to overhaul Obamacare. And during last year's presidential campaign, Trump diminished McCain's Vietnam War heroics, saying he liked "people who weren't captured."

Like Flake and McCain, Collins is one of her party’s more independent-minded senators. But she also recently announced she would not run for governor of Maine next year and is up for reelection in 2020 in a state where Trump hasn't done poorly.

The Supreme Court Just Debated Whether Ruling For A Christian Baker Would Undermine Its Landmark Marriage Decision


Jack Phillips

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Justice Anthony Kennedy is again at the center of debate over a major case about gay rights, as a closely divided Supreme Court heard arguments over whether a Colorado baker can be forced under state antidiscrimination laws to provide a cake for a gay couple’s wedding.

The baker, Jack Phillips, is a Christian who opposes same-sex couples’ marriages and refused to make a wedding cake for Charlie Craig and David Mullins, a gay couple. Phillips runs Masterpiece Cakeshop with his wife, and they were found to have violated Colorado’s public accommodations law, which bars sexual-orientation discrimination.

On Tuesday, Masterpiece Cakeshop, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom and backed by the US government, faced off against Craig and Mullins, represented by the ACLU, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in nearly 90 minutes of arguments. The justices asked extensive questions about just who and what qualifies as artistic expression — and when that merits exemption from civil rights laws.

At its most basic level, Masterpiece Cakeshop and the US government argue that the First Amendment protects creative people from being forced to create things that “inherently” send a message if they oppose that message. On the other side, the ACLU and Colorado argue that public accommodations laws are “content-neutral” and should apply to everyone — no exceptions.

For his part, Kennedy expressed discomfort with the idea that broad consequences could flow from a decision in favor of the baker, effectively watering down the exercise of the marriage right established in 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges. At the same time, he later also called it “too facile” to suggest that all opposition to same-sex couples’ marriages should be considered anti-gay discrimination.

When Kristen Waggoner, the lawyer for Masterpiece Cakeshop, said that she was not arguing for a decision that would allow a baker to ban a gay couple from purchasing an off-the-shelf cake, Kennedy pressed her on the point and asked why not? “Didn’t he express himself when he made it?"

The question was the first of many about the difficult line-drawing that would be involved in any decision favoring the baker. Waggoner answered that such a situation wouldn’t be covered because “his speech has been completed” in that situation before the customer appeared — but other hypotheticals about who would be exempted from the antidiscrimination law and the extent of the exemption led to less definitive answers.

Looking at the range of potential exemptions to nondiscrimination laws that could be argued for under a ruling for the baker, Kennedy mused at one point, "It means that there's basically an ability to boycott gay marriages."

Charlie Craig, left, and Dave Mullins

Alex Wong / Getty Images

On the other side, though, the justice expressed concern to Colorado Solicitor General Frederick Yarger about whether Colorado and the commission have shown “hostility to religion” based on their actions — a detour picked up by Kennedy’s more conservative colleagues.

“Tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual,” Kennedy said pointedly to Yarger, who responded that the legislative record for Colorado’s public accommodations law shows that Colorado spent significant time considering the legislation and the views of religious people before passage, including an exemption for places of worship.

When Kennedy questioned whether opposition to same-sex couples’ marriages could always be considered a type of sexual orientation discrimination, the ACLU’s David Cole responded that the court had faced a similar question in a 1983 case relating to Bob Jones University’s then-existing ban on interracial dating or marriage. Cole said, “[T]his court said that's race discrimination.” Ultimately, Cole argued, "I don't think you can carve out exceptions ... to a content-neutral regulation of public accommodation sales in the retail context." Essentially, he argued that these kinds of laws are not meant to have exceptions.

Masterpiece Cakeshop and the US government pointed to a different case — the 1995 decision that allowed a private group to ban a gay contingent from its St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Suggesting that the case is "the flip side" of the parade case, US Solicitor General Noel Francisco said, “We don’t think you can force a speaker to join the parade.”

That question ultimately could decide the case: Is baking a cake participating in the wedding in a way that sends a message — equivalent to marching in the parade — or not?

The ACLU’s Cole thinks not. He responded to Francisco’s argument: “No one is suggesting that the baker has to march in the parade,” and adding that, by way of example, “No one thinks the baker is wishing [someone] happy birthday” when a person buys a birthday cake.

As Kennedy sought out answers to his questions — often focused on the dignity of people on both sides of the case — his colleagues pressed the lawyers on scenarios that could be affected by the eventual decision in Tuesday’s case.

Minutes into the argument, Justice Elena Kagan pondered whether a hair stylist, like a baker, is also creating expressive speech for a wedding that could be refused.

"Why is there no speech in creating a wonderful hairdo?" Kagan asked. "The makeup artist? It's called an artist. It's the makeup artist."

Waggoner said she was not aiming to encompass the work of stylists as protected speech, but the baker's recusal should be protected.

"I'm quite serious, actually, about this," Kagan responded, echoing a sentiment from the court's more liberal justices who had joined Kennedy in ruling for same-sex couples in 2015 that it would be difficult to corral a ruling for Masterpiece Cakeshop in such a way that it doesn't allow creeping forms of discrimination. She raised the possibility of a tailor or a chef who, saying their work is artistic, might wish to refuse to fit a dress or craft a meal for a same-sex couple's event.

Waggoner walked a fine line between saying she wanted a ruling for her client but not a decision that creates a slippery slope, thereby possibly eroding civil rights laws for other classes of people or protecting an endless type of service providers. And yet, she sought a decision open-ended enough that other creative businesses that sell wedding services could turn away same-sex couples. Waggoner drew this line by insisting she wasn't asking to protect tailors and chefs, for example, but rather the baker's cake, which is inherently a message.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned why — even if there is a line to be drawn — the cake baker should be on the exempted side of the line. "The primary purpose of a food of any kind is to be eaten," she said. "There are sandwich artists," she said, but a sandwich-maker does't claim to create a First Amendment-protected lunch.

