- Democratic Politician Lucy Flores wrote an article outlining an instance where former Vice President Joe Biden grabbed her shoulders, sniffed her hair, and kissed the back of her head without her consent.
- Biden denies ever acting inappropriately, but Flores’s story has brought new attention to his history of alleged inappropriate behavior towards women.
- Several 2020 candidates have spoken out and said that it is up to Biden to decide whether or not he wants to run after these allegations.
What Are the Accusations Against Biden?
A former Nevada politician has accused former Vice President Joe Biden of touching her inappropriately while on the campaign trail in 2014.
Lucy Flores, who was running as the Democratic Nominee for Lieutenant Governor in the state of Nevada at the time, wrote an essay for The Cut published on March 29. In her piece, she recounts a time where Biden attended a rally to help her boost voter turnout. While in the holding room, she claims she felt him grab her shoulders from behind. He then allegedly smelled her hair and kissed the back of her head.
“He leaned further in and inhaled my hair,” Flores wrote. “I was mortified. I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t wash my hair today and the vice-president of the United States is smelling it. And also, what in the actual fuck? Why is the vice-president of the United States smelling my hair?’ He proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head. My brain couldn’t process what was happening. I was embarrassed. I was shocked. I was confused.”
After the event, she said she told her staff, but was unsure of where to turn after that.
“On the campaign trail, there’s no clear path for what to do when a powerful man crosses the line,” she said. “In politics, you shrug it off, smile for the cameras, and get back to the task of trying to win your race…I did what most women do, and moved on with my life and my work.”
However, since this happened to her, Flores says that she has only found her story to be validated via numerous reports and photos of Biden crossing the line with other women. Several viral photos have depicted him standing very close to women, touching the shoulders of and leaning into Stephanie Carter, the wife of the former Defense Secretary. Others show him kissing a senator’s wife on the lips, whispering into womens’ ears on numerous occasions, and cozying up to female constituents. She called this pattern of behavior an “open secret,” which nothing has ever come of.
It took Flores close to five years to tell her story. She was worried that, like many women, she would not be believed.
“For years I feared my experience would be dismissed,” she claimed in her essay. “Biden will be Biden. Boys will be boys. I worried about the doubts, the threats, the insults, and the minimization.”
However, the prospect of Biden making a presidential bid in 2020 was enough reason for Flores to decide to speak out, as she thought these stories needed to be a part of the conversation.
“But hearing Biden’s potential candidacy for president discussed without much talk about his troubling past as it relates to women became too much to keep bottled up any longer,” she said.
While Flores was working on her piece, The Cut reached out to Biden’s office, but they declined to comment.
However on Saturday, after the article’s release, Biden’s spokesperson Bill Russo released a statement claiming that Biden was unaware that Flores was uncomfortable with their encounter.
On Sunday, Biden followed up with another statement, which he released via Russo, saying he does not think he has ever acted improperly.
“And not once – never – did I believe I acted Inappropriately,” he wrote. “If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.”
On CNN’s State of the Union, Flores responded to Biden’s remarks by saying his comments were a start, but his intentions were never the issue at hand.
“I’m glad that he’s willing to listen,” she told the program’s host, Jake Tapper. “I’m glad that he’s clarifying his intentions. Frankly, my point was not about his intentions and they shouldn’t be about his intentions. It should be about the women on the receiving end of that behavior.”
Biden’s History of Behavior Towards Women
As Flores suggested in her essay, Biden behaving inappropriately with women is not a new claim. Throughout the years, several headlines have popped up, showing the former vice president touching women and standing extremely close to them.
During the event where Biden kissed a senator’s wife, a reporter says she also saw him walking around the room and calling the female relatives of politicians “beautiful” among other borderline flirty sentiments.
Back in 2015, John Stewart aired a segment about Biden, including a montage of him crossing the line when it comes to women.
Despite this, Biden’s reputation remained intact. One Politico article characterized him as a “sex symbol.” U.S. News called his behavior “Biden being Biden.”
While most of the women depicted in these viral photos and clips have not spoken out about their encounters with Biden, Stephanie Carter wrote a Medium post on March 31 addressing what happened to her. Carter was at the swearing-in of her husband Ash, the former Defense Secretary. Afterward, a picture of Biden touching her shoulders and breathing by her neck began circulating on the internet. However, Carter said she does not feel like the victim of any wrongdoing.
