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November 14, 2017
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Nearly 50 lawmakers and political aides told CNN that they have "personally experienced sexual harassment on the Hill or know of others who have." One female congresswoman claimed "half [of the men in Congress] are harassers" before revising her statement to assert that only "some" are. Whatever the exact numbers, though, harassment is reportedly common and widespread; as one Senate aide put it, Capitol Hill is "a sort of old school, Wild West workplace culture that has a lot of 'work hard, play hard' ethos and without the sort of standard professionalism that you find in more traditional workplaces."

Female lawmakers and Hill staff reportedly use a word-of-mouth "creep list" to warn each other about which male members to avoid. Others employ basic rules of thumb: Avoid the male lawmakers who sleep in their offices, for example, and skip taking an elevator alone with a male congressman or senator.

The people CNN interviewed declined to go on record, many out of fear of repercussions. CNN additionally declined to name which lawmakers face allegations because the stories are unverified, although "more than half a dozen interviewees independently named one California congressman for pursuing female staffers; another half dozen pointed to a Texas congressman for engaging in inappropriate behavior."

Leaders from both major parties have called for sexual harassment training in Congress, as well as cited flaws in the system of handling victims' harassment allegations. "We must ensure that this institution handles complaints to create an environment where staffers can come forward if something happens to them without having to fear that it will ruin their careers," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) earlier this month.

Still, not everyone is optimistic. "There's a little bit of a sex trade on Capitol Hill," said one former staffer. "If a part of getting ahead on Capitol Hill is playing ball with whatever douchebag — then whatever." Read the full report at CNN. Jeva Lange

1:21 p.m. ET
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President Trump's White House is not known for particularly high morale, but this week has brought things to new lows.

Staffers are reportedly looking toward the exits now that Trump's joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin has created such a whirlwind of political backlash, Politico reported Thursday.

"People are just depressed," a Republican close to the White House said. "Nobody wants to take on the public heat of resigning right now, but there are a bunch of people who were thinking maybe they'd leave after the midterms who are very seriously starting to consider accelerating their timetable."

Trump has drawn criticism over his flip-flopping views on whether Russia is responsible for interference in the 2016 election. Democrats and Republicans alike condemned his failure to side with the U.S. intelligence community, and ridiculed his explanation that he had simply slipped up while using a double negative. While high-level officials are reportedly unlikely to resign, aides and holdover staffers may be looking to put in their two-week notice. Read more at Politico. Summer Meza

1:07 p.m. ET
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In this corner of the Republican primary for Kansas' fourth congressional district, we have Ron Estes. And in the other corner, we ... also have Ron Estes.

Estes and Estes are in fact two separate people, and both are facing off for the same House seat. Incumbent Rep. Ron G. Estes (R) has held it for the past two years, and Ron M. Estes claims he's done a bad job. Their shared names having absolutely nothing to do with his candidacy, Ron M. tells The Wichita Eagle.

But Ron M. isn't making a very good case for this so-called coincidence. He's spent $2,000 on the race, mostly just to file his candidacy and build a website, per the Eagle. Oh, and that website boldly deems Ron M. "The Real Ron Estes." Fake Ron is busy representing "The Swamp" in Washington, D.C., the website's single press release claims.

Ron M. has made three unannounced public appearances around Kansas, mostly just introducing himself to people hanging around. There have been no Ron v. Ron debates and no "Real Ron" yard signs. Ron M. may have a 40-year career at Boeing, but The Eagle describes him as "the most reluctant, reserved candidate for Congress you can imagine."

"We've been a grass-roots campaign over social media," Ron M. claims. He's amassed 122 Twitter followers so far, and a Facebook page is nowhere to be found.

Ron G. will appear as Rep. Ron Estes on the Aug. 7 primary ballot, and Ron M. Estes will appear on the other side, definitely clearing up any confusion. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:07 p.m. ET
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Lordy, there are tapes.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former longtime attorney, reportedly made recordings of Trump discussing payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal two months before the 2016 election, The New York Times reported Friday.

Lawyers familiar with the case say that the FBI seized the recordings when agents raided Cohen's office earlier this year. McDougal says she had an affair with Trump in 2006, which Trump denies, and Cohen is being investigated for potential campaign finance violations over allegedly paying hush money to prevent the affair allegations from going public ahead of the election.

Trump's new lawyer Rudy Giuliani said that the payment was ultimately never made, and that the recordings prove Trump did nothing wrong. "Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of it in advance," said Giuliani, calling it "powerful exculpatory evidence." Read more at The New York Times. Summer Meza

10:46 a.m. ET
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter

Former Fox News executive Bill Shine was questioned by federal prosecutors in a sexual harassment case. He still got a top White House job.