Kagan synthesized the these scenarios into three "axes" of questioning, each one exploring how ruling for the baker opens further questions in a different direction. Many questions centered around which sort of business would be afforded the right to refuse service, and at what point their wares became a constitutionally protected form of expression. "A second axis is, well, why is this only about gay people?” she said, touching on questions about how a ruling could apply to racial discrimination, sex discrimination, or even, as raised at one point, disability discrimination. "Why isn't it about race?" Finally, she questioned how a decision could be confined solely to products for weddings. "What else counts?" Kagan asked — saying a funeral, bar mitzvah, or birthday could be affected.

"So there are all three of these that suggest like, whoa, this doesn't seem like such a small thing," Kagan concluded.

Justice Samuel Alito seemed to offer Waggoner an opening by suggesting that something functional that also has the artistry of fine architecture qualifies as expressive. But Waggoner objected on that point, saying architecture didn't meet the bar.

Justice Stephen Breyer seized on the stumble, quickly pondering how strange it would be to protect “this cake baker” but not, for example, Michelangelo's centuries-old architectural feats in Italy.

DOJ’s Francisco had his own scenarios, saying the law should not compel a black sculptor to fashion a cross for white supremacist klansmen. Nor, he said, should a gay opera singer be forced to perform for the notoriously anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church.

From the more conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts tried to put limits on how far a religious-based organization must go if it provides some form of public accommodation. He twice invoked a possible Catholic legal assistance firm, asking if such a group — which generally provides legal support that isn’t religious in nature — should still, then, be required to violate its beliefs by assisting a same-sex couple.

Roberts asked if the hypothetical Catholic group "would have to provide representative services to someone who had a similar problem in connection with a same-sex marriage?"

Frederick Yarger, the solicitor general for the state of Colorado, which is representing the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, said yes — if the Catholic group provides the same service to different-sex couples.

Highlighting the line-drawing question, Breyer bluntly stated at one point: "We can't have 42,000 cases, each kind of vegetable that the preparer thinks is something special." He concluded that if the court were to rule for Masterpiece Cakeshop, it would have to provide some clarity about how to approach the broad range of similar types of cases — suggesting that limiting a ruling to cake or making it wholly open-ended is untenable for the court.

Emails Show The Support Sally Yates Got From Within DOJ For Her Stand Against Trump's Travel Ban


Eric Thayer / Getty Images

Internal Justice Department emails released on Tuesday by a conservative watchdog group shed new light on the support that former acting attorney general Sally Yates got from within the department after she announced that she wouldn't defend President Donald Trump's first travel ban in January.

Judicial Watch, the group that obtained the messages through a Freedom of Information Act request, is pointing to the cache as proof of anti-Trump bias at the Justice Department — as well as within the special counsel's office investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election.

One of those emails to Yates came from Andrew Weissmann, who at the time was the head of the Justice Department's criminal fraud section and is now a member of special counsel Robert Mueller's team.

Judicial Watch / Via judicialwatch.org

"I am so proud" was the subject line on Weissmann's email to Yates, sent at 9:50 p.m. on Jan. 30. The body of the email read: "And in awe. Thank you so much. All my deepest respects, Andrew Weissmann."

A spokesman for the special counsel's office declined to comment on behalf of the office as well as Weissmann. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement that Weissmann's email was "astonishing and disturbing."

"How much more evidence do we need that the Mueller operation has been irredeemably compromised by anti-Trump partisans?" Fitton said. "Shut it down."

Kathleen Clark, a legal ethics expert at Washington University School of Law, told BuzzFeed News that she didn't think that Weissmann's email presented a conflict of interest with his work on the special counsel's team. Weissmann expressing admiration for Yates was not necessarily evidence of bias, Clark said.

"Weissmann wasn't taking a swipe at Trump," Clark said.

Yates was fired by Trump on Jan. 30 after she announced to Justice Department officials via a one-page memo that she was not convinced that the travel ban executive order that Trump signed on Jan. 27 was lawful. The emails released by Judicial Watch show that messages of support came into her inbox from across the Justice Department throughout the evening. Some of the emails came from US attorneys, while others came from career officials and prosecutors across the country.

Judicial Watch highlighted several of those emails, including one from a DOJ appellate attorney, Jeffrey Clair, who wrote, "Thank you AG Yates. I’ve been in civil/appellate for 30 years and have never seen an administration with such contempt for democratic values and the rule of law. The President’s order is an unconstitutional embarrassment and I applaud you for taking a principled stand against defending it."

Judicial Watch / Via judicialwatch.org

Clair did not respond to a request for comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the emails.

The collection of emails includes messages that establish a clearer timeline of when Yates announced her decision not to defend the travel ban and her subsequent firing.

In an email time-stamped on Jan. 30 at 5:53 p.m., an official forwarded a message from Yates to a group of senior Justice Department officials, who were directed to "make sure that others who are working on these matters are made aware of her direction as well." The email released by Judicial Watch doesn't include an attachment, but the subject line is the same as a message sent 20 minutes later to US attorneys that did include the Yates memo on the travel ban.

Yates herself received an email time-stamped at 9:05 p.m. from White House official John DeStefano, which included as an attachment the notice that Trump was removing her from office. News reports indicate that the notice was hand-delivered to Yates at 9:15 p.m., and she's said in public statements since then that it was her understanding that emails from the White House had bounced back. A White House official told BuzzFeed News that the 9:05 p.m. email was the first notice sent to Yates.

