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speaking out
March 20, 2019

After President Trump went after late Senator John McCain once again, some Republicans in the Senate are speaking out.

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) is the latest to do so, telling The Bulwark that Trump's comments about McCain "drive me crazy" and that "America deserves better." This comes after Trump in the Oval Office on Tuesday criticized McCain, who died of brain cancer in 2018, saying his vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act was "disgraceful" and that "I was never a fan of John McCain, and I never will be." Trump's also went after McCain three different times on Twitter over the weekend, including retweeting a follower who wrote, "We hated McCain."

In response, Isakson said "nobody — regardless of their position — is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life." He argued that when Trump makes comments like these, "all these kids are out there listening to the president of the United States talk that way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead, [and it] just sets the worst tone possible."

This isn't Isakson's last word on the subject, as he told The Bulwark he will speak against these attacks on McCain on Wednesday and will "lay it on the line."

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) previously pushed back on Trump's attacks on McCain on Tuesday, tweeting that he "can't understand" why Trump would "disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also praised McCain amid the president's criticism, saying "nothing about his service will ever be changed or diminished," although unlike Romney's post, Graham's tweets didn't mention Trump. Brendan Morrow

March 6, 2019

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said on Wednesday that she was raped by a superior officer when she served in the Air Force.

During a hearing on sexual assault in the military, the Arizona senator and former fighter pilot said that her passion for this issue is "deeply personal" because she is "also a military sexual assault survivor" and that in "one case," she was "preyed upon and then raped by a superior officer."

McSally said she didn't report because she "didn't trust the system at the time" and "felt powerless." Later in her career, McSally says she came forward with her story and was "horrified at how my attempt to share generally my experiences were handled. I almost separated from the Air Force at 18 years over my despair. Like many victims, I felt like the system was raping me all over again."

The senator also said during Wednesday's hearing that she "witnessed so many weaknesses in the processes involving sexual assault prevention, investigation, and adjudication" in the military, which "shaped my approach as a commander and informed my advocacy for change." There's still "a long way to go" toward solving this problem, she said, adding that "we must fix those distortions in the culture of our military that permit sexual harm towards women, and yes, some men as well." Watch McSally's statement below. Brendan Morrow

February 14, 2019

Actor Jussie Smollett is speaking out in his first TV interview since he was the victim of an attack police have been investigating as a possible hate crime.

Smollett told Good Morning America on Thursday that he is "forever changed" after two men allegedly beat him while shouting racial and homophobic slurs. The Empire star says this occurred while he was leaving a Subway in Chicago late at night and that the attackers yelled, "This is MAGA country."

Some had called his account into question in recent weeks, seizing on certain details such as Smollett not wanting to hand over his phone to police, although he did give over redacted records, and police have said he has been cooperative and that his account is consistent and credible. Smollett told Good Morning America that he wanted to protect his privacy and the privacy of his friends and family by not giving over his phone. He also said that he was taken aback by people doubting his account of what happened.

"It's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth," he said. "You don't even want to see the truth."

Smollett, who said he's "pissed off" by these people who claim he's lying, also speculated that no one would doubt his story if the men who attacked him were Muslim, Mexican, or black. This "says a lot about the place that we are in our country," he added. Watch a portion of Smollett's interview below. Brendan Morrow

February 8, 2019

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says she was assaulted by a woman who has since been charged and will be tried next month.

Conway in a CNN interview Friday alleged that, in October 2018, she was at a restaurant with her daughter when a woman, Mary Elizabeth Inabinett, began "screaming her head off" and started "grabbing me from behind, grabbing my arms, and was shaking me to the point where I felt maybe somebody was hugging me."

Conway said she called 911 on this "out of control" and "unhinged" woman, who left the restaurant before authorities arrived. In November, police charged Inabinett with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct, CNN reports. "She was just, her whole face was terror and anger," Conway said. "She was right here, and my daughter was right there. She ought to pay for that."

Inabinett's lawyer told CNN she did not assault Conway and will plead not guilty. "Ms. Inabinett saw Kellyanne Conway, a public figure, in a public place, and exercised her First Amendment right to express her personal opinions," her lawyer said.

A charging document obtained reportedly shows Conway said the woman screamed at her for eight to 10 minutes, and police wrote after interviewing the restaurant manager that Inabinett "was yelling 'shame on you' and other comments believed to be about Conway's political views." Conway told CNN that people should "get over the damn 2016 election," and she hopes this will "become a teachable moment for everyone that this all has consequences."

A trial will take place next month in Maryland. Brendan Morrow

January 10, 2019

Lady Gaga is finally speaking out about the abuse allegations against R. Kelly and offering an apology for having worked with him.

