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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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Michael Cohen Says at Trump’s Direction He Paid Off Woman Who Claimed Affair with Trump

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Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former fixer, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to campaign finance and other charges. He made the extraordinary admission that he paid a pornographic actress “at the direction of the candidate,” referring to Mr. Trump, to secure her silence about an affair she said she had with Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen told a judge in United States District Court in Manhattan that the payment was “for the principal purpose of influencing the election” for president in 2016.

Mr. Cohen also pleaded guilty to multiple counts of tax evasion and bank fraud, bringing to a close a months long investigation by Manhattan federal prosecutors who examined his personal business dealings and his role in helping to arrange financial deals with women connected to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Cohen, dressed in a dark suit and a yellow tie, entered the courtroom in United States District Court in Manhattan at about 4 p.m., nodded his head at reporters and smiled.

The plea agreement does not call for Mr. Cohen to cooperate with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, but it does not preclude him from providing information to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is examining the Trump campaign’s possible involvement in Russia’s interference in the 2016 campaign.

If Mr. Cohen were to substantially assist the special counsel’s investigation, Mr. Mueller could recommend a reduction in his sentence.

The guilty plea could represent a pivotal moment in the investigation into the president: a once-loyal aide acknowledging that he made payments to at least one woman who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump, in violation of federal campaign finance law.

Mr. Cohen had been the president’s longtime fixer, handling his most sensitive business and personal matters. He once said he would take a bullet for Mr. Trump.

The investigation of Mr. Cohen had focused in part on his role helping to arrange financial deals to secure the silence of women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump, including Stephanie Clifford, an adult film actress better known as Stormy Daniels.

The charges against Mr. Cohen were not a surprise, but he had signaled recently he might be willing to cooperate with investigators who for months have been conducting an extensive investigation of his personal business dealings.

indeed, his guilty plea comes slightly more than a month after he gave an interview to George Stephanopoulos on ABC News and said he would put “his family and country first” if prosecutors offered him leniency in exchange for incriminating information on Mr. Trump.

In July, in what appeared to another public break with Mr. Trump, one of Mr. Cohen’s lawyers, Lanny J. Davis, released a secret audio recording that Mr. Cohen had made of the president in which it seems that Mr. Trump admits knowledge of a payment made to Karen McDougal, a model who said she had an affair with him.

As part of their investigation, prosecutors had been looking into whether Mr. Cohen violated any campaign-finance laws by making the $130,000 payment to Ms. Clifford in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Cohen’s plea culminates a long-running inquiry that became publicly known in April when F.B.I. agents armed with search warrants raided his office, apartment and hotel room, hauling away reams of documents, including pieces of paper salvaged from a shredder, and millions of electronic files contained on a series of cellphones, iPads and computers.

Lawyers for Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump spent the next four months working with a court-appointed special master to review the documents and data files to determine whether any of the materials were subject to attorney-client privilege and should not be made available to the government.

The special master, Barbara S. Jones, who completed her review last week, issued a series of reports in recent months, finding that only a fraction of the materials were privileged and the rest could be provided to prosecutors for their investigation.

On Monday, the judge overseeing the review, Kimba M. Wood of Federal District Court in Manhattan, issued an order adopting Ms. Jones’s findings and ending the review process.

It was unclear on Tuesday what role the materials that Ms. Jones reviewed, which were made available to prosecutors on a rolling basis during her review, may have had in the charges against Mr. Cohen.

One collateral effect of Mr. Cohen’s plea agreement is that it may allow Michael Avenatti, Ms. Clifford’s lawyer, to proceed with a deposition of Mr. Trump in a lawsuit that Ms. Clifford filed accusing the president of breaking a nondisclosure agreement concerning their affair.

The lawsuit had been stayed by a judge pending the resolution of Mr. Cohen’s criminal case. Mr. Avenatti wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that he would now seek to force Mr. Trump to testify “under oath about what he knew, when he knew it and what he did about it.”

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Multiple people shot at Capital Gazette Newspaper

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At least six people were injured in a shooting at the Capital Gazette building in Annapolis. One suspect is in custody.

Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and state police, along with officers from neighboring jurisdictions are at the scene in the 800 block of Bestgate Road, near the Annapolis Mall.

Four of those wounded suffered critical injuries. Two state police helicopters have been called the scene, and a triage has been set up, SkyTeam 11 Capt. Roy Taylor reports.

