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Oct. 14 2017 7:55 PM

Soccer Team in Germany Takes a Knee to Show Solidarity With NFL Players

The starting lineup of Hertha Berlin dropped to one knee before a match against Schalke on Saturday to show solidarity with the recent NFL protests. The move was not a surprise, and the announcer explained to fans what was going on. “Berlin is colorful,” the announcer said. “Hertha BSC stands for diversity and against violence. For this reason, we are joining forces with the protest of our fellow American athletes to take a stand against discrimination.”

One slight difference with the NFL protests that have caused so much controversy lately? The German national anthem isn’t played before Bundesliga games, and in fact isn’t customary at all in league games throughout Europe.

“We wanted to make a stand against racism,” Hertha’s captain, Per Skjelbred, said after the team lost the game 2-0.

The move by the Hertha players is believed to mark the first time a European soccer team has expressed solidarity with the U.S. protests. But they were not the first soccer players to take a knee. Most notably, players in the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States have also taken a knee during the anthem. National soccer team player Megan Rapinoe was one of the first to express solidarity with the NFL protests until the U.S. Soccer Federation implemented a policy that essentialy required players to stand during the anthem.  

Oct. 14 2017 4:45 PM

School District Pulls To Kill a Mockingbird: It “Makes People Uncomfortable”

The Biloxi school district in Mississippi has decided to remove To Kill a Mockingbird from its junior-high reading list. The reason? Some of the book’s language “makes people uncomfortable,” the vice president of the school board, Kenny Holloway, said. “There were complaints about it,” he added, “and we can teach the same lesson with other books.” The administrator insisted kids could still go to the library to read the book “but they're going to use another book in the 8th grade course.”

Although the school administrator doesn’t say it, a parent who first contacted the Sun Herald with the news of the apparent mid-year shift in the reading list said the decision to pull the book was “due to the use of the ‘N’ word.”

Many criticized the decision by the school district, including Arne Duncan, who was secretary of Education from 2009-2015 under President Obama. "When school districts remove To Kill a Mockingbird from the reading list, we know we have real problems," Duncan wrote on Twitter. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska also blasted the move, calling it “a terrible decision.”

The Sun Herald, which was the first to break the story earlier his week, published an editorial criticizing the decision by the school district:

Acting as if race is no longer a factor in our society is part of the problem. Acting as if it is too difficult or offensive to talk about is part of the problem.
We have not, in fact, overcome racism.
The racists in our society must be confronted. They must not be allowed to assume our silence is acquiescence.
In the book, the Finch children, Scout and Jem, grow when they confront evil. They discover prejudice and overcome it. And that is because their father, Atticus, treats them maturely and guides them in the right direction.
The Biloxi school system should follow his example.

This is not the first time a school district has decided to pull the classic Harper Lee book, which is often listed as one of the country’s most frequently banned books. Last year, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn were removed from classrooms in Accomack County, Virginia following a complaint about the use of the N-word.

Oct. 14 2017 3:18 PM

Freed Taliban Hostage Says Captors Raped His American Wife, Killed Their Infant

A Canadian man who was held by the Taliban-linked Haqqani network in Afghanistan for five years along with his American wife and their children said their captors raped his wife and killed their infant daughter. Joshua Boyle made the revelations when talking to reporters shortly after the family arrived in Canada after they were rescued Wednesday when their captors took them across the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

“The stupidity and evil of the Haqqani network’s kidnapping of a pilgrim and his heavily pregnant wife engaged in helping ordinary villagers in Taliban-controlled regions of Afghanistan was eclipsed only by the stupidity and evil of authorizing the murder of my infant daughter,” Boyle said after landing in Toronto. “And the stupidity and evil of the subsequent rape of my wife, not as a lone action, but by one guard, but assisted by the captain of the guard and supervised by the commandant.”