In the days leading up to her firing, the cache shows that in addition to the substantive work of being acting attorney general — reviewing major court cases and fielding calls from stakeholders in and out of government, for instance — Yates was also addressing some of the more mundane tasks associated with settling in as the head of the department. On Jan. 25, she fielded emails about her official portrait. "Thanks so much for doing such a great job and making me feel so comfortable," she wrote to a member of the administrative support staff.

On the afternoon of Jan. 27, a few hours before the White House announced the travel ban executive order, an official asked Yates to weigh in on a plan for how to handle her use of Twitter going forward.

After the travel ban order was signed, she was sent copies of the flurry of emails that came in from lawyers who raced to court to challenge the ban, as well as messages exchanged among DOJ officials about how to handle questions from reporters about whether and to what extent the Justice Department reviewed the travel ban before Trump signed it. Multiple federal courts blocked the first travel ban, and Trump signed two successive travel ban orders that also faced court challenges. The third and latest travel ban is being litigated in several courts; the US Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the ban could take effect as the legal challenges play out.

In the hours after Yates alerted the Justice Department about her position on the first travel ban and after she was fired, messages continued to come in from DOJ attorneys and staff. "I am 100% behind you and your decision today," an assistant US attorney in California wrote her.

Another attorney in Pennsylvania wrote, "God bless you!"

Sen. Al Franken Is Resigning Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations


Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Democratic Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he would resign "in the coming weeks" following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, making him the second member of Congress to say he would leave office this week as revelations about sexual harassment grip Capitol Hill and other industries.

"Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks, I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate," Franken said in a speech on the Senate floor.

"Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently," Franken added.

The allegations, from seven women, date back to as early as 2003, when Franken was still a comedian, to his early years in the Senate, and include claims of unwanted kissing and groping.

On Wednesday, Franken faced growing calls to resign from Senate colleagues after Politico reported that he had allegedly tried to forcibly kiss a Democratic aide in 2006, before he was a senator, and that he told the young woman: "It’s my right as an entertainer." In a statement to Politico, Franken categorically denied the allegation, but several Democratic senators called on him to step down that day, as well as Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez.

"While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve," New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand wrote in a Facebook post.

The first allegation came in mid-November from Los Angeles news anchor Leeann Tweeden, who wrote in a post for KABC radio that while the pair were on a USO tour entertaining US troops in the Middle East, Franken forcibly kissed her and later groped her breasts while she was asleep. Tweeden also shared a photo of the groping incident.

Franken initially cast doubt on Tweeden’s recollection of the rehearsal during which he kissed her, but later issued a more detailed apology and said he would cooperate with a Senate Ethics Committee investigation requested by a bipartisan chorus of senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Since then, more women have come forward with accusations against Franken, who was first elected to the Senate in 2008. Lindsay Menz told CNN Franken grabbed her buttocks while they took a photo together at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two unnamed women subsequently accused Franken of similar behaviour at events during his first Senate run, according to the Huffington Post.

“My immediate reaction was disgust,” one of the women, who met Franken at a Democratic fundraising event in 2008, told the Huffington Post. “But my secondary reaction was disappointment. I was excited to be there and to meet him. And so to have that happen really deflated me.”

The woman also accused Franken of asking her to join him in the bathroom, which Franken denies.

A fifth woman, army veteran Stephanie Kemplin, accused Franken of cupping her breast in 2003 while the two took a photo together in Kuwait, where she was deployed and Franken was performing on another USO tour. And a former elected official in New England, who spoke anonymously to Jezebel, accused Franken of giving her a “wet, open-mouthed kiss” without her consent in 2006.

Franken issued a statement in November saying he had “crossed a line” in his interactions with some women; at the time, only four women had accused him of misconduct.

“I’ve met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations,” Franken said in the statement to the Minnesota Star Tribune. “I’m a warm person; I hug people. I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.

“Some women have found my greetings or embraces for a hug or photo inappropriate, and I respect their feelings about that. I’ve thought a lot in recent days about how that could happen, and recognize that I need to be much more careful and sensitive in these situations. I feel terribly that I’ve made some women feel badly and for that I am so sorry, and I want to make sure that never happens again.”

At a press conference more than a week after the first allegations against him surfaced, Franken apologized for disappointing people and said he felt ashamed — but, when asked about a possible resignation, said he wouldn’t "speculate on that."

"If you had asked me two weeks ago, would any woman come forward with an allegation like this, I would have said 'no,'" Franken said. "This has been a shock, and it's been extremely humbling."

"I am going to work to regain their trust," he said at the time. "I am going to be accountable. We are going to cooperate completely with the ethics investigation."

The accusations against Franken come as lawmakers grapple with growing allegations of sexual misconduct in Congress. Michigan Rep. John Conyers, the longest serving member of the House announced his resignation on Dec. 5, following multiple accusations of sexual harassment and a secret settlement to keep one staffer quiet, as first reported by BuzzFeed News.

BuzzFeed News also reported that a former campaign staffer to Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen left the campaign after the then-candidate allegedly sexually harassed her on multiple occasions. Kihuen has so far resisted calls for his resignation, including from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the chairman of the Democrats’ House campaign committee, Ben Ray Luján.

LINK: Sen. Al Franken Says He'll Cooperate With Investigation Into Allegations He Groped Four Women

LINK: Al Franken Says He'll Be "Accountable" For Sexual Harassment Allegations

LINK: Al Franken Acknowledges His Behavior "Crossed A Line" For Too Many Women

The Bernie–Hillary Unity Commission Is About To Vote On Changing Superdelegates, Caucuses, And More. Here Are The Details.


