#MeToo News, 2021

 

Note: This near-daily summary of #MeToo and related sexual assault news has been divided up to encompass below news stories beginning in 2020. For previous periods extending back to 2018, kindly visit these links:  2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

 

2021

 

June

June 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: I Am Breaking My Silence About the Baseball Player Who Raped Me, Kat O’Brien (a former journalist and baseball writer for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Newsday), June 21, 2021 (print ed.). I was 22 years old and working as a sports reporter when I was raped by a Major League Baseball player.

major league baseball mlb logoI didn’t tell my best friend, my sister, my mother or my sports editor, who was a woman. For 18 years, I didn’t tell anyone.

I didn’t say it out loud to myself, write it down, speak his name or allow myself to think about it beyond wishing hard that it would not have happened. I spent years willing it to unhappen. Magical thinking became my truth.

That all changed in January.

June 19 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan,via Getty Images)

Daily Beast, New Docuseries Suggests Jeffrey Epstein Was a Government Informant, Nick Schager, June 19, 2021. The Plot Thickens. The Peacock docuseries “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell” traces the life of the late sex trafficker’s right-hand woman, with victims speaking out about the damage they wrought.

Ghislaine Maxwell has a name that many can’t pronounce and a backstory that’s shrouded in mystery. Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell seeks to rectify the latter by investigating the life of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious girlfriend and co-conspirator, who currently resides in a Brooklyn jail awaiting trial for a variety of sex-trafficking charges that were levied against her by the U.S. federal government daily beast logoin 2020. Informative and comprehensive, it paints a portrait of a woman who was groomed at an early age for her eventual role as a madame for her pedophilic partner—a cretin for whom she herself groomed countless underage girls for his perverse sexual pleasure.

Peacock’s three-part docuseries (premiering June 24) is a no-frills non-fiction affair, and all the better for it. A raft of interviews with acquaintances, authors, journalists, and more provide the narrative spine for an archival footage-heavy investigation into Maxwell’s saga, which has ensnared the many rich and powerful people whom she brought into Epstein’s orbit.

Those include, most infamously, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, whose damningly clumsy BBC interview receives some airplay here, as well as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and various celebrities—Elon Musk, Mick Jagger, Joan Rivers—whom she was photographed with at one gala event or another. Maxwell was the conduit between Epstein and high society’s cream of the crop, and though this overview presents no new bombshells about her A-list relationships, her intimate ties to dignitaries, politicians, artists, and other notable names is made definitively clear.

Those links are central to Maxwell’s fate, since it’s apparent she and Epstein made secret surveillance videos (and photographs) of visitors to their NYC townhouse home—meaning they potentially have blackmail material on a host of global big shots.

These incriminating recordings have been fingered as the reason Epstein received a “sweetheart deal” from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (and Secretary of Labor under Trump) Alexander Acosta in 2008, when the feds had Epstein dead-to-rights on sex-trafficking crimes, and yet offered him a plea agreement that put him behind bars for 15 months—he could even come and go during the day from prison—and provided immunity to anyone related to his infractions, at least in Palm Beach. It’s also been suggested that they’re the cause of his much-debated suicide; as the conspiracy theory goes, he may have been murdered by forces that wanted to keep what he knew—and had—from seeing the light of day.

chris doworth left matt gaetz joel greenberg resized facebook

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL, at center, former Florida State Rep. Chris Dorworth, left, then of the Ballard Partners lobbying firm, and former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, at right, posed for the photograph above outside the White House in June of 2019.

Palmer Report, Opinion:  The Matt Gaetz scandal is blowing up in Republicans’ faces, Bill Palmer, right, June 19, 2021. Once the Feds gained two cooperating witnesses against Matt Gaetz last month, it was bill palmerpretty clear that he was headed for likely criminal indictment. Earlier today the Feds seemingly tipped off that Gaetz will be indicted and arrested within weeks. This is ugly news for Republicans – and not just the specific Central Florida Republicans who appear to be going down with him.

