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‘People are terrified’: Trump staffers live in fear of Omarosa’s next tape

A daily trickle of revealing internal conversations between staffers. Growing anxiety about what one might have once said. No sense of how long it will go on.

Omarosa Manigault Newman’s slow release of secretly taped conversations from inside the Trump campaign and White House is having the same effect on staffers as the daily dumps from WikiLeaks had on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, when chairman John Podesta’s emails were trickled out during the final stretch of the race.

“People are terrified,” one former Trump aide said of the tapes. “Absolutely terrified.”

On Tuesday, the fifth day of her one-woman news cycle, Manigault Newman released a taped conversation from the 2016 campaign, in which former spokeswoman Katrina Pierson and another African-American Trump adviser, Lynne Patton, discussed the possible existence of an N-word tape.

“He’s said it,” Pierson says on the recording. “He’s embarrassed.”

The latest reveal indicates that Manigault Newman isn’t just trying to discredit President Donald Trump, who is the subject of her book, “Unhinged.” In her crusade for publicity and payback, she’s willing to embarrass and expose her former colleagues along the way.

The result is the same type of psychological warfare that gripped the Clinton campaign two years ago with staffers — and anyone tangentially in their orbit — waking up every morning bracing themselves for what potentially embarrassing missive might be made public, and waiting for the onslaught to end.

Like the WikiLeaks dump — which severely damaged the Clinton campaign by taking it off message, but never produced a smoking gun — Manigault Newman’s tapes, according to someone who has listened to them, are juicy to listen to but ultimately don’t contain any bombshell about the president or his family.

Former senior staffers also said they felt safer because Manigault Newman was not included in small, high-level meetings. And they doubted that she taped the one broader senior staff meeting that she attended, which included about 25 people.

“But if I was on the communications staff, where she was interacting more with people,” said another former senior administration official, “I can see how people might be nervous.”

There are, of course, many differences between Manigault Newman’s tapes and the WikiLeaks emails. Where the Clinton campaign was targeted by a shadowy outside force trying to disrupt the election, Trump’s hacker is a known knife fighter he willingly brought into the house because, as he tweeted earlier this week, she said flattering things about him.

While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dumped thousands of pages of documents for the public to make sense of, Manigault Newman — who in an MSNBC interview on Tuesday called herself a whistleblower — is dribbling out bits and pieces in building her case against Trump, cherry-picking the evidence to bolster her own argument and not delivering a full picture. In the world of whistleblowers, Manigault Newman is just playing a few notes on a flute.

While White House staffers have nothing but their own recollections to count on as they brace for a next tape, the Clinton campaign had the ability to know what could, potentially, come out.

“We had John’s emails,” recalled Jennifer Palmieri, who served as communications director on Clinton’s 2016 campaign. “We were worried they would start making stuff up. But we had something to work from. We had the ability to figure out what the universe might be.”

Palmieri said another plus was the more sober characters that populated her campaign.

“Nobody had to be worried that there was an email where Hillary used the N-word,” she said. “And John doesn’t say crazy stuff. But for other people on the campaign, especially younger people, it was really upsetting because every staffer’s greatest fear is that they do something that becomes a problem for their candidate.”

There were, however, embarrassing moments for longtime Clinton aides in the WikiLeaks dump. Longtime Clinton adviser Neera Tanden groused in one email about the boss that “her instincts are suboptimal” and said of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, “I find him a bit insufferable.”

The email hack left donors with bruised egos, and some friendships slightly frayed.

In Clinton world, Palmieri started every day with a readout on what had come across the Wikileaks transom that morning. In this case, the White House strategy so far — with the exception of the president — has been to try and ignore Manigault Newman and her tapes.

“I think it would be great if every single person in this room and this administration never had to talk about this again,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the press briefing Tuesday afternoon, studiously avoiding referring to Manigault Newman by name. When pressed on whether she wanted the president to stop tweeting about his former staffer, she added, “I think it’s better for all of us to walk away.”

Despite the administration’s attempts to pivot away from the topic, the fear about the tapes is still hanging over people inside and outside the administration.

One former Trump adviser said he already assumed every conversation he was having in the White House was being recorded in some fashion, and went so far as to purchase a Faraday box, which blocks electromagnetic fields, to store his government phone.

The only people breathing easy this week are those who had little to do with Manigault Newman at all. “Luckily I spoke to her approximately four times ever,” said another former White House official.

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Manafort trial Day 10: Prosecution rests, Manafort defense starts Tuesday

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors rested their case against Paul Manafort on Monday afternoon after calling more than two dozen witnesses in their tax- and bank-fraud case against the former Trump campaign chairman.

The final round of testimony from Treasury Department senior special agent Paula Liss lasted only five questions. It essentially boiled down to Liss stating that she had not found any evidence that Manafort’s international political consulting firms had filed reports with the U.S. government acknowledging they had foreign bank accounts.

Failing to file those bank account reports are one prong of Mueller’s case against Manafort, which is set to shift to the defense on Tuesday morning when the trial resumes in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mueller’s team brought the charges against Manafort as part of its wideranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III also ejected the public from the courtroom late Monday after Mueller’s team signaled they were finished and convened a closed-door hearing on an undisclosed, sealed motion by Manafort’s lawyers. Ellis, who has quarreled with the defense throughout the proceedings, said the substance of the request would become public once the trial is over.

Liss, a certified fraud examiner and money laundering specialist with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, had actually testified during the trial’s first week that neither Manafort nor his wife, Kathleen, had filed the foreign bank accounts.

Bringing Liss back for more testimony didn’t happen without some dispute.

Prosecutors wanted to recall Liss to have her answer a short set of questions about what she found when researching the foreign bank account filings from Manafort’s two latest consulting firms: Davis Manafort Partners and Davis Manafort International LLC.

They argued the questions had relevance because they would help show Manafort had knowledge of his requirements to file the reports and willfully ignored it.

“The jury should know the corporations didn’t file,” argued Mueller prosecutor Uzo Asonye.

Defense attorneys countered that Manafort himself never had more than 50 percent ownership in the firms at the time of the alleged crimes and so the burden didn’t fall on him to notify the government. They also said they had no plans to raise the topic as they presented their defense.

Ellis ultimately allowed Liss’ testimony, but he first instructed the jury to keep in mind that only Manafort personally was charged for not filing the foreign bank account report and that they could not convict him for crimes that were not in the government’s indictment.

Trump-aligned bank CEO intervened for Manafort, witness said

A Chicago bank CEO who was seeking a top job in the Trump administration overrode the objections of the bank’s president in order to green light a $9.5 million loan for Paul Manafort in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign, a bank executive testified Monday.

The testimony came shortly before prosecutors rested their case Monday afternoon against Manafort after nearly two weeks of witnesses, often presented at a breakneck speed that Ellis encouraged.

The CEO of the Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank, Stephen Calk, interceded after the president of the bank, Javier Ubarri, decided it was too risky to allow Manafort to draw the $9.5 million in funds out of equity in his Bridgehampton, N.Y. home, bank vice president James Brennan said.

Prosecutor Greg Andres asked Brennan why the bank went through with the loan if its president was opposed to its issuance.

“It closed because Mr. Calk wanted it to close,” said Brennan, who testified pursuant to a grant of immunity from prosecution over his involvement.

Jurors heard from another bank employee last week that as Manafort was applying for the loan, Calk considered himself to be in the running for a Cabinet post, like secretary of Treasury or of housing and urban development.

However, Brennan said underwriters at the bank had concerns about Manafort’s lack of income stream and his debts, including other outstanding loans and an overdue bill for $210,000 in Yankees season tickets.

“Mr. Manafort had no revenue [and] just $638,000 in expenses” in 2016 before he applied for the $9.5 million loan, the bank executive said.

Manafort claimed he had $2.4 million in income due in from a client, but the bank couldn’t verify that.

“We were not in possession of any back-up,” said Brennan, who also called Manafort’s failure to disclose loans from other banks a “definite red flag.”