Lisa Lake / Getty Images

After the contentious primary between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party formed the Unity Reform Commission to make the nominating process more fair. This weekend, after four meetings over the course of seven months, the commission will gather for a final time to vote on recommended changes to the superdelegate system, caucus process, voter registration, and other rules.

The proposals, guided by the commission's official mandate, are significant. Members of the 21-person commission are still finalizing the language in the report they will present this weekend, but Democrats in and around the Unity Reform group say the recommendations would effectively reduce the number of superdelegates by about 60%, require absentee voting and mandatory vote counts in caucuses, encourage states to allow same-day party and voter registration, and set new guidelines at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to prevent conflicts of interest and ensure that the party remains neutral during presidential elections.

Still, even if the Unity Reform Commission votes in favor of the proposals, that doesn't mean the changes are guaranteed. There's still a months-long, somewhat complicated process ahead before a final vote in 2018, cast by the DNC's 447 members. The result will either widen or help shrink the divide between grassroots progressives and the party — one that DNC chair Tom Perez has so far struggled to close.

Here’s what you need to know about the Unity Reform Commission, their proposed changes, and what happens after this weekend.

First, how’d we get here?

The Clinton–Sanders primary was a hard-fought contest of policy and message that few could have predicted: Sanders, a little-known US senator from Vermont and Democratic socialist, mounted a real challenge against Clinton, a candidate with all the donors and endorsements on her side, and he almost won.

The Clinton–Sanders primary will also be remembered as a race that exposed structural flaws in the nominating process and helped ignite a deep and bitter distrust among grassroots progressives toward the DNC and its leadership in Washington.

At points, Sanders campaigned as much against the party as against Clinton, raising questions about the debate process, superdelegate system, and closed primaries. In July 2016, WikiLeaks published hacked emails from the DNC that showed an internal bias against Sanders. By early 2017, as Democrats prepared to elect a new DNC chair, every major candidate agreed that the primary process had been unfair — and required a significant fix.

Enter the Unity Reform Commission.

Clinton and Sanders allies formed the commission at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. Representatives from both camps — led by operatives such as Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, and Charlie Baker, Clinton's chief administrative officer — crafted a two-page resolution to establish the group.

Delegates approved the resolution on the floor of the 2016 convention. The resolution functions as the commission’s “mandate,” outlining specific changes to consider, as well as the process and timetable for making those changes — details hashed out at the convention as a kind of Clinton–Sanders compromise. The recommendations up for a vote this weekend largely reflect what's already in the mandate. This is key when it comes to the final vote in 2018. (More on that below.)

How will the voting work?

The commission will meet this weekend in Washington, DC. On Friday, members will discuss each proposed change, and have the chance to introduce amendments to the final report, Democrats said. Votes will take place on each individual proposal. To pass, they need a simple majority of the 21-member commission, which is made up of appointees chosen by Clinton, Sanders, and Perez. (There is some confusion over whether the co-chairs, Larry Cohen and Jen O'Malley Dillon, will vote. A DNC official said they will. Two Unity Reform Commission members said they will not.)

After the vote, the next step in the process begins.

Based on which recommendations do and do not pass this weekend, the Unity Reform Commission will make revisions to their final report. The report then goes to the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee. The Rules and Bylaws Committee then has six months to put together their own report of sorts — a proposal with specific language to change the rules as they currently exist in the DNC Charter and Bylaws. After that process has concluded, the Unity Reform Commission will review the Rules and Bylaws Committee report and decide if it sufficiently reflects their own report. If they decide it does not, the original Unity Reform Commission report will still go before DNC members for a vote. If they decide it does, then the Rules and Bylaws Committee report alone will go before DNC members for the final vote.

When will the final DNC vote take place?

Probably during the party's fall meeting in 2018. There is a chance the process could conclude sooner, and the vote could take place at the DNC's spring meeting instead. But most Democrats anticipate a fall vote.

At that point, the changes need two-thirds support to pass. That's about 295 DNC members.

The proposed changes fall into four main categories: superdelegates, caucuses, voting, and "party reform."

Clinton in 2016.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

1. The big one: superdelegates.

The superdelegate system has been perhaps the most contentious topic of discussion among members of the Unity Reform Commission. It's also the area where activists and Sanders supporters want to see the biggest change.

Under the current system for choosing a Democratic nominee, candidates compete in primaries and caucuses, amassing a number "pledged delegates" tied to their performance. In 2016, the candidate to hit 2,382 delegates became the nominee. Apart from the delegates decided by voters, usually around 700 people, called superdelegates, get their own unpledged delegate to award to the candidate of their choosing, regardless of voters. Superdelegates are DNC members; Democratic governors, US senators, and members of Congress; and distinguished leaders like former presidents, vice presidents, and party chairs. Their unpledged delegates make up about 30% of the 2,382 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.

The Unity Reform Commission will propose a new system: The superdelegates who are elected officials and distinguished party leaders would remain unpledged delegates. In 2016, that group numbered 280 people, according to Vox. The rest, DNC members (there are 447), would keep the title of superdelegate, but their votes would be bound proportionally to the vote count in their states.

The proposal, outlined by people in and around the commission this week, would effectively eliminate about 60% of superdelegates, though not in name. (As you'll hear some Democrats joke, DNC members want to keep their lanyards.)

The idea is the same one agreed upon and proposed in the 2016 mandate. But the topic was still a source of debate this year among commission members. At the Unity Reform Commission meeting in October, one of the members leading the charge on superdelegates, former Nevada state assembly member Lucy Flores, voiced a concern about creating "two categories" of superdelegates — putting rank-and-file members and activists a step below elected officials. "Those voices should not be treated as any lesser than others," she told other commission members.