Because Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, is a tepid idiot who usually just defers to whatever fantasy Donald Trump would like to see play out, McCarthy missed the chance to preemptively make some kind of move to distance his party from Matt Gaetz. There was a window of opportunity where McCarthy could have had the House GOP remove Kevin McCarthyGaetz from committees, so that once Gaetz was indicted, the Republicans could argue that they took action against Gaetz before anyone else did.

bill palmer report logo headerBut now it’s realistically too late for McCarthy and the House GOP to get out ahead of the Gaetz scandal. Congressman Ted Lieu highlighted the trouble that House Republicans are now facing in a tweet today: “Dear Kevin McCarthy: You and your GOP caucus should stop embracing Rep Matt Gaetz and remove him from the Judiciary Committee immediately. Gaetz should not be sitting on the Committee that has oversight over the DOJ that is investigating him for alleged sex crimes & other crimes.”

Lieu’s tweet is a preview of what the Democratic Party will end up saying about every House Republican who faces reelection in 2022: they knew what Matt Gaetz was all along, so why did they try to protect him instead of doing the right thing? At this point Kevin McCarthy is a deer in the headlights – and House Republicans are stuck right there with him.

 

ed litton

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Christian America Withstand the Pull of QAnon? Peter Wehner (Mr. Wehner, right, who served in various roles in the three Republican administrations before the Trump administration, is a contributing peter wehnerOpinion writer. He attends McLean Presbyterian Church in McLean, Va.), June 19, 2021 (print ed.).

The scandals, jagged-edged judgmentalism and culture war mentality that have enveloped significant parts of American Christendom over the last several years, including the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, have conditioned many of us to expect the worst. Which is why the annual meeting of the convention this week was such a pleasant surprise.

The convention’s newly elected president, the Rev. Ed Litton, above, barely defeated the Rev. Mike Stone, below left, the choice of the denomination’s insurgent right. Mr. Litton, a soft-spoken pastor in Alabama who is very conservative theologically, has made racial reconciliation a hallmark of his ministry and has said that he will make institutional accountability and care for survivors of sexual abuse priorities during his two-year mike stone twitterterm.

“My goal is to build bridges and not walls,” Mr. Litton said at a news conference after his victory, pointedly setting himself apart from his main challenger. But those bridges won’t be easy to build.

Tensions in the convention are as high as they’ve been in decades; it is a deeply fractured denomination marked by fierce infighting. The Conservative Baptist Network, which Mr. Stone is part of, was formed in 2020 to stop what it considers the convention’s drift toward liberalism on matters of culture and theology.Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias of The Times describe the individuals in the Conservative Baptist Network as “part of an ultraconservative populist uprising of pastors” who want to “take the ship.” They are russell moore headshotzealous, inflamed, uncompromising and eager for a fight. They nearly succeeded this time. And they’re not going away anytime soon.

They view as a temporary setback the defeat of Mr. Stone, who came within an eyelash of winning even after allegations by the Rev. Russell Moore, right, the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, that Mr. Stone blocked investigations of sexual abuse at Southern Baptist churches and engaged in a broader campaign of intimidation. (Mr. Stone has denied the charges.)

June 17

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz just made clear why he’s not going to survive this, Bill Palmer, right, June 17, 2021. With two inside witnesses now formally cooperating against him, Matt Gaetz is all but bill palmercertain to be indicted and arrested on federal criminal charges before much longer. The trouble in the meantime is that he’s still a sitting Congressman.

This led a number of observers to worry that Gaetz might be able to abuse his position in the House of Representatives to somehow get himself off the legal hook or gain a strategic advantage heading into trial.

While it’s wrong that Gaetz is still sitting on a House committee that oversees the same DOJ and FBI that are criminally investigating him, I’ve never worried too much about it. If the Republicans controlled the House committees, it would be one thing. But as things stand, Gaetz would need to be awfully clever to get anywhere – and he’s the opposite of clever. Gaetz just more or less proved me right.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Matt Gaetz, right, recently had the opportunity to use his position as a Congressman to question FBI Director Christopher Wray, he didn’t manage to make any headway. Now Gaetz matt gaetz o Customis fully blowing the opportunity, by pushing the lunatic conspiracy theory that FBI operatives were somehow behind the January 6th Capitol attack.