Suspicious packages were reported. SWAT officers will conduct a room-by-room search.

The Capital Gazette is owned by The Baltimore Sun. That paper reports police were at their building, as well.

Multiple casualties have been reported after a shooter opened fire in Annapolis, Maryland.

Police responded to the incident at the offices of local newspaper the Capital Gazette on Thursday afternoon at about 3pm local time. Dozens of law enforcement vehicles were seen rushing to the newsroom in eastern Maryland.

Anne Arundel Sheriff Ron Bateman told Fox News that there were multiple causalities, but that officers were still investigating the scene. Mr Bateman said that a suspect had been taken into custody.

Officer Marc Limansky with the Anne Arundel County police department confirmed multiple shots had been fired inside of the newsroom, but could not immediately say whether fatalities had occurred.

Mr Limansky described the situation as “active and ongoing.“

Annapolis Police Lt Timothy Seipp said that officers “are trying to clear the building” and make sure everyone was safe. “This is going to be a long investigation,” he said.

Local news reports showed people walking out of the building with their hands up and being escorted by police through the car park outside the building. Phil Davis, a reporter at the Gazette, told  the Baltimore Sun that multiple people had been shot.

A relocation checkpoint has been established for those separated during the incident at the nearby Lord & Taylor’s in the Annapolis Mall.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore said they were responding to the incident.

This is a breaking story. Please check back for updates.

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Pennsylvania police officer charged in shooting death of 17 year old Antwon Rose

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A Pennsylvania police officer was charged with one count of criminal homicide in the shooting death of a 17-year-old boy in East Pittsburgh who was fleeing a traffic stop, according to court records released Wednesday.

The charge against East Pittsburgh Police Officer Michael Rosfeld is in connection to the June 19 shooting death of Antwon Rose Jr.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. where more details are expected to be released.

On Tuesday, police made an arrest in a drive-by shooting that started a chain of events that ended with Rose’s killing. The teenager under arrest was with Rose the night he was shot by police, authorities said.

Investigators say Rosfeld stopped a car carrying Rose and two other people because it matched the description of a car reported to be involved in a shooting about 15 minutes earlier in a nearby town.

As the officer took the driver into custody, video posted to Facebook by a bystander showed Rose and the other passenger running away.

The officer quickly fired three shots, all of which struck Rose, who later died at a hospital from his injuries. The medical examiner has not said where the teen was struck.

Rosfeld had been on duty in East Pittsburgh, Pa., for three weeks and was only sworn in fewer than two hours before the incident, although he has been an officer in the region for seven years, according to KDKA-TV.

Rosfeld had previously worked in Harmarville and for the University of Pittsburgh Police Department. He was placed on administrative leave as per protocol while county police conducted an independent investigation. Rosfeld’s attorney Pat Thomassey, told KDKA he turned himself in Wednesday morning and is out on $250,000 bond.

In the days since Rose, a Woodland Hills High School honors student, was fatally shot, marchers have demonstrated almost daily. They refrained from protest Monday, as Rose was laid to rest, out of respect for his family.

Investigators have not said whether they believe Rose had any involvement in the earlier violence that left one wounded. Authorities previously said two handguns were retrieved from the car, and an empty gun clip was found in Rose’s pocket, according to Zappala

In video of the fatal shooting taken from a nearby home, Rose, in a gray shirt, is the first to run from the vehicle.

The arrest of another suspect on Tuesday came as dozens of protesters returned to the streets of downtown Pittsburgh, blocking traffic with locked arms and raised fists, demanding justice in Rose’s death.

Chanting, “Who did this? The police did this!” and “Three shots to the back, how do you justify that?” marchers began walking several blocks shortly after 7:30 a.m., shutting down busy intersections for more than two hours, according to the Associated Press.

The family’s attorney, D. Lee Merritt, said in a statement last week that Rose was “a generous, hard-working and highly promising student.”

“Affirmations of his generosity of spirit and genuine good heartedness have begun pouring in from all corners of the East Pittsburgh community where he lives,” he said.

Merritt insisted that claims Rose was involved in the earlier shooting are unsubstantiated, noting that the officer had been on the force for just hours before the shooting.

“These facts, without more, simply leave very little room to justify the use of deadly force by this officer,” he said. “Additional information concerning the background of the offending officer and the facts available to him at the time of the shooting is needed as we determine the appropriate action in this matter.”

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