Heartbreak isn’t enough. Shootings will continue until laws are changed | Shannon Watts

We deserve to have lawmakers who understand that prioritizing public safety is not a political issue it is a matter of common sense, says Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

Compromise or cave-in? Democrats’ deal to end shutdown sows division

After Senate Democrats agree to measure promising to address Dreamers, progressives dread party has been too quick to concede

Oprah Winfrey for president: a wild idea that just got dramatically more real

The entertainment entrepreneurs electrifying speech at the Golden Globes produced an outpouring of reaction urging the celebrity to run in 2020

Oprah Winfrey for president? That was the burning question in American politics on Monday after the amusement celebrity and entrepreneur delivered a barnstorming speech that had many hailing her as the antidote to Donald Trump.

Speaking at the Golden Globe awards in Hollywood on Sunday night, Winfrey moved the audience to tears as she praised women who have shared their tales of sexual harassment and abuse and declared that” a new day is on the horizon “.

In a measure of how Trump, a wealthy TV celebrity and political novice, has changed the rules of video games, there was an instant surge of tweets with the hashtags “Oprahforpresident” and “Oprah2020” exhorting Winfrey to run in the elections in November 2020.

After the speech, the actor and producer, who is chief executive of the OWN cable channel, told theBloomberg news organisation that she has no plans to run. But on Monday CNN reported that she is” actively thinking” about it , citing two close friends, whom it did not name. And the Los Angeles Times quoted Stedman Graham, Winfrey’s longtime partner, as saying:” It’s up to the people … She would utterly do it .”

While she shares Trump’s status as a multimillionaire, Winfrey’s identity as a liberal African American woman- who pointedly defended the press in her speech- would have symbolic power against an incumbent who has admitted groping women, repeatedly stoked racial divisions and often assaulted the” fake news” media.

But on another level, Winfrey, 63, raised during poverty by a single mom, could pitch herself as a consensus builder. As host of the top-rated talkshow The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years until 2011, she was in the living room of millions of Americans, carving out a persona as a good listener in touch with the ordinary citizen, cutting across class, gender and race.

And Trump’s potential criticism of her has already been blunted. When he was contemplating a presidential run in 1999, he said Winfrey would be his first choice as a work mate.” I love Oprah ,” he told CNN .” She’s popular, she’s brilliant, she’s a wonderful girl … That would be a pretty good ticket .”

Political analysts suggested the talk of a Winfrey run, presumably for the Democratic party, was more than mere hype. Robert Shrum, a Democratic consultant who worked on Al Gore and John Kerry’s election campaigns, said:” I’ve been sceptical of people with no political experience because recent experience proves we need person with experience, but I suppose she can escape that. People like her, people trust her and she’s not a phony businesswoman .”

The Golden Globes, Hollywood’s first awards ceremony leading up to the Oscars, was dominated by the #MeToo movement after a year that considered dozens of powerful men in amusement, politics and the media accused of sexual abuse or harassment. Winfrey, who along with most of the show’s other female attendees wore a black gown to indicate support for victims, was the first African American woman to receive the annual Cecil B DeMille award.

Oprah
Oprah Winfrey appears alongside Barack and Michelle Obama at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, in support of Obama’s presidential operate. Photograph: Brian Snyder/ Reuters

Winfrey told the meet:” I want all the girls watching here , now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day ultimately dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent girls, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say’ Me too’ again .”

The reaction was adulatory in the room and on social media. Actor Meryl Streep, who was at the awardings, told the Washington Post:” She launched a rocket tonight. I want her to run for president. I don’t think she had any intention[ of declaring ]. But now she doesn’t have a choice .”

Khary Penebaker, a member of the Democratic National Committee, tweeted:” In a 9 minute speech, @Oprah was more presidential than the present occupant of the White House has been for an entire year .”

In the past Winfrey has given her star power to Democratic presidential candidates: Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016. But she has said she is not very interested in running for chairman.

She was Oscar nominated in 1986 for her role in The Color Purple, which she later helped finance as a Broadway musical. She produced and acted in the 2014 civil rights movie Selma and 2017′ s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Winfrey is currently a “special correspondent” for the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes and an investor in companies including Weight Watchers.

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Oprah Winfrey’s powerful Golden Globes speech: ‘a new day is on the horizon’ – video

Forbes magazine last year calculated her net worth at$ 3bn and ranked her third on its listing of the America’s richest self-made girls. But she would face a gruelling cycle of debates, caucuses and primaries, an expectation that she would release her tax returns and the forensic scrutiny of her private life that comes with all presidential runs.

Michael Cornfield , associate prof of political management at George Washington University, said:” It depends on her capacity to put together a good team. Her oratorical skills are an obvious asset and she has a ready-made audience, but it takes more than that to get the nomination and get elected. We don’t know from here whether she’s interested but she has plenty of hour .”

The flurry of supposition around Winfrey comes after Trump powered his successful 2016 campaign on the back of his reputation from the reality Tv show The Apprentice and as Hollywood star Dwayne” The Rock” Johnson is also said to be considering a White House run. Some commentators warned of the dangers of espousing fame at the expense of political pedigree or expertise.

Bill Galston , a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington and former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, said:” If the idea that anyone with celebrity and 100% name recognition can be president is the legacy of our misbegotten times, that would be the most pernicious idea of all. The disdain for the art of politics has held sway on one side of the political aisle; if it takes hold on the other, God save us .”

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Senate approves most drastic changes to US tax code in 30 years

Donald Trump has said his first major legislative victory would be a big, beautiful Christmas present for Americans

Senate Republicans have passed a sweeping overhaul of the US tax code, placing Donald Trump on the brink of scoring his first major legislative victory.