Brennan testified that he graded Manafort’s loan application as just high enough to merit consideration, even though he personally recommended the loan not be approved.

Asked why he graded the loan at a higher level than he believed to be accurate, he pointed to Calk’s wishes and said, “Because the loan was going through.”

Brennan described the two loans Manafort sought — one for $9.5 million and one for $6.5 million — as the two largest the bank had made at the time.

Asked by Andres whether the bank made money on the loans, Brennan said the bank had actually lost nearly $12 million.

Manafort’s attorney asked if the bank had attempted to recoup some losses by seizing collateral from Manafort, suggesting that the longtime lobbyist’s indictment in late 2017 May may have “constrained” the bank’s ability to access his assets. Brennan said he was unaware whether such efforts had been made.

Calk, the CEO, hasn’t testified in the case. Andres said at a sidebar bench conference last week that the government considers him a co-conspirator in Manafort’s alleged fraud, even though Calk owns about two-thirds of the privately-held bank.

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What's next for Paul Manafort?

A verdict in Paul Manafort’s Virginia trial could come as early as this week, but it will hardly be the last word on his fate.

A conviction would threaten to jail Manafort, 69, for the rest of his life. But he would have the option to appeal — or hope for a politically explosive pardon from President Donald Trump. Even if a jury acquits the former Trump 2016 campaign chairman on the tax and bank fraud charges that special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors have detailed out over the past two weeks, Manafort is hardly out of the woods.

Most notably, the longtime GOP operative still faces a second federal trial slated to begin in mid-September in Washington. And that case, accusing Manafort of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent while lobbying for the government of Ukraine, could be even more challenging.

“Even if, against all odds, [Manafort wins] here, they’re right back at it in a month so,” said a defense lawyer who has worked on the Russia investigation.

Things can always get worse still for Manafort. Mueller’s team of investigators have been examining him for more than a year as part of their probe into 2016 Russian election meddling, and federal prosecutors can always file new charges separate from the ones already on the books. (The current charges against Manafort are largely unrelated to the 2016 election.)

“Mueller’s got so many different ways to win. He’s got limitless resources,” said a second attorney with a Trump official mired in the case.

First, both Mueller and Manafort need to get through the trial now underway in an Alexandria, Virginia, courtroom. Prosecutors spent the past two weeks laying out details of Manafort’s lavish spending, including a now infamous $15,000 ostrich jacket purchased with profits he made from political consulting work in Ukraine several years ago. Mueller’s team also introduced evidence showing that Manafort concealed the millions he made through that work in a bid to evade U.S. taxes.

Their case — charging 18 counts in all — was bolstered by the cooperative testimony of Manafort’s former business partner, Rick Gates, whose credibility Manafort’s five-man legal team has already started to hammer as they mount their defense.

Still, many legal experts say, the evidence against Manafort is powerful and winning his acquittal will be a daunting task, even if the quarrelsome judge presiding in the case has caused unexpected problems for the prosecution team.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case as early as Monday, giving the floor to Manafort’s lawyers.But as U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III has repeatedly told the jurors, the defendant is not obliged to call any witnesses and his attorneys could simply ask that the trial move straight to closing arguments once the prosecution finishes. That could have jurors deliberating by midweek.

Still, Manafort’s lawyers have signaled they do plan to put up a fight: They obtained subpoenas before the trial calling for a half dozen witnesses. They also may make motions to acquit Manafort before the case even goes to the jury. (Lawyers call that a longshot.)

Although none of the charges against Manafort directly involve President Trump, the conviction of his former top campaign aide would be a political embarrassment for Trump and a potent political retort against Trump’s claim that Mueller is conducting a “witch hunt.”

Manafort can always appeal a conviction. But his lawyers have so far had little success fighting Mueller’s prosecution, including through a defeated motion this summer which sought to toss out all of the charges against Manafort on the grounds that the special counsel’s very appointment was legally flawed.

But with other court challenges playing out against Mueller on Constitutional grounds, some legal experts predict Manafort could challenge any convictions through an appeal that reaches the Supreme Court.

Manafort’s best chance at salvation after a conviction could lie with Trump’s executive clemency powers. The president has already granted pardons to several notable conservative figures, including Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby. And some Trump allies say he’d be justified in using his unchecked power to keep Manafort out of jail.

Trump in June declined to rule out a pardon for Manafort. Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, that month also said clemency remains on the table for the ex-aide. “When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons,” he told the New York Daily News.

“I’d certainly pardon Manafort, because he’s been totally screwed as a result of having been associated with the Trump campaign,” said Joseph diGenova, an informal Trump adviser who nearly joined the president’s personal legal team in the spring.

Alan Dershowitz, the retired Harvard law professor, said Trump shouldn’t be in any rush to pardon Manafort. That decision could come later in his term and should really “depend on what Manafort does” after a potential conviction.

Another intriguing scenario discussed by some legal experts: the possibility that Manafort, if convicted, would surrender and offer his cooperation to Mueller in exchange for a potentially lighter sentence. (Mueller can ask Ellis for leniency, although Ellis, the presiding judge, would make the final decision.)

“Manafort flips after conviction,” Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor, predicted on Twitter Saturday.

In an interview last week, Giuliani told POLITICO that he believes Mueller team hopes to flip Manafort into a government witness who might offer damaging revelations about Trump himself.

“Whether he did anything wrong or not, there’s no way they’d have raised it to this level to prosecute it if they weren’t basically trying to put excessive pressure on him to cooperate against the president,” the former New York mayor said.

It’s not clear whether Manafort has incriminating information about Trump or, if he does, why he would not have offered it already.

Nor is it clear whether Manafort’s cooperation would be of use to Mueller after he has been branded a federal convict, especially with Trump’s own lawyers already warning that Manafort may lie to avoid prison.

“If the guy was going to go ahead and lie and cooperate he’d do it to get himself out of jail,” Giuliani said. “What’s his testimony look like after he’s convicted?”

It is also possible that Manafort — especially if he is convicted in Virginia — could plead guilty to the charges he faces in the second trial, if only to avoid another public ordeal.

But one defense attorney working with a Trump official in the Russia probe said Manafort may conclude that maintaining his innocence, even after a conviction, might be preferable to a guilty plea that still earns him a long prison sentence.

Refusing to plea allows Manafort to “maintain [his] innocence to the grave,” said the lawyer. “You can make a respectable case when you’re a defendant and make a statement that people know you were wronged. Once you plead guilty, that’s gone. Your legacy is done.”

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What Charlottesville Changed

A year ago Sunday, crowds of far-right and white supremacist protesters descended on Charlottesville, Virginia. They marched toward a statue of confederate General Robert E. Lee carrying tiki torches, swastikas and semi-automatic rifles and chanting slogans like “White lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us!” By the end of the day, Heather Heyer was dead, mowed down by a white supremacist who drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters. When the nation turned to President Donald Trump, he provoked outrage by declaring that there are “very fine people on both sides.”

A year later, we’ve asked some of the most thoughtful people we know—from historians to a former CIA director to researchers of extremism—to put this shocking moment in context: What did Charlottesville change? Was it a moment of reckoning for our society? Did it fracture the movement known as the “alt-right,” or did it strengthen it? As new crowds of white supremacists descend on Washington and other U.S. cities this weekend, and as invigorated counterprotesters come to meet them, here’s what they had to say.

***

After Charlottesville, ‘the alt-right movement is at once lower-profile and more violent.’
Ryan Lenz is an investigative reporter covering the alt-right. He was formerly a senior investigative reporter at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The deadly “Unite the Right” rally one year ago in Charlottesville was supposed to be a coming-out party for the alt-right, a moment when disparate ideologies could openly unite and feel true grass-roots political power. Instead, the rally left one person dead and fissured a movement whose followers were, until then, certain the political age of Trump would resurrect ideas long thought to be fossilized—and not at underground metal shows or in street brawls like American History X-era nationalism, but in public squares and think tanks. “We definitely put ourselves off in this ghetto where we are now this thing, and we burned any bridges that we had to the wider right,” Mike Peinovich, a white supremacist blogger who uses the pseudonym Mike Enoch, said on his podcast in March.

