No wonder there’s an exodus from religion


President Trump at a National Day of Prayer event in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

 Opinion writer May 6 at 7:07 PM 

Do you wonder why the proportion of Americans declaring themselves unaffiliated with organized religion has skyrocketed in recent decades?

This trend is especially pronounced among adults under 30, roughly 40 percent of whom claim no connection to a religious congregation or tradition and have joined the ranks of those the pollsters call the “nones.”

To understand how so many now prefer nothing to something when it comes to religion, ponder the news over the past few days.

The same newspapers and broadcasts that were reporting on how President Trump finally admitted that he had indirectly paid a porn star to keep quiet about an alleged affair also offered accounts of what we’ll call Jesuitgate, the controversy over who should be the chaplain of the House of Representatives.

On Thursday, Speaker Paul D. Ryan backed down from his effective dismissal of the Rev. Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest, as chaplain. Ryan had said he asked the cleric to quit because he had provided inadequate “pastoral services,” but denied that Conroy was ousted because of a mild prayer for justice he delivered during the debate over the GOP tax cut.

 1:19
Speaker Ryan says House chaplain can stay in job

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) reversed course on May 3, and agreed to keep the Rev. Patrick J. Conroy on as House chaplain. 

That phrase “pastoral services” must inspire a chuckle from your typical millennial agnostic. It makes the work of holy men and women sound like the this-worldly tasks of the accountant, the mechanic or the dentist. (As the grateful son of a dentist, I speak with respect for these extremely useful professions.)

Conroy had initially agreed to Ryan’s request to step aside but withdrew his resignation in a quietly stinging letter. The priest noted that he had never been informed of the shortcomings of his “pastoral services.” If he had, he would “have attempted to correct such ‘faults.’ ”

Conroy also quoted Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, as telling him “something like ‘maybe it’s time we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic.’ ” Ryan’s office vehemently denied this (the Catholic vote is substantial), but the speaker announced he didn’t want to have a “protracted fight” and that Conroy could stay.

Many of us could have told the speaker that it’s a mistake to mess with a Jesuit. But think about it: The House Republican leadership was more inclined to push out a chaplain than to impose accountability on a president who is a proven liar and trashes the rule of law for his own selfish purposes day after day.

This degree of partisan irresponsibility only aggravates the already powerful skepticism among the young about what it means to be religious. In their landmark 2010 book, “American Grace,” the scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell found that the rise of the nones was driven by the increasing association of organized religion with conservative politics and a lean toward the right in the culture wars.

Revealingly, Putnam and Campbell found that millennials with tolerant and open views on homosexuality were more than twice as likely to be religious nones as their statistically similar peers with conservative or traditionalist views on homosexuality. Many young people came to regard religion, in Putnam and Campbell’s words, as “judgmental, homophobic, hypocritical and too political.”

If you want a particularly exquisite hypocritical moment, consider that on Thursday, the very day when Trump had to admit his lies on the Stormy Daniels payoff, the president held a White House commemoration of the National Day of Prayer. “Prayer is the key that opens [to] us the treasures of God’s mercies and blessings,” he proclaimed, quoting Billy Graham. He tweeted this out as part of a pious 42-second video set to a sentimental soundtrack of peaceful strings. I guess Trump can use some peace and a lot of mercy right now.

What’s maddening about all of this is that religion has a strong case to make for itself — to the young and to everyone else — given its historical role as a prod to personal and social change and the ways in which movements for justice have been inspired through the centuries by the words of Exodus, Micah, Isaiah, Amos and Jesus.

Conroy was getting at this in the most uncontroversial way possible when he spoke in his now-contested prayer of how “our great nation” has created “opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle.” If a chaplain could be rebuked for voicing that simple and undeniable truth, what’s the point of the “religious liberty” that Trump and his GOP allies celebrate?

And when will those who advertise themselves as religion’s friends realize they can do far more damage to faith than all the atheists and agnostics put together?

Read more from E.J. Dionne’s archivefollow him on Twitter or subscribe to his updates on Facebook.