To be clear, not a single person outside Gaetz’s deranged base will believe this. So Gaetz is merely playing to his own fans, instead of trying to win over the American mainstream. And that sucks for him, because his only chance of surviving this would be if he could somehow convince the mainstream that he’s being framed, or that he’s the real victim.

Matt Gaetz is pinned against the proverbial wall right now. It would take a herculean effort for him to save himself. Instead he’s busy proving why he’s not going to be able to save himself.

June 16

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Like a murder’: South Korean women face widespread online sex abuse, rights group says, Min Joo Kim, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). There has been a rise in crimes involving intimate images that are captured and shared without consent or manipulated to impersonate the victim in a sexually degrading manner, a Human Rights Watch report said.

South Korea is facing a growing epidemic of online and tech-enabled “digital sex crimes” that is inflicting grave damage on women and girls, but the government has not done enough to stamp out the menace, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday.

south korea flag SmallSouth Korea, a global leader in information and communication technology, is struggling to cope with a rise in crimes involving intimate images — almost always of women — that are captured and shared digitally without consent or manipulated to impersonate the victim in a sexually degrading manner.

“The root cause of digital sex crimes in South Korea is widely accepted harmful views about and conduct toward women and girls that the government urgently needs to address,” said Heather Barr, interim co-director for women’s rights at Human Rights Watch. “The government has tinkered with the law but has not sent a clear and forceful message that women and men are equal, and misogyny is unacceptable.”

washington post logoWashington Post, What offenses did Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, commit in Britain? New report forces police to review claims, Jennifer Hassan, June 16, 2021. British police say they will review allegations made in a recent Channel 4 News investigation that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his former partner, Ghislaine Maxwell, sexually abused, trafficked and groomed multiple women and girls in Britain over a period of 10 years.

The claims, of which there are at least half a dozen but the broadcaster said could be “much higher,” aired on Tuesday, prompting fresh calls for the Metropolitan Police Service to fully investigate the Epstein scandal which has thrust Britain’s Prince Andrew, the second-eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, into the spotlight due to his ties to the disgraced U.S. financier.

The broadcaster said the allegations, including rape and sexual assault, came from evidence collected from “a combination of publicly available documentation (including court papers), witness accounts, and interviews.”

Prince Andrew says he let down royal family by associating with Jeffrey Epstein

The allegations further implicate British socialite Maxwell, who is in jail and awaiting trial in the United States on sex trafficking charges. She has denied enlisting underage girls for Epstein to sexually abuse.

In its report, the broadcaster asked why Britain has been so slow to investigate the allegations when authorities around the world have moved to uncover the truth about the extent of Epstein’s crimes and connections.

“In this country there has been a deafening silence from the metropolitan police,” the investigation said, adding “Scotland Yard has seemingly done very little. Tonight we ask, why?” 

June 13 

katie logan 2001 currently tim gruber wash post

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: People of Praise, a Christian group tied to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, faces reckoning over sexual misconduct allegations, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). Barrett’s ascendancy to the Supreme Court spurred former members of the group to speak out and forced People of Praise to hire lawyers to investigate.

In December, Katie Logan called the police in this Minneapolis suburb to unearth a buried secret: Her high school physics teacher had sexually assaulted her two decades earlier, she said. She was 17 and had just graduated from a school run by a small Christian group called People of Praise. He was 35 at the time, a widely admired teacher and girls’ basketball coach who lived in a People of Praise home for celibate men.

Logan (shown above in 2001 photo at left and in a recent Washington Post photo by Tim Gruber) told police she reported the June 2001 incident to a dean at the school five years after it happened. Police records show the dean believed Logan and relayed the complaint to at least one other senior school official.

But the teacher, Dave Beskar, remained at Trinity School at River Ridge until 2011, when he was hired to lead a charter school in Arizona. In 2015, he returned to the Minneapolis area to become headmaster of another Christian school. Beskar denies that any inappropriate sexual activity took place.

“People of Praise leaders failed me,” Logan, 37, said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I think they wanted to protect themselves more than they wanted to protect me and other girls.”

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoLogan was encouraged to go to police by a founder of “PoP Survivors,” a Facebook group formed last fall after the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, left, who has deep roots in People of Praise and who served on the board of its schools years after Beskar left.

