Women working on Capitol Hill use a word-of-mouth 'creep list' to warn each other about male members to avoid
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
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 26,000 points Wednesday, CNN Money reported, marking a historic first for the market index. The Dow had first passed the 26,000-point threshold Tuesday, but Wednesday was the first day that it sustained those gains at market close.
Overall, the index spiked 323 points over the course of Wednesday's trading, ending the day at 26,115.65 points. The 1.3 percent bump was spurred by "stronger-than-expected quarterly results from some of the biggest U.S. companies," CNBC explained. Kimberly Alters
During Wednesday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders summarily dismissed the ongoing Russia investigation as a "hoax."
Asked by The Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender whether President Trump was "prepared" for the reported escalation in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, Sanders did not mince words. "We've been dealing with this hoax for the better part of a year," she said. "If we have to endure the ridiculousness for another month we can certainly handle it."
Sanders on the Russia investigation: "I think we've been dealing with this hoax for the better part of a year. If we have to endure the ridiculousness for another month, we can certainly handle it" https://t.co/t3C0nMFPSx
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 17, 2018
Sanders did stress to reporters that the White House intends to be "fully cooperative" with Mueller's team, but she claimed the ongoing intrigue was unfair to the public. "Do the American people deserve [this investigation]? No, I don't think they do," she said.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that Stephen Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, had been subpoenaed by Mueller to appear before a grand jury. Bannon agreed Wednesday to interview with Mueller, where he is expected to answer questions about his time working in the White House last year. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Republican senator jokes that the incessant squabbling in Washington is 'why the aliens won't talk to us'
The search for extraterrestrial life has hit a new roadblock: congressional decorum.
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) vented to reporters Wednesday that politicians on Capitol Hill act like middle schoolers. The immaturity is hindering our other-worldly ambitions, he joked: "That's why the aliens won't talk to us."
"That's why the aliens won't talk to us," Sen. John Kennedy says of the Trump/shithole/DACA news cycle. "They look at us and say, ‘These people... they're 13 year olds.'"
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) January 17, 2018
HuffPost's Igor Bobic noted that Kennedy also compared the state of American politics to The Jerry Springer Show — which The Guardian once wrote "has delivered more on-air fights, ranting white supremacists, adulterous strippers, and transphobia than anything else on television." Kelly O'Meara Morales
Michael Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is not exactly well liked by President Trump these days. Wolff's book, which made public scandalous stories about the White House, has been blasted as "phony" and "fake" by Trump, who doesn't reserve kind words for Wolff either ("mentally deranged," "totally discredited").
One can't help but wonder, though, if Trump would have had the same reaction to the book if Wolff had used its original working title, The Great Transition: The First 100 Days of the Trump Administration. Whether or not Wolff really ever thought he would use that title, it nevertheless helped him slip into the White House without causing alarm. "In part due to that title, Wolff was able to exploit an inexperienced White House staff who mistakenly believed they could shape the book to the president's liking," Bloomberg Politics writes.
Wolff told Trump during [a phone call] that he wanted to write a book on the president's first 100 days in office. Many people want to write books about me, Trump replied — talk to my staff. Aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks listened to Wolff's pitch in a West Wing meeting the next day, but were noncommittal.
Several aides said Hicks later informally endorsed talking with Wolff as long as they made "positive" comments for the book, which they said Wolff told them would counter the media's unfair narrative. [Bloomberg Politics]
Well, here's how that has gone over. Regardless, the White House is reportedly cooperating with authors on at least two other books about its inner workings, including Ron Kessler and a joint project between Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. Jeva Lange
Stephen Bannon wrapped up more than 11 hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, where his refusal to answer questions repeatedly frustrated lawmakers. Bannon reportedly invoked executive privilege, telling the committee that he couldn't answer their questions about anything he was involved with after the election because he'd been advised not to by the White House.
As it turns out, Bannon and the White House were practically on a direct line. Bannon's lawyer, Bill Burck, advised his client on what questions he could or could not answer by speaking on the phone "in real time" with the White House counsel's office, The Associated Press reports, based on a conversation with someone who was not authorized to talk about the arrangement publicly. "We said to Bannon, 'Don't answer those questions because we haven't agreed to that scope under the process,'" a White House official told CNBC.
In a different version of events, a person close to Bannon told CBS News that "Bannon's lawyer related topics about the transition and administration to the White House, and they told him that he was not authorized to answer questions on those topics unless the committee reached an accommodation with the White House on the proper scope of questioning."
In addition to being slapped with a subpoena at the House Intelligence Committee hearing — which did not prevent Bannon from continuing to refuse to answer questions — The New York Times reports that Bannon was subpoenaed last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before a grand jury. Bannon has since struck a deal with Mueller and "is expected to cooperate with the special counsel," people familiar with the arrangement told CNN. In doing so, Bannon is expected to avoid the grand jury in favor of an interview with prosecutors, although it isn't clear yet if the subpoena will be withdrawn. Jeva Lange
Outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor Wednesday to decry President Trump's authoritarian tendencies.
Flake specifically referenced a February tweet from Trump, in which the president declared that the "FAKE NEWS media" is "the enemy of the American people." "It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our president uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies," Flake said.
Sen. Jeff Flake: "Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own President uses words infamously spoken by Joseph Stalin to describe his enemies" https://t.co/ByDENxNNoF
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 17, 2018
The Washington Post points out that Stalin used a phrase similar to Trump's tweet to justify the execution of his enemies. The words were denounced three years after Stalin's death by then-Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
Flake, a frequent Trump critic, was especially bothered by the way Trump "inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language," noting how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro have all invoked the phrase "fake news" to justify or lie about their actions.
Flake: "Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has now in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language" https://t.co/fmRwKChNDe https://t.co/SV2QzD14H2
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 17, 2018
Although Flake's speech aired on various news networks, The Washington Post's Erica Werner pointed out that the only audience on the Senate floor was Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and a smattering of reporters. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Border Patrol agents deliberately destroy humanitarian supplies to harm immigrants, new report finds
U.S. Border Patrol agents actively impair humanitarian efforts along the southern border, a report published Wednesday revealed. The report — commissioned by two humanitarian groups, No More Deaths and La Coalición de Derechos Humanos — claims that U.S. immigration enforcement officials intentionally destroy water containers left for immigrants crossing the scorching deserts, "condemning people to die of thirst in baking temperatures," The Guardian reports.
The study analyzed an 800-square-mile swath of desert near Tucson, Arizona, where people often leave water for border-crossers, The Guardian explains. Between March 2012 and December 2015, Border Patrol agents reportedly damaged 415 containers of water, sabotaging more than 3,500 gallons.
While the report notes that wild animals do occasionally account for the destruction, U.S. Border Patrol agents are the water saboteurs "in the majority of cases," the groups claim. One Border Patrol agent is quoted in the report describing the strategy, saying: "I remember people smashing and stepping on water bottles. I remember that being imparted onto us in one way or another."