The rally was a moment when the language of the alt-right changed, from demonstration to street violence, returning to the underground—but more brutal—realm that such strains of thought had in the 1990s and 2000s with skinheads and old-fashioned Nazis. The alt-right movement is at once lower-profile and more violent. Just last weekend in Portland, Oregon, groups led by the Proud Boys, a white nationalist fight club, came looking to brawl in the name of “free speech.” It was the second time they came to Portland, a city that knows well the presence of racist and far-right street violence, having earned the nickname “Skinhead City” in the 1980s and 1990s. Two months ago, in June, a similar rally led to violent clashes with anti-fascist protesters, and city officials declared a riot.

Welcome to the new alt-right, which might not be so new at all.

***

‘Where America still sees Nazis and flaming torches, I see the first stirrings of the thing that comes after.’
Dahlia Lithwick is the senior legal correspondent for Slate.

I lived in Charlottesville for 16 years before Charlottesville became “Charlottesville.” It’s never ever going to seem normal again that a word that signifies “Nazis and torches” to most Americans was just “home” to those of us who had our babies in the hospitals, hiked the trails, ate Bodo’s bagels on Sundays and name-dropped John Grisham. A year later, I think that for most of the country, Charlottesville signaled the end of something—innocence, exceptionalism, tolerance. After Charlottesville, “Charlottesville” came to mean that someone in the White House thought there were two sides, and nobody else in the White House stopped him.

But if you lived through Charlottesville, 2017, you realized that it wasn’t the end of anything. It was the start of something. It was the start of peeling off the scales about what a seemingly perfect, sleepy Southern college town had obscured; it was the start of a faith-led resistance that lights up the dark a year later. It was the start of reckonings and accountings by state and local government. It was the start of a clear-eyed view of what America has been built on and where it might go. Nobody thinks that Charlottesville enabled Charlottesville perfectly. But where America still sees Nazis and flaming torches, I see the first stirrings of the thing that comes after.

***

Charlottesville was the beginning of a new fight.
Cornel West is a professor at Harvard Divinity School and the author of Race Matters, among other books.

Charlottesville means we have to refortify ourselves to fight for truth and justice!

***

‘Charlottesville is not an anomaly. … It is a symptom of a greater moral malady.’
The Rev. William J. Barber II is the architect of the Forward Together Moral Monday Movement, president of the North Carolina NAACP and pastor of the Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Goldsboro.

A year after Charlottesville, America’s conscience has been stirred, but we have yet to reach a true moral awakening. The same politicians who quickly denounced the violence and murder in Charlottesville as an act of hate and racism remain complicit in passing racist public policy. Denouncing acts of racism is good public relations, but dismantling the works of racism is the true challenge facing our leaders.

When 23 states pass voter suppression laws, purge voter rolls and draw racialized, gerrymandered districts, furthering the disenfranchisement of black, brown and white voters, that’s racism. When the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and for five years since House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to restore it, that’s racism. And when we see the Trump administration rip Latino children from their parents and deport them, that’s racism.

Charlottesville is not an anomaly. It is not a flashpoint. It is a symptom of a greater moral malady afflicting our nation. We are a nation that allows 140 million of our neighbors to live in poverty, a nation that disproportionately incarcerates black and brown people, continues to segregate public schools and housing. This is not the America we were meant to be.

If as a nation we are willing to denounce Charlottesville, then we must be equally willing to denounce and restructure the systems that create the animus and ignorance that ignite events like it. Ultimately, racism is a denial of the 14th Amendment, which provides equal protection under law regardless of wealth, creed or color. Movements in our history—from emancipation to suffrage, civil rights to workers’ rights—have not been about challenging individual groups or actors. Those movements were about forcing systemic changes to our moral and civic structures. Many people will never say they are racist, but every day they participate in policies that align with the policy agenda of white nationalists. This is the racism we must address for a true revolution of values.

***

Trump’s response to Charlottesville ‘put the concept of nation as “blood and soil” back into play for the first time since Appomattox.’
Michael Hayden is a retired four-star general and the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency.

For me, Charlottesville highlighted the basic question of American self-identity. Will we continue to see ourselves as a creedal people, identified by the values we believe in and enshrined in our foundation documents and in the Federalist Papers? Or, are we changing our self image to be a people defined by blood, soil and even shared history? There are good nations that seem to be the latter; Germany comes to mind. But, that has not been our traditional view of self. The Irish rock star Bono has said that for the rest of the world, America was really an idea, and I think that most Americans for most of our history would agree with that: Believe in and swear allegiance to the idea, and you can be as much an American as anyone else.

But, for me, the president’s response to Charlottesville put the concept of nation as “blood and soil” back into play for the first time since Appomattox. After all, he said there were “very fine people on both sides,” and the president’s affinity for the “blood and soil” approach has since been reinforced by his actions toward immigrants, refugees and our international responsibilities.

***

After Charlottesville, ‘the public finally connected Silicon Valley’s hubris to its culture of toxic masculinity.’
Siva Vaidhyanathan is a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and the author of Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy.

As we reckoned with violent white men swarming my town, Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, we could no longer ignore the fact that they all found each other and whipped each other into a frenzy because digital tools made it so easy. After that, 2018 was destined to be the year that we finally confronted the monsters we had unleashed.

The ideology of Silicon Valley reflects a shallow, unarticulated libertarianism that rests on the assumption that government functions, and all the democratic accountability that supports them, are archaic and inefficient. Within Silicon Valley, of course, there has always been a stronger, full-throated libertarianism voiced by investors like Peter Thiel and Marc Andreesen—both members of the Facebook board of directors. CEOs like Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg are not libertarians, but they are fellow travelers who operate within those boundaries of imagination, so their companies reflect their commitment to make the world better. There is a fine line between wanting to do no evil and believing you can do no wrong.

These ideas are extensions of the arrogance of masculinity—the deep belief many men have that they and they alone can handle challenges. The “take-charge” attitude, fueled by Red Bull and testosterone, flourishes in an environment largely devoid of women with authority.

So what happened since the white supremacists marched on Charlottesville? The public finally connected Silicon Valley’s hubris to its culture of toxic masculinity. Concerted attention to the “alt-right” and its connection to the “manosphere” revealed how complicit Reddit, Twitter, Google and Facebook have been to the spread of violent hatred. Uber’s corporate culture of almost institutionalized sexual harassment became public. Meanwhile, women around the world used the tools that men provided them to spread their own stories of harm and humiliation via testimony and hashtags like #MeToo and #TimesUp.

We can’t separate the deflation of the myth of omnipotence that Silicon Valley has suffered in 2018 from the society-wide confrontation with toxic masculinity. Silicon Valley has finally started reforming and confronting its own sordid history. But there is so much more to do.

***

Charlottesville ‘left countless communities of color truly seeing the president for who he is.’
Christina Greer is a professor of political science at Fordham University.

The events of 2017 Charlottesville shocked many Americans, in that far too many believed that this country was indeed in a post-racial moment. After the election of Trump, many Americans soothed themselves by saying that the racists in this country were old and would die off soon enough—and our country would be restored. The events in Charlottesville, literally in the backyard of slave-owning Thomas Jefferson, illustrated the very real deep-seeded new generation of racist and white supremacist individuals. As they marched and chanted about blacks, Jews and immigrants, their words and subsequent actions made it very clear that they felt they were being displaced and replaced in “their” country. What made matters worse was the president’s empathy for these individuals after news stories of counterprotesters being beaten while police stood idly by; an innocent white woman, Heather Heyer, being run down by a white supremacist who had driven down to the protest from Ohio; and the Nazi and Confederate symbols worn so proudly by (primarily) men who would leave the protests and continue their lives as teachers, engineers, law enforcement officers and other occupations of import.