“The Joe Biden in my picture is a close friend helping someone get through a big day, for which I will always be grateful,” Carter wrote. “So, as the sole owner of my story, it is high time that I reclaim it — from strangers, Twitter, the pundits and the late-night hosts.”
She also added that just because her story is positive, does not mean she does not believe Lucy Flores.
“Let me state upfront that I don’t know her, but I absolutely support her right to speak her truth and she should be, like all women, believed. But her story is not mine.”
2020 Candidates Respond
This story has put Biden’s potential run for president in a new light, and many wonder if it will impact his decision to campaign for the spot.
Several candidates have spoken about the allegations, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) who said she believes Lucy Flores. Prior to Biden’s statement, she also added that “Biden needs to give an answer.”
As to whether or not the former Vice President should run, she said that is for him to decide.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) gave ABC a similar statement.
“I have no reason not to believe her,” Klobuchar said. “I think we know from campaigns and politics that people raise issues and they have to address them, and that’s what he will have to do with the voters if he gets into the race.”
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also said it will be up to Biden whether or not he still wants to run, but added that,“I’m not sure that one incident alone disqualifies anybody.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders to Leave White House
- President Donald Trump announced that Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving her role as White House Press Secretary at the end of the month.
- He broke the news in a tweet where he thanked her for her work and encouraged her to run for governor of Arkansas.
- Speaking at a White House event, Sanders said she was proud to serve her country and looks forward to spending more time with her children.
Trump Announces Sanders’ Departure
President Donald Trump announced Thursday that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving her role at the White House at the end of the month.
Trump took to Twitter to announce Sanders’ departure. He thanked her for a “job well done.” He also encouraged her to follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in her home state of Arkansas, where she will be returning after leaving her post. Her father, Mike Huckabee, served as governor in the state from 1996 to 2007.
Sanders began working for the Trump campaign’s communications team in 2016. Once elected, Sanders was deputy press secretary. She landed her current position in July 2017, jumping in after Sean Spicer’s resignation.
During her tenure, Sanders, who was known to have combative relationships with some reporters, opted to not hold traditional daily White House press briefings. The news of her exit came on the 94th straight day without one. Instead, Sanders often let the President speak for himself.
The news also came as the communications director position remains vacant. The spot has been empty since Bill Shine left in March.
Remarks Made at White House Event
Trump again took time to thank Sanders for her time in his administration on Thursday during an event devoted to criminal justice reform.
“She’s done an incredible job and we’ve been through a lot together,” the president said.
Sanders also got the chance to take the mic during the event.
“I’ll try not to get emotional because I know that crying can make us look weak sometimes,” Sanders opened.
“I couldn’t be prouder to have the opportunity to serve my country and particularly to work for this President…I’ve loved every minute, even the hard minutes,” Sanders said before saying she looked forward to spending more time with her three children after leaving the job.
Sanders also posted a similar sentiment to Twitter.
President Trump has not yet announced who will replace Sanders.
See what others are saying: (ABC) (TIME) (Wall Street Journal)
House Panel Approves 9/11 Victims Fund Bill
- The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would extend funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) until 2090.
- The VCF helps firefighters, first responders, and volunteers who have health issues stemming from the toxic dust and smoke they were exposed to in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
- The move comes after Jon Stewart gave an emotional speech before a subcommittee about the urgent need to renew the fund.
- The video of Stewart’s speech went viral and many people responded by calling for a bipartisan effort to extend the fund.
House Judiciary Committee Approves Act
The House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to approve additional funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) through 2090.
The VCF was first created by Congress after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 to help the families of people who died or were injured. The fund ended in 2004, as planned. Then in 2010, lawmakers pushed to reauthorize the fund to help first responders, volunteers, and survivors who had spent weeks at the site of the attack inhaling toxic dust and smoke.
After reauthorization from Congress and then-President Barak Obama, the fund started processing claims from victims in 2011. Congress renewed the bill again in 2015 to extend its funding until December 2020.
Since 2011, Congress has given the fund around $7.4 billion in appropriations, but it has not been enough. In February, the fund’s administrator, Rupa Bhattacharyya, announced that the VCF did not have enough money to pay both existing and expected claims.
The newfound approval of the bill, called the Never Forget the Heroes Act, comes one day after comedian Jon Stewart spoke in front of a subcommittee to convince lawmakers to extend funding.
Jon Stewart’s Speech
Over the years, Stewart has been one of the biggest activists for the fund.
