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Nov. 20 2017 10:46 PM

Today in Conservative Media: More Goodbyes to Bad Men

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A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Conservative outlets continued to follow various sexual harassment and assault scandals on Monday. In National Review, David French made the case against letting Sen. Al Franken off easy:

Remember, after [accuser Leeann Tweeden] reacted strongly to his unwanted kiss, she claims that she avoided him as much as she could. He responded with “petty insults” and then, ultimately, groped her while she slept. Now, does all that sound like fun-loving Al was just joking around? Or does it seem more like a more-powerful entertainment figure was humiliating and degrading a woman who refused his advances?
Not only does the distinction matter morally, it also matters legally. As I wrote before, when determining whether a person is guilty of sex crimes like sexual battery or forcible touching, intent matters. For example, in New York a person can be guilty of “forcible touching” when they make contact with a person’s “intimate parts” if it’s for the purpose of “degrading or abusing” that person.
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At RedState, the blogger known as Streiff wrote a post expressing glee at the allegations revealed against New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush. “Of all the people in the media world this could have happened to, Thrush has to be in the top five of my Dream Team,” it read. “When Thrush was at Politico during the Obama administration he was nothing more than a stenographer for the administration. During the campaign, he wrote whatever the Clinton campaign told him to.”

The Gateway Pundit carried news of the allegations against television host Charlie Rose. “Rumors of Rose’s alleged sexual misconduct have been circulating around the media for years, but were never reported on, in part, because of the power the television host wields,” the Pundit’s Joshua Caplan wrote. “This is a common thread throughout the sexual harassment claims rocking Hollywood and Washington — powerful men preyed on women who were too terrified to speak out.” “It’s not inconceivable that several famous men will be credibly accused of harassment or assault in American newspapers every week for the next year. Remember, reporters haven’t even touched Congress yet,” Hot Air’s Allahpundit added, despite widespread news coverage of the allegations against Sen. Franken. (Monday night, BuzzFeed published a story about allegations against Democratic Rep. John Conyers, as well.)

Hot Air’s John Sexton noted MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski’s criticism of Clinton defenders who have attacked Republican sexual misconduct. “I think Brzezinski is correct about the people who defended Bill Clinton who are also now attacking Roy Moore and Donald Trump,” Sexton wrote. “They’re hypocrites and Hillary is the chief hypocrite because she knows (and knew at the time) the accusations were true.”

In other news:

National Review’s Kevin Williamson addressed the death of Charles Manson, writing, “Just as it is easy to forget how pro-Soviet the American Left was at times, it is easy to forget how pro-Manson American radicals were.” Then, beginning with a quote from former Weather Underground member Bernadine Dohrn reacting to the murders, Williamson recounted a history:

“First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them, then they even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach. Wild!” That was the assessment of Bernardine Dohrn, the champagne radical who, with her husband, Bill Ayers, participated in a campaign of domestic terrorism, including bombings, and later became cozy with Barack Obama, hosting events for the aspiring politician in her home. The “pigs” she referred to included Sharon Tate, an actress who was eight months pregnant at the time. She was murdered and mutilated. The word “PIG” was scrawled on the wall in her blood, and the father of her child, filmmaker Roman Polanski (to this day still on the run for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl), posed in front of that scene for a Life magazine photographer. Dohrn would later join a very prestigious Chicago law firm, Sidley Austin, and later worked as a professor of law at Northwestern University — remarkable accomplishments for a woman without a law license. She passed the bar, and Illinois was willing to overlook her criminal conviction, but she refused to apologize for her role in the terrorist campaign that resulted in several deaths. She and her husband became legal guardians of the child of two of their colleagues, who went to prison on murder charges for their role in a homicidal armored-car robbery carried out by the May the 19th Communist Organization, a clique of New York leftists who named their organization in honor of Ho Chi Minh’s birthday. [...]
Of course they fell for it. The idealist con is one of the oldest and most lucrative hustles going. The idiot children of the 1960s talked up Charles Manson for the same reason Langston Hughes wrote paeans to Joseph Stalin, for the same reason American progressives still take the side of the Rosenbergs and still think Alger Hiss was framed. Langston Hughes wasn’t a “liberal in a hurry” — he signed a letter of support for Stalin’s purges. Noam Chomsky spent years denying the holocaust in Cambodia, insisting it was the invention of American propagandists. After Fidel Castro was done murdering and pillaging his way through Cuban history, Barack Obama could only find it in his heart to say: “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.”

Nov. 20 2017 5:57 PM

Today's Impeach-O-Meter: Tom Steyer Still Isn't Helping

The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Earlier this month, my colleague Jim Newell laid out Democratic leaders' argument against making the impeachment of Donald Trump an immediate priority. The case, in short, is that such a push would divert political capital (and literal capital) away from the more pressing goals of 1) resisting specific Trump policy measures and 2) contesting the 2018 races that will be crucial to gaining enough power in Congress to actually win an impeachment vote. It's a good argument!

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Tom Steyer, a billionaire finance guy who has launched a national advertising and petition campaign calling for impeachment, doesn't care. Here's what he told Newell about coordinating his effort with Democratic figures who might have thoughts about how to best deploy his money at this particular moment:

When I asked Steyer if he had given a heads-up to Democratic leaders, he laughed for 17 seconds.
“Why would I do that?”

Monday, as you can see above, Steyer continued to escalate his campaign, proudly introducing a Times Square impeachment billboard. He says he plans to spend $20 million on the project, which has not as of yet resulted in any decline in Trump's approval rating or, as far as I'm aware, in any Democratic members of Congress announcing new support for impeachment proceedings.

Meanwhile, Republicans are closing in on passage of a monstrously unpopular tax bill. So, instead of funding ads that raise awareness of the tax bill's potential effects in swing districts, or donating to the grassroots groups that coordinate pressure on wavering GOP legislators, Steyer is paying for an expensive billboard to advocate a measure that has zero chance of success at the current moment—one that wouldn't even make sense right now if Democrats did hold Congress because the investigation into whether Trump committed impeachable offenses related to Russia is still ongoing. C'mon!

Today’s meter level has been lowered five points out of spite toward Tom Steyer.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Nov. 20 2017 3:52 PM

Trump Declares North Korea a “State Sponsor of Terrorism.” Does North Korea Really Commit Terrorism?

President Trump announced Monday that he is relisting North Korea as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” something he said “should have happened a long time ago.” The list, which entails restrictions on U.S. exports and foreign assistance, won’t have a big material effect on North Korea, which doesn’t buy a lot of American stuff to begin with. But the list has historically been less about having material impact than making a political statement—though it’s not always clear just what that statement is.

As I wrote in March, the list was introduced in the closing days of the Carter administration, meant to prevent the export of goods to countries where they could “enhance the ability of such country to support acts of international terrorism.” The original list was Iraq, Libya, South Yemen, and Syria. The current list consists of Iran, Sudan, and Syria. A government supporting terrorism is not the same thing as its citizens posing a terrorist risk. Nonetheless, the list was cited as justification for the original list of countries whose citizens the Obama administration subjected to visa restrictions following the San Bernardino attack as well as some of the countries whose citizens were prevented from entering the United States under Trump’s original travel ban.

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North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights abuses are certainly worth of condemnation, but is it really a sponsor of terrorism? It has been on the list before. It was added in 1988 in large part because of its role in the bombing of a South Korean airliner the year before. The George W. Bush administration delisted North Korea in 2008 after it agreed to halt its nuclear program and allow inspections. Similarly, Cuba stayed on the list for decades until 2015, when it was removed by the Obama administration, more because of America’s opposition to the Cuban government than any actual support for terrorism. Meanwhile, countries such as Pakistan—a U.S. ally whose military and intelligence services have been accused of backing the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other groups—have never been listed.

In announcing his decision Monday, Trump said that “North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil.” This likely refers to the killing of Kim Jong-un’s brother Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia earlier this year. Trump also mentioned Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who died shortly after being released from North Korean custody this past summer.

There’s a better case for designating North Korea than there is for other countries that have been on the list—Cuba, for its last few years of inclusion, for instance. (Though, if taking U.S. citizens hostage is terrorism, Trump may want to have a word with his good friend Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.) But this list has been so politicized, and its double standards are so glaring, that it’s hard to take this new step seriously as a means of getting tough on Pyongyang.

Nov. 20 2017 3:45 PM

Trump Nominee Brett Talley’s Apparent Thoughts on Capital Punishment: “Just Shoot Them”

Since his confirmation hearings for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, 36-year-old Brett Talley has come under criticism for his relative inexperience, his failure to disclose that his wife works as a lawyer in Trump’s White House, and the fact that he didn’t reveal that he’d apparently written a series of pseudonymous message board posts on the website TideFans.com under the username BamainBoston.

In those posts, which covered a wide range of sports and nonsports topics, BamainBoston was open about his enthusiasm for the death penalty. In 2015, for example, BamainBoston noted that it would be “awesome” if Alabama brought back the electric chair. Later in the thread, BamainBoston proposed an alternative means of execution, saying that a “bullet’s cheap.” One year earlier, responding to news that an Oklahoma inmate named Clayton Lockett had died of a heart attack on the gurney after his lethal injection was botched, BamainBoston wrote: “Just shoot them. That’s effective.”

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In a post this year, BamainBoston indicated he had worked on capital punishment cases in his career. That post read as follows:

Handled a bunch of death row cases in my previous job. With one exception, every one of them admitted that they’d committed the crime but were trying to mitigate to life without parole based on some excuse—drugs, violent childhood, etc. And the one exception the guy was clearly guilty. I don’t know the details on this Arkansas case, but death row cases with an actual innocence claim are kind of like abortions based on rape, incest, or the life of the mother. They certainly happen, but the whole debate shouldn’t turn on them.

BamainBoston’s message came in a thread titled “Arkansas May Have Just Executed an Innocent Man.” That man, Ledell Lee, was executed earlier this year. Elizabeth Vartkessian of the Marshall Project wrote that the “courts refused to allow Lee’s team to conduct DNA testing and new evidence of his likely intellectual disability was never heard.” BamainBoston opined, “I wouldn’t spend too much time weeping for Lee.”

As a district court judge, Talley could hear capital criminal cases. At least 18 former death row inmates have been exonerated by DNA evidence and released from prison, the Innocence Project reported in 2009. BamainBoston expressed skepticism that anyone had been executed wrongfully since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977, writing:

Anti-death penalty advocates have gone to great lengths to definitively identify someone from the modern era who was executed and was innocent, Roger Keith Coleman being probably the most famous failed example. But that is beside my point. Feel free to change the standard for the death penalty if you like and give people who make claims of actual innocence yet another appeal process, or have a higher standard for imposition of the death penalty itself, beyond not only a reasonable doubt but any doubt. Do whatever you want, because the vast majority of people on death row are unequivocally and admittedly guilty.

In response to follow-up questions from Sen. Dick Durbin, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Talley listed his work on death penalty cases as one of his key qualifications as a potential federal judge. In his own follow-up questions, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse noted that Talley had in his role as deputy solicitor general of Alabama “defended questionable practices concerning the death penalty, such as executing a mentally incompetent death-row inmate and allowing a judge to override a jury’s recommendation for a life sentence and impose the death penalty.” Talley’s response:

I defended the practices to which you refer in my capacity as an attorney representing a client, the state of Alabama. Those representations will have no influence on my sentencing practices, other than providing familiarity and experience with the legal issues surrounding the death penalty and challenges to sentences generally.

The Supreme Court ultimately sided with Talley’s view in the case of the mentally incompetent death row inmate. Earlier this month, the court unanimously struck down a lower court ruling blocking the execution of a man who couldn’t remember his crime—but could understand the concepts of crime and punishment—after having suffered a series of strokes.

Find anything noteworthy in BamainBoston's message board posts? Email us at tips@slate.com.

Nov. 20 2017 3:14 PM

Bills Coach Still Not Sure It Was a Mistake to Start Quarterback Who Had Worst Game of All Time

On Sunday, Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott benched quarterback Tyrod Taylor—who’d had a rough game the previous week but is in general a pretty good player—for a rookie named Nathan Peterman. Peterman subsequently turned in what, at least by one measure, was literally the worst performance by a quarterback in modern (post-1970 merger) NFL history, throwing an unprecedented five interceptions in one half against the Los Angeles Chargers. Tayor replaced him in the second half of the game and performed competently, throwing for one touchdown and running for another.

To the layperson, it would seem like Tyrod Taylor should be the Bills’ starting quarterback going forward, given that he is not the worst quarterback in NFL history. But it doesn’t seem that way to Sean McDermott: “I don’t regret my decision,” McDermott said Sunday, telling reporters that he would have to watch film of the game before choosing between Peterman and Taylor. McDermott then gave a press conference Monday from the bottom of a very deep hole in which he is apparently still digging:

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Pretty darn good, folks.

What’s spectacular about this is not that McDermott is trying to rationalize having made a bad choice, which coaches (and noncoaches) do all the time. It’s that he’s doing so using the language of evidence-based decision-making, as if the evidence, upon judicious review during a 5:30 a.m. film session, might indicate that Nathan Peterman actually had a great game. Just give it up, Sean McDermott!

Nov. 20 2017 3:04 PM

Nebraska Commission Clears Final Regulatory Hurdle for Keystone XL Pipeline

Despite Thursday’s large oil spill from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota, Nebraska regulators on Monday approved the $8 billion Keystone XL Pipeline, clearing a last major hurdle for the project. The move does not guarantee the project’s completion, as some opponents of the pipeline will likely challenge the plans in court, but it does resolve the final regulatory question of the project, according to the Associated Press.

One hitch: The ruling from the Nebraska Public Service Commission requires an alternative route to TransCanada’s preferred path—the one already approved by the federal government. Nebraska’s decision pushes the pipeline extension farther east in the state.

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The expansion would complete the 1,179-mile pipeline built to transport oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. The route would cross Nebraska as well as parts of Montana and South Dakota.

According to the AP, the commission was not allowed to factor in safety or environmental risks, as those are considered federal responsibilities, and therefore during deliberation it ignored last week’s 210,000-gallon spill in South Dakota.

TransCanada has not announced a final decision about whether the project will still go forward, although the AP reports the company says it is operating under the assumption it will. Pipeline opponents are already planning an appeal, the AP reports. The head of Bold Alliance, an organization opposed to the pipeline, told the AP that because the route approved by the Nebraska commission diverges from the one approved by the federal government, a whole new federal review could be required in a process that could last years.

The Keystone XL Pipeline was first rejected in 2015 by President Obama, who raised concerns about its potential environmental effects. President Trump reversed that decision in March.

Nov. 20 2017 1:31 PM

Report: H.R. McMaster, Like Rex Tillerson, Has Said Privately That Trump Is Real Dumb

Remember when NBC reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had called Donald Trump a “fucking moron” during a meeting in which the president was not involved, triggering a process of escalating stupidity that culminated in Trump challenging Tillerson to an I.Q. test that sadly did not ever take place? Well, going by a report by BuzzFeed’s Joe Bernstein, it looks like national security adviser H.R. McMaster wanted a piece of that action:

Over a July dinner with Oracle CEO Safra Catz—who has been mentioned as a candidate for several potential administration jobs—McMaster bluntly trashed his boss, said the sources, four of whom told BuzzFeed News they heard about the exchange directly from Catz. The top national security official dismissed the president variously as an “idiot” and a “dope” with the intelligence of a “kindergartner,” the sources said.
A sixth source who was not familiar with the details of the dinner told BuzzFeed News that McMaster had made similarly derogatory comments about Trump’s intelligence to him in private, including that the president lacked the necessary brainpower to understand the matters before the National Security Council.
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Both Oracle and the National Security Council are denying BuzzFeed’s report. On the other hand ... H.R. McMaster is a respected author who has a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, and POTUS’ thoughts on geopolitics look like this:

BuzzFeed’s report is plausible.

Nov. 20 2017 12:31 PM

New York Times Suspends Glenn Thrush While Investigating Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

The New York Times has suspended White House correspondent Glenn Thrush after allegations of sexual misconduct toward young female reporters.

The allegations against Thrush, one of the paper’s star reporters, were detailed in a piece published by Vox on Monday. In the article, Vox’s Laura McGann, the site’s editorial director who worked with Thrush when the two were at Politico, wrote about a personal incident five years ago in which Thrush allegedly started kissing her at a bar and later spread rumors that she had come onto him instead. She also reported that three other female journalists, all in their 20s, had allegedly experienced similar incidents and felt they could not challenge such a respected figure in the field.

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McGann published text messages between the 50-year-old Thrush and the friend of a 23-year-old woman who said she had been left “in tears” after resisting Thrush’s advances after a colleague’s going-away party in June. In the messages, the friend confronted Thrush, who apologized but said he had “spent the better part of 20 years advocating for women journalists.” He also said he "got drunk because [he] got some shitty health news" but needed to “be more understanding of the power dynamics in casual situations.”

In another instance, a young Politico staffer in the winter of 2012–2013 said she and Thrush wound up drunk and at her place after a Politico going-away party and that she stopped him and reminded him he was married. A third woman told McGann that after a 2013 Politico party, Thrush “suddenly ... leaned in and landed a wet kiss on her ear.”

McGann wrote that in her own case, Thrush had no formal power over her. “But he was an incredibly influential person in the newsroom and in political journalism, a world I was still trying to break into in a meaningful way at the time,” she wrote. “Thrush, just by his stature, put women in a position of feeling they had to suck up and move on from an uncomfortable encounter.”

In a statement, Thrush apologized “to any woman who felt uncomfortable in my presence, and for any situation where I behaved inappropriately” and that “[a]ny behavior that makes a woman feel disrespected or uncomfortable is unacceptable.” He also disagreed with McGann’s version of events between them and said the June incident in which he left a young woman in tears “was a life-changing event” and that he was “deeply sorry.”

The New York Times suspended Thrush pending an investigation. In a statement, the newspaper’s senior vice president of communications said the “behavior attributed to Glenn in this Vox story is very concerning and not in keeping with the standards and values of the New York Times” and that they “support his decision to enter a substance abuse program,” according to Vox.

Thrush is the fifth major media figure to face allegations during the recent weeks. Political journalist Mark Halperin lost a book deal and was shunned by TV news networks, NPR editorial director Michael Oreskes resigned, Vox Media editorial director Lockhart Steele was fired, and prominent fomer New Republic editor Leon Wieseltier lost funding for a new magazine.

Nov. 20 2017 11:25 AM

Border Agent Who May Have Been Attacked Dies in West Texas

A border agent in West Texas died Sunday morning of injuries sustained “responding to activity while on patrol,” U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced in a statement. Authorities have not yet said how 36-year-old Rogelio Martinez was hurt, but Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and a border agents’ union official have suggested he was physically attacked.

Martinez’s partner is reportedly still hospitalized in serious condition; the pair were working in the CBP’s Big Bend Sector some 100 miles east of El Paso, Texas, when they were injured. The last border agent who appears to have been killed during patrol was Nicholas Ivie, who died in 2012.

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Martinez was a native of El Paso.

Nov. 20 2017 10:28 AM

Woman Accuses Al Franken of Groping Her While Posing for Photo

A second allegation against Sen. Al Franken emerged Monday, this time from a woman who has accused Franken of grabbing her buttocks while taking a photo in 2010, according to a report from CNN.

The allegation follows an article published Thursday in which Leeann Tweeden, a radio news anchor in California, wrote that Franken forcibly kissed her in 2006. She also provided a photo showing Franken apparently groping her while she slept. Franken issued an apology, but he has still faced calls for him to resign and a potential ethics investigation.

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On Monday, CNN reported that 33-year-old Lindsay Menz from Frisco, Texas, told the network after Tweeden’s announcement that she had her own “uncomfortable” interaction with Franken.

Menz said in 2010 she went to the Minnesota State Fair with her husband and father and met various officials and celebrities while there, as her father’s business was sponsoring a local radio booth. Franken had been elected to the Senate in 2008.

When she met Franken, she said she had a short exchange with the senator and lined up with him to take a photo. According to CNN:

Franken "pulled me in really close, like awkward close, and as my husband took the picture, he put his hand full-fledged on my rear," Menz said. "It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek."
"It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt," she said, recalling that the brazen act lasted three or four seconds. "I was like, oh my God, what's happening."

She said she didn’t say anything to the senator but later told her husband and father soon after, as the two men confirmed to CNN.

Franken said in a statement to CNN that he did not remember the incident and that he felt “badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."

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