The Senate approved the $ 1.5 trillion taxation bill, which includes permanent tax breaks for corporations and temporary tax cuts for individuals, by a final referendum of 51-48. Once legislated, the legislation will represent the most drastic changes to the US tax code since 1986.

The bill was passed along party line, with every Senate Republican present voting in its favor and all Democrats voting against it. Arizona senator John McCain, who is undergoing treatment for brain cancer, was the lone member to be absent for the vote.

Although the bill’s passageway was expected, tensions boiled to a surface area as the final referendum was held, as Democrats sharply blamed Republicans for a bill independent analysts have projected will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and corporations.

The legislation must go back to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday for final approving, but is expected to pass.

The bill lowers the top individual tax rate from 39.6% to 37% and slashes the corporate tax rates to 21%, a dramatic autumn from its current rate of 35%.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Republicans would” rue the working day” when they passed the bill, which he blasted as a “disgrace”. A visibly thwarted Schumer then scolded Republicans for talking during his speech.

” This is serious stuff. We believe you’re messing up America ,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, told Republicans.” You could pay attention for a couple of minutes .”

‘ Kill the bill ‘: activists interrupt taxation reform vote in US senate- video

As the vote occurred, activists in the press gallery hollered” Kill the bill, don’t kill us “. The chaotic proceedings were eventually called to order by vice president Mike Pence, who was presiding over the chamber for what will soon mark a rare but significant achievement for the Trump administration.

After the bill passed, Republican celebrated the moment in a late-night press conference where Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell hit back against criticism that the tax overhaul was unpopular among the public.

” If we can’t sell this to the American people, we ought to go into another line of work ,” McConnell said.

The Senate vote came hours after House Republicans passed the tax bill by a vote of 227 to 203, with 12 Republicans voting against the plan and no Democrats supporting it. The House will nonetheless be forced to vote on the legislation once more on Wednesday, after it was discovered that the bill they passed fell short of the necessary rules for Senate Republicans to pass it with a simple majority.

The Senate subsequently stripped out the minor provisions that were in violation of the rules, clearing the way for House Republican to hold a second vote on Wednesday and then send the bill to Trump’s desk for his signature.

Democrats say the failure to write a bill that would are appropriate Senate rules- an avoidable misstep- underscored the slapdash way and lightening fast velocity at which Republicans assembled their tax overhaul.

The urgency among Republicans to pass a tax bill before the year’s end was similarly underscored when they provided lawmakers with a copy of the 500 -page tax plan hours before an initial referendum was scheduled on the legislation. In an online video, Senator Jon Tester, Democrat of Montana, called it” Washington DC at its worst” as he flipped through the pages, showing off the handwritten changes in the margins.

After the House vote, Trump praised House Republican leadership for delivering the $1.5 tn taxation cut scheme.

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

Congratulations to Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Kevin Brady, Steve Scalise, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and all great House Republicans who voted in favor of cutting your taxes!

December 19, 2017

Despite the delay, Congress is still expected tosend the bill to Trump in time to deliver what he has promised would be a” big, beautiful Christmas present” for the nation.

Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, went in so far as it call it” the worst bill in history” in a press conference on Tuesday. She described it as” an all-out looting of America, a wholesale robbery of the middle class” and said:” The GOP tax scam will go down, again, as one of the most serious, most scandalous acts of plutocracy in its own history .”

The tax plan legislates a deep and permanent cut for firms, slashing the top rate from 35% to 21%. The bill also includes taxation cuts for individuals and families of all income levels, with the largest breaches going to the wealthiest Americans. The individual taxation cuts are slated to expire in 2025, a move to comply with Senate budget regulations, but Republican said a future Congress would extend them.

” This is one of the most important point pieces of legislation that Congress has passed in decades to help the American worker to help grow the American economy ,” Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, said moments after the bill passed.” This is profound change and this is change “whos going to” put our country on the right path .”

Congressman Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana, added:” Today the impossible became the inevitable again .”

Democrats were excluded from the closed-door sessions where the plan was crafted. They have condemned the measure as a handout to the wealthy and firms, and promised to use it as a cudgel against Republican in the 2018 midterms.

Republicans have long pushed tax reform as a way to simplify the US tax code, but the proposal would maintain all seven existing taxation brackets for individuals. The bill has faced significant criticism because it would limit tax deductions for home mortgages and state and local taxes, as well as adding over a trillion dollars to the budget deficit.

The bill would not only reshape tax policy in the United States. It also contains provisions to allow oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic national wildlife refuge, and would eliminate the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which requires Americans to either buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

Despite being heralded by Republican and the White House as a major accomplishment, the bill is deeply unpopular. A CNN poll released earlier on Tuesday found that 55% of voters had a unfavorable position of the scheme and only 33% position it favorably.

Ryan dismissed criticism of the bill, saying ” results are what’s going to make this popular “.

Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress but has all along been failed to achieve a major legislative victory, relished the moment hours before the vote was scheduled on Tuesday.

Nancy
Nancy Pelosi was scathing about the bill. Photograph: Aaron Bernstein/ Reuters

After final passageway, Ryan loudly gaveled the vote to a close while receiving a standing ovation from House Republican. Ryan have all along pushed for cutting taxes and reforming the tax code and the vote on Tuesday was seen as a defining achievement for him.

Congress, meanwhile, is operating up against a Friday deadline to fund the federal government. A sticking point over fund Obamacare payments- a promise made to secure Maine senator Susan Collins’ vote on tax reform- risks a potential uprising by House conservatives and a possible government shutdown.

The White House hailed the House passage of the tax bill and indicated Trump would sign it in the coming days.

” The chairperson will have delivered the most significant taxation cut in the history of the nation ,” Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said.

Sanders struggled, however, to defend Trump’s assertion in a speech last month that the tax bill would cost him” a fortune “.