Caitlan Coleman, who is from Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, was pregnant when the couple was captured by the militants while the pair were backpacking as part of a trip that eventually led them to go hiking in Wardak province, Afghanistan. She had four children while in captivity. Boyle said the pair were in Afghanistan to help villagers living under Taliban rule.

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A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media on December 19, 2016 shows American Caitlan Coleman speaking next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons.

Taliban/Social media via REUTERS

Analysts say the Haqqani network is known for cruelty toward hostages. “Generally, they don't treat prisoners humanely,” Hamed Daqeeq, a former Afghan government official who is now a political analyst, told the Washington Post. But two senior members of the Haqqani network denied the allegations to NBC News. “Since they are no more our prisoners therefore they can make any statement to get sympathies of the world,” one of the members of the terrorist network said. “Would you believe someone among us or even fighters would touch a female and particularly if she is prisoner or foreigner?”

Coleman’s family celebrated the release but emphasized they had no idea it was going to happen. "We were as shocked as anyone," Jim Coleman’s father said. "It's an answer to our prayers." But he also emphasized that the family is still angry that their son in law took their pregnant daughter to Afghanistan. “What I can say is taking your pregnant wife to a very dangerous place is to me and the kind of person I am, is unconscionable,” he said. “I can’t imagine doing that myself. But, I think that’s all I want to say about that.”

The couple arrived in Canada with their three children after the husband reportedly refused to get on a plane to the United States, leading to speculation that the couple wanted to avoid questioning from intelligence officials. That is just one of the many questions surrounding the couple’s apparently harrowing ordeal at the hands of the terrorist network. The Post’s Greg Jaffe explains:

The couple’s decision to visit Wardak and Boyle’s unusual personal history set off widespread speculation inside the U.S. intelligence community about his motives. Before he wed Coleman, Boyle had married and divorced the oldest sister of Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was arrested by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2002 and was alleged to have ties to al-Qaeda.
The patriarch of the Khadr family was killed in 2003, along with al-Qaeda and Taliban members, in a shootout with Pakistani security forces near the Afghanistan border. Boyle’s associations with the family led some U.S. intelligence officials to speculate that the visit to Afghanistan may have been part of a larger effort to link up with Taliban-affiliated militants.
“I can’t say that [he was ever al-Qaeda],” said one former U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information. “He was never a fighter on the battlefield. But my belief is that he clearly was interested in getting into it.”

Pakistan’s government, meanwhile, said the raid that resulted in the family’s rescue was carried out thanks to a tip from U.S. intelligence, touting it as an example of how the two countries can work together against a common enemy. President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Friday to celebrate the “much better relationship with Pakistan and its leaders” and he proceeded to publicly thank the country’s leaders for their “cooperation on many fronts.”

Oct. 14 2017 1:26 PM

Corker Blasts Trump Again: “You Cannot Publicly Castrate Your Own Secretary of State”

Republican Sen. Bob Corker has shown no signs of easing up on President Trump after he called the White House an “adult day care center” and warned the commander in chief could start World War III. Corker has added that one of his biggest concerns is the president’s treatment of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, which he says could lead to “binary” situations in which the United States will have to choose between war or letting countries like North Korea or Iran develop nuclear weapons.

“You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice,” Corker told the Washington Post on Friday. Although the president’s tweets “raise tension in the region” and are “irresponsible,” Corker is most concerned about what he characterized as the “castration” of Tillerson. Even though many have criticized Tillerson, at the very least Corker says he has been instrumental in opening up diplomatic channels with China. Yet when Trump publicly says the man in charge of representing his administration abroad “is wasting his time” on diplomacy everyone starts to doubt him.

“When you jack the legs out from under your chief diplomat, you cause all that to fall apart,” Corker said. “Us working with [Beijing] effectively is the key to not getting to a binary choice. When you publicly castrate your secretary of state, you take that off the table.” The senator has continually praised several members of Trump’s administration as he has admonished the president personally. Several top officials, including Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and chief of staff John Kelly are helping “separate our country from chaos,” Corker said earlier this month.