He has been quick to call out Congress for being inactive whenever the fund seemed to be at risk, and he did not hesitate to do just that in an emotional speech before the subcommittee on Tuesday.
Stewart started out his speech by criticizing the lack of congress members in attendance.
“As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” he said. “Behind me, a filled room of 9/11 first responders, and in front of me, a nearly empty Congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves here to no one.”
“And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be,” Stewart continued.
However, a spokesperson for the subcommittee later said only two representatives were missing. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), the chair of the subcommittee, explained that the meeting was held in a bigger room intended for the full Judiciary Committee, so there were more empty chairs.
Stewart went on the condemn Congress for not giving enough money to the responders and for politicizing the issue.
“Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity. Time. It’s the one thing they’re running out of,” said Stewart. “Why this bill is not unanimous consent and a standalone issue is beyond my comprehension, and I have yet hear a reasonable explanation for why.”
“They responded in 5 seconds, they did their jobs with courage, grace, tenacity, humility. 18 years later, do yours.”
Stewart’s speech went viral following the hearing, with many people taking to Twitter to praise him.
Comedians Ricky Gervais and Adam DeVine applauded Stewart, while actor and activist Mark Ruffalo echoed his sentiment, writing, “Plenty of money for wars […] but when it’s time to actually do something to care for the 9/11 heroes and American’s health care…no shows.”
Stewart’s speech also evoked a strong bipartisan response. Donald Trump Jr. and conservative journalist Megyn Kelly commended his work, and conservative commentator Tomi Lahren said in a post on Twitter, “This is bigger than the partisan divide. We should ALL support this!”
On Wednesday, several firefighters and first responders who responded to the attack on the World Trade Center also praised Stewart on a Fox News segment.
The Never Forget the Heroes Act will now move to the House floor, which is expected to vote on the bill next month.
Lawmakers said they expect the bill will pass the House easily, but some are worried about its prospects in the Senate. Following the committee’s vote, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring the bill to a vote as soon as possible.
“We will reach the point soon, most likely this year, when more will have died from 9/11-related illnesses than on 9/11 itself,” Schumer said. “I say to Leader McConnell: This is not politics. This is not a game. These are our heroes, American heroes, who are suffering and need our help.”
I am imploring, pleading, even begging to Leader McConnell to put the bill on the floor immediately after it passes the House,” he continued.
McConnell, for his part, has not said anything about a vote yet. When asked about the fund on Tuesday, McConnell told reporters, “I hadn’t looked at that lately. I’ll have to. We’ve always dealt with that in a compassionate way and I assume we will again.”
Dire Need for Funding
It remains unclear how much the total cost of extending the victims fund for 70 years will cost. Many hope that if the bill is passed, it will be a final fix help the heroes of 9/11 who are desperately in need of medical funding.
Under current funding levels, the VCF administrator said that all future payouts will be cut as much as 70 percent. Already, the fund has more than 19,000 additional unpaid claims.
This is a huge issue. According to CNN, VCF has identified 2,355 deaths that have been associated with 9/11-related health issues, which is nearly the same number of people who died at the World Trade Center because of the attack.
VCF also reported that as of May 2019, more than 12,500 cases of cancer have been diagnosed due to exposure to carcinogens following the attack
This is a growing problem. In July 2011, the VCF identified around 56,000 first responders, volunteers, and others with health problems from 9/11. However, by March 2019, that number had grown to more than 95,000, with nearly 500 to 900 new cases being identified each month.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (Fox News)
Senate Republicans Warn Against Trump’s Mexico Tariffs
- A group of Senate Republicans came out against President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on all Mexican goods following a closed-door meeting with administration officials Tuesday.
- The Republicans expressed concern over the long-term economic impacts of the tariffs, which are set to go into effect June 10.
- Speaking at a press conference in London, Trump said that the Republicans would be “foolish” to try to stop his tariffs.
Senate Republicans Go Against Trump
A group of Republican senators said Tuesday that they opposed President Donald Trump’s sweeping tariffs on all Mexican goods.
Last week, Trump announced in a tweet that the U.S. will impose a five percent tariff on all Mexican imports starting June 10, in order to put pressure on Mexico to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the country.
The White House later said in a statement the administration will increase the tariffs by another 5 percent every month, until they reach 25 percent in October, at which point they will “permanently remain at the 25 percent level unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory.”