” We expect that it likely will, surely on the personal side, could expense the president a lot of fund ,” she said, while adding:” The president’s focus hasn’t necessarily been at all on himself .”

” This is a taxation scheme that we hope benefits all Americans mainly ,” Sanders said.

Independent analyses have shown Trump and his cabinet stand to gain millions through a provision within the bill that doubles the exemption of the so-called estate tax. The chairperson is also poised to save up to $30 m from the repeal of what is known as the alternative minimum taxation, a supplemental income taxation intended to prevent wealthy Americans utilizing loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation and the Congressional Budget Office, both independent research groups in Congress, have said the tax bill will disproportionately benefit the wealthy and corporations. As a result, Trump is likely to receive a larger median tax cut than the middle class.

When reporters pointed out the White House could directly address how the bill affects Trump by releasing his tax returns, Sanders insisted they are under audit and therefore cannot be disclosed. Trump utilized a similar line to justify his failure to release his tax returns as a candidate, breaking with a 40 -year precedent for US presidential nominees.

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Alabama election: Democrats triumph over Roy Moore in major blow to Trump

Doug Jones becomes first Democrat to win any statewide office in Alabama in a decade after Moores campaign for Senate marred by sexual assault claims

The Democrat Doug Jones has beaten his Donald Trump-backed Republican rival Roy Moore in the diehard Republican state of Alabama, setting off a political earthquake likely to shake Washington.

His victory in a special election for a US Senate seat- by a margin of 49. 9 to 48.4 with 100% of precincts reporting- is a major personal jolt to the president and his efforts to pass taxation reform on Capitol Hill.

Jones was able to become the first Democrat in a decade to win any statewide office in Alabama by beating Moore, who had faced multiple allegations of sexual assault during a campaign which uncovered Republican party faultlines.

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Who is Doug Jones?

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Early life

The 63 -year-old grew up in the working-class city of Fairfield, simply west of Birmingham, an region once dominated by the steel industry. His father was a steelworker and he spent hour working in a mill when not in school

Democratic roots and the KKK

Jones got his start in government as an aide to the last Democrat to serve a full term in the Senate from Alabama, the late Howell Heflin.

Years before running for the Senate himself, Jones became known for prosecuting two KKK members for the bombing of Birmingham’s 16 th Street Baptist church in 1963 which killed four black girls.

After his appointment as US attorney in Birmingham in 1997, Jones resulted a team of federal and state attorneys during trials that resulted in the convictions of Thomas Blanton Jr in 2001 and Bobby Frank Cherry in 2002.

Photograph: Marvin Gentry/ X02859

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Moore, who late on Tuesday was refusing to concede the race, had been favored in the deep red state until two women came forward to assert that Moore assaulted them when they were adolescents; a number of another woman said the Alabama Republican had romantically pursued them when they were underage. Moore has denied all the allegations.

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‘It’s not over’: Roy Moore refuses to concede in Alabama Senate race- video

Alabama has long faced a profound racial divide, which was reflected in the results. According to an exit poll, Jones won 95% of the African-American vote but only 27% of the white vote in the Yellowhammer State. However, widespread African-American turnout on Jones’s behalf overcame Moore’s margins in rural, predominantly white parts of Alabama.

Jones also made significant inroads among college-educated whites. He won well-educated Madison county by a margin of 57-40. A center of the aerospace industry, the district voted for Trump by a margin of 55-38 in 2016.

Alabama voting demographics

‘More in common than what would divide us’

Jones emerged to a euphoric reception just before 10 pm local time.” Folks, I gotta tell you, I think that I have been waiting all my life and now I simply don’t know what the hell to say ,” he said, beginning a 10 -minute speech.” I have always believed that the person or persons of Alabama had more in common than what would divide us .”

The election had never been either about him or Moore, he insisted.” This entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and inducing sure everyone in this state, regardless of what zip code you live in, is going to get a fair shake .”

His speech was met with cheers and applause and chants of” USA! USA !”

Doug
Doug Jones waves to supporters after the results were announced. Photograph: John Bazemore/ AP

The Democratic victory will reduce the Republican majority in the Senate to 51 -4 9 once Jones takes his seat on Capitol Hill. This significantly reduces the margin for error as Republicans attempt to push through a major corporate taxation cut.

They already have one defector in senator Bob Corker, and Jones’s election entails a single additional Republican breaking ranks would sink the legislation .

Moore’s defeat also marks a major personal blow to Trump, who endorsed the Alabama Republican and held a rally on his behalf merely over the state line in Pensacola, Florida. Although most national Republicans rushed to distance themselves from Moore in the aftermath of the allegations, Trump reaffirmed his support through tweets and public statements.

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The Roy Moore file

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Born

Roy Stewart Moore, 11 February 1947, in Gadsden, Alabama, the oldest of five children of a construction worker and housewife.

Best of times

He had a large slab of Vermont granite inscribed with quotes from the Declaration of Independence, “the member states national” anthem and the founding fathers installed in the Alabama supreme court. It was topped off with tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Worst of Times

In Vietnam, Moore insisted his troops salute him on the battlefield. He was named” Captain America” and later remembered sleeping on sandbags to avoid a grenade flung under his cot in retribution.

What he says

” I think it[ America] was great at the time when families were unified. Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another .”

What others say

After refusing to acknowledge same-sex marriage legislation, Human Rights Campaign said:” It is clear that Roy Moore not only believes he is above the law, he believes he is above judicial ethics …”

Photograph: Brynn Anderson/ AP

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Shortly after the findings are called, Trump tweeted his congratulations to Jones 😛 TAGEND

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard oppose victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republican will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never objective!