Corker, who is the head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, told reporters on Friday he would introduce legislation to fix “major flaws” in the Iran deal that he said would ultimately strengthen the agreement.

Oct. 14 2017 11:09 AM

Germany’s Foreign Minister Warns Trump’s Iran Move Increases Risk of War

President Donald Trump managed to get the country’s European allies to pretty much side with Russia and Iran after he threatened to leave the nuclear agreement with Tehran. And it isn’t difficult to see why. Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, warned Saturday that if Washington does move forward with its threat to end the deal or reimpose sanctions, there is an increased risk of war close to Europe. Trump’s refusal to certify that Iran was complying with the 2015 agreement, amounted to a “difficult and dangerous signal” at a time when the United States is also trying to prevent the North Korea nuclear crisis from escalating.

“My big concern is that what is happening in Iran, or with Iran from the U.S. perspective, will not remain an Iranian issue but many others in the world will consider whether they themselves should acquire nuclear weapons too, given that such agreements are being destroyed,” Gabriel told a German radio station. If the United States does make good on its threats, then suddenly Iranian hardliners who are opposed to any negotiations would win the upper hand and the country could once again develop nuclear weapons, which Israel obviously would oppose. “Then we will be back where we were 10, 12 years ago with the danger of war relatively close to Europe,” he added.

The criticism from German’s foreign minister follows a pattern of European leaders making it clear that they have no intention of following Trump’s lead to get rid of the Iran nuclear deal. In fact, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said that the United States does not even have the right to unilaterally dismantle a deal that was the product of arduous negotiations between multiple states. “It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country. And it is not up to any single country to terminate it,” Mongherini said. “It is a multilateral agreement, which was unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council.”

Even though the leaders didn’t outright criticize Trump, Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron issued a rare joint statement Friday saying they “stand committed” to preserving the nuclear deal. And Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said the threat to undo the deal showed why the United States has become “more lonely than ever” on the international stage. “This is an international, multilateral deal,” Rouhani said of the agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. “It is not a document between Iran and the United States that he can treat the way that he likes.”

Oct. 13 2017 7:24 PM

A Complete List of Sexual Assault and Harassment Allegations Against Harvey Weinstein

An egregious pattern of sexual allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has emerged through a series of bombshell investigations published by the New York Times and the New Yorker, as well as a variety of other outlets. Compiled below is a timeline of all the specific sexual assault and harassment accusations against Weinstein that have surfaced so far, currently totaling at least 33 accusations of varying degrees of harassment (including at least 10 allegations he exposed himself) and five accusations of sexual assault. Reporting by Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey, and Rachel Abrams in the NYT and by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker suggests there have been other incidents for which the reporters could not disclose details.

Weinstein’s office has issued blanket denials about potential crimes committed by Weinstein, saying, “Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances. He will not be available for further comments, as he is taking the time to focus on his family, on getting counseling and rebuilding his life.”

Weinstein himself has acknowledged inappropriate conduct without offering any details, saying to Page Six’s Emily Smith, “I admit to a whole way of behavior that is not good. I can’t talk specifics, but I put myself in positions that were stupid.”

We will continue updating this list as new information becomes available.

1984: Weinstein invited college junior Tomi-Ann Roberts to his hotel in New York for a meeting ostensibly about a role in an upcoming film, and allegedly he summoned her to the bathtub, where he was nude, and pressured her to take off her clothes.

1990: Weinstein allegedly pushed actress Sophie Dix onto a bed at the Savoy Hotel and pulled at her clothes. Dix then locked herself in the bathroom, and when she opened the door, she found Weinstein facing her and masturbating. Dix spoke to colleagues about the “damaging” incident, and months later, Weinstein called her to demand she “stop talking.”

1990: Weinstein allegedly behaved inappropriately toward and then reached a settlement with an unnamed assistant in New York.

