Thursday Reads: FUBAR in Virginia, Matt Whitaker’s Worst Nightmare, and Other NewsPosted: February 7, 2019
I’m getting a slow start this morning. Maybe it’s because I spent yesterday in bed with a stomach virus, but I’m feeling particularly hopeless today. I’ve been just sitting here wondering whether there will ever be a day that I get up and find that the news isn’t depressing as hell. Trump is still “president” and it feels like we’ve been cursed as a country. I really think it’s time for men to take a back seat and let women run things; but it’s not going to be easy to get men to sit down and listen to us for a change. We’re going to need to take over the media too, because misogynist “reporters” won’t stop trying to take down women candidates for office.
Is there any man in Virginia who doesn’t have skeletons in his closet? First we learned that Gov. Ralph Northam dressed in blackface when he was in medical school in 1984, then he denied it, but confessed that he wore blackface on a different occasion.
Northam is still refusing to resign, and in the meantime we learned that Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has been credibly accused of a sexual assault (frankly, it was rape) by Professor Vanessa Tyson of Scripps College in California. The third person in line for the governorship is Attorney General Mark Herring, who came forward and admitted that he too had dressed in blackface in the 1980s. Next in line is Kirk Cox, a Republican.
It took Kirk Cox almost 30 years to rise from a freshman GOP member of the Virginia House of Delegates to the legislative body’s speaker.
He could jump to the governorship in a matter of weeks as the state’s top three officials, Democrats all, stagger under the weight of scandals.
First, Gov. Ralph Northam admitted wearing blackface in the 1980s. Then Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax was accused of sexual assault, which he adamantly denies, stemming from a 2004 encounter. Finally, Attorney General Mark Herring admitted he, too, donned blackface in the 1980s.
Shouldn’t someone check to make sure Cox doesn’t have skeletons in his closet too?
Larry Sabato, head of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, says that, if Northam does exit, he would be the state’s first governor since the Civil War not to complete his term.
But Sabato doesn’t see all three Democrats walking away.
“Speculation that all 3 statewide VA Dem officeholders will resign is overwrought,” Sabato said on Twitter. “One or more will survive. VA Dems won in an anti-Trump landslide in 2017. They’re not going to turn government over to a pro-Trump GOP House Speaker.”
Read more at USA Today.
It’s difficult to see how Fairfax survives, but then Kavanaugh got away with attempted rape so who knows?
The New York Times: Vanessa Tyson, Accuser of Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, Describes Assault.
The woman identified herself on Wednesday as Dr. Vanessa C. Tyson, an associate professor of politics and expert in black history at Scripps College in California. She has also spent years advocating for victims of sexual assault and has spoken openly about being molested by her father when she was a child.
“What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault,” Dr. Tyson wrote, describing her encounter in a hotel room with the future lieutenant governor. “Mr. Fairfax put his hand behind my neck and forcefully pushed my head towards his crotch. Only then did I realize that he had unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and taken out his penis.”
The Times didn’t finish the story but they posted the full statement. Here’s the rest:
He then forced his penis into my mouth. Utterly shocked and terrified, I tried to move my head away, but could not because his hand was holding down my neck and he was much stronger than me. As I cried and gagged, Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him. I cannot believe, given my obvious distress, that Mr. Fairfax thought this forced sexual act was consensual. To be very clear, I did not want to engage in oral sex with Mr. Fairfax and I never gave any form of consent. Quite the opposite. I consciously avoided Mr. Fairfax for the remainder of the Convention and I never spoke to him again.
Read the rest of the statement at the link. Tyson never told anyone about the assault until about a year ago. One of the people she told was Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, who has called for Ralph Northam to resign.
Virginia Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott was made aware of allegations of sexual assault against now-Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax over a year ago by the alleged victim herself, ABC News has learned.
Scott learned of the allegations directly from Dr. Vanessa Tyson, who on Wednesday released a statement detailing the alleged 2004 assault, which took place at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
Fairfax vehemently denies the assault claim.
In a statement given to ABC News on Wednesday, Scott wrote, “Allegations of sexual assault need to be taken seriously. I have known Professor Tyson for approximately a decade and she is a friend. She deserves the opportunity to have her story heard.”
Apparently, Scott never confronted Fairfax with the allegation. And there’s this:
Scott himself was previously accused of sexual harassment by a former aide, who said he touched her inappropriately when she was working in his Washington office in 2013. He denied the claim.
Sigh . . . can you see why I’m so depressed reading about this?
One more story from Virginia at The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Va. Capitol Police sergeant placed on leave after antifa group posts allegation about him.