December 13, 2017

Early on Wednesday morning, the president tried to claim he had always known Moore would lose, recalling his backing for foe Luther Strange in the Republican primary that had preceded the special election.” The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange( and his numbers ran up mightily ),” Trump wrote,” is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him !”

Moore’s defeat is a significant blow to the efforts by Steve Bannon and the populist Trump wing of the Republican party to undermine Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Bannon and his allies are planning a series of primary challenges against establishment Republican in 2018. Moore’s defeat significantly reduces their leverage as the joint efforts of Bannon and his rightwing news website, Breitbart, could not elect their preferred nominee in a state that Trump won in a landslide in 2016.

Steven Law, the head of the McConnell-allied Senate Leadership Fund, set the blame squarely on Bannon moments after the race was called.” This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running ,” Law said.” Not merely did Steve Bannon expense us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the president of the United States into his fiasco .”

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Cory Gardner, the head of the National Republican Senate Committee, which categorically refused to back Moore, said:” Tonight’s results are clear: the person or persons of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the US Senate .”

While national Republican accepted defeat, at Moore’s election night event, presidential candidates and his supporters still held out hope.

‘The evening is not over yet’

Moore’s campaign chairman, Bill Armistead, took the stage to insist that” the evening is not over yet” and cited Alabama’s provision for an automatic recount if result was within half of a percentage point. He also noted optimistically that there were still outstanding military ballots.

Moore then took the stage to say:” When the vote is this close, it’s not over .” He then bemoaned that he had been” painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light” before recommending attendees to go home and go to sleep.

Roy
Roy Moore supporters react to the loss on election night. Photo: Joe Raedle/ Getty Images

Cal Zastrow, a friend of Moore who had come down from Michigan to volunteer for the campaign, tried to frame research results within a bigger painting.” I was cheering for him and supporting him but Jesus is wonderful whether Roy Moore wins or loses ,” he said.” I’m not distressed. I’m not discouraged. Jesus is wonderful .”

At Jones’ election night party hundreds of supporters, many waving signs, erupted in cheers at a hotel ballroom in Birmingham when, on giant Tv screens, CNN declared the race for the Democrat. There were hugs, smiles, tears and chants of” We want Doug !” The raw feeling was evident.

John Parker, 26, a bartender, said:” I think it’s astounding and unprecedented in Alabama politics, and a response to what we’re considering nationally. This is a direct response to President Trump. Roy Moore is unfit for any chore, let alone[ that of] international civil servants. Alabama tonight voted for America .”

He added:” There is hope and pleasure. Tomorrow’s another day in Alabama .”

Voter breakdown

Caitlin Barringer, 29, who works in healthcare, said:” We eventually have a person who will represent all of Alabama. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for people be recognised that Roy Moore is not what he says he is .”

Looking at the media crews in the ballroom, she added:” I’m thankful everyone from all over the world is here and Alabama has shown we are so much more than closed-minded people .”

Community activist Keith Williams, 43, who is African American, said:” Miracles do happen. I have a message for America: don’t count Alabama out. The progressive motion is going forward .”

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The rise and fall of Al Franken: from comedy to politics to disgrace

The Minnesota senator had begun to attain his mark on Capitol Hill as an incisive and amusing presence, but those who knew him alerted he came here with baggage

When Al Franken was mooted as a possible dark horse in the 2020 presidential election, those who knew him warned that he comes with baggage. They little guessed how much.

The Democratic senator announced on Thursday that he will resign in the coming weeks following a string of sex misconduct accusations. It marked a dizzying rise and fall for the comedian-turned-politician whose legacy on Capitol Hill will be heatedly contested.

In his farewell address on the Senate floor, Franken sought to portray himself as a victim.” Some of the allegations against me are simply not true ,” he said defiantly.” Others I remember very differently … But this decision is not about me. It’s about the people of Minnesota .”

Not all the people of Minnesota have been taken by surprise by the events of the past three weeks, however. Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota, said:” I didn’t know of any of these accusations but he’s a very self-confident person who guess of himself as special. With some of the accusations you see that: what he felt was being goofy or having his style was clearly unacceptable .”

Franken, 66, who grew up in the Jewish community in St Louis Park, a suburbium of Minneapolis ,~ ATAGEND had appeared to be a phase in favour of the debate that politics is enriched by people from varied and colourful backgrounds rather than career politicians.

He first stimulated his name 40 years ago as a writer and musician on the TV slapstick show Saturday Night Live and was twice a guest performer at the White House correspondents’ dinner . He also worked as a talkshow host and wrote books such as Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.

Then came an abrupt turning when Franken ran for the Senate in 2008. He went to Jeff Blodgett ,~ ATAGEND who operated the late Paul Wellstone’s Senate campaigns, for advice. Blodgett commented on Thursday:” I would hope that Al Franken would get credit for growing into a senator of real substance, someone who dug deep on issues like net neutrality, mental health and veterans affairs, a senator who paid close attention to his country, and a consistent progressive voice during a tough era for our country .”

During the election campaign Republican attempted to turn his old jokes against him, but in vain. The Democrat creaked home by 312 referendums after an eight-month legal battle. But anyone expecting him to become court jester in the Senate was in for a letdown .~ ATAGEND

Al
Al Franken on election night in November 2008 Photograph: Craig Lassig/ EPA

Facing scepticism over whether he possessed the necessary grativas, Franken chose he had to prove himself as” a workhorse and not a indicate horse”, he recalled in a recent memoir, Giant of the Senate. He subjected himself to what he calls” the DeHumorizer” and became a polished politician who steered clear of reporters.

” Possibly the most ridiculous Politician Skill I had to learn … was how to’ fulcrum ,’ which basically means’ not answer questions ‘,” he writes. But there were occasional lapsings, such as the time he rolled his eyes at the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.” As soon as Mitch had finished his speech, he marched up to the podium and let me know he was furious, as he had every right to be.’ This isn’t’ Saturday Night Live ,’ Al !'”