For many Americans of color, the events of Charlottesville were not shocking or surprising. This nation has a long and bloody history of white mobs, across time and place, who suffer no consequences or punishment for their actions. What was jarring was a president and his administration who were so obviously sympathizers of these white supremacists in our nation in the twenty-first century. It was the president’s speech following the protests and beatings that left countless communities of color truly seeing the president for who he is. At that moment, many people linked Trump’s obsession with the following: the denigration of the innocent Central Park Five members, his eight-year race baiting of President Barack Obama, his insistence on his “good German genes,” his years of racial profiling in his businesses, his obsession with NFL players and the anthem, his appointment of some of the most racist and xenophobic members to his administration that this country has seen in decades, his insistence that Mexicans are rapists and Muslims are terrorists, his rallies that harken back to Klan mobs of the early and mid-20th century, and the list could go on and on … and on.

Charlottesville exposed the plain fact that no one in this administration is going to see people of color as equal, deserving or worthy of being in America. The white supremacist project currently underway by Stephen Miller, Jeff Sessions and even Trump is a direct correlation to the Charlottesville marches. In order to “Make America Great Again” they must indeed make America solidly majority white. That will be accomplished by deportations of nondocumented and now even documented immigrants. Shortly after Charlottesville, Obama made a statement that this is not who we are as a nation. Sadly, this is who America has always been. Luckily, we have had leaders and hardworking individuals who confronted their biases and ignorance to change longstanding opinions. We are currently in a fight for the soul of this nation, and, sadly, the current president of the United States believes we should go back to the good old days. The protesters in Charlottesville chanted, “The Jews will not replace us! The blacks will not replace us! Immigrants will not replace us!” We must now mobilize to replace Trump and the members of his party who believe in his exclusionary ideals. I just hope it is not too late. The president and his party seem to enjoy this version of America, as does Russia.

***

‘We have seen a huge number of people saying, “I’m off the sidelines now”’
Tim Kaine represents Virginia in the U.S. Senate and was governor of the commonwealth from 2006–10.

In Virginia, we’ve known the pain of hatred, bigotry and racism, but we’ve seen a community and a Commonwealth that has been able to come together and say this is not who we are and we will not be dragged backward.

In response to the events last year, we have seen a huge number of people saying, ‘I’m off the sidelines now. I’m going to get involved to show that no matter what the president says, no matter what anybody says, we’re not a nation of division.’

We saw it in new, energized activists who really showed up in November 2017 when we elected a ticket that included the second African-American statewide elected official in Virginia, 11 new women delegates, and legislators who are African American, Asian-American, Latino-American, immigrants and LGBTQ.

We’ve still got work to do, but last fall, we showed who the Virginia of today is, and it sent a powerful message that we reject hate.

***

It sent the alt-right to ‘a steady stream of smaller, somewhat quieter events.’
JM Berger is a research fellow at VOX-Pol Network of Excellence, a postgraduate researcher at the Swansea University School of Law and the author of Extremism (The MIT Press, August 2018).

Unite the Right’s primary aim was to plant a flag for the alt-right in real-world spaces, outside of its online center of gravity. This was part of a sea change starting in 2016, after many years during which white nationalists and other far-right adherents could barely muster enough people for a basketball game in a public space. Charlottesville was a proof-of-concept for the idea that the alt-right umbrella could unite right-wing factions that have very significant ideological differences.

If not for the murder of Heather Heyer, the alt-right’s organizing efforts would almost certainly have accelerated after the turnout in Charlottesville. Instead, they faced a fresh round of infighting and a public backlash. At that point, a strong condemnation from Washington might have been able to set the movement back significantly, but instead, Trump gifted the alt-right with “some very fine people on both sides.” There was little need for the movement to withdraw after that, although it did slow its roll.

Since then, we’ve seen a steady stream of smaller, somewhat quieter events, as well as a couple of very large and violent events, most notably in Portland. We’re also seeing skyrocketing hate crimes and hate rhetoric around the fringes. The rally in D.C. on August 12 will be an opportunity to take the temperature of the movement. It’s clear that the American far right, to some extent under the alt-right umbrella, is trying to claim a place at the table in our political system. What happens at the polls in November will probably be more consequential for the far right than what happens in D.C. on Sunday, but the country is in a tense and volatile state, so here’s hoping law enforcement will keep things under control.

***

‘Charlottesville revealed … racism continues to power much of American life.’
Eddie Glaude is a professor of religion and African-American studies at Princeton.

Charlottesville did not change much. It only made explicit what many Americans—at least those who do not have their heads buried in the sand—already knew. Donald Trump rode the third rail of American racism straight to the White House, fueling anxieties, hatreds and fears along the way. His slogan, “Make America Great Again,” was (and is) a nostalgic longing, in the face of demographic change, for an unambiguous white America.

We knew something like Charlottesville was about to happen. Two years of protests across the country (especially in Berkeley, Huntington Beach, Sacramento) foreshadowed the violence. It was only a matter of time before things would explode. Heather Heyer lost her life because we ignored the warning signs.

In the end, it is relatively easy to condemn the white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. The one-year anniversary of the violence becomes another ritual occasion to denounce villains and displace our national sins onto their shoulders. We declare ourselves innocent. They are the guilty ones. It’s all part of America’s racial melodrama.

But what Charlottesville revealed, and it is something that cannot be denied, is that racism continues to power much of American life. We remain profoundly segregated in our schools and neighborhoods, and in our intimate spaces. We don’t really know each other (even as stereotypes lead us to believe we do), and that fact has deep, historical roots. Too many dead people and too much harm and injury rest unresolved at the heart of the matter. Mistrust clouds our political conversations. The loud racists in Charlottesville, then, are only symptoms of a much deeper national malaise. I am not sure we see that problem, though. We’re too busy condemning the obvious villains when the problem may very be the person looking at you in the mirror.

***

Since Charlottesville, ‘the gulf between whites and minorities’ has ‘gotten worse.’
Larry Sabato is the director of the UVA Center for Politics and the author, most recently, of The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy.

As I write this, I am working in my home on the University of Virginia Lawn, where hundreds of menacing neo-Nazis paraded a year ago with tiki torches and hateful chants right out of Hitler’s Third Reich. You’ve heard some of them: “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!” You haven’t been exposed to one that will never be erased from my memory: “Into the ovens!” You can see why I had to hide Jewish and African-American students in the basement of my Pavilion.

So understandably, the barricades are going up now at UVA to prevent another disaster this weekend. I have been told that the police presence will be even more impressive than expected, and this time law enforcement will actually engage protesters to stop violence before these sick white supremacists intimidate innocent people—and take more lives.

How disheartening that it has come to this on one of America’s most beautiful campuses. And similar preparations will happen annually, or more frequently, for many years to come.

Since August 2017, “Charlottesville” has become a symbol of rising racism and antisemitism in America. Has anything changed over the past year? Yes. It’s gotten worse, with the gulf between whites and minorities widening. The lack of national leadership on this issue has been striking, and so disgraceful that any good history of the Trump administration will emphasize it. But then how could Trump provide leadership when he has been racially insensitive or outright racist for much of his career, from the Central Park Five to his birtherism crusade against his predecessor?

Trump had a chance to redefine himself, at least a bit, after Charlottesville. He failed miserably, unwilling to alienate his alt-right cheering section in the neo-Nazis and KKK. Having emboldened and energized these extremists with his rhetoric, he threw a few more winks and nods in their direction post-Charlottesville. Trump has continued to stir the pot with his nasty tweets about famous but “dumb” African-Americans.

People, even some Trump backers, understand what has happened. In a new Reuters/Ipsos/UVA Center for Politics poll, Americans believe by 57 percent to 15 percent that race relations have become worse since Trump’s election. By contrast, respondents were evenly divided about Barack Obama’s time in the White House, with 38 percent believing race relations had improved and 37 percent saying they had gotten worse.

About this part of his persona, as with most others, Trump is very unlikely to change, so it’s difficult not to be pessimistic. With deepening polarization, and Trump’s utter indifference (or worse), the races may drift even further apart than Democrats and Republicans already have.

***

‘America’s white supremacist movement is still less in a state of defeat as a state of regrouping.‘
George Selim is senior vice president at the Anti-Defamation League. Previously, he was head of the countering violent extremism Task Force at the Department of Homeland Security.