Around 1990: Weinstein summoned actress Kate Beckinsale, then 17, to his room at the Savoy Hotel, allegedly meeting with her while wearing only a bathrobe and offering her alcohol. Uncomfortable, she gave an excuse for leaving. “A few years later he asked me if he had tried anything with me in that first meeting. I realized he couldn't remember if he had assaulted me or not,” she recalled this week. Beckinsale says her subsequent rejections of his advances over the years “undoubtably harmed my career.”

1991: Weinstein allegedly badgered former employee Laura Madden for massages at various hotels in Dublin and London.

1990s: After artist and director Tara Subkoff was informally offered a role in a Weinstein movie, the producer allegedly pulled her onto his lap at a premiere party. Noticing his erection, Subkoff moved away, and Weinstein propositioned her. Subkoff immediately left the gathering and found herself blacklisted by rumors and removed from the new role.

Early 1990s: Weinstein allegedly asked actress Rosanna Arquette for a massage and tried to put her hand on his penis. When she rejected him, he said, “You’re making a big mistake.” Subsequently, Arquette faced career struggles; Weinstein “made things very difficult to me for years,” she told the New Yorker.

Early 1990s: Following an interaction with Weinstein, a young woman unexpectedly left the company, later getting a settlement.

1993: Weinstein allegedly exposed himself and chased Swingers actress Katherine Kendall around a room in his apartment. Kendall says the traumatic encounter diminished the allure of working in the entertainment industry.

Mid-1990s: Weinstein allegedly propositioned actress Claire Forlani repeatedly at dinners and asked her to massage him during meetings at the Peninsula Hotel. “All I remember was I ducked, dived and ultimately got out of there without getting slobbered over, well just a bit,” she recalled this week.

Mid-to-late 1990s: After Weinstein helped British writer Liza Campbell get a job as a freelance script reader, he met with her in his London hotel room and allegedly asked her to bathe with him.

Around 1994: Weinstein allegedly made a sexual advance toward Gwyneth Paltrow, then in her 20s, in his hotel suite. After Brad Pitt, Paltrow’s boyfriend at the time, confronted Weinstein, the producer allegedly warned her to stay silent about the encounter.

1995: At the Toronto International Film Festival, Weinstein allegedly harassed actress Mira Sorvino. Later, Weinstein allegedly arrived at her apartment late one night for a marketing meeting he’d suggested, only to leave once she lied that her new boyfriend was heading over.

Around 1996: Weinstein allegedly propositioned actress Ashley Judd in his hotel suite, and she rejected him. She has since appeared in Miramax movies but only years after the incident.

1996: Weinstein allegedly harassed French actress Judith Godrèche while in Cannes. When she called the female executive who’d been present at an earlier meeting, the woman told her not to speak out, as it might hurt the success of a soon-to-be-released film in which she'd starred.

1997: Weinstein reached a $100,000 settlement with actress Rose McGowan after she alleged an incident in a hotel room at the Sundance Film Festival. While she wasn’t quoted in the New Yorker and New York Times exposés, in a tweet Thursday aimed at Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, McGowan wrote, “I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over & over I said it.”

1997: After a Cannes party, Weinstein and his entourage brought model Zoë Brock to the Hotel Du Cap. When Weinstein’s hotel room emptied, he allegedly removed his clothes and asked for a massage and then chased Brock when she fled for the bathroom. After Brock demanded to go home, Weinstein’s assistant told her, “Of all the girls he does this to you are the one I really felt bad about [sic].”

1997: Italian actress Asia Argento says Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her after she arrived at Weinstein’s hotel thinking she was attending a Miramax party. Argento later had a relationship with Weinstein, during which she agreed to have sex with him because she felt "obliged," but says she was always haunted by the initial rape.

1998: Weinstein allegedly harassed actress Angelina Jolie in a hotel room.

1998: Weinstein settled with London assistant Zelda Perkins after she threatened to pursue legal recourse or publicly share Weinstein’s inappropriate interactions with her and other female colleagues.