Meanwhile Franken induced significant contributions to policy, including to Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Jacobs said:” There’s no doubt Al Franken is very bright, “hes having” genuine interest in public policy and he worked hard to prove to his constituents and his fellow senators that he was worthy .”

It paid off. Franken was re-elected by a comfortable margin in 2014. He allowed the mask to slip a little, letting himself be funny again and more media friendly. Thus liberated, he also became one of the Democrats’ hardest hitters, pummeling the education secretary, Betsy DeVos ,~ ATAGEND us attorney general Jeff Sessions and supreme court justice Neil Gorsuch during confirmation hearings.

He also took on unfashionable causes such as net neutrality, and his recent grilling of Facebook and Google over Russian election interference was at once sardonic and incisive, amusing and devastating.

But the inner jester was still there and so were its dark secrets. Allegations began to emerge last month when Los Angeles radio anchor Leeann Tweeden accused Franken of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 United Service Organisations tour. He apologised and called for himself to be investigated, but over day a further seven women came forward with asserts about inappropriate behaviour.

On Wednesday more than 30 Democratic Senators called for Franken to stand down .~ ATAGEND No amount of “pivoting” could save him from his past. Jacobs said:” His career was in an industry where outrageous behaviour and sexual aggressivenes have a free rein and the commission has caught up with him with a vengeance. It’s a sad day: he put their own lives on hold and now his career in politics appears to be over. There’s nothing to celebrate .”

During an interview with the Guardian at a cafe in St Paul in September, a casually dressed Franken showed a down-to-earth side of his personality, relating how he had just been to the Minnesota Vikings’ training camp with his son. A stranger approached him and said:” I’m this close to asking for your autograph but the memory will be enough .” Franken graciously insisted on an autograph.

Reaction in his home country is mixed, Jacobs said, with conservatives generally “elated” and some liberals “hopping mad” that the senator has been pushed out of office.” I believe most Minnesotans have a heavy heart. A sense of disloyalty, frustration and annoyance about what’s going on in public life .”

For now, Franken has joined the ranks of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer as out of work and unemployable. But he said on Thursday:” I may be resigning my seat, but I am not giving up my voice .”

Jacobs suspects he could yet attempt a third act.” He may be forced from office but I don’t think it’s the last we’ve seen of him. He may recover, re-energise and come back as a spitfire comedian looking for retaliation. I would not want to be on his enemies list .”

But some assured Franken’s farewell statements in the Senate as self-serving. His legacy is eternally tainted. Neil Sroka, spokesman for the progressive political organisation Democracy for America, which called for him to resign last week ,~ ATAGEND said:” It’s hard not to see how this doesn’t cast a cloud up what could have been an important career in the Senate, but it’s a shadow that has to exist. There’s a broad sense, at the least among Democrats, that we cannot ignore the victims of sexual harassment: their voices need to be heard .”

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‘Enough is enough’: leading Democrats call on Al Franken to quit

Minnesota senator, 66, recommended by several female my fellow members to resign as allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior mount

Half a dozen female Democratic senators have called on Al Franken to resign, as other women stepped forward to accuse the Minnesota Democrat of sexually inappropriate behavior. They were joined by the minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, and the national party chair, Tom Perez, who also called on Franken to step down.

Franken’s office said he would make a public statement- expected to include a response to the calls- on Thursday. One Democratic senator, Ron Wyden, said he expected Franken to” announce his resignation tomorrow “.

In Facebook posts, tweets and public statement, several Democrats advised their colleague to step aside amid widening accusations of sexual assault and misconduct against powerful humen that have roiled Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Washington.

” I have spent a lot of day reflecting on Senator Franken’s behaviour ,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a longtime advocate for victims of sexual assault, said in a Facebook post that started the cascade of calls.” Enough is enough .”

Gillibrand was joined by Patty Murray of Washington, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Kamala Harris of California and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

Those calls were swiftly echoed by other colleagues, including Dick Durbin, the No 2 Democrat in the Senate, as well as Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Tom Perez, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, also called on Franken to resign.

” Everybody has to share the responsibility of building a culture of trust and respect for women in every industry and workplace, and that includes our party ,” Perez said.

Perez’s remarks came less than 36 hours after the Republican National Committee renewed its support for Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate who is facing multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior with teenage girls and women, including sexual assault.

While many national Republican have distanced themselves from the Alabama Republican, he has approved by Donald Trump. The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who has called on Moore to drop out, has said the Alabama Republican would face an ethics investigation if elected.

McConnell issued a statement calling for Franken to step down:” The near daily barrage of allegations of sexual misconduct against Senator Franken are extremely concerning to all of us in the Senate. While the Senate ethics committee is reviewing these serious allegations, it now appears that Senator Franken has lost the support of his colleagues, and most importantly, his constituents. I do not believe he can effectively serve the person or persons of Minnesota in the US Senate any longer .”

Hours afterward, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, weighed in to say he too believed Franken should resign. In a brief statement, Schumer said:” I consider Senator Franken a dear friend and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his constituents and the Senate, and he should step down immediately .”

Franken, 66, who has been accused by multiple other women of groping or trying to forcibly kiss them, has apologized for his behaviour and asked the Senate ethics committee to analyse himbut the senators said elected official must be held to a higher standard, putting his political future in question. Franken did not appear in the Senate on Monday.

” This institution has evolved over centuries, it’s evolved over my virtually three decades of service, and it’s evolving once more before our very eyes ,” said Murray, a member of Democratic leadership.

” This current evolution is long overdue. It’s time for us as elected representatives to hold ourselves to a higher criterion, to define two examples, and to live a situated of values that is truly representative and worthy of the Congress, our republic, and our great country .”