Barrett’s ascendancy to the nation’s highest court has forced a painful reckoning in People of Praise, an insular Christian community that emphasizes traditional gender roles. The former members are now demanding that the group acknowledge their suffering and that it mishandled complaints, prompting People of Praise to hire two law firms to investigate allegations of abuse.

The Post interviewed nine people in the Facebook group — all but one of them women — who said they were sexually abused as children, as well as another man who says he was physically abused. In four of those cases, the people said the alleged abuse was reported to community leaders. Logan gave The Post recorded statements and other documents from the police investigation of her complaint.

In response to questions from The Post, Craig Lent, chairman of the religious group’s board of governors, said that the lawyers’ findings will be reviewed by a People of Praise committee of men and women and that “appropriate action” will be taken.

Lent declined in a written statement to respond to specific questions about Logan’s allegation but acknowledged the “serious questions that it raises.” He declined to say how many claims are being investigated.

“People of Praise has always put the safety of children far above any reputational concerns,” said Lent, who is also chairman of the board overseeing three Trinity Schools campuses for middle and high school students — in the Minneapolis area, South Bend, Ind., and Falls Church, Va.

People of Praise grew out of the charismatic Christian movement of the early 1970s, which adopted practices described in the New Testament of the Bible, including speaking in tongues, the use of prophecy and faith healing. The group says it has 1,700 members across the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

amy coney barrett ap oct 12 2020Barrett, who was raised in a People of Praise community in Louisiana, has long been active in the branch in the South Bend area, where she was a student at Notre Dame Law School. Barrett lived for a time with People of Praise co-founder Kevin Ranaghan and his wife, Dorothy, Dorothy Ranaghan has confirmed. A People of Praise 2010 directory shows Barrett served as a “handmaid,” a key female adviser to another female member. Barrett served on the Trinity Schools board, whose members must belong to People of Praise, from 2015 to 2017.

Barrett was not asked about People of Praise during her confirmation to the Supreme Court (shown at right). At her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing for a federal appeals court, she said she would not put her religious beliefs before the rule of law. “It’s never appropriate for a judge to impose that judge’s personal convictions, whether they derive from faith or anywhere else, on the law,” she said.

June 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Tweaks Its Formula, Seeking to Curb Online Slander, Kashmir Hill and Daisuke Wakabayashi, June 10, 2021. In response to Times articles, the search giant is changing its algorithm, part of a major shift in how Google polices harmful content.

For many years, the vicious cycle has spun: Websites solicit lurid, unverified complaints about supposed cheaters, sexual predators, deadbeats and scammers. People slander their enemies. The anonymous posts appear high in Google results for the names of victims. Then the websites charge the victims thousands of dollars to take the posts down.

This circle of slander has been lucrative for the websites and associated middlemen — and devastating for victims. Now Google is trying to break the loop.

google logo customThe company plans to change its search algorithm to prevent websites, which operate under domains like BadGirlReport.date and PredatorsAlert.us, from appearing in the list of results when someone searches for a person’s name.

Google also recently created a new concept it calls “known victims.” When people report to the company that they have been attacked on sites that charge to remove posts, Google will automatically suppress similar content when their names are searched for. “Known victims” also includes people whose nude photos have been published online without their consent, allowing them to request suppression of explicit results for their names.

The changes — some already made by Google and others planned for the coming months — are a response to recent New York Times articles documenting how the slander industry preys on victims with Google’s unwitting help.

That represents a momentous shift for victims of online slander. Google, which fields an estimated 90 percent of global online search, historically resisted having human judgment play a role in its search engine, although it has bowed to mounting pressure in recent years to fight misinformation and abuse appearing at the top of its results.

June 9

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly’s Longtime Lawyers Move to Quit His Case as Trial Nears, Troy Closson, June 9, 2021. Citing a disagreement with Mr. Kelly’s new counsel, the lawyers asked to be removed just over two months before a trial is set to begin.

Two top lawyers for R. Kelly, shown in a Twitter photo, are moving to withdraw from his case, citing internal disputes with other lawyers, less than nine weeks before they were set to represent Mr. Kelly, the disgraced R&B star, in his criminal trial in federal court in Brooklyn.

r kelly twitterIn a letter to the judge this week, the lawyers, Steve Greenberg and Michael Leonard, wrote that they had significant reasons to depart the case, writing that it would be “impossible” for them to continue to represent Mr. Kelly.

