‘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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Chuck Grassley attempts to clarify ‘booze or women’ estate tax comments

Senator who spoke of people expending fund on booze or women or movies says taxation code should not penalise prudence, saving and investment

A Republican senator who said attempts to scale back or eliminate the estate tax distinguished” people that are investing as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny the government had, whether it’s on booze or women or movies” has attempted to clarify his meaning.

Chuck Grassley of Iowa, a seven-term senator and senior is part of the Senate finance committee, attained the statement late last week in an interview with the Des Moines Register.

His words have attracted attention since the passage of the Senate tax bill early on Saturday morning.

Democrats charge that the Republican tax reform is heavily weighted in favor of rich countries and corporate America and will add as much as$ 2tn to the national debt. Republicans respond that the wide-ranging cuts will stimulate economic growth.

Under current law, when someone succumbs their estate owes taxes on the value of assets transferred to heirs above $5.5 m for individuals and $11 m for couples.

Only the estates of about two out of every 1,000 Americans who die qualify for such tax.

The Senate bill doubles those limits but does not repeal the tax. The House tax bill initially doubles the limits and then repeals the entire tax after 2023.

House and Senate negotiators are working out the differences between the two bills, with the goal of completing legislation to send to Donald Trump before Christmas.

On Monday, Grassley said his comments had been misinterpreted.

” My point regarding the estate tax, which has been taken out of context, is that the government shouldn’t seize the fruits of someone’s lifetime of labor after they succumb ,” he said in a statement.

” The topic is one of basic fairness, and working to create a taxation code that doesn’t penalize frugality, saving and investment .”

Farm-state lawmakers and other Republicans have long was contended that the estate tax is harsh on small businesses and family farms.

Grassley said he wanted to ensure the tax code was as fair for” family farmers who have to break up their operations to pay the[ Internal Revenue Service] in accordance with the death of a loved one as it is for mothers saving for their children’s college education or running families investing and saving for their retirement “.

The Tax Policy Center has estimated that merely 80 small business and small farm estates nationwide will face any estate tax in 2017.

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Opinions clash in Roy Moore’s home town: ‘There’s a lot of rumors in small-town Alabama’

David Smith visits Gadsden to hear locals opinions on the misconduct accusations, and finds advocates, waverers and critics who loathed Moore from the start

” I won’t bite ,” Tiffany Jones, an African American woman, joked to Richard Helms, a white man and Donald Trump advocate, as he hesitantly sat down beside her at a bus stop.” Even though we have different opinions, we can still sit and talk to each other .”

It was Thursday afternoon in Gadsden, the Alabama hometown of US Senate candidate Roy Moore. Jones, 38, a social work student, is vehemently opposed to the maverick Republican and observes the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him compelling. Helms, a 62 -year-old pipe fitter, takes the opposite view.

” I believe the women ,” Jones said.” Do I believe anything is going to be done about it? No, because he’s white and prejudiced and they want to keep it the same. That’s how it is in Alabama .”

Helms, however, intends to vote for Moore.” They’re trying to drum up some garbage to discredit him ,” he contended over a cigarette.” There might have been some sort of incident- altogether innocent, human, man and woman- and people get out there and exaggerated and blew it out of all proportion .”

The disagreement is typical of Gadsden, an understated, churchgoing city of 36,000 people on the Coosa river where the grapevine has been buzzing of late. Interviews by the Guardian with 20 residents on Thursday uncovered a wide spectrum of views, from diehards who stand by Moore to Republicans who are wavering because of the scandal to critics who loathed his firebrand populism from the start.

Behind Jones and Helms’s seat was the modest law office of Leroy Cobb, who was wearing a long and thick white beard, a tie-in patterned with the Confederate battle flag and a baseball cap with a picture of Confederate general “Stonewall” Jackson and the words” southern heritage “. Breaking off from a client session, Cobb, 69, insisted that he could not contemplate voting for Doug Jones- bid to become the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century- over Moore on 12 December.

Tiffany
Tiffany Jones and Richard Helms at a bus stop in Gadsden. Photo: David Smith for the Guardian

” On the one side you’ve got a human who believes in using taxpayer money to murder “childrens and” dedicate sodomites equal rights ,” he said.” On the other you’ve got a man who doesn’t believe in those things. I’m a Christian and my Bible doesn’t teach those .”