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Trump chooses impulse over strategy as crises mount


President Trump speaks in the Oval Office before signing legislation aimed at curbing sex trafficking Wednesday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
 April 11 at 8:29 PM 

In a White House known for chaos, the process of developing the U.S. response to the Syrian government’s alleged latest gas attack was proceeding with uncharacteristic deliberation, including several national security briefings for President Trump.

But then Wednesday morning, Trump upended it all with a tweet — warning Russia, the Syrian government’s backer, to “get ready” because American missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ ”

White House advisers were surprised by the missive and found it “alarming” and “distracting,” in the words of one senior official. They quickly regrouped and, together with Pentagon brass, continued readying Syria options for Trump as if nothing had happened.

But the Twitter disruption was emblematic of a president operating on a tornado of impulses — and with no clear strategy — as he faces some of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, including Syria, trade policy and the Russian interference probe that threatens to overwhelm his administration.

“It’s just like everybody wakes up every morning and does whatever is right in front of them,” said one West Wing aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share a candid opinion. “Oh, my God, Trump Tower is on fire. Oh, my God, they raided Michael Cohen’s office. Oh, my God, we’re going to bomb Syria. Whatever is there is what people respond to, and there is no proactive strategic thinking.”

President Trump speaks during a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House on Monday. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

The president has been particularly livid in the wake of Monday’s FBI raids on the home, office and hotel room of Cohen, his longtime personal attorney. In the days after, he has seriously contemplated a shake-up at the Justice Department in the hopes of curbing the expanding probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whose referral led to the Cohen raids. Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is overseeing the probe, several people familiar with Trump’s private comments said.

By Trump’s admission Wednesday on Twitter, Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice has consumed “tremendous time and focus.” And in denying allegations of wrongdoing, the president seemed to equivocate in a parenthetical aside: “No Collusion or Obstruction (other than I fight back),” he wrote.

On trade, meanwhile, the president is grappling with the potential economic fallout of his threatened tariffs, especially within the agriculture sector, which could harm some of the rural states that carried him to electoral victory — all against the backdrop of his ongoing effort to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement more favorably for the United States.

Trump also finds himself facing the surprise retirement of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), signaling more turmoil for the fractious Republican Party heading into the midterm elections.

These and other pivotal developments come as many of the guardrails that previously helped stabilize the president — from West Wing aides to clear policy processes — have been cast aside, with little evident organization or long-term strategy emanating from the White House.

This portrait of Trump in the current moment comes from interviews with 21 administration officials, outsider advisers, lawmakers and confidants, many of them speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details and conversations.

Save for his Wednesday morning tweet, the president’s Syria deliberations have largely been the exception to the chaos engulfing the White House, underscoring the high stakes of a decision, White House officials said.

President Trump, second from right, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Monday. (Susan Walsh/AP)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Wednesday afternoon that Trump continues to review options for a military strike in Syria and that his tweet should not be read as an announcement of planned action.

 “We’re maintaining that we have a number of options, and all of those options are still on the table,” Sanders said. “Final decisions haven’t been made on that front.”

The National Security Council met Wednesday afternoon at the White House, chaired by Vice President Pence, to finalize options that could be presented to the president, Sanders said. She said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, national security adviser John Bolton and other senior officials have been in regular contact with their counterparts from Israel, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom and other partners around the world as the administration weighs its military options for Syria.

Yet Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Wednesday afternoon that he had yet to hear from Trump or other administration officials about impending action in Syria.

“I have no idea. So far, it appears to me to be bluster,” Corker said. “Then I saw a tweet come out about us working with Russia right after we’re getting ready to bomb them, so I mean, who knows? Unfortunately, there are a lot of things announced by the administration that never come to pass or evolve.”

The more general question of U.S. engagement in Syria has confounded and divided the administration. Officials at the White House and Pentagon, for instance, were blindsided by Trump’s pronouncement at a rally in Ohio in late March that U.S. troops would be leaving Syria “very soon,” and in the first hours after the speech, they scrambled to get a sense of what he meant.