The backlash that followed the bigotry and violence of Unite the Right resulted in real-life consequences for many of the organizers and attendees, and badly damaged the movement at large. But the alt-right is still gathering steam, just in more splintered and less visible ways.

In the wake of Unite the Right, scores of attendees were “doxxed” (their identities exposed), fired, ejected from universities and shunned by families and friends. The larger coalition suffered, too, as feuding broke out between “hard right” National Socialists—who carry Nazi flags and display swastika tattoos—and the less overt white supremacists who think that an “American Nationalist” spin with flags and patriotism will make their white supremacy more palatable. The factions still share an identical goal—a white ethno-state—but disagree on “optics” or the issue of how, exactly, to achieve that goal.

That is, America’s white supremacist movement is still less in a state of defeat as a state of regrouping—the danger of which cannot be overstated.

Prominent recently formed alt-right groups remain very active, particularly Identity Evropa and Patriot Front, founded in 2016 and 2017, respectively, as have other types of older white supremacist groups, such as the League of the South. Moreover, they are evolving and developing new tactics, such as using flash demonstrations to avoid counterprotesters. For example, Richard Spencer led a flash demo in Charlottesville in October 2017, in which about 40 people participated. Smaller, local alt-right groups have also formed in the wake of Charlottesville. This activity illustrates the extent to which rank-and-file alt-righters tend to be relatively unaffected by infighting or upheaval among some of the movement’s figureheads.

The alt-right, energized by the political climate, has experienced explosive growth since 2015, delivering thousands of new recruits to the white supremacist movement, many of whom are young and relatively well-educated. These enthusiastic new members are unlikely to abandon their hateful beliefs simply because some of their leaders are fighting with each other or getting booted from Twitter. Less likely to have “skinhead” tattooed on their foreheads, but equally likely to share those views while wearing a polo shirt, the new generation of white supremacists is emerging.

***

‘The movement has collapsed … but it’s important to resist complacency’
Nicole Hemmer is assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, author of Messengers of the Right and editor of the Washington Post history blog, Made by History. She has just released a podcast series on the events in Charlottesville last year and the history behind them.

In the year since the alt-right descended on Charlottesville, the movement has collapsed. Organizations like the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party have disbanded, Richard Spencer has abandoned his campus tour and Jason Kessler, the organizer of last year’s Unite the Right rally, has found himself an outcast from the movement he’d hoped to define.

It’s easy to mistake that collapse as a natural consequence of the terrorism unleashed on Charlottesville last year. And the chaos and violence did take their toll. But much more credit is due to the lawyers and anti-racist activists who have spent the past year ensuring that armed white nationalists couldn’t terrorize Charlottesville—or any other American city—again.

Using a legal strategy first devised by Philip Zelikow and the Southern Poverty Law Center in the 1980s, former prosecutor Mary McCord and her team at Georgetown Law School sued the groups that came to Charlottesville on behalf of the city on the basis of a centuries-old state law against armed “unauthorized militias,” citing the guns, clubs, sticks and other weapons the demonstrators carried. Most of the groups that came to Charlottesville last year are now barred from ever returning to town in groups of two or more bearing any sort of weapon. McCord’s team is also training other cities in how to disarm groups before they even come to town, restraints that have dampened white nationalist enthusiasm for large public gatherings.

That, combined with the overwhelming show of opposition by anti-racist activists everywhere that racist groups appear, have ruined any chance for white nationalist groups to achieve the sort of PR victory Kessler and Spencer had hoped to score in Charlottesville. Having believed they were building toward legitimacy after Trump’s election, they instead found themselves once again relegated to the fringe.

So the alt-right, at least as it existed on August 10, 2017, has fizzled. But that observation comes with a caveat: Large public events like the one in Charlottesville are only part of the white supremacist movement, and rarely the part where the deadliest violence takes place, as Kathleen Belew, an expert on the white power movement of the 1970s and 1980s, explained to me. In those years, the deadliest acts seldom happened during white-power speeches or rallies, but rather as terrorist violence: random murders of people of color, firebombing of synagogues and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Which is why, even though the white-nationalist rally in Washington this weekend is likely to be more pathetic than frightening, it’s important to resist complacency about the forces the alt-right represents.

***

‘Charlottesville was where white supremacists were welcomed back into the mainstream’
Issac J. Bailey is the author of the memoir My Brother Moochie: Regaining Dignity in the Face of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South (Other Press, May).

Charlottesville was a boon to the alt-right movement because it was defended by the man in the White House. At a press conference the day after the demonstration, Trump responded to reporters’ questions by saying there were bad people “on both sides.” After that now-infamous comment, white nationalists’ rise on the political stage in America was solidified.

Even before Charlottesville, white nationalists had been growing more emboldened every time Trump won a state primary during the 2016 presidential election cycle, every time he called Mexicans rapists and proposed a ban on Muslim immigrants, every time he and his advisers cooked up yet another way to try to slow the browning of America by curtailing immigration.

But Charlottesville stands out because it revealed that there were a lot of white Americans who agreed with these extremist views. Most white Americans opposed the bigoted “Jews won’t replace us” chants and the killing of a protester by a white supremacist and his car. But multiple studies have shown that Trump maintains a historically high level of party support, in part because of the kind of racial resentment and racial anxiety those white supremacists were fueled by last year in Charlottesville and will be again this year at a one-year anniversary demonstration in Washington, D.C.

Make no mistake about it; Charlottesville was where they were effectively welcomed back into the mainstream as “very fine people” by the most powerful man on the planet. There is no undoing that.

That’s why they plan to march again, because they know they still have more to gain in a country that refused to show Trump and his open bigotry the door the moment the real estate mogul came down that escalator. They’ve convinced themselves that the real victims of discrimination are white men and women, and they are thriving in a political era where there are plenty of white people who believe the same. It is no coincidence that even non-white-supremacist white people are expressing these kinds of ideas at the same time Nazis are holding public marches. Trump has opened up space for both, and he continues to do so.

No matter the turnout for this second rally, we will be suffering from the effects of the first for the foreseeable future.

***

‘The core assumption at the heart of the “You will not replace us” chant is disturbingly widespread’
Heather McGhee is a distinguished senior fellow and former president of Demos and Demos Action.

The white supremacist violence in Charlottesville—the menacing, torchlit march to the Robert E. Lee statue and the armed and ultimately murderous rally the next day—was alarming for what it revealed not just about the torch-bearers, but about us. The neo-Nazis chanted “You will not replace us,” claiming a continuity between their white tribal allegiances and the monuments to Confederate icons threatened with removal. But while their violence may have marked them as fringe, the core assumption at the heart of their chant is disturbingly widespread.

A landmark study published in 2014 by psychologists Maureen Craig and Jennifer Richeson found that white people’s anxiety about a changing America is politically determinative: “making the changing national racial demographics salient led White Americans (regardless of political affiliation) to endorse conservative policy positions more strongly.”

The pundit class assumed that when Trump revealed his sympathies for white supremacists and Nazis—groups which, he said, included some “very fine people”—it would mark a line past which accountability would soon follow. It hasn’t. And that’s in part because stoking racial division and a sense of white grievance has become the core political strategy of Trump’s Republican Party.

You see this acutely in the thousands of anti-immigrant campaign ads GOP candidates have paid for this election cycle—ads like one run by Troy Balderson, the Ohio Republican who won a special election last week, which promised to “stop illegals from taking our jobs.” It draws on the same logic of “you will not replace us”—a belief which researchers have found is widespread among white people (but not among black people): that we live in a zero-sum game of racial competition. When people of color progress, it necessarily comes at white people’s expense.

The people to whom this Trumpian message appeals don’t see themselves as hateful; they see themselves as law-abiding Americans looking out for their own. That’s nothing new: America has always had a material investment in the myth of our innocence, in championing our founding words and not our founding deeds.