Early 2000s: Weinstein offered Heather Graham her choice of a movie role, then talked about an open-relationship agreement he had with his wife, implying, Graham thought, that he would give her work in exchange for sex. Later Weinstein lied to try to get Graham into a one-on-one meeting that she cancelled.

2000s: While on a yacht at Cannes, model Angie Everhart awoke from a nap to see Weinstein allegedly masturbating and blocking a door. He warned her to stay quiet about it, but when Everhart told friends, they replied, “Oh that’s just Harvey.”

Around 2001: Weinstein wore only a bathrobe for a meeting at the Savoy Hotel in London with actress Romola Garai about a role in Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. While she went on to appear in the film, the episode left the actress feeling “violated.”

2003: Weinstein allegedly offered aspiring actress Dawn Dunning roles in upcoming films in exchange for a threesome. She says that when she refused, he told her, “You’ll never make it in this business.”

Summer 2004: Aspiring actress Lucia Stoller (now Lucia Evans), then a rising senior at Middlebury College, was allegedly made to perform oral sex on Weinstein during a daytime meeting at Miramax’s Tribeca office. After the incident, Weinstein continued to call her late at night.

Mid-2000s: Weinstein allegedly grabbed Canadian actress Erika Rosenbaum by the back of her neck in a Toronto hotel room and masturbated behind her. She said he’d made aggressive advances toward her with her in earlier meetings.

2007: When New York journalist Lauren Sivan dodged an unwanted kiss, Weinstein allegedly masturbated in front of her at the Cafe Socialista restaurant.

2008: During at pitch meeting in his hotel room at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, Weinstein allegedly exposed himself to screenwriter and actress Louisette Geiss and entreated her to watch him masturbate in the nearby hot tub.

2008: Weinstein interviewed a potential babysitter, actress and writer Sarah Ann Masse, while in his boxers and undershirt at his Connecticut home. He allegedly ended the meeting—during which he made his children leave the room—with an uncomfortably long hug and told Masse, “I love you.” She ultimately didn't get the job.

2010: Weinstein allegedly revealed himself and demanded sex from French actress Emma de Caunes after a lunch meeting. Later that day, he called repeatedly and offered her gifts.

2010s: After meeting actress Léa Seydoux, Weinstein insisted they get drinks. That night, sitting on a couch in his hotel room, he allegedly climbed onto her to force a kiss, prompting Seydoux to push him off. During subsequent encounters, Weinstein made comments about her that Seydoux describes as “misogynistic,” and he bragged openly about his sexual conquests.

January 2011: Weinstein allegedly pressured actress Jessica Barth to give him a naked massage at the Peninsula Hotel. She rejected his advances. As Barth left, he gave her the contact information of a female executive to appease her.

Early-to-mid-2010s: After a meeting with a director about a potential upcoming role, Weinstein allegedly asked actress Cara Delevingne, who is bisexual, to kiss a woman in his hotel room and, as Delevingne left, attempted to kiss the actress himself. Delevingne ultimately got the part.

December 2014: Weinstein allegedly propositioned temporary front-desk assistant Emily Nestor repeatedly in a breakfast meeting her second day of work. A friend alerted human resources, but Nestor didn’t push the complaint further and ultimately decided not to go into the entertainment industry.

2015: At the same hotel, Weinstein allegedly pressured a different assistant into giving him a naked massage.

March 2015: Weinstein allegedly groped Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez at what was supposed to be a business meeting at his office. Battilana Gutierrez reported the assault to the New York Police Department and extracted a taped admission of Weinstein’s behavior, but the Manhattan district attorney’s office ultimately decided not to file charges. Weinstein later reached a settlement with the model.

2015: Lauren O’Connor, then 28, wrote a memo to company executives about Weinstein’s actions creating a “toxic environment for women” and her experience of feeling “sexualized and diminished.” Weinstein made a settlement with her before the board could hire a lawyer to investigate.