Dismissing the allegations against Moore, he added:” Forty years ago? They never told anybody or nobody believed them? What does that tell you about what kind of women they are? If it was my daughter, I would have killed whoever did it. I don’t believe them .”

The candidate is being held up to unfair scrutiny, Cobb insisted, quoting rightwing conspiracy theories.” No reporter ever went and looked at the background of Barack Obama .”

Cobb was not alone in rallying to the defence of 70 -year-old Moore, whose campaign on Thursday hit back at his accusers, declaring” let the battle begin “. Waiting outside the Gadsden Career Center, Christopher Brand, 38, said:” I believe it’s just stuff in the paper and I think it will go away. I don’t know if they’re lying but some people try to seek publicity these days, get their name in the paper. Some do it for money .”

Brand, who voted for Trump in the presidential election, admitted that he heard the rumours about Moore before they became public. But he said:” There’s a lot of gossips in little town in Alabama. I only believe what I know to be fact .”

Others were more willing to theorize. A 67 -year-old man, who gave his name merely as Al for dread of reprisals from his employer, said he believed there would be more accusations to come against Moore.

” I’d be very surprised if there weren’t ,” Al said.” He has a history that goes back a long ways. I know the girl Leigh Corfman[ who told the Washington Post that Moore sexually abused her when she was 14] and about 12 years ago she told me the tale. She is absolutely not lying. I know he molested her when she was very young .”

Quick Guide

Gay prohibits and kudo for Putin: the world according to Roy Moore

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Homosexuality should be illegal

In 2005, Moore said:” Homosexual conduct should be illegal .” In an interview televised on C-Span, Moore added:” It is immoral. It is defined by the law as detestable .” During a debate in September 2017, he went out of his route to bemoan the fact that” sodomy[ and] sexual perversion sweep the land “.

September 11 attacks as divine punishment

In a speech in February, Moore appeared to suggest that the terrorist attacks of September 11 were the result of divine retribution against the United States and prophesized in the Book of Isaiah. In commentaries first reported by CNN, Moore quoted Isaiah 30:12 -1 3, saying:” Because you have despised His word and trust in perverseness and oppression, and say thereon … hence this iniquity will be to you as a breach ready to fall, swell out in a high wall, whose transgressing cometh suddenly at an instance .” Moore then noted:” Sounds a little bit like the Pentagon, whose transgres came abruptly at an instance, doesn’t it ?” He added:” If you think that’s coincidence, if you go to verse 25:’ There should be up on every high mountain and upon every mound, rivers and streams of water in the working day of the great carnage when the towers will fall.'”

Praise for Putin

In an interview with the Guardian in August, Moore praised Putin for his views on lesbian rights.” Perhaps Putin is right. Maybe he’s more akin to me than I know .” The commentaries came as Moore suggested the United States could be described as” the focus of evil in the world” because” we promote a lot of bad things “. Moore specifically named lesbian wedding as one of those “bad things”.

‘Reds and yellows ‘

At a rally earlier in September, Moore “was talkin about a”” reds and yellows opposing” while discussing racial division in the United States. Moore justified this on Twitter by quoting lyrics from the anthem Jesus Loves the Little Children. He wrote” Red, yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world. This is the Gospel .”

Tracking livestock is communism

In 2006, Moore denounced a proposal for a national ID system for animals as” more identifiable with communism than free enterprise “. The proposal received attention after a cow in Alabama had been diagnosed with mad cow illnes. Moore, who was then operating for governor, was skeptical that the outbreak was real. Instead, Moore suggested it was a ruse intended to promote the tracking system.

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Al also backed reports that Moore sought daughters at the Gadsden shopping mall.” He always wore the same tan camel-hair coat. There was a store called Pizitz and he would always hang around the lingerie section; they were the first ones to hurl him out. Then he would hang around outside the Record Bar and hit on young girls there. He was always alone; never with another adult. The mall hurled him out.

” Then he decided he would thump the Bible and these people believed him and he became some sort of cult figure. But he’s a shady character, a really strange guy. There’s no way I would vote for him; I never have. I don’t see him winning, actually. If you look at middle-class, better educated areas, he never gets those elections .”