2. Caucuses.

Hillary Clinton called them "creatures of the parties' extremes." Bernie Sanders won most of them in 2016. Iowa Democrats, who host the first caucus in the nominating process each year, are dead set on protecting the process. Still, many in the party agree that the caucus system could certainly be improved, particularly to make the process more fair for lesser-known candidates.

The Unity Reform Commission will put forward a few changes.

One is a measure to make total vote counts public. This would benefit candidates who may not meet what's called the "viability threshold" in each caucus, meaning they do not receive support from 15% of caucus attendees and are therefore disqualified, releasing their supporters to go caucus for a different candidate. In 2016, for instance, Martin O'Malley did not receive enough support in many caucuses to meet the viability threshold, so he scored zero delegates. Under the new rule, that wouldn't change, but a vote count would show him with, say, 4% support, perhaps allowing him to point to some success and advance in the race.

Another change the commission is considering: absentee ballots in caucuses. The measure would address perhaps the biggest concerns about the caucus process, which are accessibility and flexibility. If voters can't show up in person to a caucus at the allotted time — because of work or family obligations — they cannot participate in the primary. Caucus absentee ballots are already available in Nebraska's Democratic caucus.

3. Voting Rules.

As of Thursday, Democrats said, there is no language in the Unity Reform Commission report about mandating open primaries, which allow voters to participate in a primary regardless of party registration. But expect to see the commission address concerns about states like New York, which make it difficult for voters to change their party registration at the last minute. Ahead of the 2016 primary there, the deadline was Oct. 9, 2015, almost 200 days before the primary. As Sanders and his aides saw it, they were missing out on a key voting bloc — 27% of eligible voters who had chosen to list themselves as independents and likely missed the registration deadline to participate in the Democratic primary.

The Unity Reform Commission will propose a system to penalize states like this, by docking their number of pledged delegates, should they not adjust deadlines.

Also expect to see language encouraging states to pursue same-day party and voter registration, and to do so through litigation if necessary.

Former interim DNC chair Donna Brazile with her new memoir.

Kamil Krzaczynski / Getty Images

4. "Party Reform."

This category is aimed broadly at making the Democratic National Committee more transparent and fair during presidential elections. Since 2016, the DNC has been a major source of resentment among progressives and Sanders supporters. Donna Brazile, the veteran Democrat who took over as interim DNC chair last year after the WikiLeaks scandal, reignited that fury last month with a new memoir, Hacks, which portrayed the primary as "rigged." In an explosive excerpt released in Politico, Brazile cited a joint fundraising agreement signed between Clinton and the DNC. That agreement gave her campaign some say in hiring and strategic decisions at the DNC before the start of the primary. (Sanders also had a joint fundraising agreement with the DNC, but his did not grant the same authority, nor did his campaign know about the terms of Clinton's agreement, former aides said.)

As such, the Unity Reform Commission has added language to their final report to address joint fundraising agreements, sources said.

They will also tackle another concern raised by Brazile's book: that the same Democratic law firm, Perkins Coie LLP, represented both Clinton's campaign and the DNC, including in matters like joint fundraising agreements. "The nexus here of a single law firm representing both sides of the equation in the Clinton campaign and the DNC — that was completely unethical," former top Sanders aide Mark Longabaugh said after the release of Brazile's memoir. Weaver, the former campaign manager, similarly described the arrangement as an "obvious conflict." Perkins Coie declined to comment on the Brazile book, or the charges from Sanders allies.

Members are looking at a rule change to prohibit vendors and consultants from working for a campaign and the DNC at the same time in scenarios where there might be a "dispute."

So, will the changes actually pass? And will they be enough?

The Democrats involved know the stakes are high. Sanders voters in particular want to see the DNC take meaningful steps toward a fair process. Still, there is precedent for "reform" committees that begin with big promises and ultimately fall short.

The "Democratic Change Commission" — formed under DNC chair Tim Kaine after a drawn-out 2008 primary — moved to make similar changes to the superdelegate system, binding the votes to state results. By the time the proposal got to the Rules Committee, it was dead in the water. (Kaine, Clinton's vice presidential pick last year, said recently that he's "long believed" superdelegates should be eliminated.)

One concern here is that the vote on reducing superdelegates comes down, in the end, to superdelegates themselves — the 447 DNC members who will either vote to strip themselves of power or keep it. But this time around, Unity Reform Commission members are more optimistic. They point to the mandate, which clearly lays out the proposed superdelegate system and was approved by delegates, including DNC members, on the floor of the convention last summer.

As Weaver put it at the last Unity Reform Commission meeting: "This was passed unanimously at the quadrennial Democratic National Convention, the highest authority in the Democratic Party — which means that every superdelegate, including all the DNC members and all the electeds, already voted for this."

Roy Moore Was Nowhere To Be Found On The Last Weekend Of The Alabama Senate Race


Roy Moore at a rare public campaign event

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Roy Moore’s evangelicalism is his calling card, but on the Sunday before the special election that could send him to the Senate, he skipped church.

He didn’t worship at his usual hometown service, which some reporters had staked out in hopes of catching a glimpse or asking a question of the elusive Republican candidate. He didn’t visit any other congregations, either.

“Out of respect for people who want to worship without reporters hanging over their heads gawking, no, he did not attend church this morning,” Moore adviser Brett Doster told BuzzFeed News.

In the final days of a race that has put Alabama under a national political spotlight that doesn’t often shine here, Moore has made himself scarce. He hasn’t held a public event since a Tuesday rally with right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon and isn’t scheduled to return to the campaign trail until Monday evening — for an Election Eve encore with Bannon.