Trump initially told aides that he wanted U.S. soldiers and Marines to leave in 48 hours — an impossible timeline that alarmed the Pentagon and sent officials racing to dissuade him, two U.S. officials said.

Eventually, Mattis and others persuaded Trump to give the military another six months to wipe out the remnants of the Islamic State. The timeline was far from ideal but was viewed as a major victory compared with Trump’s original timeline, officials said.

Senior U.S. officials describe a president who is operating largely on impulse, with little patience for the advice of his top aides. “A decision or statement is made by the president, and then the principals — Mattis or Pompeo or Kelly — come in and tell him we can’t do it,” said one senior administration official. “When that fails, we reverse-engineer a policy process to match whatever the president said.”

On a potential shake-up at the Justice Department, Trump has been receiving a range of advice and has sent mixed signals about his intentions. Within the White House, advisers have largely counseled caution and urged him not to make changes. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and counsel Donald McGahn have tried to calm Trump several times, as has Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer handling the Russia probe.

Yet others, including many in the president’s orbit who don’t work in the White House, have counseled a more aggressive approach, saying the raid of Cohen’s home and business crossed a line. This advice has left White House staff on edge, nervous about what the president might do.

Trump, for instance, yelled about Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions for several hours Monday and has continued to complain about them since. But some described his complaints as just “venting,” with one outside adviser saying that while the president is “steamed and unhappy,” that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s prepared to take action.

 “I heard or saw nothing that would suggest he was planning to make a change at the Department of Justice,” said Alan Dershowitz, a retired Harvard Law School professor who dined at the White House with Trump on Tuesday night. He said they mainly discussed the Middle East and Russia.

Rosenstein, meanwhile, seems to have made peace with any eventuality, said one person who has had a conversation with him. He understands he might be squarely in Trump’s crosshairs, and “is ready for whatever comes and confident in his own behavior.”

Trump has also devoted a portion of his days to trade policy. Over the past eight weeks, the president has initiated trade disputes with several of the largest countries in the world, driving forward pronouncements without fully vetting most of them with key aides.

In some cases, he has backpedaled on his vow to impose steep tariffs on countries such as Germany, Canada and Mexico. But he has also refused to waive tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Japan, a major U.S. security ally and trading partner.

Some Senate Republicans fear that Trump’s loosely formed trade war with China could end up cratering the agriculture industry at a time when many Midwestern farmers are preparing to plant crops. China has promised to impose tariffs on U.S. farm exports as a way of retaliating against Trump’s planned tariffs. The White House promised to backstop U.S. farm groups, but they have yet to share what they would do or how they would do it.

“I don’t know what kind of cockamamie scheme we could come up with that would be fair,” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said Tuesday.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) was similarly frustrated by Trump’s trade agenda. “I think the president has some ideas about trade that are not generally shared by the Republican conference,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told his frustrated ranks during a closed-door lunch this week to call Trump and air their trade-related worries, according to a person familiar with the Kentucky Republican’s remarks. Roberts and others planned to meet with Trump on Thursday to discuss the matter.

On some level, White House aides have simply reconciled themselves to the reality that they have little to no control over Trump’s actions and instead remain prepared to explain them away or clean them up.

“Trump is truly serving as his own chief of staff, communications director, and policy maven,” said a Republican strategist in frequent touch with the White House. “He’s singing the Frank Sinatra song, ‘I’ll do it my way.’ ”

Josh Dawsey, Greg Jaffe, Shane Harris, Carol D. Leonnig and Damian Paletta contributed to this report.

13 Russian nationals indicted for interfering in US elections

A federal grand jury on Friday indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election, in a case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that detailed a sophisticated plot to wage “information warfare” against the U.S.

The Russian nationals are accused of setting a “strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election.”

The indictment – the first filed against Russian nationals as part of Mueller’s probe – effectively returns focus to the meddling activities out of Russia in the run-up to the 2016 election, following a string of charges relating to the actions of Trump associates.