Chad Gowens, a medical assistant who served in the navy, said:” Growing up in this town, most people know Roy Moore and the type of person he was. At school you heard the narratives. It was a hush-hush because he was assistant DA[ district attorney ].”

Gadsden, Alabama

Gowens, 33, always suspected that a scandal would burst into the open sooner or later.” I figured it would be that they discovered him on Grindr or something. Anyone who’s preaching that hard is normally got skeletons in their cupboard .”

Henry Joseph, 80, a retired building contractor, was sitting at the bar at the Blackstone Pub and Eatery on Broad Street, said he was a Republican but was willing to vote Democrat next month.” I’ve turned ,” he said.” Doug Jones did very well in Birmingham when he was a prosecutor .”

As for Moore, Joseph was adamant.” I think the man’s in love with himself. His ego’s all the more important than Trump’s and he probably misses himself when he goes to sleep at night .” But he added:” I suppose part of the allegations are presumptively right and a lot are fabricated. I can’t go back 30 years and tell you where I was on a devoted day .”

Lonnie Dorcey, 42, a business proprietor in the hospice industry, also dismissed the accusations.” He’s known to all the members of the country and nothing like this has come out until four weeks before the election. There were lots of opportunities over the last 30 years. It’s a small enough town, a small enough community. Everyone knows everything about everyone. You just can’t maintain a secret like for 30 years: there have been bitter election opposes and it would have come out .”

Steve Beene, 68, relaxing on a bench, said:” I believe Roy Moore could shoot somebody here and still get the votes. People are not as informed as they used to be .”

Gadsden is the county seat of Etowah County, which in the past has voted for Democrats John F Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton( twice ), but had now been been staunchly Republican, strongly backing Trump in last year’s presidential election.

It fits the profile of some of Trump’s strongholds. Gadsden’s main employers were textile mills, a steel mill that shut down in about 2000 and a tyre-manufacturing plant that virtually ran the same style. The main boulevard, Broad Street, is lined with bars and restaurants, insurance and investment companies and shops selling antiques, comics and dolls, as well as an art museum and dance conservatory, but little traffic and few household name chains. Within walking distance are several advance cash and payday loan outlets.

Greg Bailey, co-managing editor of the Gadsden Hour, a 150 -year-old daily newspaper with a circulation of 10, 000, said:” It’s gone from a smokestack city to a city looking for an identity. There are people saying,’ When are those smokestack days coming back ?’ They’re not coming back. We’re still in flux .”

Beverly
Beverly Young Nelson at a press conference in Manhattan where she has accused Roy Moore of sexually abusing her when she was 16. Photograph: Spencer Platt/ Getty Images

The paper has been inundated with calls from around the country since the Moore scandal erupted. Bailey believes he still has a chance of winning the Senate race.” It would not surprise me ,” he said.” His core base, the conservative evangelical Christians, is very loyal. This is a group that feels put upon by the socioeconomic changes they see around them and they’re desperate for a champ and they’re not easily going to give their champion up .”

The journalist added:” I have some people in my social media who are absolutely doubling down and some who are vacillating. If he sticks it out, I can’t tell what’s going to happen on December 12.”

But the waverers are much in evidence, even among unrepentant Trump voters. After all, the president himself- who won Alabama by 28 percentage points- has hardly been enthusiastic about Moore’s candidacy, first endorsing his challenger Luther Strange in the Republican primary, then suggesting that Moore should step aside if the allegations prove true, though he stopped short of demanding his immediate withdrawal.

Preparing to order lunch at Cafe 5, Rick Green, 69, said he backed Trump strongly but was undecided on how to vote in the Senate race.” I need more information about some things ,” he said.” These allegations seem to be getting stronger and stronger every day but I want to see proof. You’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. I think the election’s going to be awful close .”

A military special operations veteran of 30 years who served in Vietnam and Iraq, Green criticised congressional Republicans for trenching Moore.” You can’t seem these days to get the Republicans to stand together on anything. I’m just entirely disgusted. They can’t get their act together. They’re constantly squabbling when I want a wall construct, I want taxation reform .”