Date unknown: In an incident the New Yorker describes as an alleged rape, an unnamed woman who worked with Weinstein says he summoned her to his hotel room and, while wearing only a bathrobe, forced himself onto her. She declined to be identified because she feared retaliation from Weinstein through his vast influence.

Oct. 13 2017 7:09 PM

Today in Conservative Media: Are the Iran Deal’s Days Numbered?

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

Conservatives commented on President Trump’s de-certification of the Iran deal and demand that Congress strengthen it on Friday. “Today’s decision marks a major departure from the policy of the Obama administration which was that Iran could be appeased and eventually tamed and made into a US ally,” wrote the RedState contributor known as streiff. “This was a stupid concept that ignored 40 years of Iranian behavior but, then again, a lot of stupid people came up with the idea. Focusing on Iran’s spread of terrorism serves to strengthen the Arab bulwark the Trump administration has been building to contain Iranian expansionism.”

“Iranian influence is expanding,” the Daily Signal’s Madyson Hutchinson wrote, “and instead of slowing or preventing this expanding influence, provisions under the Iran nuclear deal have made it easier for Iran to negatively influence and destabilize the Middle East. Trump’s refusal to recertify the deal could mark a turning point in Iran’s destructive influence.”

Washington Post conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin criticized Trump’s move:

[O]n Day One of the new Iran policy, Trump has isolated the United States from allies, lost bipartisan support from Congress, shifted attention away from Iran’s non-nuclear conduct (e.g. support for terrorism, intercontinental ballistic missiles tests) to the United States’ hints about not living up to the deal. To boot, he revealed that his administration is incapable of doing the legwork needed to carry off a risky scheme that apparently was designed to pacify him after his reported “fit” after the previous certification. Other than that, it’s going great.

At Commentary, Noah Rothman argued that the Iran deal will live on given the likelihood that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress will decide that Iran has been in compliance:

The Obama administration knew what it was doing when it frontloaded the Iran nuclear accords with benefits for the Islamic Republic. Iran got what it’s going to get out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The tens of billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and sanctions relief, the repatriation of suspected terrorists that Barack Obama’s own Justice Department said were risks to American national security, and renewed commercial ties with Europe; none of this can be undone. All that is left is for the West to appease Iran. To anger Tehran by calling its behavior into account might compel them to develop a fissionable device out of spite, or so the self-referential thinking goes in emotive dovish circles.
Trump’s decision will commence a 60-day review process in which Congress gets to decide how much blame it is willing to accept for keeping the Iran nuclear deal. Many Republicans who were outspoken opponents of the JCPOA in 2015 have softened their position today because, in reality, they simply cannot turn back the clock. Democrats and their allies in media have, however, sloppily taken all this to mean that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA and anyone who wants the deal rolled back is ideologically blinkered. The dirty open secret is that Iran is not and has never been in full compliance with the nuclear accords.

In other news:

Conservatives continued to plug away at liberal Hollywood for enabling Harvey Weinstein. Breitbart’s John Nolte condemned NBC for passing on the Weinstein story:

NBC News not only gave away the story of the year, they lost the Pulitzers Farrow and The New Yorker are almost certainly going to win.
The question is why — why would an unbiased, objective, not-at-all leftwing news outlet refuse do run a towering story against an America colossus?
We all know why.
We all know NBC is not about holding the powerful accountable — you do not get any more powerful than Harvey Weinstein.
NBC is not about the bottom line and clicks — the Weinstein scandal is a barnburner.
NBC is not about protecting the weak from the powerful, or sheltering women from predators…
Nope.
NBC is only about one thing… protecting the power of centralized government by protecting Democrats.

Hot Air’s Allahpundit assessed news that Weinstein had an employment contract that appeared to allow for harassment and abuse. “Can’t fire a man if you’ve put a ‘rape fine’ clause in his deal and he’s been good about staying current,” he wrote. “The most darkly funny part of this is Weinstein thinking he still has a career to return to. The idea that Hollywood would welcome back a man who’s been credibly accused of abject degeneracy seems … totally plausible, now that I think of it.”