Hirono tweeted:” Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside. I’ve fought with this decision because he’s been a good senator and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behaviour and his mistreatment of women .”

Harris posted:” Sexual harassment and misconduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere. I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down .”

Earlier on Tuesday, Politico reported on a new accusation against Franken. A former Democratic congressional aide said the former comedian tried to forcibly kiss her after a taping of his radio show in 2006, as he was ramping up his campaign for the US Senate, according to Politico. The aide dodged his advance and alleged that Franken said as she left:” It’s my right as an entertainer .” Franken denied the accusation to Politico.

The calls for Franken to resign come one day after John Conyers, the longest-serving Democrat in Congress, resigned after allegations of sexual harassment. Conyers, who was the top Democrat on the House judiciary committee and spend over a half-century on Capitol Hill, had settled one claim of sexual harassment against him with taxpayer money and had been accused of misconduct by several other former staffers.

Two other members of Congress currently face allegations of sexual harassment: Republican Blake Farenthold of Texas and Democrat Ruben Kihuen of Nevada.

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Democrat official considered replacing Hillary Clinton with Joe Biden

Donna Brazile, former head of Democratic National Committee, says Clintons pneumonia and campaigns odor of failing induced her meditate drastic option

The former head of the Democratic National Committee says she considered initiating effort to replace Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee with then vice-president Joe Biden.

Donna Brazile makes the revelation in a memoir being released on Tuesday entitled Hackers: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Set Donald Trump in the White House.

Brazile writes that she considered initiating Clinton’s removal after she collapsed while leaving a 9/11 memorial service in New York City. Clinton afterward recognise she was suffered by pneumonia.

But Brazile says the larger issue was that her campaign was ” anemic” and had taken on” the odor of failing “.

After holding a dozen combinations to replace Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine from Virginia, Brazile writes that she settled on Biden and Cory Booker of New Jersey as those with the best chance of defeating Trump.

Ultimately, the former DNC head says,” I thought of Hillary, and all the women in the country who were so proud of and excited about her. I could not do this to them .”

It is uncertain whether Biden was willing to step into the race or even whether he discussed the idea with Brazile. A spokesman for the former vice-president did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.

Brazile writes that on 12 September 2016, the day after Clinton collapsed, Biden’s chief of staff called saying the vice-president wanted to speak with her and that her suppose at the time was ” Gee, I wonder what he wanted to talk to me about ?”

As for Brazile’s powers to decide the party’s nominee, she writes that as party chair she would oversee the process of replacing a nominee who became disabled.

Brazile writes she believed a joint fundraising arrangement signed between Clinton and the DNC” looked unethical” and she felt Clinton had too much influence on the party during a competitive Democratic primary with rival Bernie Sanders.

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Without the Comey letter I would have won’

During the nomination process for the 2016 election Democrats argued among themselves over whether Clinton was being given an unfair advantage over Sanders, a Vermont independent who sought the party’s nomination with the backing of its more liberal members.

On Saturday, DNC Chairman Tom Perez issued a statement saying he and the DNC leadership were committed to ensuring the nomination process in 2020 will be” unquestionably fair and transparent “.

Among the reforms he said he developed after listening to Democrats across the party spectrum was ensuring that” no candidate participating in our presidential nominating process gains any unjust advantage — real or perceived — during our primary season “. He also said the debate schedule would be decided in advance rather than negotiated after all candidates had entered the race.

Perez also pledged to ensure all joint fundraising agreements would be transparent, including the new Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund arrangements developed with the 50 state parties.

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White House under fire for suggesting general’s remarks should not be questioned

Press secretary calls reporters question highly inappropriate as Frederica Wilson says Kelly lied about her during press provide information on Thursday

The White House has been condemned for attempting to stillnes the media by warning that it is” highly inappropriate” to challenge the veracity of remarks by a military general.

A reporter on Friday questioned a claim by the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, a retired four-star marine general, that the Democratic congresswoman Frederica Wilson had taken credit for securing funding for an FBI building in Florida.

Chip Reid, a CBS News correspondent, said during the daily press briefing:” He was wrong yesterday in talking about getting the money. The money was procured before she came into Congress .”

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, replied coldly:” If you want to go after Gen Kelly, that’s up to you. But I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate .”

Reid’s follow-up topic was ignored and the implication- from a democratically elected civilian government- that a military general was beyond criticism was troubling to many.

Perry O’Brien, a former army medic who served in Afghanistan, said:” It’s just another example of the administration conceal behind the uniform of others. That’s why it’s so unfortunate to see someone like Gen Kelly enable that and jump on the grenade that Trump hurled .”

O’Brien, organising director of Common Defense, a group of veterans against Trump, added:” When “theyre saying”,’ How dare you criticise a general ?’, how about[ former Trump national security consultant] Gen Michael Flynn, who was the first to resign after we learned they were colluding with foreign powers? I don’t think most generals would say a star on your shoulder stimulates you immune from criticism .”

Kelly appeared at the White House podium on Thursday, to defend Trump against the charge that he caused offence during a bellow with the widow of Sgt La David Johnson, one of four US soldiers killed in Niger earlier this month by Islamic State fighters. Wilson heard the call and criticised Trump for disrespecting Johnson’s widow, Myeshia.

While defending the president, Kelly- whose son Robert was killed in Afghanistan in 2010- accused Wilson of “grandstanding” in a 2015 speech by saying she was instrumental in getting funding for an FBI building in Florida and took care of her constituents because she got the money. Wilson denied the charge and video evidence appeared to support her account.