A poll released on Wednesday by the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm demonstrated Jones constructing a once unthinkable 12 -point lead since the accusations became public. Another Trump voter, 29 -year-old Jessica Jones, owned of the Sew Much Grace boutique store, said:” I lean more towards Republican in my voting. We share the same values and notions, but I cannot in good conscience vote for Roy Moore .”

Not everyone is gripped by the tournament, however. Back at the bus stop, Betty Way, 60, who works in an adjacent office for a trucks and trailer company, said:” I don’t even know what the allegations are. I don’t watch TV. I live in the country and there’s better things to do than look at politics.

” If you ask me how the deer’s running or how’s the rabbit’s hopping, I could tell you, but when you get into politics, I don’t have a position .”

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Senators call for investigation after Paradise Papers reveal tax avoidance

Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse among Democratic lawmakers attempting congressional investigation and statutes to fight offshore investors strategies

Senators have demanded a congressional investigation and new laws to combat taxation avoidance after the Paradise Papers exposed the secrets of offshore investors.

Bernie Sanders, ranking member of the Senate budget committee, wrote on Tuesday to its chairman, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, arguing that it had a responsibility to taxpayers to get to the bottom of the issue.

” The offshore taxation dodging uncovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists( ICIJ) in the’ Paradise Papers’ raise serious questions about the integrity of our taxation systems and the ability of the top one percent to rig it in order to benefit themselves at the expense of everybody else ,” the independent Senator from Vermont says in the letter .~ ATAGEND

” I am writing today to urge the Budget Committee to hold a hearing on this issue and to conduct a thorough bi-partisan investigation on how much offshore tax evasion has contributed to our $20 trillion national debt .”

Separately on Tuesday, the Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and the Democratic congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas exhorted Republicans to take up legislation to crack down on the use of offshore taxation havens.

The Paradise Papers , a leak of more than 13 m files obtained by Suddeutsche Zeitung in Germany and shared with nearly 100 news organisations around the world, including the Guardian, revealed how corporations, billionaires and senior officials in Donald Trump’s administration use complicated financial maneuvers to hide their income from the Internal Revenue Service.

Sanders notes that individuals implicated in the papers include the billionaires the Koch friends, Sheldon Adelson, Carl Icahn and Robert Mercer, as well as financial institutions such as Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Bank of America, and corporations such as Apple and Nike.

The letter also cites a Guardian report that members of the US president’s inner circle- the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson; the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross; the chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn; and the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin- have links to taxation havens.

Sanders, runner-up to Hillary Clinton in last year’s Democratic presidential primary race, says the issue of how much money these someones, institutions and firms has avoided in taxes remains unanswered.

He said:” The revelations from the Paradise Papers are just the tip of the iceberg .”

Sanders added:” In my view, before the Senate deems taxation reform, we must fully analyse offshore tax haven abuse and come up with legislative solutions to prevent the wealthiest people and most profitable firms in America from dodging US taxes .”

When the enormous leak became public, Sanders advised in a statement to the Guardian that the world was rapidly becoming an” international oligarchy” controlled by a small group of billionaires.

Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Doggett of Texas argue that the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, which they introduced in April, would close some taxation loopholes, eliminate incentives for US companies to move assets and operations offshore, and make it harder for companies to shirk their taxation bills through cross-border mergers. It would also give the government new tools to crack down on the use of illegal tax shelters.

Whitehouse and Doggett said in a joint statement:” These documents pull back the curtain on a complex shell game, where firms’ staggering profits vanish offshore and rematerialize when the time is right and the tax liability is the lowest.

” Middle-class American households can’t put in their own Grand Cayman subsidiaries. Instead, they’re left paying a bigger share of taxes than they should. As the Paradise Papers show, we need to shut down tax havens and bring jobs and earnings back to our coasts , not hand out more goodies to the super-rich, as the Republicans’ taxation scheme would do. Congress needs to take up the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act now .”

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Al Franken hammers Facebook lawyer at hearing over Russian ads

Senator conflicts with Colin Stretch over how tech giants apparently missed posts coming from Russia: How could you not connect the dots?

A top executive at Facebook struggled to answer on Tuesday as an angry and incredulous Al Franken, a Democratic senator, demanded why the social network accepted political advertisements paid for in Russian roubles during the presidential election.

