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Another One
July 12, 2019

Labor Secretary Alex Acosta is right on trend.

President Trump announced Friday that Acosta would step down as labor secretary by the end of next week, saying it was Acosta's decision to do so. But rising controversy surrounding Acosta's role in fashioning a lenient deal for Jeffrey Epstein more than a decade ago obviously influenced the decision, and it means he's far from the first official in Trump's Cabinet to leave in disgrace.

When Acosta was a prosecutor in Florida, his office arranged a plea deal that let Epstein off easy amid allegations of sexual abusing underage girls. Epstein's Sunday arrest in New York over similar allegations dredged up Acosta's old decision, which, in a Wednesday press conference, he said he stood by.

Acosta follows former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price out the Cabinet's scandal-driven exit door. The department's inspector general had concluded Price wasted at least $341,000 on travel, namely on chartered flights. While Price paid back some of the costs, news of his outlandish spending sent him packing in September 2017. Next out of the Cabinet was former Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who was fired in March 2018 after a watchdog report accused him of using taxpayer money for an extended vacation. Former EPA Head Scott Pruitt followed, as he was found to have a spending problem on everything from chartered flights to moisturizer. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, meanwhile, left at the end of last year as investigations swirled around deals he made in office.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn wasn't technically a part of Trump's Cabinet, but his quick departure from the West Wing came after probably the biggest scandal of all. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 9, 2019

For a brief, blissful second, the Democratic 2020 pool narrowed to 23 candidates. That time is over.

After a slew of Monday reports indicated that liberal billionaire Tom Steyer was inching toward a 2020 run, he officially announced his Democratic campaign for president with a four-minute campaign video released Tuesday morning. The announcement comes after Steyer indicated earlier this year he wouldn't run in 2020, but well after his November ad campaign that looked an awful lot like a presidential platform.

Steyer starts the video by explaining how he grew up during the Civil Rights era, and how that showed that the "underlying injustice of America was coming under attack." He also doesn't shy away from the fact that he's a billionaire, but instead emphasizes that he signed the Giving Pledge to donate half of his wealth while he's alive, while saying many other wealthy people would "rather make money than save the world" from climate change. To emphasize that point, the ad flows through footage of Jeffrey Epstein, Martin Shkreli, and other wealthy people and Republican politicians.

In November, Steyer unveiled a website and six-figure online ad campaign touting what he called the "five rights" essential to "an equal chance to earn their fair share of America's prosperity." He's also spent much of President Trump's term calling for his impeachment, including with a $12 million TV ad buy aimed at congressional Democrats.

The announcement comes after Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) announced Monday he was ending his 2020 campaign, focusing instead on his reelection next year to the House. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 24, 2019

Another Republican has hopped on the impeachment train.

After the Mueller report detailed President Trump's failure to take what Michael Gerson calls "a criminal plot by a hostile foreign government" to the FBI, the chief speechwriter for former President George W. Bush writes that "House leaders should lay the groundwork for impeachment." This move strays from politics' usual goals of "partisanship" and "endless fundraising," Gerson continues in his Monday op-ed for The Washington Post, but adds that this choice will "echo across the decades."

As Gerson describes in the Post, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report "shows that Trump and members of his campaign team were willing — actually, eager — to cooperate with Russian attempts to subvert a presidential election." Trump also "ordered subordinates to lie about their ties to the Russians," Gerson continues, going on to decry Attorney General William Barr for "provid[ing] cover for those deceptions." Yet Congress, Gerson writes, is "punting" its "responsibility" to hold Trump accountable for these actions. It's time for impeachment, Gerson finishes, because "the honor of the presidency now depends on the actions of Congress."

Gerson has previously authored Post op-eds saying Trump is a "Russian stooge" and a "danger to democracy." But it ran just ahead of another Republican's call for impeachment, this one from former Trump transition staffer J.W. Verret, published Tuesday in The Atlantic. Verret was not a "Never Trumper," but opposed Trump on several policy points. And after reading the Mueller report twice, he reached a "tipping point" with Trump's leadership and said "Republicans in Congress" should have reached it too. Kathryn Krawczyk

April 8, 2019

Yet another Department of Homeland Security official is leaving the Trump administration.

President Trump is removing U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, CNN reported on Monday. Alles has reportedly been asked to leave his position, although he remains in it for now, after Trump instructed Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to fire him.

This comes one day after Trump announced the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was reportedly pressured to leave the administration. A senior administration official told CNN there is a "near-systematic purge happening at the nation's second-largest national security agency," with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna and DHS Office of the General Counsel's John Mitnick also expected to be on their way out. CNN had previously reported that Senior Adviser Stephen Miller was eying more Department of Homeland Security firings.