The decision emerged, they said, as tensions erupted between them and two other members of the legal team who joined the case later and were now seeking a more prominent role in the trial. At a hearing on Wednesday, the two sides hurled criticisms at one another, with Mr. Greenberg questioning the aptitude of Mr. Kelly’s newer lawyers, who shot back that his comments were out of line.

The attempted shift in Mr. Kelly’s legal representation is the latest twist in the run-up to the singer’s long-awaited trial on racketeering charges, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 9 in New York. Mr. Kelly said at the hearing that he was in support of the change.

Judge Ann M. Donnelly did not immediately rule on the matter on Wednesday, instead requesting more detailed information in writing about the two lawyers’ set of complaints.

Mr. Kelly’s indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, accuses him of being the leader of a criminal enterprise that included his managers, bodyguards, drivers and members of his entourage.

The enterprise recruited women and underage girls for illegal sexual contact and then isolated and threatened them to keep them under control and prevent them from going to the authorities, the indictment alleges.

If convicted, Mr. Kelly, who also faces federal charges of pornography and obstruction in Chicago, could face up to 20 years in prison.

On Wednesday, Judge Donnelly said the trial date would not be postponed despite the possible late upheaval. “It sounds like nobody is asking for an adjournment of trial, which I wouldn’t grant in any event,” the judge said.

Mr. Greenberg had represented Mr. Kelly, 54, since 2018, before he was charged in the criminal case. But both he and Mr. Leonard said their joint departure was spurred by agitation with two other lawyers on the case, who they said lack trial experience at the federal level and began to demand a larger, more forward-facing role in the trial.

The two had twice sought to discuss those concerns with Mr. Kelly, Mr. Greenberg said. But the singer rejected both attempts to meet with him. “It’s unfortunate because these other people are clueless,” Mr. Greenberg said in an interview. “But that’s his choice. You can’t save someone from themselves.”

When asked by the judge if he wanted to move forward with just half of his legal team, Mr. Kelly responded, “Absolutely, yes, ma’am.”

Since his arrest in July 2019, Mr. Kelly has been held in a federal detention facility in Chicago. He is expected to be moved to New York closer to the trial date, as a prosecutor said his lawyers wanted him to remain in Illinois for as long as possible.

June 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Justice Department Seeks to Defend Trump in Suit Over Rape Denial, Alan Feuer and Benjamin Weiser, June 8, 2021 (print ed.). Donald Trump is facing a defamation lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll, who has accused Mr. Trump of raping her.

During the presidential campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr., then the Democratic candidate, slammed his opponent, Donald J. Trump, for a highly unusual legal move: bringing in the Justice Department to represent him in a defamation lawsuit stemming from a decades-old rape allegation.

Justice Department log circularAt one of their debates, Mr. Biden accused Mr. Trump of treating the Justice Department like his “own law firm” in the suit, filed against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll. “What’s that all about?” he sarcastically asked.

But on Monday night, nearly eight months after Mr. Biden’s attack, his own Justice Department essentially adopted Mr. Trump’s position, arguing that he could not be sued for defamation because he had made the supposedly offending statements as part of his official duties as president.

In a brief filed with a federal appeals court in New York, the Justice Department acknowledged that Mr. Trump’s remarks about Ms. Carroll were “crude and disrespectful,” but the department also claimed that the Trump administration’s arguments were correct — a position that could lead to Ms. Carroll’s lawsuit being dismissed.

Mr. Biden has repeatedly said he wants to restore the Justice Department’s traditional independence from the White House — a stance that has been echoed by several of his top picks for the department’s leadership.

Even so, the late-night filing caught many, including Ms. Carroll’s lawyers, by surprise and marked another twist in a protracted legal battle.

 

May

May 27

Actor Danny Masterson is shown at left with defense attorney Thomas Mesereau during this 2020 arraignment on multiple rape charges.

Actor Danny Masterson is shown at left with defense attorney Thomas Mesereau during this 2020 arraignment on multiple rape charges.