Colin Stretch, vice-president and general counsel at Facebook, admitted that the internet company could have done better in tracing the source of its ad fund during testimony to a Senate judiciary subcommittee. It is the first of three congressional hearings focusing on how three tech giants- Facebook, Google and Twitter- were exploited by Russia to sway voters.

” This is something you guys have to deal with and fix ,” Franken told Stretch, who was appearing instead of the more recognisable Facebook leaders Mark Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg.” You were kind of the canary in the coal mine in 2016.”

In a devastating line of questioning, Franken asked irately:” How did Facebook, which prides itself on being able to process billions of data points and instantly transform them into personal connections for its users, somehow not induce the connection that electoral ads paid for in roubles were coming from Russia? Those are two data points! American political ads and Russian fund: roubles. How could you not connect those two dots ?”

Stretch said Facebook had done an effective job on cyber-theft but admitted:” I think in hindsight, we should have had a broader lens. There were signals we missed and we are now focused -”

But Franken, angry and sardonic, interrupted:” People are buying ads on your platform with roubles. They’re political ads. You set billions of data points together all the time. That’s what I hear that these platforms do: they’re the most sophisticated things invented by human, ever. Google has all knowledge that human has ever developed. You can’t put together roubles with a political ad and go hmm, those two data points spell out something bad ?”

Stretch responded:” Senator, it’s a signal we should have been alert to and in hindsight -”

But Franken cut him off, asking whether Facebook would pledge not to publish a political ad paid for in Northern korean won. As Stretch demurred, Franken interjected ferociously:” Please answer yes or no, sir … You’re sophisticated. You’re the chief legal counsel for Facebook. Please answer yes or no .”

Stretch sought to clarify that currencies did not necessarily indicate the source country of an advert and refused to commit to banning political ads purchased in foreign currencies. But Franken snapped back, asking why a bad actor would choose the North Korean won to conceal his activities. He told the counsel:” My goal is for you to think through this stuff a little bit better .”

The hearing on Capitol hill heard how Russia’s attack via social media began in 2015, before the party primaries, and continued even after last November’s presidential election. Stretch said there had been an effort to challenge the validity of Donald Trump’s election, sowing further division.

Facebook, Twitter and Google defended their security measures and promised to do more to stop the misuse of their platforms by a foreign power. Richard Salgado, director of law enforcement and information security at Google, said:” We take this seriously. We’ve stimulated changes and will continue to get better .”

But some senators were sceptical. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, called the companies” Johnny come latelies” and said:” There’s a lot that I think you could have done earlier .”

Senator Dianne Feinstein highlighted fake pages such as “Black Matters US” and” United Muslims of America”, which Russians use a custom audience tool to target. Stretch described such attempts to exploit divisions in society as “vile” and “cynical” and said there have been a modification to ad targeting policies with added layers of review.

Senator Chris Coons struck a similar tone to Franken and again Facebook the brunt. He drew attention to an advert that claimed Hillary Clinton, along with Barack Obama, was despised by Americans and the army should be withdrawn from her control. Another advertised a non-existent” miners for Trump” rally. People were “duped”, Coons said.

Stretch reacted:” That advertisement has no place on Facebook and we are committted to preventing that sort of behaviour happening again on our platform. You’re right to surface it. It induces me angry, it induces everyone angry .”

But Coons said he was ” concerned” that it had taken Facebook 11 months since the election to come forward and address the issue. Stretching disputed this , noting the company had published a white paper in April.

In written testimony to members of the committee, Facebook said it calculated approximately 29 m people were served content in their news feeds immediately from Russia’s Internet Research Agency’s( IRA) 80,000 posts over two years.” Posts from these pages were also shared, liked, and followed by people on Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a tale that originated from the Russian operation .”

The company said its best calculate was that about 126 m people may have been served content from a page associated with the IRA at some phase during the two-year period. This equals about 0.004% of content in news feed, or about one out of 23,000 pieces of content. Stretch testified that many of those users may never have find the material.

These “organic” posts are separate from more than 3,000 ads linked to the agency that Facebook has already turned over to congressional committees. Many of the ads focused on divisive social issues.