Virginia Capitol Police announced Wednesday that it had placed a sergeant on leave after local activists published allegations that he “has an affinity” for symbols associated with white supremacists.
In a news release, the Virginia Division of Capitol Police said Sgt. Robert A. Stamm is on paid administrative leave pending a review of possible violation of department policy…..
The activists on the blog post said Stamm’s social media activity suggests he follows the Asatru Folk Assembly. The blog says Stamm is friends with people who claim to be associated with the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “hate group” blending Northern European paganism and ethnocentrism….
On its blog Tuesday, Antifascists of the Seven Hills, a leftist self-described “militant” group, posted Stamm’s name, links to social media accounts in his name and a description of his tattoos and interests listed under those accounts.
So, we’ll see what happens with that; but, honestly, I’ve reached the point that I don’t care who becomes Governor of Virginia after all the dust settles. I just wish there were a woman in the line of succession.
There’s a lot more depressing news out there, but I’d rather focus on tomorrow’s big story: Acting AG Matt Whitaker’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee.
It appears acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker allowed an important deadline to pass on the eve of his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), as chair, had directed Whitaker to inform the committee “no later than” 48 hours before Friday’s hearing whether President Donald Trump planned to assert executive privilege over a range of topics. This letter is among a series of somewhat unusual steps — including formal committee consideration of a subpoena authorization — taken by Nadler in advance of the Whitaker hearing to prepare the battlefield and short-circuit potential executive branch efforts to evade testimony about Whitaker’s communications with Trump and other White House officials.
Nadler had to threaten a subpoena in order to obtain Whitaker’s commitment to testify. On Jan. 15, Nadler sent a letter reiterating the committee’s demandfor Whitaker’s Feb. 8 appearance, after Department of Justice handlers suggested that the government shutdown might delay their boss’s testimony. In the letter, Nadler emphasized that the committee expected Whitaker to “provide direct answers to questions posed by members of both parties.” And he planted a seed: “If you plan to invoke executive privilege in an attempt to avoid answering any particular question, I ask that you consult with the White House well in advance of the hearing.”
In its first two years, the Trump administration has avoided having to formally invoke executive privilege, because the Republican-led congressional committees did not issue subpoenas or threaten contempt in the face of stonewalling. I have written about some of those early skirmishes — and the failure to enforce congressional prerogatives – in the cases of Steve Bannon, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Sally Yates as former acting attorney general. That pattern will change now under a Democratic House majority.
A week after his letter repeating the committee’s demand, Nadler on Jan. 22 sent another, reiterating the committee’s expectation that Whitaker specifically testify about White House contacts with the DoJ. It was an effort by Nadler to preempt fancy footwork over executive privilege at the hearing.
Read the rest at the link.
And from The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff: ‘They Hate This Guy’: Matt Whitaker Braces for Showdown With Dems.
The Justice Department is bracing for impact. Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is set to testify before Congress on Friday, and in the Department’s sprawling Pennsylvania Avenue headquarters, dozens of officials have been working to get him ready. The hearing will be the first blockbuster showdown between the Trump administration and oversight-antsy Hill Democrats who just recently secured the power to force the president’s allies to testify.
“They hate this guy so much,” the source said.
Whitaker has gone through multiple practice committee hearings––known as moots––where Justice Department officials pepper him with questions that committee Democrats may lob, according to multiple DOJ officials involved in his preparation. They have tried to prepare him for lengthy statements, harsh tones, and leading questions. Dozens of department officials have helped him prepare, those officials told The Daily Beast, working through the government shutdown to brief him and get him ready. And they’re gearing up for questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, according to one source familiar with Whitaker’s preparation, including whether he had input on the investigation’s resources. On top of that, they’re braced for legal sparring if Democrats try to force Whitaker to testify about his conversations with the president.
“We don’t know what we’re up against with the House Judiciary Committee,” that source said. “We have no idea.”
Read the rest at the The Daily Beast.
More reads, links only:
The Washington Post: The Mueller investigation has sprouted. Therein lies the jeopardy for Trump, by Joyce White Vance and Matthew Miller.
Garrett Graff at Wired: What Robert Mueller Knows–and Isn’t Telling Us.
The Washington Post: The Energy 202: Ocasio-Cortez, Markey unveil Green New Deal with backing of four presidential candidates.
Bloomberg: The Battle Over Trump’s Tax Return Begins.
Franklin Foer at The Atlantic: Russian-Style Kleptocracy Is Infiltrating America.
What stories are you following today?