Two more women have come forward alleging sexual misconduct by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). The women, who spoke with HuffPost, asked to remain anonymous. One of them said Franken grabbed her butt while they posed for a photo at a women’s event in Minneapolis. The other woman said the senator “cupped her butt with his hand” at a Democratic fundraiser in 2008, according to HuffPost. “It’s difficult to respond to anonymous accusers, and I don’t remember those campaign events,” Franken said. Franken is already in the crosshairs of the Senate Ethics Committee after radio host Leeann Tweeden said the senator groped and forcibly kissed her. On Monday, another woman, Lindsay Menz, said Franken groped her while the pair took a photo at the Minnesota State Fair.
Russian billionaire and lawmaker Suleiman Kerimov has been arrested in France on tax evasion charges, Agence France-Presse reports. Kerimov was detained upon arrival in France late Monday and underwent two days of questioning over alleged tax evasion in the purchase of luxury properties. State prosecutor Jean-Michel Pretre was cited by AFP on Wednesday as saying the Kremlin-connected billionaire has been released on a bail of 5 million euros, but he will face restrictions on his movements and had to hand in his passport. News of Kerimov’s arrest came hours after Moscow summoned France’s deputy ambassador over the 51-year-old billionaire’s detention, arguing that Kerimov holds diplomatic immunity. The French Foreign Ministry has said immunity only applies to actions carried out during his official duties. “The senator status and the fact that he is a Russian citizen is a guarantee that we will, of course, put in all possible efforts to defend his lawful interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) allegedly threatened a woman if she exposed his sexual behavior, telling her that he would report her to the Capitol Police. Barton, according to The Washington Post, sent the woman “sexually explicit photos, videos and messages,” before she corresponded with other women who had relationships with Barton and was allegedly sharing messages and photos with them. The woman, who spoke anonymously to the Post, secretly recorded a 2015 phone call with Barton in which the Texas congressman allegedly warned her against taking actions that “would negatively affect my career.” The woman says she and Barton engaged in two sexual encounters in addition to exchanging messages and photos. “I want your word that this ends,” Barton said during the phone call. “I will be completely straight with you. I am ready if I have to, I don’t want to, but I should take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation. And if I do that, that hurts me potentially big time.” In a statement to the Post, Barton said the Capitol Police had opened an investigation: “When I ended that relationship, she threatened to publicly share my private photographs and intimate correspondence in retaliation. As the transcript reflects, I offered to take the matter to the Capitol Hill Police to open an investigation. Today, the Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted.” Barton apologized earlier Wednesday after a nude photo of him was circulating online.
A Baltimore homicide detective fatally shot last week was killed a day before he was due to testify in a high-profile racketeering case against several fellow officers, authorities said Wednesday. Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said Detective Sean Suiter was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury in a case against eight former members of the city’s elite gun task force accused of shaking down city residents and conspiring with drug dealers. Authorities do not believe Suiter was killed over his expected testimony, Davis said, adding that he was shot spontaneously when investigating a report of a suspicious person. Suiter was believed to have been killed with his own service weapon at close range following a struggle, Davis said. An 18-year veteran of the force and a married father of five, Suiter was shot once in the head last Wednesday and he died a day later, the day he was expected to testify.
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Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) became the first House Democrat on Wednesday to call on Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) to resign following accusations of sexual harassment and his confirmation that he secretly settled a complaint with an accuser. “I've reviewed the allegations against him, and they're as credible as they are repulsive,” Rice said. “The women who reported this behavior suffered serious professional repercussions for doing so, which is exactly why so many victims of sexual harassment and assault decide not to step forward.” Earlier Tuesday, others called for Conyers to step down from his perch as the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. The House Ethics Committee announced on Tuesday that it is investigating the allegations against the longtime congressman.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday ordered top officials at the FBI and ATF to conduct a review of the federal background check system in the wake of the mass murder at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. In a memo, Sessions said the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) “is critically important to protecting the American public from firearms-related violence.” Devin Patrick Kelley murdered 26 people at the Texas church earlier this month. Kelley was previously convicted for domestic violence but the Air Force, where Kelley served from 2010 to 2014, apparently did not report the conviction into the NICS database, which could have prevented Kelley from buying firearms.
A former staffer for Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) is alleging that the longtime congressman harassed and verbally abused her when she worked for him in the 1990s. Melanie Sloan, a Washington ethics lawyer, added that congressional leaders ignored her pleas for help. She is the first ex-staffer to speak on the record about Conyers’ alleged abuse. “There was nothing I could do to stop it,” Sloan told the Washington Post. “Not going to leadership, not going to my boss, not going to a women’s group, not going to a reporter. I was dismissed and told I must be mentally unstable.” While Sloan does not believe Conyers sexually harassed her, she says he once called her into his office where she found him in his underwear. Conyers’ lawyer has denied the allegations.
Peter Thiel’s lawyers filed a court motion on Wednesday arguing that the billionaire entrepreneur should be included in the bidding process for the Gawker.com URL. Thiel’s attorneys said the individuals overseeing the sale are “maintaining selective secrecy over that process.” Thiel had secretly bankrolled the legal effort to topple Gawker Media. Univision bought the bankrupt company’s other websites last year for $135 million. As BuzzFeed notes, Gawker.com’s eventual buyer will have complete control of the site, whose archived stories are still live on the site.
Bijan Kian, a former business partner of ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, is reportedly under scrutiny by special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team. According to NBC News, Mueller’s team is focusing on Kian’s role in the Flynn Intel Group’s failure to disclose its foreign lobbying work, particularly on behalf of Turkey. NBC previously reported that Mueller has enough evidence to charge Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr.