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Senator Al Franken quits amid sexual misconduct allegations

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Minnesota Sen. Al Franken announced Thursday he will resign from Congress in the coming weeks following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations and the collapse of support from his Democratic colleagues, a swift political fall for a once-rising Democratic star.

“I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice,” Franken said in the otherwise-hushed Senate chamber.

Franken quit just a day after new allegations brought the number of women alleging misconduct by him to at least eight. On Wednesday, one woman said he forcibly tried to kiss her in 2006, an accusation he vehemently denied. Hours later, another woman said Franken inappropriately squeezed “a handful of flesh” on her waist while posing for a photo with her in 2009.

“I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution,” Franken declared Thursday.

Franken is the latest to fall in the national wave of sexual harassment allegations that have brought down powerful men in Hollywood, the media and state capitals across the nation. His announcement followed Tuesday’s resignation of Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House.

Franken, the former comedian who made his name on “Saturday Night Live,” had originally sought to weather the allegations, disputing many of the specifics but apologizing to his accusers publicly. He had promised he would cooperate with an ethics investigation and work to regain the trust of Minnesotans.

“Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,” Franken said Thursday. “Others I remember quite differently.” Still, he said he could not both cooperate with an investigation and fully carry out his duties to his constituents.

Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race.

Franken pointedly noted that he was being forced out while President Donald Trump — who has been accused of worse offenses and bragged on a leaked “Access Hollywood” videotape of grabbing women by their genitalia — emerged unscathed. Trump has also endorsed Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct with them when they were teens and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s.

“I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,” Franken said.

His resignation means Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a fellow Democrat, will name a temporary replacement. The winner of a special election in November 2018 would serve through the end of Franken’s term in January 2021. Among the possibilities is Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, a trusted Dayton ally.

Dayton said after Franken’s remarks that he hasn’t yet decided on an appointment to fill the seat but expects to announce his decision in the next couple of days.

In a Senate chamber with a heavy atmosphere, several Democratic women, including some who had called for Franken’s resignation, sat somberly for Franken’s 11-minute speech and embraced him afterward. But they had lost patience with the growing tally of allegations and paved the path for Franken’s exit.

“Enough is enough,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York declared on Wednesday. “We need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is OK, none of it is acceptable, and we, as elected leaders, should absolutely be held to a higher standard.” A torrent of Democrats quickly followed Gillibrand.

“I’m shocked and appalled by Sen. Franken’s behavior,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington State. “It’s clear to me that this has been a deeply harmful, persistent problem and a clear pattern over a long period of time. It’s time for him to step aside.”

Franken has acknowledged and apologized for some inappropriate behavior, but he strongly denied the new accusation that came from a former Democratic congressional aide, who said he tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006.

The woman, who was not identified, told Politico that she ducked to avoid his lips but Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”

Franken said the idea he would claim such conduct as a right was “preposterous.”

The allegations against Franken began Nov. 16 when Leeann Tweeden, now a Los Angeles radio anchor, accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour in Afghanistan.

Other allegations followed, including a woman who says Franken put his hand on her buttocks as they posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010. Two women told the Huffington Post that Franken squeezed their buttocks at political events during his first campaign for the Senate in 2008. A fourth woman, an Army veteran, alleged Franken cupped her breast during a photo on a USO tour in 2003.

A special election for Franken’s seat in 2018 would seem to favor Democrats. The party nationally is banking on favorable winds since midterm elections are often difficult for the party that holds the White House, and Minnesota Republicans have struggled in recent years to recruit top-tier candidates for statewide office.

Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by just 1.5 points in Democratic-leaning Minnesota, preserving a four-decade run for the party in presidential elections.

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Capitol Rioter Screams at Cops Asking Them to Call for Backup to Combat Mob

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Not every Trumper at the U.S. Capitol was down with the siege … or at least so it appears based on this one MAGA cap-wearing man’s convo with Capitol Police in the middle of the riot.

Check out this clip that just surfaced from Jan. 6, when the guy approached a group of Capitol Police officers who were standing off to the side … while the mob stormed into the building.

The man’s words here are telling … he asks why the cops are letting this happen, and why they haven’t called for backup — noting this is the U.S. FREAKIN’ CAPITOL THAT’S BEING INVADED, and that these people storming it are “out for blood.”

Anyway, the officers didn’t seem to respond at all, and the man continued his diatribe … telling them that if no extra help was on the way, it means they don’t care about what’s happening to the Capitol.

A supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump smashes a window using a baseball bat during a “Stop the Steal” protest outside of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. U.S. January 6, 2021. Picture taken January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

The whole thing is pretty ironic — a clear Trump supporter right in the thick of the action denouncing the act of breaching the premises. Now, we have no idea what his motives were here, or if he was genuinely separating himself from the illegal activity.

We’ll say this … he does seem to rejoin the mob as the video ends, but we have no way of knowing if he actually went inside the Capitol.

As we first reported, the FBI is investigating a possible Capitol inside job that allowed the siege to take place. And, of course, the Capitol Police Chief resigned too … not to mention multiple suspensions and firings that have taken place since.

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Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell says Trump provoked deadly Capitol riot

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  • President Donald Trump and others provoked the swarms of his supporters that stormed the U.S. Capitol, said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
  • “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.
  • McConnell’s remarks came as he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer work to hash out details on Trump’s impending impeachment trial.
  • The remarks also came the day before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in as president.
Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump gather at the west entrance of the Capitol during a “Stop the Steal” protest outside of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. U.S. January 6, 2021. Picture taken January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

President Donald Trump and others provoked the swarms of his supporters that stormed the U.S. Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, which two weeks earlier had been evacuated after the crowd of rioters invaded the building.

The remarks from McConnell, R-Ky., came as he and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., worked to hash out details on Trump’s impending impeachment trial. Trump was impeached in the Democrat-led House last week in a 232-197 vote, with 10 Republicans voting in favor of impeachment.

Trump is the only president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

The GOP leader made the direct link between the Republican president’s rhetoric and the Jan. 6 riot, which left five dead, the day before President-elect Joe Biden was set to be sworn in as the 46th president.

McConnell has rebuffed pressure from Democrats to hold that trial before Trump leaves office, but he has told colleagues that he is undecided on whether Trump should be convicted in the Senate for inciting the riot.

McConnell’s remarks also suggested that other leaders bore responsibility for the attack. A growing chorus of critics have called on some lawmakers, especially GOP Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, to resign after they objected to key states’ electoral results.

McConnell had congratulated Biden on his victory in mid-December, more than a month after the Nov. 3 election.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on McConnell’s latest remarks.

Trump, who exhorted the crowd at a rally outside the White House to “fight like hell” and head to the Capitol to overturn the 2020 election, has insisted that his remarks just before the riot were “totally appropriate.”

In that speech, Trump repeated the incendiary and false claim that he had been robbed of reelection by widespread electoral fraud. He once again vowed that he would never concede to Biden, and he urged his supporters to go to the Capitol to “cheer on” Republican lawmakers who had vowed to object to the results.

“We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong,” Trump also said.

Many of his supporters attending that rally walked directly across the National Mall to the Capitol, where a joint session of Congress had convened to confirm Biden’s Electoral College victory. Rioters broke through barricades and lines of law enforcement officers and entered the Capitol, forcing Congress into hiding. Among them was Vice President Mike Pence, who was presiding over the event.

After McConnell’s remarks, Schumer said on the Senate floor that “Donald Trump should not be eligible to run for office ever again.”

“Healing and unity will only come if there is truth and accountability,” Schumer said.

“There will be an impeachment trial in the United States Senate, there will be a vote on convicting the president for high crimes and misdemeanors, and if the president is convicted, there will be a vote on barring him from running again,” Schumer said.

Trump, who has acknowledged the coming end to his one term in office without conceding to Biden, has not called his successor, nor has he invited him to the White House before the inauguration.

Pence last week called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to congratulate her and offer his assistance before she is sworn in.

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UNITED AIRLINES PASSENGER DIES AFTER LYING ABOUT COVID SYMPTOMS

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A passenger on a United jet with nearly 200 others onboard was pronounced dead shortly after the pilot made an emergency landing, and it’s almost certain the man had COVID.

Furious United Airlines passengers have criticized the company after a man who they claimed was showing clear coronavirus-like symptoms was allowed to board the plane and died before he reached his destination.

The flight took off from Orlando bound for Los Angeles on Monday, and the victim was pronounced dead after an emergency landing in New Orleans.

Medics on board attempted to save him, including by reportedly performing CPR. His wife, one passenger said, told all within earshot that he had been showing symptoms for the past week and so she suspected COVID-19. 

United said on Friday they were trying to trace those on board United Flight 591.

The flight was a Boeing 737-900 with capacity for 179 people, according to Flight Aware. 

The victim was taken off and the plane and all other passengers then carried on to LA – with some later saying they were not offered the chance to rebook onto a different flight. 

United 591 is seen arriving at Los Angeles airport, after a passenger died on leaving Orlando

The plane, pictured at the gate in LA, made an emergency stop in New Orleans and the man was pronounced dead. The plane, and all its passengers, then continued to LA

A United flight from Orlando to Los Angeles Monday was diverted due to a medical emergency

‘Can I ask how you guys let a covid positive man on my flight last night?’ said one woman. 

‘He was shaking and sweating boarding the plane. He was clearly sick and then died mid flight. We had an emergency landing in New Orleans and we didn’t even switch planes afterwards. 

‘We all sat there for hours waiting while you guys cleaned up his blood and germs with wet wipes. Is this how you guys handle other people’s safety and health?’

She said that the airline’s claim that they believed he had a heart attack was ‘laughable’, adding: ‘There was never any mention of we are diverting this flight because of cardiac arrest reasons. 

‘Everyone was aware this was COVID related because the wife was relaying his medical information, and shared he was in fact COVID positive and symptomatic for over a week. That is them covering up the fact that they handled this situation poorly.’ 

Another woman, named Shay, also tweeted angrily at United, accusing them of failing to check on the passengers before boarding, and criticizing the man and his wife for flying. 

‘United, why did you never check our temperatures before boarding?’ she tweeted. 

‘The family of the man, why didn’t you go to the hospital or not let your husband get on the flight feeling like that? 

‘An entire plane had to watch him seize or have a heart attack none of us know which, and die.’

Shay said she noticed the man having breathing difficulties.

‘I made eye contact with his wife and looked at him and she just looked down,’ Shay said. 

She said the medical team on board tried to revive him for an hour.

‘The family was crying, people were freaking out,’ she said. 

‘He was shocked twice, given an epi-pen, 2 shots of adrenaline and mouth to mouth after chest compressions…’ 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked United for the passenger manifest so other passengers can be told that they might have been exposed to a disease, spokesman Charles Hobart said.

The passenger had filled out a form before the flight saying he had not tested positive for COVID-19 and had no symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the airline.

‘It is apparent the passenger wrongly acknowledged this requirement,’ United said.

United said the CDC did not specify the man’s cause of death, and United does not know whether it was COVID-19. 

But, the airline said, the man’s wife was overheard telling an emergency medical technician that he had shown symptoms of the disease, including loss of taste and smell.

The CDC is collecting information to decide whether further public health action is appropriate, an agency spokesman said in a text message. 

‘To protect the privacy of the individual, we aren’t providing this information to the public,’ the CDC spokesman told AP.

All four flight attendants were quarantined for two weeks once they arrived at Los Angeles, ‘per written guidelines,’ said Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for Association of Flight Attendants.

‘Our union continues to provide support to the crew,’ Garland said. 

‘We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you´re sick.’  

The man was taken to a hospital in New Orleans where he was pronounced dead, according to the airline.

Hobart said United originally was told that he died from heart trouble, so passengers were allowed to stay on the plane and complete the flight to Los Angeles or take a later flight. 

The airline said all passengers stayed on the plane.

The incident occurred last Monday, and the CDC is now scrambling to contact the 179 passengers who were onboard.

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