Former Department of Justice official Robert Driscoll comments on the indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for attempting to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Further, the DOJ made clear that the indictment does not allege that any of the interference changed the outcome of the presidential race.

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel probe, said at a Friday press conference.

President Trump reacted to the indictments by seizing on Rosenstein’s comment that the election results were not impacted by the Russians’ activity.

“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump tweeted. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

The 37-page indictment, signed by Mueller, said the actions detailed by prosecutors date back to 2014.

The defendants are accused of spreading derogatory information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, denigrating Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — and ultimately supporting Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and then-Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

– Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein

It says the defendants spread derogatory information about various candidates throughout the 2016 campaign and by “early to mid-2016” were supporting Trump’s presidential campaign.

Rosenstein, though, said that after the election, the group worked both to stage rallies in favor of President-elect Trump and in opposition to his election.

Rosenstein on Friday described a sophisticated operation by Russian organization Internet Research Agency. He said the scheme involved setting up hundreds of social media accounts using stolen or fictitious identities to make it appear like the accounts were controlled by individuals in the U.S. He said the defendants posed as politically active Americans and recruited “real Americans” to stage rallies and engage in political activities.

But Rosenstein said those Americans did not know they were communicating with Russians.

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein says the defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans to engage in informational warfare during presidential election and the early days of the Trump administration; no allegation in indictment that any American had knowledge of Russian activities.

“We have known that Russians meddled in the election, but these indictments detail the extent of the subterfuge,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said. “These Russians engaged in a sinister and systematic attack on our political system. It was a conspiracy to subvert the process, and take aim at democracy itself.”

Democrats on Capitol Hill, though, reacted by continuing to suggest that people associated with Trump or his campaign could have been involved in Russia’s meddling.

“It is imperative that the Special Counsel investigation be allowed to continue to follow the facts on the Trump-Russia scandal, unhindered by the White House or Republicans in Congress,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The American people deserve to know the full extent of Russia’s interference in our election and the involvement of Trump officials.”

The president ignored shouted questions from reporters as he departed the White House for Florida on Friday afternoon.

But in a statement released by the White House, Trump said “We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful.”

“It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions,” he said. “We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”

READ THE INDICTMENT OF RUSSIAN NATIONALS

According to the special counsel, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.

The three entities charged in the indictment are Internet Research Agency LLC, Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.

The 13 Russians charged are: Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin; Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov; Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik; Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova; Anna Vladislavovna Bogacheva; Sergey Pavlovich Polozov; Maria Anatolyrvna Bovda; Robert Sergetevich Bovda; Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly; Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev; Gleb Igorevich Vasilchenko; Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina and Vladimir Venkov.

The indictment says Internet Research Agency registered with the Russian government as a corporate entity in 2013. It employed hundreds of individuals for its online operations and had an annual budget equaling millions of U.S. dollars, the filing said.

Prosecutors accuse the Russians of communicating with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization. They learned from that person to focus their activities on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida,” the indictment says.

It also says the group’s employees – referred to as “specialists” – created social media accounts to look like they were operated by Americans. They created group pages on Facebook and Instagram with names like “Secured Borders,” “Blacktivist” (to promote the Black Lives Matter movement), “United Muslims of America,” “Army of Jesus,” “South United” and “Heart of Texas.”

They also created and controlled numerous Twitter accounts, like one named “Tennessee GOP” under the @TEN_GOP handle that attracted more than 100,000 followers.

According to the indictment, the specialists were instructed to post content online that criticized “Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump – we support them).”

It said they used pro-Trump, anti-Clinton hashtags online like “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “Hillary4Prison.”

It says the defendants, around the latter half of 2016, encouraged minority groups in the United States not to vote in the election or vote for a third party candidate. An Instagram account they controlled called “Woke Blacks” posted a message on Oct. 16, 2016 that read: “We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”

The special counsel’s office also said Friday that an American, Richard Pinedo, 28, of Santa Paula, Calif., pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to identity fraud as part of its investigation. A filing from prosecutors said Pinedo sold bank account numbers over the internet.

Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Congress set to delay shutdown, setting up bigger spending fight later


House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) speaks during a meeting with President Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017, along with Republican congressional leaders. (Susan Walsh/AP)
 December 7 at 2:15 PM
Congress prepared to pass a stopgap spending bill as soon as Thursday evening to avoid a partial government shutdown, but key leaders are already bracing for a more heated spending fight later this month.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the leader of an influential conservative bloc both said Thursday morning they expect Republicans to vote in the afternoon to extend funding until Dec. 22. The Senate is then expected to pass the measure late Thursday or Friday, sending it to President Trump.

As the stopgap moves across Capitol Hill, congressional leaders of both parties are scheduled to go to the White House Thursday afternoon to begin talks with Trump on a long-term spending pact.

But there are clear obstacles to any deal. Trump himself cast doubt Wednesday, telling reporters that Democrats “want to have illegal immigrants pouring into our country, bringing with them crime, tremendous amounts of crime.” A shutdown over the issue, he said, “could happen.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of hard-line conservatives who have bucked GOP leaders on past government spending bills, warned that any bipartisan deal on spending risked a Republican revolt later this month.

“It takes two bodies to put something into law, and the president’s agreement to a caps deal does not mean that it is fiscally the best thing for the country,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said. “I want to avoid a headline that says President Trump’s administration just passed the highest spending levels in U.S. history.”

The statements have cast a pall over the high-stakes spending talks Thursday, which are expected to be an initial step in a weeks-long dance over funding the government and resolving several other partisan standoffs.

Republicans have majorities in both chambers of Congress, but they cannot pass spending bills alone. In the Senate, a 60-vote supermajority is required to pass most major legislation, and Republicans control 52 seats. That means negotiating with Democrats, who have pushed to maintain their own domestic spending priorities, as well as policy initiatives on immigration, health care and more.

Speaking to reporters Thursday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) laid out a host of Democratic demands, ranging from funding for veterans and to fight the opioid crisis to passage of a bill that would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of “dreamers” — immigrants brought without documentation to the United States as children.

Pelosi sent mixed signals on how far Democrats would go to secure their priorities, saying on one hand that “Democrats are not willing to shut government down” but on the other that they “will not leave” Washington for the holidays without a fix for Dreamers.

The main source of the Democrats’ leverage, however, is the GOP desire to hike military spending to more than $600 billion in 2018.

Under a 10-year budget deal struck in 2011, Congress may appropriate a maximum of $549 billion for defense programs and $516 billion for nondefense programs next year. Republican leaders have floated a $54 billion boost in defense next year and a $37 billion boost in nondefense spending; Democrats have thus far demanded equivalent increases for both.

“We need a strong national defense, but we also need a strong domestic budget,” Pelosi said Thursday.

Expected to join the White House meeting Thursday, according to congressional aides, are Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney.

Mattis and Mulvaney are seen on Capitol Hill as the pivotal figures in an internal clash within the Trump administration over whether to cut a deal with Democrats to hike domestic spending to secure an increase in the military budget. Mattis has pushed internally to work with Democrats to secure a bigger military budget, while Mulvaney has argued for pursuing a harder line.

The stopgap bill set for a House vote Thursday does not change existing spending levels, and defense hawks have resisted calls to pass temporary bills into the new year, arguing that the military needs a boost.

But conservatives see it differently: They want to provoke a confrontation with Democrats and break a cycle of bipartisan deals that has led both military and nondefense discretionary spending to rise in lockstep. They are also wary of a year-end spending bill becoming a legislative “Christmas tree” that could include relief for Dreamers and other Democratic priorities.

That, Meadows said, would be “not only problematic, but it will be met with such resistance that we haven’t seen on the Hill for many, many years.”