Twitter told the same subcommittee that it had found and shut down 2,752 accounts linked to Russia’s IRA, which is notorious for pro-Russian government positions.

On Twitter, the Russia-linked accounts put under 1.4 m election-related tweets from September through 14 November last year- nearly half of them automated. The company also procured nine Russian accounts that bought ads, most of which came from the state-backed news service RT, previously known as Russia Today. Twitter said last week it would no longer accepted ads from RT and Sputnik, another state-sponsored news outlet.

Twitter’s acting general counsel, Sean Edgett, said:” The investigation continues and we expect to keep the committee up to date on any future discoveries .” The other companies also said the investigations continued.

Twitter’s general counsel claimed that the company could” draw lines” between organic tweets and advertisings. But Senator Richard Durbin objected:” When it comes to drawing those lines, it’s a challenge for us, and we do it for a living. I think it’s going to be very hard for you, too .”

Google said two accounts linked to the Russian group spent $4,700 on ads on its platforms during the 2016 election. The company also detected 18 YouTube channels likely backed by Russian agents. Those channels hosted 1,108 videos with 43 hours of material, although they racked up just 309,000 opinions in the US between June 2015 and November 2016, Google said.

The Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar asked the companies whether they would support the” honest ads” bill she has introduced with Senator Mark Warner, which would bring political ad regulations from Tv, radio and publish to the internet.

Each of the tech giants offered qualified subsistence rather than answering “yes”. Stretch said:” We stand ready to work with you and your co-sponsors on that legislation going forward .”

Edgett of Twitter added:” The same runs for Twitter .”

Salgado of Google said carefully:” We surely support the goals of the legislation and would like to work through the subtleties to make it work for all of us .”

The committee chair, Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, quoted Donald Trump as went on to say that he had won the election based on Twitter. Graham warned that the social media platforms were being used by people who” wish us damage and wish to undercut our way of life “.

The Republican senator John Kennedy said he was proud of the American companies but added:” I think you do enormous good, but your power sometimes scares me … You’ve got 5m advertisers and you’re going to tell me you’re going to be able to tell me the origin of all those advertisers? … I’m trying to get us down from la-la land .”

All three companies will also testify Wednesday before the House and Senate intelligence committees as part of congressional investigations conducted by Russian election interference.

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Democrats push bill to stop a Trump pre-emptive strike on North Korea

Conyers-Markey legislation has two Republican backers in House after chairwomen menace to entirely destroy North Korea fuelled nuclear war fears

Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation aimed at preventing Donald Trump from launching a pre-emptive attack on North Korea, as concerns grew about the administration’s failure to explore talks with Pyongyang.

The” No Unconstitutional Strike against North Korea” bill is the second legislative attempt to curtail’s Trump power to start a war unilaterally. Earlier this year, a bill was introduced to prohibit the president from ordering a nuclear first strike against a foreign adversary without a declaration of war by Congress, amid concerns over Trump’s belligerent language, erratic behaviour and frequent tweeted menaces against other countries.

The new legislation prohibiting an attack on North Korea without congressional authority was launched by Democrat John Conyers in the House and Ed Markey in the Senate. It has two Republican among the 61 backers in the House, but at present no formal Republican backing in the Senate.

” As a veteran of the Korean war, I am ashamed that our commander-in-chief is conducting himself in a reckless manner that endangers our troops stationed in South Korea and our regional friends ,” Conyers said.

” President Trump’s provocative and escalatory rhetoric, with threats to unleash’ flame and fury’ and’ wholly destroy’ North Korea, cannot be allowed to turn into reality ,” Senator Markey said.” As long as President Trump has a Twitter account, we must ensure that he cannot start a war or launching a nuclear first ten-strike without the explicit authorization of Congress .”

The bill’s supporters acknowledge that it will not pass without attracting more Republican support, but they argue that it helps focus attention on the unlimited authority of a US president to order the use of nuclear weapons, many of which can be launched within a few minutes. No officer has the power to stop or even delay the launch.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, speaking at a meeting organised by the Ploughshares Fund, an non-proliferation advocacy group said she once asked a former head of US Strategic Command if he would carry out a launch order even if he knew it was a catastrophically bad decision.” He looked me straight in the eye and said: Yes ,” Senator Feinstein recalled.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have reached critical levels since Pyongyang carried out a sixth nuclear exam in September and a series of long-range weapon tests. Trump has tweeted a series of threats against the regime and declared at the UN in September that he could” altogether destroy” North Korea.