By keeping a low profile, Moore has been able to avoid tough questions about accusations that, as an adult, he made sexual advances on a minor and pursued romantic relationships with other teens. The accusations upended his campaign, turning a race many believed he would win rather easily into a somewhat suspenseful battle with the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones.

Moore has denied the allegations, and polls have shown him rebounding since the initial shock of the Washington Post’s first story. Some suspect his strategy is to sit on a lead and not submit himself to the unpredictability of traditional media events, where reporters would be certain to ask about his past.

“My guess is that they think anything that comes up now is just going to hurt him, and their hard count gives them the confidence to keep it low-key and let their ads carry the day,” said David Mowery, an Alabama political strategist who has worked with Democrats and Republicans. “It’s certainly not conventional, but literally nothing about this election has been conventional.”

Aside from paid advertising, the only sight of Moore this weekend came Sunday on The Voice of Alabama Politics, a show that airs across the state.

“They know I’ve stood for moral values, and so they’re attacking me in that area,” Moore told the program’s host, Bill Britt. “I understand that. But it’s also part of a scheme of political parties today and political candidates in both parties, quite frankly, to degrade your opponent — to take him down so that you appear to go up. And that’s a simple political tactic. Ritual defamation has been around for a long time, and that’s what this is.”

It was a friendly interview. Britt gently questioned Moore about the allegations. When Moore said he did not know any of his accusers, Britt did not press him on the fact that he initially acknowledged he knew at least two of them. At another point, Britt quipped: “Someone asked me the other day, was there a Democrat that I thought could be sent to Alabama that would help Doug Jones, and I said, ‘Not any living ones.’” (Britt and Moore both chuckled at that.)

The observation was timely, as Jones received assists this weekend from several out-of-state Democrats. On Saturday, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick joined him at the historic Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker headlined a rally for Jones that evening at Alabama State University. On Sunday, Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana attended a get-out-the-vote kickoff in Montgomery. The events were aimed at helping boost black turnout, which is seen as essential to the party’s chances of picking up the seat.

“I can’t remember what day we’re in now where Roy Moore is in hiding,” Jones told reporters in Selma. “He comes out only to be seen, kind of like the groundhog, who comes out every so often to see whether or not he sees his shadow.”

The only new Moore development announced as of Sunday afternoon was that Corey Stewart — the right-wing Senate candidate in Virginia known for defending Confederate symbols — would spend the final days of the race assisting Moore’s get-out-the-vote operation in Alabama. And that announcement came from Stewart. (On Twitter, Doster said a volunteer team logged “150,000 real voter contacts on last super Saturday push!”)

One of the campaign's county chairs told Vice News that Moore was in Philadelphia for Saturday's Army–Navy football game. "No," Doster replied Saturday when BuzzFeed News asked about a tip that Moore was at the game.

Asked how Moore spent the weekend, Hannah Ford, his deputy campaign manager, responded with a shot at Jones and at Booker for suggesting Saturday evening that Trump should resign over sexual harassment allegations. "We've got our strategy," Ford said. "Doug Jones has his. We'll see which one Alabama likes better on Tuesday."

The campaign has been emphasizing President Donald Trump’s event Friday night in Pensacola, Florida, not far from the Alabama border and in a TV market that reaches Alabama voters. Trump used a tiny part of his speech to reiterate his unequivocal endorsement for Moore. The president also has taped a last-minute robocall supporting Moore.

Trump won Alabama by an overwhelming margin last year and remains popular in the state.

“It’s not a bad political strategy,” said Andy Surabian, a GOP strategist who works closely with Bannon, “to let President Trump’s rally from Friday be the driving message heading into Tuesday.”

Justices Pass On Deciding If Anti-Gay Workplace Discrimination Is Banned Under Current Law


Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters

The Supreme Court won't weigh in for now on whether existing civil rights laws protect LGBT people from discrimination, the court announced Monday morning.

The justices declined to review a woman's claim that she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation — a case that would have required the justices to rule on the matter.

Jameka Evans, represented by Lambda Legal, had asked the justices to hear her case arguing that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects against sexual orientation discrimination because it is a type of sex discrimination barred under the law.

In 1979, a federal appeals court ruled that "[d]ischarge for homosexuality is not prohibited by Title VII." Since then, however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and one federal appeals court — out of Chicago — have ruled that Title VII's sex discrimination ban does protect against sexual orientation discrimination.

When Evans brought her case, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled earlier this year that it was "bound to follow" that 1979 ruling "unless and until it is overruled by this court en banc or by the Supreme Court."

The appeals court turned down Evans request for en banc review — meaning, of the full court — which led to the request for Supreme Court review, which the court turned down on Monday.

The EEOC and courts also have been considering the related question, not raised in Evans' case, of whether gender identity discrimination — against transgender people — is banned under Title VII's sex discrimination ban. The Supreme Court is yet to consider that issue either.

The Supreme Court's decision not to hear Evans' appeal is not a ruling on the merits of her claim.

As law professor Anthony Kreis pointed out on Twitter, there are a few reasons why the court might prefer another case to resolve the question of Title VII coverage. For one, Evans' case is not over after the Supreme Court's decision. The appeals court ruled earlier that Evans still would be able to present a claim that she was discriminated against based on gender nonconformity.

Additionally, other people are raising the Title VII issue in other cases. One is pending now in the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which heard arguments in the case in an en banc hearing earlier this fall.