While Trump’s party has generally backed his immigration policies, numerous Republican senators made the tariffs a point of departure following a closed-door meeting with administration officials on Capitol Hill.
“There is not much support for tariffs in my conference, that’s for sure,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters after the meeting. “Our hope is that the tariffs will be avoided, and we will not have to answer any hypotheticals.”
Other senators who attended the meeting also expressed their discontent to reporters, like Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), who called the tariffs “a mistake,” and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who told reporters, “There’s no reason for Texas farmers and ranchers and manufacturers and small businesses to pay the price of massive new taxes.”
Other Republican senators warned that they would try to block the tariffs, with some even arguing that they could get enough support among Republicans to get a veto-proof majority.
“The administration ought to be concerned about another vote of disapproval on another national emergency act, this time trying to implement tariffs,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told reporters. “Tariffs are not real popular in the Republican Conference,”
Other Republicans backed this claim, like Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
Trump in London
The senators spoke out against the tariffs just a few hours after Trump told reporters in London that he had enough Republican support.
When asked by a reporter if he thought Republicans would block the tariffs, Trump said: “No, I don’t think they will do that, I think if they do, it’s foolish.”
To that point, there certainly are key Senate Republicans who have come out to back Trump.
In a tweet, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote that the president has “broad authority to control transactions with other nations if there is an unusual & extraordinary threat.”
Others agreed with Rubio’s sentiment. “I think Mexico could help us solve the crisis down at the border,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). “What’s the tax on handling 80,000 additional illegal immigrants coming across the border, housing them, adjudicating them? You’ve got to look at the total cost of the prices.”
While Trump definitely has some support, experts have still described this as one of the biggest rebukes from Republicans during his time in office, which raises the question: why are Republicans so against the tariffs?
It all comes down to the economic impact.
Trump says the tariffs are a punishment for Mexico, but most economists say that the costs of the tariff will largely fall on U.S. businesses and consumers. This is due to the fact that tariffs are paid by companies that import products, and when U.S. businesses are required to pay the tax, that extra cost is then passed to consumers.
This economic concept is broadly supported by economists and experts from different schools of thought and does not fall into a category of liberal versus conservative economic theory.
“US tariffs are taxes on American households and businesses, so imposing them will always be an act of self-destruction,” Dan Ikenson, who leads trade studies at the conservative Cato Institute think tank, told Vox News.
“Trump may believe he can dictate demands because the smaller Mexican economy is more dependent on the US economy than vice versa, but make no mistake: Both economies would be hurt significantly by the tariff war being threatened.”
Additionally, economists also agree that because tariffs function like a regressive tax, the negative impacts are more likely to hit lower-income communities.
Besides consumers, the two biggest business sectors that will be hit are the auto industry and the agriculture sector. “Motor vehicles and motor vehicle parts accounted for one-third of the value of all US imports from Mexico, and much of that cross-border trade was in unfinished product,” said Ikenson.
“In other words, the factory floor spans the US-Mexican border, so imposing tariffs is akin to erecting a concrete wall through the middle of that factory.”
On Tuesday, Toyota Motor Corp told Reuters that the tariffs on Mexico could cost its major suppliers $1 billion. The tariffs will also not only create higher costs but also cause job losses as well.
According to a new report from the Perryman Group, an economic research firm, job losses would amount to nearly 406,000, and “the proposed tariffs would lead to an increase in direct costs of about $28.1 billion each year.”
Others also worry that the new tariffs will undermine the ongoing negotiations of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is the treaty that Trump intends to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with.
What Can Mexico Do?
While Trump remains adamant that he will implement the tariffs, Mexican officials remain more optimistic.
Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, is set to meet with Vice President Mike Pence in Washington to discuss the tariffs Wednesday, and Mexican authorities have said they are willing to cooperate but have pushed for talks rather than economic retaliation.
However, the question that remains is: how much can Mexico really do to stop the migrant flows? According to the Washington Post, Mexico has dramatically stepped up immigration enforcement recently.
The country has nearly tripled its monthly deportations since the beginning of 2019. Last month alone, they apprehended more than 22,000 unauthorized migrants, marking the highest monthly number in Mexicos history.
However, Mexico largely lacks resources to deal with the influx of migrants from Central America that travel to the country with hopes of getting asylum in the U.S. Mexico uses up a lot of its police and military resources combatting organized-crime groups and their immigration authorities are entirely overwhelmed.
As of now, the Trump administration has not specifically said what Mexico can do to reverse the tariffs.