- Protestors in Puerto Rico have been demonstrating for the last three days calling for Governor Ricardo Rosselló to step down.
- The demonstrations come after 900 pages of leaked private messages showed the governor and other officials using sexist and homophobic slurs against political opponents, women, and others.
- Many of Rosselló’s political allies have withdrawn their support and two government officials involved in the chat resigned this weekend, but the governor has said he will not step down.
- The chats were first leaked just one day after six government officials were arrested and charged with funneling $15.5 million worth of federal contracts to politically connected consultants.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Puerto Rico on Monday in the third consecutive day of protests calling for Governor Ricardo Rosselló to resign.
The protests took a turn after demonstrators gathered near the governor’s mansion, and police fired tear gas and pepper spray into the crowd. The island’s police commissioner later told reporters that protesters had thrown rocks, bottles, and tear gas canisters at the officers.
Demonstrators are calling for Rosselló to step down after leaked messages from a group chat on Telegram showed the governor and 11 men in his inner circle repeatedly using sexist and homophobic slurs to insult political opponents, women, and others.
The excerpts from the messages were first leaked to the media by an anonymous source on Thursday. Then on Saturday, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published nearly 900 pages of messages from that group chat.
In those chats, Rosselló himself reportedly used sexist slurs to describe the former New York City Council Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and used profanities when talking about the federal oversight group working Puerto Rico’s debt crisis.
Rosselló and others joked about shooting Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan. They also made homophobic comments about Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin, and talked about manipulating public opinion and discrediting journalists and other opponents of the governor.
All of the individuals involved in the scandal, which has been dubbed “Chatgate” and “Rickyleaks,” were either current or former administration officials.
Notably, that included Secretary of State Luis Rivera Marín, Interior Secretary Ricardo Llerandi, Public Affairs Secretary Anthony Maceira, and Cheif Financial Officer Christian Sobrino.
In addition to the protests, Rosselló has also seen significant political backlash.
Many of the governor’s political allies have withdrawn their support for him. Puerto Rico’s Senate president and House majority leader said they lost faith in Rosselló. Both those leaders were mocked in the messages even though they are members of the same political party.
Representative Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s nonvoting member in the U.S. Congress, said that Rosselló should not run for re-election in 2020, and that he should “immediately reflect on his role as governor.”
Other political figures and members of the island’s House and Senate have also come out against the governor. Prominent Puerto Rican celebrities like Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and singer Ricky Martin have also voiced support for the protests and condemned Rosselló.
And the bigger picture is this: the Hamilton falsehoods in these documents are a minor subplot in a far larger, very disturbing portrait of how this Administration operates. Send tweet.— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) July 15, 2019
Over the weekend, Secretary of State Marín Puerto and Cheif Financial Officer Sobrino resigned. Rosselló, however, is refusing to step down.
After the messages were leaked, Rosselló released a statement where he apologized for the comments, and said he had been under a lot of pressure and working long hours, adding that the messages were just him releasing tension.
He said he would fire the members of his administration who were in the chat, though he also said he would keep the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Public Affairs- meaning the two highest-ranking officials in the chat that did not resign would still be in office.
Rosselló also said in the statement that he will announce a government reorganization and anti-corruption measures in the next few days.
“This is a very painful situation for me, as governor, as a human being and as a Puerto Rican,” he added. “But I recognise there is no other way out and there is no worthwhile forgiveness on my part that does not include corrections and clear signs of intent to change.”
During a radio interview Monday, Rosselló insisted that it is in Puerto Rico’s best interest for him to stay in office. “I have to lift myself up. And I have to move forward to do what’s best for Puerto Rico,” he said.
The Tip of the Iceberg
Part of the reason these messages are such a big deal and have created such a big response is that for many Puerto Ricans, this is the result of a lot of built-up frustration with a governor who ran as an anti-corruption and pro-transparency candidate.
The first leak to the media came just one day after federal authorities revealed a massive corruption investigation into high levels of the island’s government when they arrested six people and filed criminal charges against them for illegally directing nearly $15.5 million in federal contracts to politically connected consultants.
Those arrested included Rosselló’s former education secretary and the former executive director of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration. After that scandal, there were already calls for Rosselló to step down.