Los Angeles Times, Scientology’s secrets spill into open in Danny Masterson rape case, James Queally, Matthew Ormseth, May 27, 2021. The Church of Scientology works hard to keep its inner workings out of the public eye.

It has hired private detectives to keep tabs on straying members, and experts say its lawyers vigorously defend against legal incursions, arguing to judges that Scientology’s beliefs are not courtroom fodder.

But at a hearing last week in the rape case against actor Danny Masterson, church officials were unable to stop their practices from being debated in open court.

Three women took the stand to recount sexual assaults allegedly committed by the celebrity Scientologist, and each told similar stories of how church officials tried to stop them from reporting Masterson to police.

One woman testified that a church official instructed her to write a statement showing she would “take responsibility” for a 2001 assault, in which she alleges Masterson raped her while she was unconscious.

Another woman, who was born into Scientology and planned to report Masterson to police in 2004, a year after she said he raped her at his Hollywood mansion, recounted how a Scientology attorney showed up at her family’s home. The lawyer, according to the woman, warned that she would be expelled from the church if she went to authorities.

“We’re going to work out how you can not lose your daughter,” the attorney told the woman’s father, according to her testimony.

The focus on Scientology during the preliminary hearing, which stretched over four days and included lengthy discussions of internal church texts and doctrine, wasn’t lost on Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Charlaine Olmedo.

In ruling that there was sufficient evidence against Masterson to allow the case to proceed toward trial, Olmedo concluded that Scientology has “an expressly written doctrine” that “not only discourages, but prohibits” its members from reporting one another to law enforcement. The policy explained why several of the women did not report Masterson’s alleged crimes to the police for more than a decade, the judge found.

It was a type of public dissection that is unusual for the insular, enigmatic institution. The church, which counts a number of high-profile actors among its parishioners and operates a “Celebrity Centre” in the heart of Hollywood, has long been accused of going to extraordinary lengths to keep criminal allegations and other claims of wrongdoing in-house, experts said.

“The activities of Scientology have been so much a part of the evidence that’s being put forth as to why these women were not immediately going to law enforcement ... that it’s sort of brought the dirty laundry out into public view, which is exactly what Scientology does not want to have happen,” said Mike Rinder, the church’s former top spokesman, who left the faith in 2007.

In statements to The Times, the church denied it has a policy that dissuades members from reporting crimes, despite repeated references to Scientology texts during the hearing that appeared to include the directive. Karin Pouw, the church’s top spokeswoman, said Olmedo’s comments were “flat-out wrong” and dismissed the allegations against Masterson as “nothing more than a money shakedown” by women who are also engaged in a civil suit against him.

The women, Pouw claimed without evidence, are parroting comments made by Leah Remini, an actress who became an outspoken critic of Scientology after breaking with it in 2013. Rinder is a co-executive producer with Remini of an A&E series about Scientology.
Church of Scientology leader's father struggles to escape the religion

“Church policy explicitly demands Scientologists abide by all laws of the land, including the reporting of crimes. This is blatantly clear in the documents we understand were put before the Court — and many others,” Pouw wrote, repeatedly noting the church is not a party in the criminal case. “The Court either did not read them in full or ignored them. It should have done neither. Interpretation of Church doctrine by the courts is prohibited and the ruling is evidence of why.”

The case against Masterson, who starred in the 2000s sitcom “That ’70s Show,” is a relatively rare example of a Scientologist facing criminal charges based on accusations from other church members, Rinder said.

The church’s doctrine generally dismisses government institutions like courts as invalid and directs members to deal with complaints internally, said Rinder, who described himself as having worked closely with L. Ron Hubbard, the late science fiction author who founded the church. Knowing that contacting law enforcement can lead to excommunication and being cut off from family and friends who remain in the church, members often remain silent, according to Rinder and testimony delivered in court last week.

The case against Masterson, Rinder added, is also unusual for the outsize role the inner workings and rules of Scientology played at the preliminary hearing — a likely preview of what is to come if the case goes to trial. For the most part, Rinder said, cases involving the church have played out in civil court, where lawyers for Scientology have largely been successful in convincing judges that its practices are irrelevant.