The Associated Press and NBC News have both confirmed that Alles is expected to leave the administration, although AP's Jill Colvin reports this is unrelated to other DHS departures. Brendan Morrow

March 25, 2019

Now that one special counsel investigation has wrapped up, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wants another.

Graham, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Monday said Attorney General William Barr should appoint a new special counsel to investigate allegations of the FBI and the Department of Justice "playing politics" in 2016. This would include looking into the FBI's obtaining of a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump aide Carter Paige, which included references to allegations from British spy Christopher Steele's unconfirmed dossier on the Trump campaign's alleged Russia collusion. This was not the entire basis for obtaining the warrant, however, explains NBC News.

"The FISA warrant issued against Carter Page based on a dossier prepared by Christopher Steele is at a minimum disturbing," Graham said, per ABC. "Whether or not it's illegal, I don't yet know, so I'm going to get answers to this."

Graham said he would "like to find somebody like a Mr. Mueller" that could look into this FISA warrant among other concerns raised by conservatives in recent years. Mueller "thoroughly investigated the Trump campaign," but "you cannot say that about the other side of the story," he argued. Graham also said he wants this special counsel to investigate the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. He was headed to speak with Barr shortly after this press conference.

Trump himself suggested on Sunday more investigations should take place, saying, "hopefully, somebody's going to be looking at the other side."

The Judiciary Committee will also examine these issues, Graham said on Monday after previously hinting at this by tweeting at Former FBI Director James Comey, "See you soon." Brendan Morrow

March 17, 2019

While a foregone conclusion since she announced her plans to launch an exploratory committee for a potential run at the Oval Office in January, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) officially announced her presidential bid on Sunday.

Gillibrand delivered the news in the form of a video, in which she broadly lays out the campaign issues she will focus on, including universal health care, paid family leave, and the "Green New Deal." The video also highlights the senator's vote against bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis and her work to change how the military handles allegations of sexual misconduct.

Gillibrand will reportedly give a speech in front of the Trump International hotel in New York City next Sunday. She also has campaign stops in Michigan, Iowa, and Nevada during the week. Watch the announcement video below. Tim O'Donnell

March 11, 2019

Another potentially incriminating tape of R&B star R. Kelly has been handed over to authorities.

Gary Dennis, a Pennsylvania man represented by attorney Gloria Allred, said on Sunday he has provided law enforcement with a recording he found while cleaning out a box of VHS tapes, per NBC News. He claims it shows Kelly "sexually abusing underage African-American girls," HuffPost reports.

The contents of this tape, which have been provided to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York, have not yet been verified by news outlets. But this comes after attorney Michael Avenatti last month provided law enforcement with a tape he said showed Kelly abusing an underage girl. This tape was reviewed by CNN, which confirmed it appeared to show Kelly with a girl who both he and Kelly suggest on tape is 14 years old.

Kelly previously faced child pornography charges in 2002 over a tape allegedly showing him having sex with a minor, but he was ultimately acquitted. Last month, he was indicted on 10 charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and he has pleaded not guilty. His attorney on Sunday denied that he is on "any" tape and said that it's "obviously now just open season on R. Kelly." Brendan Morrow

February 6, 2019

The third person in line for the Virginia governorship has admitted he wore blackface as a college student.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) on Wednesday released a statement admitting that in 1980, when he was an undergraduate in college, he and his friends dressed as rappers and "because we did not have an appreciation for the experiences and perspectives of others," they "dressed up and put on wigs and brown makeup."

Herring says that he is "sure we have all done things at one time or another in our lives that show poor judgment," and this is a "glaring example" that has "haunted me for decades." But he insists it "was a onetime occurrence" and says he takes "full responsibility" for it.

This revelation means that Virginia's governor and the two people next in line to succeed him are all embroiled in controversies. Last week, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) admitted to wearing blackface in a yearbook photo printed on a page dedicated to him; the photo also showed a person wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe. He later backtracked and said he's not in that photo but did wear blackface on a separate occasion when he dressed as Michael Jackson.

Should Northam resign, as many Democrats including Herring have called on him to do, his successor would be Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D), who recently denied an allegation of sexual assault. NBC News reported Wednesday that Fairfax said of his accuser at a private meeting Monday, "f— that b—." Herring is next in line, and fourth in line is Republican Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Kirk Cox. Read Herring's statement below. Brendan Morrow

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