Both of these incidents only add to the frustrations over how Rosselló handled the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, which killed upwards of 4,645, according to a new Havard study.
Puerto Ricans are also upset about Rosselló’s controversial education policies, as well as the country’s nearly 12-year-long economic recession that many feel he has done little to fix.
On Monday afternoon, a lawmaker introduced legislation to bring impeachment charges against Rosselló.
However, leaders in Puerto Rico’s House and Senate, both of which are controlled by the governor’s party, said that they will give him more time to think about his future before starting impeachment proceedings.
See what others are saying: (NPR) (Al Jazeera) (The Los Angeles Times)
Sanders and Warren Disagree Over CNN Report That Alleges Sanders Said a Woman Couldn’t Win the Presidency
- A CNN report released on Monday alleges that Bernie Sanders told Elizabeth Warren in 2018 that he did not believe a woman could win the presidency, according to four anonymous sources.
- Sanders has denied the claim, calling it “ludicrous.”
- The Washington Post later reported a source as saying that Sanders did not say he did not believe a woman could be president, but rather said Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic nominee.
- Warren stood by the original allegation, saying that Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win the White House but added she didn’t want to discuss the matter any further, calling him an ally and a friend.
A CNN report released on Monday detailed a December 2018 meeting between presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in which Sanders allegedly said that he did not believe a woman could win the election.
The report said that its details of that encounter were based on accounts from four anonymous people, two that Warren spoke with soon afterward, and two “familiar with the meeting.”
Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, called the assertion a “lie,” and the Vermont senator denied the claim himself in a statement.
“It is ludicrous to believe that at the same meeting where Elizabeth Warren told me she was going to run for president, I would tell her that a woman couldn’t win,” Sanders told CNN.
According to The Washington Post, two people with knowledge of the 2018 meeting told the news outlet that Warren asked Sanders if he thought a woman could win the White House. One of these sources said that Sanders did not say he believed a woman couldn’t win, but rather that Trump would use “nefarious tactics” against the Democratic candidate.
“What I did say that night was that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could,” Sanders said in his statement. “Do I believe a woman can win in 2020? Of course! After all, Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 3 million votes in 2016.”
But later on Monday night, Warren stood by the initial allegation in a statement tweeted by her communications director.
“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate,” Warren said. “I thought a woman could win; [Sanders] disagreed.”
“I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry,” she added.
Regardless of who said what, both Warren and Sanders supporters were quick to jump online with their opinions.
Many Twitter users expressed anger at the Massachusetts senator, accusing her of lying about Sanders’ comments in order to get ahead in the race. #RefundWarren began trending on Monday night, encouraging people to request refunds for donations to her campaign.
Meanwhile, Sanders supporters fell back on instances in the past where he has been explicit about his belief in equal gender opportunities.
On the flip side, others expressed their belief in Warren’s claims, arguing that she had nothing to gain from being untruthful. Many pledged their unwavering support despite the events unfolding.
Also, the idea that Warren trotted this out to damage Sanders seems very unlikely – she knows that women who complain about sexism are seen as whiners, not winners. I mean look *gestures to the internet right now* around!— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) January 14, 2020
Others took to Twitter to neutralize the situation, suggesting that pitting two Democratic candidates against each other does nothing productive for the party.
While Warren called her and Sanders long-time “friends and allies in this fight,” their unspoken civil pact has faced obstacles recently.
On Sunday, Politico reported that Sanders volunteers were issued a script that criticized Warren.
In a campaign appearance on Sunday, Warren said she was “disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me,” and verbalized her hopes that he redirects his campaign for the sake of not dividing their mutual political party.
Sanders denied ever personally attacking Warren and said that each campaign has hundreds of employees who “sometimes say things that they shouldn’t.”
Both the script and he-said-she-said drama unfolded right before the seventh Democratic debate, in which six candidates will be participating—including both Warren and Sanders. The debate will be held in Iowa, which is also where the first-in-the-nation caucuses will take place in about three weeks.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Axios)
Sarah Sanders Apologizes To Joe Biden After Debate Tweet About Stuttering
- At a Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, Joe Biden noted that he personally keeps in touch with children who have speech impediments, speaking with a stutter as he referenced one.
- Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted in response, mocking his delivery.
- Sanders faced a wave of backlash in response to her tweet.
- She apologized after Biden himself, who has personally struggled with a stutter for most of his life, condemned her directly.
Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologized on Thursday after posting a tweet that seemed to mock people with speech impediments.
Sanders’ post, which has since been deleted, was in response to comments Joe Biden made on Thursday at the sixth Democratic presidential debate, held on the campus of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
At one point, Biden was speaking to the efforts he makes to be accessible to the public. He referenced the “call list” he and his wife have of people with whom they regularly stay in touch. Among these, he said, is a “little kid who says ‘I can’t talk, what do I do?’” Biden stuttered over the “I” and the “what” for emphasis.
“I have scores of these young women and men who I keep in contact with,” he added.
Biden has been open in the past about the stutter he has struggled with for most of his life, most prominently in an interview published last month in The Atlantic. In that piece, he opened up about the ways in which his speech impediment has brought him strife, from being bullied as a child to tripping him up during political speeches.
Shortly after Biden’s comments at the debate, Sanders took to Twitter to address them.
“I I I I I I I I I I I I I I I hhhave absolutely no idea what Biden is talking about,” she wrote, adding the hashtag #Demdebate.
Sanders’ remark was met with a wave of backlash from people across the Internet.
How dare you. And you call yourself a “Christian”? Can you imagine how you would feel if one of your children were a stutterer? But that would require being an empathetic person, of which, clearly, you are not. Not to mention cruel. #SarahSanders— Kathy (@kcday21) December 20, 2019
Sanders attempted to recover from her initial comment in a follow-up tweet that has also been deleted.
“To be clear was not trying to make fun of anyone with a speech impediment,” she wrote. “Simply pointing out I can’t follow much of anything Biden is talking about.”
It wasn’t until Biden responded to her directly in a tweet of his own, pointing to his own struggles, that Sanders apologized.
“I’ve worked my whole life to overcome a stutter,” he wrote. “And it’s my great honor to mentor kids who have experienced the same. It’s called empathy. Look it up.”
“I actually didn’t know that about you and that is commendable,” Sanders replied. “I apologize and should have made my point respectfully.”
Biden used the exchange with Sanders to encourage donations to his presidential campaign.
“If you believe we need to bring empathy back to the White House chip in $5,” he wrote, adding a link to a donation page.
See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (Vox) (New York Times)
Trump Rebukes Impeachment Vote at Michigan Rally: “It Doesn’t Really Feel Like We’re Being Impeached.”
- As the House of Representatives impeached President Donald Trump in Washington, Trump held a Michigan rally where he spent time criticizing the impeachment process.
- After two protesters were escorted out of the rally for causing a distraction, Trump suggested that the security guard should have been more forceful about their removal.
- In another statement, Trump insinuated that John Dingell, a Michigan representative who died earlier this year, was “looking up” from Hell.
Trump: “It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached.”
While President Donald Trump was being impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday evening, he blasted the entire process at a rally in Michigan.
“It doesn’t really feel like we’re being impeached,” he said at the rally. “The country is doing better than ever before, we did nothing wrong, and we have tremendous support in the Republican Party like we’ve never had before.”
Despite being impeached while speaking in front of his supporters, Trump delayed going onstage for about an hour to watch the tail end of the debate.
During the two hour rally, Trump criticized Democrats, saying they were trying to nullify the votes of millions of Americans. He also suggested former President Barack Obama deserved to be impeached more than he did.
At one point, the crowd began to chant “Lock her up!” in reference to both former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
However, while representatives cast their votes on the House floor, Trump told his supporters a story about stealth bombers being invisible.
“I said, ‘Fellas, how good is this plane?’” he said, mimicking a conversation between military officials. “They said, ‘Sir, it’s great.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because the enemy can’t see it.’ That helps: stealth. It’s actually called super-stealth. So I said, ‘So they can’t see so you shoot at them but they can’t—’ He said, ‘They have no idea, sir.’ I said, ‘That sounds good to me.’ Nobody does it and nobody can do it, and we have the whole thing. We’ve ordered a lot of those planes.”