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John Kelly rebukes Trump critics over military deaths- video

Kelly stood by his accusation, Sanders said on Friday.” Gen Kelly said he was stunned that Representative Wilson induced commentaries at a build dedication honouring slain FBI agents about her own actions in Congress, including lobbying former president Obama on legislation ,” she said.

” As Gen Kelly pointed out, if you’re able to make a sacred act like honouring American heroes all about yourself, you’re an’ empty barrel ‘. If you don’t understand that reference, I’ll put it a bit more simply. As we say in the south: all hat , no cattle .”

Wilson regularly wears a cowboy hat.

Challenged over the video footage of the speech, in which Wilson praises FBI agents, Sanders insisted:” She also had quite a few comments that day that weren’t part of that speech and weren’t part of that video that were also witnessed by many people that were there .”

The press secretary also rejected criticism from Johnson’s mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, who supports the accounts of the Trump phone call given by her son’s widow and Wilson.

” Certainly, if the spirit of which those comments were intended were misunderstood, that’s very unfortunate ,” Sanders said.” But as the president has said, as Gen Kelly said- who I guess has a very deep understanding of what that individual would be going through – his comments were very sympathetic, very respectful. And that was the spirit in which the president intended them. If they were taken any other style, that’s certainly an unfortunate thing .”

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Trump: ‘I didn’t say what the congresswoman said’- video

According to Wilson, Trump told Johnson’s widow her late spouse” knew what he signed up for, but when it happens it hurts anyway “.

Kelly in effect corroborated that account, saying he had counseled Trump on how to induce the bellow by telling him of the morning he was told of his son’s death. Kelly remembered his close friend, Gen Joseph Dunford, telling him his son” was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed “.

” He knew what the possibilities were, because we’re at war ,” Kelly said.” That’s what the president tried to say to the four families the other day .”

Trump, however, continues to vehemently deny that he said such words.

” The fake news is going crazy with wacky congresswoman Wilson[ Democrat] who was secretly on a very personal call and dedicated a total lie on content ,” he tweeted late on Thursday.

Kelly also indicated Wilson had eavesdropped on a highly sensitive call. The congresswoman, a close friend of the Johnson family, pointed out she was in the car when Myeshia Johnson received the call, which was placed on speakerphone.

” I wasn’t listening in ,” she told CNN on Friday.” Please don’t characterize it as that .”

Wilson said Trump’s comments were” not a good message to say to anyone who has lost a child at war “.

” You don’t sign on because you think you’re going to die ,” she said.” You sign up to serve your country. There’s nothing to misinterpret. He said what he said. I only don’t agree with it. I just don’t agree with that’s what you should say to grieving households .”

Regarding Kelly’s statements about the FBI field office speech, Wilson said she had not been a member of Congress in 2009, when the funding mentioned by Kelly was procured. “That’s a lie,” she said of Kelly’s characterization.” How dare he ?”

She added:” I feel sorry for Gen Kelly. He has my sympathy for the loss of his son. But he can’t just go on Tv and lie on me .”

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The Trump-Russia dossier: why its findings grow more significant by the day

As US officers analyse potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, the series of reports by the former UK intelligence official Christopher Steele are casting an ever darker darknes over the president

Nine months after its first appearance, the situated of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier, one of the most explosive documents in modern political history, is still hanging over Washington, casting a shadow over the Trump administration that has only grown-up darker as time has gone by.

It was reported this week that the document’s author, former British intelligence official, Christopher Steele, has been interviewed by investigators working for the special advise on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Senate and House intelligence committees are, meanwhile, asking to see Steele to make up their own intellect about his findings. The ranking Democrat on the House committee, Adam Schiff, said that the dossier was ” a very important and useful guide to help us figure out what we need to look into “.

The fact that Steele’s reports are being taken seriously after lengthy scrutiny by federal and congressional researchers has far-reaching implications.

Originally commissioned by a private firm as opponent research by Donald Trump’s Republican and then Democratic adversaries, they quote a range of unnamed sources, in Russia and the US, who describe the Kremlin’s cultivation over several years of the man who now occupies the Oval Office– and the systematic collusion of Trump’s associates with Moscow to help get him there.

The question of collusion is at the heart of the various investigations into links between Trump and Moscow. Even a senior Republican, Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, admitted this week it was an open question.

Burr said his committee needed to talk Steele himself to assess the dossier properly and recommended him to speak to its members or staff. According to an NBC report on Friday, Steele had expressed willingness to meet the committee’s leaders.

In his remarks this week, Burr said his committee had come to a consensus in supporting the conclusions of a US intelligence community appraisal in January this year that Russian had conducted a multi-pronged campaign to interfere in the 2016 election, in Trump’s favour.

It is a finding that echoes the reports that Steele was making seven months earlier. Trump has called the assessment a “hoax”, but there is no sign the three agencies that came to that conclusion, the CIA, FBI and NSA, have had any second thoughts in the intervene months.

” Many of my former CIA colleagues have taken[ the Steele] reports seriously since they were first published ,” wrote John Sipher, a former senior officer in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service on the Just Security website.

Christopher
Christopher Steele, the former MI6 officer who compiled the reports. Photo: Victoria Jones/ PA

” This is not because they are not fond of Trump( and many admittedly are not ), but because they understand the potential plausibility of the reports’ overall narrative based on their experienced understanding of both Russian methodology and the nature of raw intelligence reporting .”

Sipher emphasised the “raw” nature of research reports, aimed at conveying an accurate account of what sources are saying, rather than claiming to be a definitive summary of events. There are spelling mistakes and rough edges. Several of the episodes it described remain entirely unverified.

But as every passing month brings more leaks, revelations in the press, and more progress in the investigations, the Steele dossier has generally gained in credibility, rather than lost it.