Rush Limbaugh argued that the Weinstein scandal proves Hollywood’s men adopted their liberal stances on women’s issues to attract women. “They will bend, they will shape, they will be flexible, they will lie, they will do whatever,” he said. “If they’ve zeroed in on a woman or a series of women, whatever those women want ’em to be, they’ll be it, or say they are. And I think that’s a large part of the men in that town being such hypocrites. Because they’re all known for being pro-female, pro-women, pro-choice, pro-abortion, pro-feminist.”

Oct. 13 2017 6:43 PM

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: What Would a Speaker Pelosi Do?

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

Ultimately, the main factor in any prospective impeachment of President Donald Trump is not Robert Mueller’s slow and dogged investigation, nor whether or not John Kelly is the actual person running the country, nor what Steve Bannon thinks. In order for Trump to face consequences for his already apparent high crimes, Congress will almost certainly have to act. It seems very clear that no matter what Trump does or might have done, the Congressional Republicans currently in charge have no intention of holding him accountable.

So, when you talk about the odds of Trump’s potential removal from office, one of the main things you're talking about is the odds of Democrats winning the House of Representatives during the 2018 election. How likely is that?

On Friday, the standard bearing Cook Political Report released its updated ratings for where each House race stands. While Democrats still have an inordinate lift—having to win 24 seats from a heavily gerrymandered national mapCook reports that lift might be becoming easier. According to David Wasserman’s analysis, ratings have shifted in the direction of Democrats in 11 seats and Republicans in just one. This doesn’t mean Democrats are now more likely than not to gain those ten seats, it just means that the wind in those districts is moving in their favor.

Overall, Cook has 11 currently Democratic-held seats listed as likely Democratic, six such seats as lean Democratic, and three as toss-ups. A full 12 Republican held seats, meanwhile, are listed toss-ups. If Democrats can sweep the toss-ups and Democratic leans and likelies—not a crazy prospect in a midterm with an unpopular president of the other party named Donald Trump—then it would need just 12 more seats. Cook has listed 23 additional Republican-held seats listed as lean Republican and 25 as likely Republican.

Basically, Cook has the GOP defending 60 vulnerable seats and the Democrats defending just 20. Given those numbers and some of Trump’s more unpopular recent moves, a switch in the House is not outside of the question, which would ultimately put impeachment or resignation within the realm of a real possibility. The meter ticks back up to where it started the week.

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Oct. 13 2017 2:09 PM

Trump Is Weaseling Out of Obama’s Deals Without Actually Killing Them

President Trump came into office pillorying the Obama administration for being so easily played by foreign governments and vowing to either renegotiate or just tear up his predecessor’s signature international agreements, namely, the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the nuclear deal with Iran, which he announced today he was decertifying.

Given that these deals—all reached in the span of a few months between late 2014 and 2015—were forged through executive action rather than acts of Congress, theoretically nothing was stopping Trump from just scrapping them. But that’s not quite what he’s done.

While some of Trump’s advisers, especially the now-departed Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon, might have cheered for him to torch these agreements, his more cautious national security advisers have pushed back. The problem is that with all of these deals, renegotiating is not an option—the other parties have no interest in reopening discussions that were hard enough the first time—and simply walking away is not an option, because it could have serious ramifications for U.S. alliances and credibility.

So the president and his team seem to have settled on a strategy of effectively ceasing U.S. participation in these deals without technically abandoning them.

The strategy has three components: First, the president makes a highly promoted statement that he has reversed whatever “worst deal ever” is in his crosshairs that week. This rhetoric is meant to appeal to Trump’s base. Second, the text of the executive order, once it’s released, reveals upon close reading that the change of course amounts to less than Trump led people to believe and that the deal still mostly stands. This is meant to reassure allies that the grownups are still in charge. Third, over time, the Trump administration simply conducts policy as if the deal never existed, making  the agreement effectively irrelevant. (The only major Obama deal that Trump did completely withdraw from was the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which, notably, hadn’t been finalized yet.)