Meadows said he is pushing Ryan to “do short-term spending until we break the defense-nondefense connection.” He said GOP leaders have expressed openness to drafting a funding bill later this month that funds the military through the remainder of the fiscal year while leaving the remainder of the federal bureaucracy subject to a weeks-long extension.

Ryan declined Thursday to confirm any such deal; Pelosi said it would be a nonstarter for Democrats. Were the House to pass such a bill, the Senate would likely send back a bipartisan measure that would include provisions that conservatives dislike. But that could win votes from House Democrats, sidelining the conservatives.

“We’re going to take the speaker at his word that he’s going to fight,” Meadows said, adding, “If all we do is pass a bill and watch the Senate change it, and then agree to higher spending, that is not a fight.”

Conyers admits settlement after report on sexual conduct with ex-staffers – but denies allegations

Hours after outright denying an explosive report on alleged sexual harassment, powerful Democratic lawmaker John Conyers admitted Tuesday that he settled a complaint with an ex-staffer — who reportedly said she was fired for rebuffing his advances.

Rep. Conyers, D-Mich., initially had told the Associated Press on Tuesday that he hadn’t settled any such harassment complaints. The AP also reported that Conyers answered the door at his Detroit home and said he knew nothing about claims of inappropriate touching, all of which were made in an extensive BuzzFeed article.

Conyers’ office issued a detailed clarification Tuesday afternoon, acknowledging the complaint was real, though the lawmaker adamantly denied the underlying claims.

“The Associated Press made an unannounced visit to the home of Congressman Conyers this morning,” a spokesperson for Conyers said Tuesday. “Congressman Conyers was under the impression the reporter was speaking of recent allegations of which he was unaware of and denied.”

Conyers said he has been a “fierce advocate for equality in the workplace” and supports the rights of his employees, but noted that it was “important to recognize that the mere making of an allegation does not mean it is true.”

“In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me and continue to do so,” Conyers said, adding that his office resolved the allegations. “That should not be lost in the narrative. The resolution was not for millions of dollars, but rather for an amount that equated to a reasonable severance payment.”

Conyers added that he would “fully cooperate with an investigation,” once the House determines the “extent” they will look at “these issues.”

The allegations against Conyers amounted to yet another bombshell rocking Capitol Hill.

In documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, several former staff members reportedly accused Conyers of requesting sexual favors, rubbing their hands sexually and rubbing their legs and backs.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the U.S. House, discusses immigration reform before a group of students, faculty and others at California State University, Sacramento, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Earlier she was shouted down by young immigrants at an event in San Francisco where she was trying to drum up support for legislation the would grant legal status to young immigrants. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she did not have any knowledge of the Conyers’ settlement.  (AP)

The woman who complained about her firing reportedly claimed she was dismissed because she did not “succumb to [his] sexual advances.” She reportedly believed she had no other option than to remain quiet and take the settlement in 2015.

TOP CALIFORNIA DEM STEPPING DOWN AMID NEW SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS

“I was basically blackballed. There was nowhere I could go,” she told Buzzfeed News.

Her identity remains anonymous reportedly due to fears of retribution.

FILE - In this July 12, 2017 file photo, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn. arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington. Franken apologized Thursday after a Los Angeles radio anchor accused him of forcibly kissing her during a 2006 USO tour and of posing for a photo with his hands on her breasts as she slept.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has now been accused by two women of groping them without consent.  (AP)

Conyers, 88, the longest-serving House member, has served in the House for decades. He was active in the civil-rights movement and helped found the Congressional Black Caucus; he’s now the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the report “extremely troubling” in a statement released Tuesday. He noted he already had directed “the Committee on House Administration to conduct a full review of all policies and procedures related to workplace harassment and discrimination.”

Fox News has not independently confirmed the allegations.

According to BuzzFeed News, the Congressional Office of Compliance did not confirm or deny dealing with the case.

“Pursuant to the Congressional Accountability Act, the OOC cannot comment on whether matters have or have not been filed with the office,” Laura Cech, publications and outreach manager at the Office of Compliance, told BuzzFeed.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she was not aware of the reported settlement involving Conyers.