Meanwhile, Trump and his administration have given mixed signals on whether they would consider any kind of dialogue with Pyongyang, and no overtures appear to have been stimulated in that direction.

NBC News reported on Thursday that Joseph Yun, the top American diplomat on North Korean issues, has been warning of a breakdown in diplomatic efforts at meetings in Congress and attempting help in persuading the White House to give negotiations a chance.

William Perry, a former US defence secretary and a veteran of the Cuban missile crisis, said there was a rising danger of the US stumbling into a war with North Korea by making Pyongyang think a” decapitation strike” is imminent and panicking it into launching its own nuclear weapons.

” What we’re doing is making the regime think they are about to go, so they might as well go out in a flame of glory ,” Perry said, adding that the best thing Congress could do to stop the drift to nuclear war was to pass the Conyers-Markey legislation.

” It doesn’t seem now it can be passed, but things can change ,” he said.

Ted Lieu, the Democratic congressman who co-authored the bill in January to limit the president’s power to launch a first strike said the best recruiter for Republican support was Trump’s behaviour.

” Every time the president does something erratic, which is every day, we get more co-sponsors ,” Lieu said.

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Ex-Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort tells Senate panel of Russia meeting

Committee rescinds subpoena after Manafort agrees to turn over notes, while Jared Kushner returns to Capitol Hill for second day of private testimony

Donald Trumps former campaign chairperson gratified Senate investigators Tuesday, providing his recollection of a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer and agreeing to turn over contemporaneous notes of the collect last year, according to people familiar with the closed-door interview.

Republican Chuck Grassley and Democrat Dianne Feinstein had also issued a subpoena for Paul Manafort to testify publicly during a Wednesday hearing before the committee. But late on Tuesday the committee rescinded the subpoena after he agreed to turn over the documents, according to a spokesman for Grassley.

Manaforts appearance on Tuesday came the same morning that Trumps son-in-law and consultant Jared Kushner returned to Capitol hill for a second day of private meetings, this time for a dialogue with lawmakers on the House intelligence committee.

Both Manafort and Kushner have been cooperating with the committees which, along with special advise Robert Mueller, are investigating Russias interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and possible collusion with Trump associates.

The two men have faced particular scrutiny about attending the Trump Tower session because it was described in emails to Donald Trump Jr as being part of a Russian government effort to aid Trumps presidential campaign.

On Tuesday, Manafort met with bipartisan staff of the Senate intelligence committee and answered their questions fully, his spokesman, Jason Maloni, said.

Manaforts discussion with committee personnel was limited to his recollection of the June 2016 session, according to two people familiar with the interview. Both demanded anonymity to discuss details because the interview resulted behind closed doors.

Manafort had previously disclosed the session in the following documents he turned over to the committee. He has now provided the committee with notes he took at the time, one of the person or persons said. The other person told Manafort has also said he will participate in additional interviews with the Senate intelligence committee staff on other topics if necessary. Those meetings havent yet been scheduled.

Also Tuesday, Kushner spent about three hours behind closed doors with the House committee.

Republican Mike Conaway of Texas, who is leading the panels Russia investigation, said he found Kushner to be straightforward, forthcoming, wanted to answer every question we had. He said Kushner was willing to follow up with the committee if it has additional questions.

The committees ranking Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, said the questions touched on a range of issues the committee had been concerned about.

We appreciate his voluntary willingness are in place to testify today, Schiff added.

On Monday, Kushner answered questions from staff on the Senates intelligence panel, acknowledging four meetings with Russians during and after Trumps victorious White House bid.

Let me be very clear, Kushner said in a rare public statement at the White House, I did not collude with Russia , nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.

Emails released this month show that Trump Jr, the presidents eldest son, accepted a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya with the understanding that he would receive damaging information on Hillary Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help Trumps campaign.

But, in his statement for the two intelligence committees, Kushner said he hadnt read those emails until recently indicated them by his lawyers.

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