Trump Tower meeting

One of the more striking most recent developments was the disclosure of a meeting on 9 June 2016 in Trump Tower involving Trump’s son, Donald Jr, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with a Russian lawyer closely tied to the government, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

After the meeting was first reported on 8 July this year, the president’s son claimed( in a statement dictated, it turned out, by his father) that it had been about adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

The next day that was exposed as a lie, with the publication of emails that made it clear that Veselnitskaya was offering injury material on Hillary Clinton, that an intermediary setting up the session said was ” part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump “.

If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer ,” Donald Trump Jr responded.

Just 11 days after that meeting- but more than a year before it became public- Steele quoted information sources as saying that” the Kremlin had been feeding Trump and his squad valuable intelligence on his foes, including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton”, for several years.

A subsequently report, dated 19 July 2016, said:” Speaking in confidence to a countryman in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of cooperation between them and the Russian leadership .”

The report said that such contacts were handled on Trump’s end by his then campaign director, Paul Manafort, who participated in the 9 June Trump Tower session.

Manafort has denied taking part in any collusion with the Russian nation, but registered himself as a foreign agent retroactively after it was revealed his firm received more than $17 m running as a lobbyist for a pro-Russian Ukrainian party. He is a subject of special attorney Robert Mueller’s investigation and in July the FBI raided his home in Virginia.

Other key protagonists in the Steele dossier have surfaced in subsequent revealings and investigation. Two of them, an Azeri-Russian businessman Araz Agalarov and his son Emin, are described in emails released by Donald Trump Jr as offering to serve as intermediaries in passing on damaging material on Clinton and is reported to have help set up the Trump Tower meeting.

Carter Page

Another key figure in the Steele dossier is Carter Page, an energy consultant who Trump named as one of his foreign policy advisors. Steele’s sources describe him as an “intermediary” between Manafort and Moscow, who had met a Putin lieutenant and head of the Russian energy giant, Rosneft, and a senior Kremlin official, Igor Diveykin.

Donald
Donald Trump and his son, Donald Jr. Photo: Jewel Samad/ AFP/ Getty Images

Page denied meeting either human on his trip-ups to Moscow, which he has said were for business purposes and not connected to his role in the Trump campaign.

Nonetheless, he has become a focus of investigation: it was reported in April that that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued an order last year for his communication to be monitored. To obtain the order, researchers would have to demonstrate” probable cause” to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power. Page has said he welcomed the news of the order as it demonstrated he was being made a scapegoat of the investigation.

Elsewhere, a Steele memo in September 2016 mentions a “Mikhail Kulagin” who had been withdrawn from the Russian embassy in Washington because of his” heavy participation in the US presidential election operation “.

There was no envoy of that name at the mission, but there was a Mikhail Kalugin; five months ago, it emerged that he had left the embassy in August 2016.

McClatchy reported he was under investigationfor his role in Russia’s interference in the campaign. The BBC reported that the US had identified Kalugin as a snoop.

Facebook

More lately, there has been a slew of revelations about the role of disinformation spread by Russians and other eastern Europeans posing as Americans on social media. The New York Times reported that hundreds and possibly thousands of Russian-linked fake accounts and bots on Facebook and Twitter were used to spread anti-Clinton narratives and messages.

Facebook disclosed that it had shut down several hundred accounts that it believes were fabricated by a Kremlin-linked Russian company to buy $100,000 in ads that are typically promoted racial and other divisive issues during the campaign.

This week, Facebook handed over to Congress 3, 000 ads bought by a Russian organisation during the campaign, and it was reported that many of those ads, some of them Islamophobic, were specifically targeted on swing states, Michigan and Wisconsin.

A Steele memo from August 2016 states that after Russia’s hand had been discovered in the hacking of Democratic party emails and passing them to WikiLeaks for publishing, another boulevard of influence would be explored.

The memo says” the tactics would be to spread rumours and misinformation about the content of what already had been leaked and make up new content “.

The
The Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who fulfilled Donald Trump Jr and other campaign figures. Photograph: Yury Martyanov/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Russian official alleged by Steele’s sources to be in charge of the operation, Sergei Ivanov- then Putin’s joint chiefs of staff- is quoted as saying:” The audience to be targeted by such operations was the educated youth in America as the PA[ Russian Presidential Administration] assessed that there was still a chance they could be persuaded to vote for Republican candidate Donald Trump as a protest against the Washington establishment( in the form of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton ).”

The Steele dossier said one of the aims of the Russian influence campaign was to peel off voters who had supported Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries and nudge them towards Trump.

Evidence has since emerged that Russians and east Europeans posing as Americans targeted Sanders advocates with divisive and anti-Clinton messages in the summer of 2016, after the primaries were over.

Unsubstantiated claims

There are other details in the Steele dossier that have echoed in subsequent news reports, but there are also several claims and accounts for which no supporting evidence has emerged.

The startling claim that Trump was filmed with prostitutes while staying at a Moscow hotel in November 2013, when he was staging the Miss Universe contest there, has not been substantiated in any way.

Nor has the allegation that Trump’s lawyer and vice-president of the Trump Organisation, Michael Cohen, travelled to Prague in August 2013 to conspire with a senior Russian official. In a letter to the House intelligence committee, Cohen said he never went to Prague and took issue with a string of other claims in the dossier.

It has however emerged that Cohen was involved in investigating a real estate deal in Moscow for the Trump Organisation while the campaign was in full swing. He has been summoned to appear in open hearing before the Senate intelligence committee later this month.

The Steele dossier, its writer and the firm who hired him, Fusion GPS, have become favoured targets for Trump’s loyalists on Capitol hill. They point to the fact that the genesis of the documents was a paid commission to find damaging facts about Trump.

But the dossier has not faded from view. Instead, it appears to be growing in significance as the investigations have gathered pace.

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