Advocates behind Evans' petition, however, had been hoping to get the issue before the Supreme Court during the term underway currently — a prospect that now is out of reach and could become key should the court be closely divided on the issue and Justice Anthony Kennedy or one of the more liberal justices leave the court before the matter is heard.

Via supremecourt.gov

Appoint Kamala Harris Or Cory Booker To Replace Franken On Judiciary, Says CBC Chair


Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The chair of the Congressional Black Caucus has urged New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to appoint either Sens. Kamala Harris or Cory Booker to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a letter dated Dec. 7, a copy of which was obtained by BuzzFeed News, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond laid out an argument for either senator, both black attorneys, to take the spot on the committee soon to be vacated by Sen. Al Franken, who said last week that he would resign after Senate Democratic colleagues called on him to do so following multiple allegations of groping.

"In the current political and legal environment," Richmond wrote, "Black America faces the greatest threats to its rights and safety since the post-Reconstruction era. Given this pivotal moment in American history, the CBC urges you and the Senate Democratic Caucus to appoint a CBC Member to join Ranking Member Feinstein and others in defense of our democracy, our values and our constitutional rights."

In January, Booker broke with Senate tradition by declaring that then-senator Jeff Sessions was not the right person to be attorney general, marking the first time a sitting senator testified against a colleague for a cabinet post. Richmond — along with Rep. John Lewis — was also a part of those proceedings. Alluding to his remarks in his letter to Schumer, Richmond said, "I am sad to say that our concerns were correct."

He continued, "This administration immediately started endangering a framework of rights and protections that have been secured and defended for over a century. It has undermined criminal justice reform, litigated in defense of voter suppression and attacked affirmative action. At a moment when we have witnessed a significant spike in hate crimes, it has sympathized with white supremacists. It has taken deliberate steps to undermine the restorations of trust between law enforcement and communities. Lastly its judicial nominees are the least diverse, most underqualified, and morally problematic candidates in recent memory."

The request comes on the heels of the CBC losing one of its most prominent members, former Rep. John Conyers, who was the ranking member the powerful House Judiciary Committee. He retired following several allegations that he engaged in sexual misconduct with women who worked for him, including a harassment claim he settled for $27,000. Conyers has repeatedly denied the allegations, which were first reported by BuzzFeed News, though he confirmed the settlement.

But seeing one of its own rise to Franken's spot on the Judiciary would be a coup for the CBC; some members have lamented the period of time during which there were calls for Conyers to resign and none for Franken to do so. Senate Democrats began calling for Franken to resign on Dec. 6. Franken, for his part, announced on Dec. 7 that he would resign in the coming weeks. Richmond penned his letter to Schumer the same day.

Both Booker and Harris are frequently mentioned as 2020 Democratic primary candidates. Harris currently sits on the Budget Committee, Intelligence Committee, Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and Environment and Public Works. Booker currently sits on Foreign Relations, Commerce, Science and Transportation, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Environment and Public Works.

"Either of these highly accomplished attorneys would be effective assets to the oversight and legislative efforts of Senate Judiciary Democrats," Richmond wrote. "They would also bring personal experience to bear on the important debates taking place in the Committee that directly impact millions of African-Americans in this country. Their perspective is sorely needed in conversations and initiatives already underway."

Roy Moore’s Last And Weirdest Campaign Event


Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore stands behind his wife, Kayla, as she speaks during a campaign event Monday night in Midland City, Alabama.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Roy Moore’s closing argument was an airing of grievances.

In his first appearance on the campaign trail in nearly a week, the Senate candidate in Alabama complained bitterly about how he’s been treated by the media, by supporters of his Democratic opponent, and by establishment Republicans. And, facing allegations of sexual misconduct that could cost him Tuesday’s special election here, he lashed out again at his accusers.

“I want you to understand this,” said Moore, who’s been accused of making sexual advances on a minor, sexually assaulting a 16-year-old, and pursuing romantic relationships with other teens. “The Washington Post put out this terrible, disgusting article, saying I had done something. I want you to understand something. They said these women … had not come forward for nearly 40 years, but they waited until 30 days before this general election to come forward.”

His wife, Kayla, had some grievances too. She responded to critics who have called her husband racist and anti-Semitic by noting his former black employees and their Jewish friends.

“Fake news will tell you that we don’t care for Jews,” she said as part of an extended attack on reporters. “One of our attorneys is a Jew. We have very close friends that are Jewish.”

(In recent days, two comments of Moore’s have particularly drawn scrutiny: a September remark, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, that the country “was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another” and a suggestion that the liberal billionaire George Soros was going to hell. Soros is Jewish.)

The Election Eve rally inside a special events barn in southeast Alabama featured a lineup of right-wing speakers, headlined by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and Steve Bannon, the Breitbart executive chairman and former chief strategist for President Donald Trump. But Kayla Moore’s comments — and her husband’s outrage — stood out most. Polls have been all over the place in the race’s closing days, but the accusations against Moore helped turn what should have been an easy win for Republicans into a battle with Democrat Doug Jones. Moore’s frustration was evident.

At one point he alluded to Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican who doesn’t support him and who went on CNN on Sunday to say the “Republican Party can do better.” Moore didn’t mention Shelby’s name, only that he was among the senators opposed to his candidacy. The National Republican Senatorial Committee stopped funding Moore after the accusations.

“We’re up to our neck in alligators,” Moore said, playing off Trump’s “drain the swamp” messaging. “We’re up to our neck in people that don’t want change in Washington, DC. They want to keep it the same, keep their power, keep their prestige, and keep their positions.”

Moore also complained of “threats on social media for anyone who would back this campaign. We’ve been intimidated, other people have been intimidated, and we’re tired of it.”