In the case of the Paris Agreement, Trump gave a speech in June announcing that he was withdrawing from the landmark accord, boasting nonsensically that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” But quietly over the following months, U.S. diplomats made clear to alarmed allies that they had not actually withdrawn and were instead looking at “terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement.” Of course, these machinations all somewhat academic given that the Trump administration is also gutting the Obama-era environmental regulations that would have actually made it possible for the U.S. to meet its Paris commitments.

Later that month, Trump told a cheering crowd in Miami’s Little Havana that he was reversing the “terrible and misguided deal” with Cuba—but again, not really. Trump’s moves left in place many of the Obama measures making it easy for Americans to travel to and do business in Cuba and left embassies open in both countries. But in this case, Trump’s claim to be ending the détente with Cuba has been self-fulfilling: Earlier this month, the U.S. evacuated most of its staff from Havana and expelled 15 Cuban diplomats in response to a mysterious affliction that struck U.S. diplomatic personnel in Cuba.

Trump’s statement today shows he will follow a similar course of action in decertifying Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Decertification won’t technically put the U.S. in violation of the deal, and the administration is likely not to push Congress to reinstate the sanctions that would probably unravel the agreement. It’s more likely Trump’s move will amount to supporting a new crackdown on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and probably other Iranian government activities.

This strategy seems designed to assuage Trump’s rage at having to continue implementing a deal he attacked on the campaign trail and enable him to give a speech announcing that he is disavowing it while not actually ending it. But, even if the nuclear deal lives to see another day, Trump’s moves will inevitably raise the level of tension with Iran and heighten the risk of armed confrontation.

This approach to foreign policy has similarities to Trump’s rhetoric on Obamacare: He has said that rather than continuing to attempt to repeal the law, it would be more effective to let it “explode” first and then redesign it. (He may have lit the fuse on that explosion last night.) In the case of rising tensions with Iran, the explosion could turn out to be quite literal.

Oct. 13 2017 2:06 PM

Trump Decertifies Iran Deal, But Leaves It Intact For Now

President Trump declined to certify Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal today and called for tough new measures against the regime, but as expected, he stopped short of re-imposing the sanctions that were waived as part of the deal.

Most of Trump’s statement focused on issues other than nuclear weapons, as he reviewed the history of Iran’s “fanatical regime,” dating back to the 1979 revolution, and called it the “world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

Trump echoed his campaign rhetoric by calling the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.” He also referred, as he has many times, to what he called a “massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded on to an airplane and flown into Iran.” (These were actually Iran’s own assets, owed to the country since the U.S. froze them in 1979.) Trump seemed particularly incensed today by the deal’s sunset provisions, saying “we got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.”

Before today, Trump has twice very reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance, which he is required to do every 90 days. Those certifications acknowledged the findings of the U.S. intelligence community that Iran is mostly adhering to the terms of the JCPOA. Trump briefly mentioned Iran’s documented violations of heavy water stocks and said, “Many people believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea,” but his non-certification was based primarily on the argument that Iran is “not living up to the spirit of the deal” since it “continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East.”

Trump vowed a number of actions, including cracking down on Iran’s “terrorist proxies,” placing additional sanctions on the regime to block terrorist financing, addressing Iran’s missile program, and a new crackdown on Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He also called on Congress to amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act—the law that requires him to certify Iran’s compliance—to “strengthen enforcement and prevent Iran from developing an … intercontinental ballistic missile and make all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law.”

What he did not do was call on Congress to reapply the sanctions waived under the JCPOA. What this means is that, Trump’s blasting of the deal aside, the U.S. is still party to it. He did say that “in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review and our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time.”

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