“No,” Pelosi told Fox News in a statement. “The current process includes the signing of non-disclosure agreements by the parties involved.”

TAXPAYER PIGGY BANK LETS CONGRESS SETTLE SEX HARASSMENT CLAIMS IN SECRET

Pelosi pointed to new legislation put forth by Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier which the Democratic leader said would provide “much-needed transparency on these agreements” and make “other critical reforms.”

“I strongly support her efforts,” Pelosi said.

The report said the woman who settled with Conyers ended up with a confidentiality agreement in exchange for a roughly $27,000 settlement — which reportedly came from Conyers’ office budget as opposed to a massive fund that has been used to settle hundreds of cases with federal employees.

Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party Brandon Dillon said in a statement Tuesday that the allegations against Conyers are “incredibly serious and disheartening to learn,” but also said that media reports of the case also “point to other troubling allegations of misconduct, including the potential misuse of congressional resources.”

“That is why we are calling for a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee into all of the allegations against Mr. Conyers, and we urge the Speaker to order a full-scale inquiry into the abuse of authority that has pervaded the halls of power in Washington, along with state capitols across the country, for far too long,” Dillon said.

The revelations about Conyers’ alleged conduct are just the latest in a series of allegations shaking the halls of Capitol Hill in recent days.

AL FRANKEN HIT WITH GROPING ALLEGATION FROM SECOND WOMAN

Last week, a TV and Radio broadcast host based in California, LeeAnn Tweeden, accused Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., of groping and kissing her without her consent. On Monday, a second woman, Lindsay Menz, accused Franken of groping her in 2010 while they took a photo together.

And Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore in Alabama is battling multiple allegations. The woman whose account started the controversy spoke Monday to NBC’s “Today” show, and said she was “absolutely not” paid to go public.

Leigh Corfman claims Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was in his 30’s. Moore has denied the allegations against him.

Fox News’ Mike Emanuel contributed to this report. 

Brooke Singman is a Politics Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Courtesy: Fox News

Newt Gingrich: Hillary Clinton’s been getting away with unethical, illegal behavior for 40 years

The never-ending saga of Clinton corruption continues to unfold, with the latest chapter being written by former Democratic National Committee Chair Donna Brazile.

In an excerpt from her new book, Brazile finally begins to reveal to the American people what actually happened behind closed doors during the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign and uncovers new details about even more collusive activity.

Brazile describes how the Clintons covertly took over operations at the Democratic National Committee four months after Hillary announced her presidential candidacy, nearly a year before she became the party’s 2016 nominee.

According to Brazile, Hillary exploited the cash-strapped party. She agreed to pay off financial debts left by Obama’s 2012 campaign, but the cash came with a catch.

Brazile wrote that a fundraising agreement signed in August 2015 dictated that “in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in on the significance of this latest Clinton scandal on Fox News Sunday, remarking, “We’ve all said that the Clintons thought they lived above the rules, but this takes the cake. I mean, this is pretty amazing. For them to basically be running the DNC in a primary – to see such a deck stacked is really pretty jaw-dropping to me. No wonder the Democrats are ticked off, I would be too.”

Of course, Speaker Ryan is correct that this degree of clear corruption on behalf of the Clintons is ethically wrong and always on the edge of breaking the law. However, having watched the Clintons for nearly their entire political careers, the Brazile revelations did not surprise me. Hillary Clinton has been getting away with unethical, and often illegal, behavior since she first entered public life.

I was a freshman member of Congress when Hillary began her career of breaking the rules for personal enrichment and power. When the Clintons ran for President in 1992 all this began to come out.

Hillary Clinton’s first major act of corruption dates back almost 40 years, when she miraculously turned $1,000 into nearly $100,000 in 10 months during her first attempt at trading commodities – mainly cattle futures.