Gaga on Twitter said she stands behind the women accusing Kelly of abuse and feels "strongly that their voices need to be heard and taken seriously." She also said that the allegations against him are "horrifying and indefensible."

This comes after Lifetime aired a documentary, Surviving R. Kelly, which shed light on the decades of abuse allegations against the R&B singer. Kelly has been accused of sexually abusing numerous young women, including a 15-year-old girl for whom he is alleged to have forged documents in order to illegally marry. He was indicted on child pornography charges in 2002 over a tape that allegedly showed him abusing a 14-year-old girl, but he was ultimately found not guilty.

Gaga, who in 2013 collaborated with Kelly on the song "Do What U Want," expressed regret over having done so and apologized for her "poor judgment," pledging never to work with Kelly again and saying she will be removing the song from iTunes and streaming platforms.

Kelly is reportedly under criminal investigation in Georgia as a result of Surviving R. Kelly, CNN reports. He has denied all of the allegations against him and has threatened to sue all involved in the documentary. Brendan Morrow

November 13, 2018

Former President Bill Clinton doesn't think he owes Monica Lewinsky an apology, but Lewinsky says he would be a better man if he offered one.

Lewinsky penned an essay in Vanity Fair this week ahead of the premiere of The Clinton Affair, a new A&E documentary premiering Nov. 18 for which she gave 20 hours worth of detailed interviews. In the essay, Lewinsky references the fact that Bill Clinton has never apologized to her privately; he said earlier this year he doesn't owe her an apology. Lewinsky writes that she is "disappointed for him" because "he would be a better man" if he apologized to her. "What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize," she says.

Lewinsky also says that if she were to run into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in person, she would tell her "how very sorry I am." Clinton last month argued that her husband's affair with Lewinsky was not an abuse of power because Lewinsky was "an adult." Lewinsky was a 22-year-old White House intern at the time of the affair, and she has since said that Clinton abused his power over her.

The former president's actions have come under increased scrutiny in light of the #MeToo movement, and Lewinsky in her essay criticizes the fact that he was able to avoid tough questions about his behavior for so long. "If you want to know what power looks like, watch a man safely, even smugly, do interviews for decades, without ever worrying whether he will be asked the questions he doesn't want to answer," she writes. Read more at Vanity Fair.

Brendan Morrow

September 17, 2018

In the afterword for the paperback version of her book What Happened, Hillary Clinton writes that "our democracy is in crisis," and President Trump and "his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track."

With the paperback version out Tuesday, The Atlantic published an adaptation of the afterword on Sunday night. In it, Clinton argues that Trump's flurry of outrages "may be the point — to confound us, so it's harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy." Trump "promised to 'drain the swamp,'" she said, so "it's amazing how blithely the president and his Cabinet have piled up conflicts of interest, abuses of power, and blatant violations of ethics rules," not to mention attacks on truth itself.

Trump is also undermining "the national unity that makes democracy possible," Clinton writes, citing his comments about Mexican immigrants and NFL players who choose to kneel. Trump "doesn't even try to pretend he's a president for all Americans," she said, adding that nothing Trump says is "a mark of authenticity or a refreshing break from political correctness. Hate speech isn't 'telling it like it is.' It's just hate."

This is all a long time coming, Clinton said, as the "assault on our democracy didn't start with this election." It started with billionaires like the Koch brothers and Mercer family, "who spent a lot of time and money building an alternative reality where science is denied, lies masquerade as truth, and paranoia flourishes." To fight back, people must vote in the midterms, and "when the dust settles, we have to do some serious housecleaning." Congress passed reforms after Watergate, and "we're going to need a similar process" post-Trump, Clinton said. She suggests that all presidential candidates be required by law to release tax returns, and the process for elections be improved and protected. Read more at The Atlantic. Catherine Garcia

September 13, 2018

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló pushed back against detractors of a report that found nearly 3,000 people died on the island because of Hurricane Maria.

On Twitter Thursday morning, Trump claimed without any evidence that "3,000 people did not die" from Hurricanes Maria and Irma last year, and that the number was inflated "by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico."

The official death toll of nearly 3,000 is from a study that Rosselló commissioned, conducted by George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health. "We went through a rigorous scientific process, we externalized the investigation so that it was an independent investigation," Rosselló told CBS News, adding, "Neither the people of Puerto Rico nor the victims deserve their pain to be questioned."

Relief efforts are still underway on the island, and Rosselló said it's "evident that the treatment that was given to, say, Florida or Texas was very different than the treatment given in Puerto Rico. We are second-class U.S. citizens, we live in a colonial territory, it is time to eliminate that and I implore all the elected officials, particularly now in midterm elections, to have a firm stance." People are either "for colonial territories or against them," he added. "You're either for giving equal rights to the U.S. citizens that live in Puerto Rico or you're against it." Catherine Garcia

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