The rally was the third Bannon has headlined for Moore, including one during a September primary — a contest in which Trump backed interim Sen. Luther Strange. But Trump has since become an unequivocal Moore supporter, even after the misconduct allegations.

Bannon and other speakers tied Moore tightly to Trump. “You know what they’re doing trying to shut up President Trump and Judge Moore? They’re trying to shut you up,” Bannon said.

Moore also had a message for Republicans who might be reluctantly voting for him anyway, eager to keep their slim advantage over Democrats in the Senate.

“If you don’t believe in my character,” he said, “don’t vote for me.”

Here's What You Need To Know About Today's Election Between Roy Moore And Doug Jones


Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Republicans should have had an easy time winning an Alabama Senate seat — but they really could lose Tuesday as the state’s wild, extraordinary race comes to an end.

Voters will decide between GOP nominee Roy Moore, a right-wing culture warrior and the state’s former chief justice, and Democrat Doug Jones, a former US attorney known for successfully prosecuting two members of the Ku Klux Klan for a bombing that killed four black children. The winner gets the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions, who joined the Trump administration as attorney general this year.

In the closing weeks, the race has been rocked by allegations that Moore, as an adult, made sexual advances on a minor, sexually assaulted a 16-year-old, and pursued romantic relationships with other teens. Moore has denied the allegations. But the scandal alarmed many national Republicans: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee disavowed him and have raised the possibility of expulsion should Moore win. And national Democrats, who were already intrigued by their chances against a wild card such as Moore, have sensed an opportunity to pick up a seat in the kind of Deep South state they generally write off and narrow the GOP’s 52-seat edge in the Senate.


Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

“I didn't vote for Roy Moore,” Sen. Richard Shelby, the Alabama Republican who will serve alongside the winner, said Sunday morning during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.”

Even without the misconduct accusations, the Senate race would have been a national spectacle because of the perpetually controversial Moore. He was twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, first over his refusal to remove a Ten Commandments monument on public grounds, and again when he refused to enforce federal rulings on marriage equality. He also is known for his far-right positions on gay rights (he once said homosexuality should be illegal) and for his opinion that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress.

But even after the allegations, Republicans did not totally abandon Moore. President Donald Trump, whose victory last year despite late-breaking accusations of sexual misconduct has served somewhat as a template for Moore, offered unequivocal endorsements for the candidate over the last week. Trump also used a political rally Friday in Pensacola, Florida — a media market that reaches Alabama voters — to plug Moore’s candidacy. The Republican National Committee, which had briefly withdrawn its financial support, followed Trump’s lead and resumed its assistance in the last week of the race.

Jones has enjoyed a significant money advantage, thanks to his own fundraising efforts and to expenditures by allied groups. But in a state where Trump won 63% of the vote in 2016, piecing together a winning coalition for a Democrat is still a tricky affair. Jones needs Democrats to turn out in droves, and he also needs to win some Republican voters disenchanted with Moore and hope that some Republicans just stay home.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The Democratic cavalry arrived in the campaign’s final weekend to help Jones with the first part: Jones spent the weekend campaigning in Democratic areas up and down the state with prominent black Democrats, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and Rep. Terri Sewell, Alabama’s lone Democratic member of Congress. Former president Barack Obama and former vice president Joe Biden recorded robocalls for the Democrat that began running Monday, the AP reported. At each of his stops over the weekend, Jones made a point of quoting Shelby’s attacks on Moore.

Moore, meanwhile, disappeared from the campaign trail over the weekend, and his team was sketchy about reports that he was in Philadelphia for the Army–Navy football game. Wherever he was, he held no public events until Monday night and skipped his hometown church service. (On Monday night, Moore confirmed he was out of the state over the weekend, “to take my wife out of the mess and let her relax with her son at West Point.”)


Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Moore’s absence from the trail became a regular point in Jones’ stump speech as the campaign closed out. “Y’all have covered politics for a long time. When is the last time you heard of a candidate for statewide office leaving the state?” he asked reporters at a Birmingham diner Monday morning. “It only goes to show that he cares more about his personal agenda than he does the people of Alabama.”

Moore resurfaced Monday night for a rally headlined by Steve Bannon, the Breitbart News executive and erstwhile Trump strategist who has fully embraced his candidacy and appeared with him three times. The first came on the eve of a primary runoff battle between Moore and Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed as Sessions’ interim successor. Strange lost that race despite heavy backing from McConnell and the GOP establishment, and even from Trump.

Trump’s presence in the campaign looms large. He won Alabama last year by a commanding margin and remains popular in the state. The president’s initial embrace of Strange puzzled many, given Moore’s anti-establishment rhetoric — his primary eve rally with Bannon was a “Drain the Swamp Rally,” a theme ripped straight out of Trump’s 2016 playbook.

The rally had no shortage of odd moments. One of the speakers was a Vietnam veteran who served with Moore but hadn’t seen him in decades. Bill Staehle defended Moore against the sexual misconduct allegations by recalling the time they found themselves inside a brothel of teenage girls and how Moore quickly decided to leave. And when Moore and his wife, Kayla, took the stage, they let loose a long list of grievances. Kayla Moore, in an effort to persuade people that her husband is not anti-Semitic, noted the couple’s Jewish attorney and Jewish friends.

Most of the other speakers — a collection of prominent right-wing figures — tightly tied Moore to Trump.

“We’re all here to support President Trump,” Paul Nehlen, a GOP primary challenger to House Speaker Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, said at the rally. “This is a spiritual battle.”

Bannon characterized a vote against the Republican as a vote against the “Trump miracle” and for opponents of the president, including those in the GOP establishment.

“Tomorrow they call the question,” Bannon said. “This is a national election.”

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