A month before Bill Clinton was elected governor of Arkansas in November 1978, Hillary Clinton decided to try her hand at commodities trading, which is an incredibly volatile market. As a total novice, on October 11, 1978, she opened an account with $1,000, made a short sale of 10 live-cattle contracts, then bought them back the next day – pocketing an extra $5,300.

Throughout her stint as an untrained commodities trading savant, a slew of regulatory rules were apparently ignored (or violated) on her behalf. She made a “mockery of the profession” and cashed in after earning a net profit of nearly 10,000 percent in less than a year.

This level of success is nearly unheard of, even for expert commodities traders. Typically, 80 to 95 percent of commodities traders lose money. In fact, in 1994, the Journal of Economics and Finance published a study by economists from Auburn University and the University of North Florida which concluded the odds for Hillary’s level of success during the period she was trading “were – at best – 1 in 31 trillion.”

Let’s be blunt – there’s no way Hillary could have achieved that level of success in commodities trading without breaking the law. But she got away with it – like the Clintons always do.

The history of this corrupt, illegal behavior explains a lot of Hillary’s contempt for free enterprise. When she invested, it was a rigged game she was guaranteed to win. She equates her corrupt behavior with all free enterprise.

Of course, cattle futures were just the beginning. Getting away with one act of corruption led to many more: the Whitewater land deal, Benghazi, Hillary’s illegal private email server, the Uranium One sale, and now the DNC-Clinton collusion scandal.

So, the next time a Clinton scandal breaks (and there will be a next time), we should certainly be outraged, but we shouldn’t be surprised. We should also demand that the Congress and the Justice Department hold them accountable.

Newt Gingrich is a Fox News contributor. A Republican, he was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. Follow him on Twitter @NewtGingrich. His latest book is “Understanding Trump.”

Courtesy: Fox News

GOP tax bill: No changes to 401(k), doubles deductions for middle class, limits state and local tax

House Republicans on Thursday unveiled their long-awaited tax bill which preserves the popular 401K retirement account, lowers rates for many individual households but trims deductions for state and local taxes.

A summary of the plan, which was made available to reporters ahead of its public release, would also reduce the cap on the popular deduction to interest on mortgages to $500,000 for newly purchased homes. The current cap is $1 million.

The plan also limits the deductibility of local property taxes to $10,000 while eliminating the deduction for state income taxes. Republicans in high-tax states such as New York and New Jersey had come out strongly against it.

“I view the elimination of the deduction as a geographic redistribution of wealth, picking winners and losers,” New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin said. “I don’t want my home state to be a loser, and that really shouldn’t come as any surprise.”

Called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the GOP plan would also leave the top individual tax rate at 39.6 percent.

The child tax credit will rise to $1,600 from $1,000, though the $4,050 per child exemption would be repealed.

The legislation is the first major revamp of the U.S. tax code in three decades and has been a top legislative and political priority of Republicans.

“This is the beginning of the end of this horrible tax code in America,” Rep. Kevin Brady told Fox News.

House Speaker Paul Ryan touted the plan as a break for the middle class.

“It is for the families who are out there living paycheck to paycheck who just keep getting squeezed,” he said.

President Trump called the legislation “another important step toward providing massive tax relief for the American people” and added, “We are just getting started, and there is much work left to do.”

The rollout was delayed a day as Republicans were still hammering out specifics.

Lawmakers had been at odds and scrambling to bridge deep divides over contribution limits to 401(k) retirement accounts and the possible elimination of a tax break for state and local taxes.

Potential changes to the plans created an uproar after rumors surfaced that Republicans were considering a plan to slash pretax donation limits from $18,000 for most people to as low as $2,400.

Trump is expected to meet with House Republicans at the White House Thursday afternoon. Markups to the bill could come as early as Monday.

The House Ways and Means Committee plans to consider the bill next week.

“This is our opportunity to make tax reform a reality and deliver the most transformational tax cuts in a generation,” Brady said on Thursday.

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Thursday that this bill “for every member, this could be the most significant bill they make a decision on in congress.”

Trump has recently said he’d like to see the bill become law by Christmas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Courtesy: Fox News

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