Trump Says Security Should Be Rougher With Protesters
Just prior to Trump’s impeachment, two protesters in the arena unfurled a banner that read, “Don the Con. You’re Fired.”
Trump’s speech is interrupted by protesters who unfurl a banner reading, “DON THE CON. YOU’RE FIRED.” pic.twitter.com/lVpcT5NdK2— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2019
Within seconds, the arena erupted into a series of boos, and one supporter tried to cover up the banner with Trump campaign signs.
Those protesters were then escorted out of the rally by guards, but one of the protesters stuck up her middle fingers to the crowd before leaving. As she began shouting obscenities, the crowd chanted “USA! USA!” in return.
“There’s a slob,” Trump said while suggesting the event would not make mainstream headlines. “There’s a real slob. But wait, wait a minute. She’ll get hell when she gets back home with mom.”
Continuing to speak on the subject of the protesters, Trump then said the security guard should have used more force.
“I’ll tell you the other thing, I don’t know who the security company is, but the police came up, but they want to be so politically correct, so they don’t grab her wrist lightly and get her out,” he said in front of a crowd of laughing supporters. “They say, ‘Oh, would you please come? Would you please come with me? Sir? Ma’am? Would you—’ And then she gives the guy the finger and you know, ‘Oh, oh.’ You gotta get a little bit stronger than that, folks.”
Trump disses a woman protester: “There is a slob, there is a real slob … She will get hell when she comes back home with mom.”— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) December 19, 2019
Trump then laments that security didn’t rough her up as she was getting kicked out. pic.twitter.com/sIFZfg18LQ
Trump Insinuates Dead Representative is Looking up from Hell
One of the key takeaways from the rally occurred when Trump began attacking Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell for voting “yes” to impeachment; however, Trump didn’t so much directly attack Debbie Dingell as he did her dead husband, former Representative John Dingell.
John Dingell represented Michigan from 1955 to 2015 and was the long-serving member of Congress in American history. In February, he died at the age of 92.
Using John Dingell as cannon fodder, Trump mocked Debbie Dingell by recounting a conversation he had with her after her husband’s funeral. Trump then insinuated John Dingell was looking up from Hell.
“‘Do this, do that, do that. Rotunda everything,’” he said, pretending to be Debbie Dingell. “I gave him everything—that’s okay. I don’t want anything for it. I don’t need anything for anything. She calls me up: ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down; he’d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.’ I said, ‘That’s okay, don’t worry about it.’ Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Shortly after his comment, Debbie Dingell responded to Trump on Twitter.
“Mr. President, let’s set politics aside,” she said. “My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.”
Later, another Michigan representative, Republican Fred Upton criticized the president after voting “no” to his impeachment.
“I’ve always looked up to John Dingell – my good friend and a great Michigan legend,” Upton said. “There was no need to ‘dis’ him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.”
Thursday, on CNN, Debbie Dingell where she said that she never made any of those requests to Trump. She also said Trump was not involved in her husband’s funeral arrangements, also pointing out that her husband didn’t lie in state in the Rotunda. She then said it was Trump who called her to tell her he would be lowering the flags.
Trump’s Twitter Response to Impeachment
On his own Twitter account, Trump has been unsurprisingly active, but following the impeachment votes Wednesday night, he did not make any direct statements on the platform until Thursday morning.
Instead, he opted for retweeting a flurry of tweets from conservative lawmakers and supporters.
“100% Republican Vote,” he said on Twitter Thursday. “That’s what people are talking about. The Republicans are united like never before!”
Later in the morning, Trump took a jab at Pelosi, calling the impeachment vote a hoax because of her refusal to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate. For her part, Pelosi has said she wants to hold the articles until she is sure the Senate will hold a fair trial.
“Pelosi feels her phony impeachment HOAX is so pathetic she is afraid to present it to the Senate, which can set a date and put this whole SCAM into default if they refuse to show up!” Trump wrote. “The Do Nothings are so bad for our Country!”
Currently, Trump has also pinned a tweet with a picture of him reading, “In reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you. I’m just in the way.”