There is no better example of this mythmaking than the flourishing of monuments to America’s traitors, who brought millions to war to defend a system that enriched a few at the expense and enslavement of many. In Charlottesville and 1,728 other places across the country, Confederate monuments teach not history but a subtle moral lesson that America will not just tolerate white supremacists, but find ways to justify their cause as one of noble self-preservation.

A year after Charlottesville, it’s time to replace the statues and tell the truth about America. The truth is, the South flourished economically after the civil rights movement unleashed the contributions of her black citizens. The truth is, new immigrants disproportionately create jobs and enrich communities. The truth is, America’s multiracial future is coming, and there don’t have to be two sides—we can make an America for all of us.

***

‘These purveyors of hate and bigotry were emboldened to take their message public by a president who has refused to categorically condemn their message.’
Mark Warner represents Virginia in the U.S. Senate and was governor of the commonwealth from 2002–06.

The deadly rally that occurred a year ago in Charlottesville was a reminder that some of the darkest parts of our nation’s history—regarding racism, bigotry and hate—are very much alive today.

On August 11 and 12, 2017, we saw a group of white nationalists come to a peaceful Virginia town seeking to use hate and division to incite violence against strong, fair-minded, loving and innocent civilians. Their words and their actions betrayed President Abraham Lincoln’s appeal to “the better angels of our nature,” forcing us to confront some of the demons that still plague our society today. These purveyors of hate and bigotry were emboldened to take their message public by a president who has refused to categorically condemn their message and actions in clear terms.

A year later, we have learned it is not enough to stand back and allow hateful and dividing rhetoric to permeate in our political discourse. Our leaders and elected officials must do better and set an example for others, rejecting the type of dog-whistle attacks that say it is OK to disparage members of certain groups such as immigrants, LGBT Americans or even members of the press. It is time for us to redefine American unity and show that what sets us apart as citizens of this country are our values of respect, openness and tolerance toward one another. Without this perspective and a leader at the top who embodies those same values, we cannot begin to heal the racial wounds of our past and make progress in delivering the promise of a more perfect union.

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Photos: White supremacists, counter-protesters face off in D.C.

On the anniversary of the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, organizers of the rally, white nationalists, neo-Nazis and scores of counter-protesters descended upon the nation’s capitol.

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Police, counterprotesters dramatically outnumber white supremacists at rally

Police and counterprotesters significantly outnumbered a small group of so-called Unite the Right participants Sunday in Washington, D.C., at a rally on the one-year anniversary of the deadly clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one person dead.

About 30 rallygoers, representing a loose coalition of groups including white supremacists and neo-Nazis, arrived at a Metro station in Vienna, Virginia, on Sunday afternoon and took the train into the city, where they headed to Lafayette Square across the street from the White House.

A sea of counterprotesters met the group and stood along the edges of Lafayette Square during the roughly hourlong gathering. Dozens of police officers were in the area, some on horseback. The far-right group had a permit to protest in the park until 7:30 p.m. but left shortly after 5 p.m., around the time it began to rain. Some counterprotesters shot fireworks in the direction of police officers around the time that Unite the Right participants were escorted away. Some protesters also threw eggs at police officers.

Chants of “Go home Nazis” echoed through the park. Away from the square, members of the anti-fascism group Antifa burned what appeared to be a Confederate flag. Members of Black Lives Matter, the group that arose in protest of police shootings of unarmed black men, called on the Antifa members to uncover their faces.

Jason Kessler, who organized the Unite the Right event, told reporters he did not care about the low turnout. “People were rightly scared of coming out,” Kessler said. “We had to prove the point we could do this rally and people would be safe.”

At last year’s rally, participants, who were officially protesting the planned removal of a Confederate statue, had violent clashes with opposition groups. The tensions came to a head when a man allegedly rammed his car into a group of protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The man, James Fields of Ohio, pleaded not guilty to a federal hate crime in July.

A report after last year’s deadly protest found police were unprepared when white nationalists converged on the college town. It appeared police took a different approach Sunday afternoon, with hundreds of officers in locations throughout the city, some wearing riot gear including helmets. At a protest led by University of Virginia students in Charlottesville on Saturday night, police also wore riot gear.

President Donald Trump, who drew criticism for his equivocal reaction to last year’s protest, called for Americans to “come together” in a tweet on Saturday.

“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump said. “We must come together as a nation.”

Scott Mahaskey, Mary Newman and Beatrice Peterson contributed to this report.

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‘He has not gone far enough’: Democrats slam Trump on race

Democratic lawmakers insisted Sunday that President Donald Trump must do more to prevent blatant acts of racism, as white supremacists prepared to gather in Washington, D.C., to mark the one-year anniversary of last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“He has not gone far enough,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I think it’s a low bar for the president of the United States to simply say he’s against racism. He’s got to do better than that.”

Trump drew heated criticism for his response to the 2017 rally staged by a medley of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other far-right groups, which resulted in the death of a woman who was protesting the gathering. Trump’s claim that there were “some very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville drew particular condemnation.

On Saturday, the day before members of the extremist groups were set to gather in a park near the White House to mark one year since that mayhem, the president tweeted: “The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”

Democrats said Sunday that the tweet, sent while Trump was staying at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, was not sufficient.

“It wasn’t both sides,” Terry McAuliffe, who was Virginia’s governor last year, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, recalling last year’s events. “You had one side of neo-Nazis wearing Adolf Hitler T-shirts, the white supremacists screaming obscenities at the African-American community, walking down the streets. They came armed. This wasn’t both sides.”

Cummings told host Jonathan Karl that Trump’s actions speak louder than Saturday’s words.

“It’s one thing to say things. It’s another thing when we look at the direction that you’re going and see that the very things that you say that you stand for, you undermine through your actions. For example, I believe that he is about the business of suppressing the vote,” Cummings said.

The Maryland Democrat added: “I ask the president right now to go back and to — and read his inauguration speech where he talked about unity and bringing people together and how our unity will allow us to be the very best in the world.”

Later on the same program, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said Cummings and Karl were being unfair to the president by not paying attention to “the totality of his comments” on Charlottesville and the neo-Nazi/white supremacist movement.

“He’s calling for unity among all Americans, and he denounced all forms of bigotry and acts of violence and racism,” she said of Trump.

Speaking on “Face the Nation” on CBS, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Saturday’s tweets suggested the president is moving in the right direction. Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, had been critical of the president on race last year.

“Certainly his tweets yesterday morning were a positive sign of a better direction for the nation without any question,” Scott told host Margaret Brennan. “The president condemning all acts of racism and violence is a positive step in the right direction.”

Scott also said he was encouraged by the president’s support for some economic measures he suggested.

“I think there are a number of steps that the president has taken to move us in a better direction,“ the senator said.

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Congress dawdles as #MeToo scandals rage on

Nearly a year after the #MeToo movement surged into the national consciousness, Congress is still far from a final deal on modernizing its own workplace harassment rules despite a slew of career-ending scandals in both parties.

Talks on reshaping Capitol Hill’s misconduct policy haven’t exactly stalled — they’re just plodding slowly amid tension between the Senate and House on how to reconcile competing bills. In a twist that’s particularly rare in an election year, because it doesn’t break along partisan lines, House Republicans and Democrats aren’t at each other’s throats but instead are uniting to tout their harassment bill as superior to the Senate’s more watered-down product.

That leaves the ultimate congressional response to the national outcry over workplace harassment very much in doubt, even as members and aides on both sides of the Capitol say they’re still making progress. And with the clock ticking to get something done — even if it’s imperfect — in response to widespread outrage over sexual misconduct, the House’s bipartisan unity in favor of its bill is poised to be tested.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), who played a key role in shaping the House legislation that passed six months ago this week, lamented “almost a completely different philosophy between the two houses” of Congress on the issue.

Senators “feel very strongly that we went too far in our bill, and they want a much weaker process,” Byrne said in an interview. “I don’t think that’s what the public expects of us.”

House members, and the advocacy groups that have preferred their measure, are barreling toward a big moment as they keep pushing for the strictest possible remodeling of the Hill’s misconduct system. Both chambers will have to agree on a government spending package next month to avoid a shutdown, which could become an irresistible vehicle for a deal that looks more like the Senate’s less severe version of the bill.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a leading participant in the talks as the Rules Committee’s top Democrat, said in a recent interview that talks on merging the House and Senate bills have come down to “finding a way to pass it,” whether attached to a must-pass vehicle or on its own.

“I would hope very much that it would be done before the election, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be,” Klobuchar said late last month.

The House’s bipartisan legislation requires lawmakers to personally pay for harassment and discrimination settlements related to their actions on the job, creates a legal adviser to assist employees pursuing misconduct claims, and sets up an independent inquiry before any formal hearing on victims’ specific claims.

But the Senate’s bipartisan misconduct bill takes a softer approach to those issues: Lawmakers would be personally liable for only compensatory damages from harassment settlements, and employees’ confidential adviser would be barred from offering legal advice. And the House’s investigation would be replaced with what Byrne described as a process that’s “way too cumbersome and is frankly a disincentive for anybody to come forward.”

When it comes to an investigation in advance of hearings on misconduct claims, the House and Senate have a viable path to compromise. Although the Senate is opposed to giving investigative subpoena power to the Hill’s Office of Compliance, often criticized for its opacity in adjudicating misconduct cases, one source briefed on the negotiations said that the chamber would be open to an advance, pre-hearing review.

On hot-button issues such as lawmakers’ personal liability for misconduct settlements, however, the middle ground is much less clear. As sexual harassment scandals felled former Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), all of whom used taxpayer money to pay settlements to former employees, Republicans and Democrats alike pushed for the denial of members’ access to what some dubbed a “slush fund” for harassment payouts.

Now that Hill scandals have fallen from the headlines, however, advocacy groups that favor the House bill are hoping that the Senate doesn’t use the shrinking number of legislative days left in this year to jam their colleagues across the Capitol.

“I understand the Senate bill is an improvement over the status quo, but there are some real fundamental flaws we have outlined,” said Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU.

The Senate opted to limit the type of settlements for which members would be held personally liable to harassment alone out of concern about entangling lawmakers in undeserved claims, according to sources. Discrimination cases, however, have typically made up the bulk of Hill misconduct complaints.

Remington Gregg, a counsel at Public Citizen, hailed the House for “remaining committed” in the face of “mind-boggling” resistance from the GOP-controlled Senate.

“I hope that, given they’re still trying to iron these things out, it suggests that the House remains united, that Republicans and Democrats remain united in ensuring the strong bill that they passed” becomes law, Gregg said in an interview.

In the past month alone, new harassment scandals have embroiled CBS Chairman Les Moonves, Federal Housing Finance Agency chief Mel Watt, and a former senior official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, the 2018 midterm elections loom in the background.

House aides are already whispering about the possibility that the chamber will be out of session for most, if not all, of October so members can campaign in their home states, putting pressure on negotiators to finalize a deal before then.

And then there’s the question of whether Democrats’ strategy will change if they win back the House in November and the two chambers still have not finalized an agreement on combating the sort of harassment scandals like those that ended the careers of a half-dozen members of Congress in both parties since the nationwide focus on #MeToo began last fall.

With a potential takeover just months away, Democrats could be motivated to shelve the talks altogether until next year or dig in and push even harder for the House bill in a post-election lame-duck session. But sources with knowledge of the harassment talks said negotiators still hope to finish up in the coming weeks, making questions about the election’s impact moot.

Indeed, a few flashpoints in the House-Senate harassment reform discussions already appear on track to a resolution: Sources in both chambers, for example, indicated that the Senate is prepared to drop a reference to “unwelcome harassment” in the section of its legislation that describes when lawmakers are held personally liable for settlement payouts.

Klobuchar and Rules Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) had sought to clarify after their Hill misconduct bill passed in May that the Senate’s proposed definition was “not intended to be used in other contexts.” But the inclusion of that “unwelcome” standard had raised fears among civil rights advocates about unwittingly making space for “welcome harassment.”

Aides from both parties and chambers continue to meet regularly on bridging the still-significant gaps between the bills. They huddled for a 90-minute meeting Wednesday, with no major breakthroughs, and plan to meet again next week.

Byrne, however, warned that the appearance of forward movement might belie tensions that run deep enough to force the House and Senate into the formal misconduct negotiations they had attempted to avoid — adding potential further delays.

“I’m afraid, because of the lack of progress in the talks, we may have to go to conference on it,” the Alabama Republican said.

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Congress dawdles as #MeToo scandals rage on

Nearly a year after the #MeToo movement surged into the national consciousness, Congress is still far from a final deal on modernizing its own workplace harassment rules despite a slew of career-ending scandals in both parties.

Talks on reshaping Capitol Hill’s misconduct policy haven’t exactly stalled — they’re just plodding slowly amid tension between the Senate and House on how to reconcile competing bills. In a twist that’s particularly rare in an election year, because it doesn’t break along partisan lines, House Republicans and Democrats aren’t at each other’s throats but instead are uniting to tout their harassment bill as superior to the Senate’s more watered-down product.

That leaves the ultimate congressional response to the national outcry over workplace harassment very much in doubt, even as members and aides on both sides of the Capitol say they’re still making progress. And with the clock ticking to get something done — even if it’s imperfect — in response to widespread outrage over sexual misconduct, the House’s bipartisan unity in favor of its bill is poised to be tested.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), who played a key role in shaping the House legislation that passed six months ago this week, lamented “almost a completely different philosophy between the two houses” of Congress on the issue.

Senators “feel very strongly that we went too far in our bill, and they want a much weaker process,” Byrne said in an interview. “I don’t think that’s what the public expects of us.”

House members, and the advocacy groups that have preferred their measure, are barreling toward a big moment as they keep pushing for the strictest possible remodeling of the Hill’s misconduct system. Both chambers will have to agree on a government spending package next month to avoid a shutdown, which could become an irresistible vehicle for a deal that looks more like the Senate’s less severe version of the bill.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a leading participant in the talks as the Rules Committee’s top Democrat, said in a recent interview that talks on merging the House and Senate bills have come down to “finding a way to pass it,” whether attached to a must-pass vehicle or on its own.

“I would hope very much that it would be done before the election, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be,” Klobuchar said late last month.

The House’s bipartisan legislation requires lawmakers to personally pay for harassment and discrimination settlements related to their actions on the job, creates a legal adviser to assist employees pursuing misconduct claims, and sets up an independent inquiry before any formal hearing on victims’ specific claims.

But the Senate’s bipartisan misconduct bill takes a softer approach to those issues: Lawmakers would be personally liable for only compensatory damages from harassment settlements, and employees’ confidential adviser would be barred from offering legal advice. And the House’s investigation would be replaced with what Byrne described as a process that’s “way too cumbersome and is frankly a disincentive for anybody to come forward.”

When it comes to an investigation in advance of hearings on misconduct claims, the House and Senate have a viable path to compromise. Although the Senate is opposed to giving investigative subpoena power to the Hill’s Office of Compliance, often criticized for its opacity in adjudicating misconduct cases, one source briefed on the negotiations said that the chamber would be open to an advance, pre-hearing review.

On hot-button issues such as lawmakers’ personal liability for misconduct settlements, however, the middle ground is much less clear. As sexual harassment scandals felled former Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), all of whom used taxpayer money to pay settlements to former employees, Republicans and Democrats alike pushed for the denial of members’ access to what some dubbed a “slush fund” for harassment payouts.

Now that Hill scandals have fallen from the headlines, however, advocacy groups that favor the House bill are hoping that the Senate doesn’t use the shrinking number of legislative days left in this year to jam their colleagues across the Capitol.

“I understand the Senate bill is an improvement over the status quo, but there are some real fundamental flaws we have outlined,” said Vania Leveille, senior legislative counsel at the ACLU.

The Senate opted to limit the type of settlements for which members would be held personally liable to harassment alone out of concern about entangling lawmakers in undeserved claims, according to sources. Discrimination cases, however, have typically made up the bulk of Hill misconduct complaints.