Before becoming President Trump's fourth communications director, Shine was subpoenaed by a grand jury as part of a criminal investigation into sexual harassment at Fox News, documents obtained by The New York Times reveal.

The subpoena related to former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, who left the company after a flood of sexual harassment allegations. Shine eventually stepped down as co-president in the wake of the scandal as well. (Shine was never accused of harassment himself, but of covering up the bad behavior of others.) He was called in to testify about how Fox News handled those allegations, but opted for a closed-door interview with a U.S. district attorney's office, a source tells the Times.

It's not known what Shine revealed in the interview, and he was never charged in relation to the Fox News scandal. But it raises the question of what other documents may still be unsealed, and why the White House would hire someone still embroiled in so much controversy — even if Trump does love a good Fox News connection. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:47 a.m. ET
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The national debt is becoming more important than America's children.

Investment in U.S. kids fell below 10 percent of annual federal spending in 2017 and is projected to shrink even more, a new study by the Urban Institute Kids' Share has found. Adults, on the other hand, hog 45 percent each year.

Spending on children through tax provisions, education, and health care totaled $375 billion of America's $3.9 trillion in federal spending in 2017. Most of that number — $180 billion — seemingly went to adults anyway through dependent exemptions and other tax provisions. Only $42 billion went to childhood education last year.

Federal spending on children was only about 3.2 percent of the budget back in 1960. But it grew from there, peaking at 10.4 percent in 2010, per the study. Childhood spending has since shrunk and, if it continues as projected, will fall to 6.9 percent by 2028. Meanwhile, the national debt is growing, and America will likely be spending more on its debt's interest than on its children in two years.

Those shrinking numbers can partly be attributed to America's aging population, the study suggests. As baby boomers reach Medicare-receiving age, money spent on their Social Security and health care is only projected to grow.

At least the federal budget isn't something millennials can be blamed for ruining. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:43 a.m. ET
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The Second Amendment just went DIY.

The government has settled a lawsuit that will allow people to download files to 3-D print firearms, CNN reported Friday. The settlement concludes a years-long legal battle with Cody Wilson, a "post-left anarchist" who sued after the State Department told him to take plans for a 3-D printed handgun off the internet.

Officials originally told Wilson that posting the plans could violate trade laws that prohibit the export of guns, since people anywhere in the world could theoretically download the files. Now, Wilson's plans are exempted from export restrictions, making them available to anyone who finds them online starting Aug. 1.

The handgun, nicknamed "The Liberator," is made out of ABS plastic, which is the same material as Lego bricks, reports CNN. Anyone with a 3-D printer can make their own Liberator, provided they can procure a metal firing pin to complete the weapon. Wilson himself was surprised that the government backed down without going to trial, telling CNN that officials suddenly "folded their tent" and even agreed to pay nearly $40,000 of Wilson's legal fees.

Gun control advocates are concerned that "ghost guns" like Wilson's will make it easier for people who would fail a criminal background check to get a firearm anyway, since they are untraceable without serial numbers or government regulation. Wilson, however, is excited at the prospect of developing a collection of files for people to download plans for other firearms. As his nonprofit's website says, "the age of the downloadable gun formally begins." Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

9:01 a.m. ET
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When it comes to filling the soon-to-be-empty seat on the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is playing hardball.

In a private meeting Wednesday, McConnell apparently told senior Republicans he may keep pushing back the confirmation vote for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until right before the November midterms, sources tell Politico. Why? Because Democrats keep trying to surface the nominee's long paper trail, and McConnell, it seems, is sick of it.

Even before President Trump had announced his nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, Democrats were dead-set on a strategy of resistance, warning Trump's pick could cement a conservative majority on the nation's highest court and spell disaster for issues like reproductive rights. Since then, Democrats have been requesting every piece of Kavanaugh's records in an attempt to find something they can use to fight his confirmation.

McConnell is apparently ready to retaliate. He's already canceled the Senate's August recess, and is looking to drain Democrats' campaign time even more by delaying Kavanaugh's confirmation vote, per Politico. The delay would mean red-state Democrats wouldn't be able to leave the Capitol and utilize valuable campaign time until the Kavanaugh vote, and his potential confirmation would serve them a crushing defeat just days before voters head to the polls.

If Democrats manage to flip the Senate this fall, that could give them the 50 votes they need to defeat Kavanaugh's nomination. But McConnell has already pledged to hold the vote before the midterms, even if it's at the very last minute. Kathryn Krawczyk

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