Remington Gregg, a counsel at Public Citizen, hailed the House for “remaining committed” in the face of “mind-boggling” resistance from the GOP-controlled Senate.

“I hope that, given they’re still trying to iron these things out, it suggests that the House remains united, that Republicans and Democrats remain united in ensuring the strong bill that they passed” becomes law, Gregg said in an interview.

In the past month alone, new harassment scandals have embroiled CBS Chairman Les Moonves, Federal Housing Finance Agency chief Mel Watt, and a former senior official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Meanwhile, the 2018 midterm elections loom in the background.

House aides are already whispering about the possibility that the chamber will be out of session for most, if not all, of October so members can campaign in their home states, putting pressure on negotiators to finalize a deal before then.

And then there’s the question of whether Democrats’ strategy will change if they win back the House in November and the two chambers still have not finalized an agreement on combating the sort of harassment scandals like those that ended the careers of a half-dozen members of Congress in both parties since the nationwide focus on #MeToo began last fall.

With a potential takeover just months away, Democrats could be motivated to shelve the talks altogether until next year or dig in and push even harder for the House bill in a post-election lame-duck session. But sources with knowledge of the harassment talks said negotiators still hope to finish up in the coming weeks, making questions about the election’s impact moot.

Indeed, a few flashpoints in the House-Senate harassment reform discussions already appear on track to a resolution: Sources in both chambers, for example, indicated that the Senate is prepared to drop a reference to “unwelcome harassment” in the section of its legislation that describes when lawmakers are held personally liable for settlement payouts.

Klobuchar and Rules Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) had sought to clarify after their Hill misconduct bill passed in May that the Senate’s proposed definition was “not intended to be used in other contexts.” But the inclusion of that “unwelcome” standard had raised fears among civil rights advocates about unwittingly making space for “welcome harassment.”

Aides from both parties and chambers continue to meet regularly on bridging the still-significant gaps between the bills. They huddled for a 90-minute meeting Wednesday, with no major breakthroughs, and plan to meet again next week.

Byrne, however, warned that the appearance of forward movement might belie tensions that run deep enough to force the House and Senate into the formal misconduct negotiations they had attempted to avoid — adding potential further delays.

“I’m afraid, because of the lack of progress in the talks, we may have to go to conference on it,” the Alabama Republican said.

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Trump’s inner circle gets whiter

The West Wing is expected to lose one of its most prominent minority aides in the coming months, opening President Donald Trump’s inner circle up to new scrutiny as he continues to stoke racial tensions.

Deputy press secretary Raj Shah, an Indian-American, is expected to step down following the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, according to multiple people familiar with his plans. He has told associates that he only planned to stay in the White House for 18 months, but extended his tenure to lead communications on the Kavanaugh nomination. Shah declined to comment.

Shah, who is among the dwindling number of original staffers remaining in the West Wing, is widely seen as a stabilizing presence in an administration known for chaos.

His resignation would follow the departure of two other minority White House aides: communications staffer Steven Cheung, who was one of the last remaining veterans of the Trump campaign to work in the White House, and Helen Aguirre Ferré, director of media affairs.

Trump will still have a handful of senior aides who are minorities including director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp, who is Cuban-American, and deputy chief of staff Zachary Fuentes. But the overwhelming share of people who advise the president on a daily basis, from his most trusted senior staffers to many of his Cabinet secretaries to his former campaign staff, are white.

Of the 55 highest-earning White House staffers, POLITICO was able to identify only a half-dozen who are not white. Along with Schlapp, that includes director of management and administration Marcia Lee Kelly, who is Korean-American, and Joyce Meyer, a Filipino-American who is a senior member of the legislative affairs team.

There are several minority aides among the more junior White House staffers who don’t earn top salaries of $150,000 a year or more and weren’t included in POLITICO’s analysis.

“Having diversity in a leadership team is clearly necessary for top performance,” said Max Stier, the president of the Partnership for Public Service, a non-profit that advised the Trump transition team as it set up the government. “The proverbial group think, which is a real problem, becomes less of one when you have a diverse team.”

He added: “It’s not something that’s going to get better by accident. It’s something that gets better when people at the top prioritize it.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Friday about the diversity of its staff.

Aides pointed to Trump’s outreach to black pastors, as well as statistics that show black and Hispanic unemployment is at an all-time low, figures that the president regularly cites in speeches and in tweets.

In a post on Friday night, Trump invoked the music star Kanye West, who has expressed admiration for the president: “Thank you to Kanye West and the fact that he is willing to tell the TRUTH. One new and great FACT – African American unemployment is the lowest ever recorded in the history of our Country. So honored by this. Thank you Kanye for your support. It is making a big difference!”

Yet the president has continued to inflame racial tensions, even after coming under fire last year for his response to the deadly clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump has repeatedly criticized NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racism, most recently on Friday.

Former White House official and “Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigault Newman is also leveling allegations in a new book that Trump used the word “n—–” in private conversations. The White House denied the allegations.

Manigault Newman, who was fired last December, was the most prominent black staffer in the White House, and has spoken publicly about the lack of diversity in the West Wing. She said in a 2017 interview with ABC News that it was “very lonely” working alongside mostly white aides in the Trump White House.

“We have a really diverse team across the board at the White House,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters late last year after Manigault Newman was fired.

Many White House staffers and others close to the president have grown to detest Manigault Newman, who they believe is out to sell books and boost her own profile. George Conway, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s husband, dismissed another claim from Manigault Newman’s book that Trump used racial epithets in reference to Conway, who is half Filipino. Conway, who has sometimes been critical of Trump, called the allegation “not credible” and “ridiculous” on Twitter on Friday.

And GOP pollster Frank Luntz denied on Friday that he heard Trump use the word “n—–,” as Manigault Newman claimed she heard in the book. “Not only is this flat-out false (I’ve never heard such a thing), but Omarosa didn’t even make an effort to call or email me to verify. Very shoddy work,” he wrote on Twitter.

Trump has several outspoken black defenders, including Pastor Darrell Scott, who recently called Trump “the most pro-black president that we’ve had in our lifetime” during an interview on Fox News.

Other Trump allies echoed that assessment.

“I one thousand percent stand behind his comment,” said Bruce Levell, a prominent Republican businessman in Georgia and the executive director of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump.

“I don’t have a motive to not be truthful. There’s absolutely no doubt in my heart that this president loves all types of people,” added Levell, who has talked to Trump throughout the campaign and his presidency.

Asked about the lack of racial diversity in the top ranks of the White House, Levell said, “The president is very aggressive on getting the best talent to run the nation and I think, respectfully, most people of color would rather have good quality people that would be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money than worry about quotas.”

But many activists and civil rights groups disagree vehemently with Levell and Scott.

“He’s demonstrated — both in words and in deeds and in policy implementations — racist tendencies,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a recent interview with POLITICO. “Therefore, I have no other conclusion but to say he is a racist.”

Trump has faced accusations of racism for years. Even before announcing his most recent run for president, Trump asserted falsely that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Throughout the presidential campaign, he repeatedly used divisive rhetoric to rile up his conservative base, describing Mexicans immigrants as rapists and calling in 2015 for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

Manigault Newman’s allegations come one year after protesters and counter-protesters clashed in Charlottesville. During remarks to reporters soon after the rally, Trump drew an equivalence between the white supremacists who chanted racist slogans during the rally and the counter-protesters who opposed them.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said, infuriating Republicans and Democrats alike and setting off one of the lowest points of his presidency.

On Sunday, white nationalists will rally near the White House, marking Charlottesville’s one-year anniversary.

“The riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division,” Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday morning. “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”

Manigault Newman wrote in her book that she never personally heard Trump use slurs. But she wrote she was told by multiple people that Trump was caught on tape using the word while filming “Celebrity Apprentice.” In an interview with NPR, she contradicted what she wrote in the book, asserting that she has heard the alleged tape. “Hearing it changed everything for me,” she said.

“Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations,” Sanders said in a statement on Friday. “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration.”

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