“Scientology had managed to persuade courts … that you can’t inquire into our religious practices and beliefs and have managed to dissuade much discussion about Scientology,” Rinder said.

Murder suspect Alan Lee Phillips, center, shown in a file photo, is shown with his alleged 1982 victims Annette Schnee, left, and Barbara Jo

Murder suspect Alan Lee Phillips, center, shown in a file photo, is shown with his alleged 1982 victims Annette Schnee, left, and Barbara Jo "Bobbi" Oberholtzer.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Rescued in Colorado Mountain Pass Is Accused in 1982 Murders, Maria Cramer, May 27, 2021. Alan Lee Phillips was rescued from a snowdrift in 1982 after he signaled SOS with his headlights. The police now say he became trapped on the road after killing two women.

On a January night in 1982, Alan Lee Phillips was found shivering in his pickup, stuck in a snowdrift on a treacherous mountain pass in central Colorado.

A rescue worker tracked him down after Mr. Phillips, then 30, used his headlights to blink the Morse code signal for SOS and caught the attention of a passenger on a plane flying overhead. Asked what he had been thinking, taking such a dangerous road in subzero temperatures, Mr. Phillips, looking dazed, said he was coming back from a bar, according to the police.

“You find out how lonely it is really quick,” Mr. Phillips later said, according to a newspaper article from the time. “I thought about walking to a ski area nearby, and went about 200 yards and thought, ‘No way.’ It was too cold.”

Nearly 40 years later, the police now say they know where Mr. Phillips was really coming from that night, and what might have caused him to take the perilous route. The authorities say he had just shot two young women and left them to die near the mountain town of Breckenridge.

“It was his own stupidity that got him up there, because the pass is not passable in the wintertime,” said Sergeant Wendy Kipple of the Park County Sheriff’s Office. “I don’t know what he was thinking, other than he was trying to run away from a crime he had just committed.”

Mr. Phillips, now 70, was charged in February with first-degree murder, assault and kidnapping in the killings of Annette Schnee and Barbara Jo Oberholtzer after DNA evidence linked him to their deaths.

Mr. Phillips, a semiretired mechanic living in Clear Creek County, west of Denver, has been held in the Park County Jail since his arrest. He is being represented by a lawyer with the state’s public defender’s office, which did not respond to requests for comment.

 chad perkins missouri house

Missouri House Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Dist. 40, standing, represents parts of Ralls, Monroe, Lincoln, and Pike counties. He was elected to his first two-year term in November 2020 and lives in Bowling Green. 

St. Louis Today, Report alleges Missouri lawmaker had sex with teen when he was a cop, Kurt Erickson and Jack Suntrup, May 27, 2021.A Missouri lawmaker allegedly used his position as a cop to receive a “sexual favor” from an intoxicated teenage girl in 2015 and his boss, the Pike County sheriff, is accused of attempting to obstruct a probe as the deputy ran for a seat in the Legislature last year, the Post-Dispatch has learned.

According to a report obtained from Frankford Police Chief Josh Baker in response to an open records request, state Rep. Chad Perkins, a Bowling Green Republican, allegedly accepted “sexual favors from a teenage girl while on duty” as a police officer.

The report said the Pike County prosecutor, as well as state and federal investigators have been alerted to the allegations. The speaker of the Missouri House, Rep. Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, also has been notified of the incident.

The speaker forwarded the information to the House Ethics Committee.

republican elephant logoIn an April 19 memo that was attached to the report, Baker writes to Vescovo, and officials working for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the attorney general’s office and the Peace Officer Standards & Training Program.

“I implore your offices to investigate this ongoing criminal activity,” he said.

Perkins, 42, is a freshman lawmaker who was elected to the northeast Missouri House seat in 2020. He represents parts of Ralls, Monroe, Lincoln, and Pike counties.

Perkins said his relationship with the 19-year-old was consensual and the controversy is the product of a local political feud over his decision to not publicly endorse Baker’s wife in her bid for Pike County assessor in the 2020 election.

“There is no victim. There’s nothing to that. It was just political sour grapes because I wouldn’t help his wife out,” Perkins said.

Among the bills Perkins supported this year is one heading to Gov. Mike Parson’s desk that says a law enforcement officer who engages in sexual conduct with a detainee or prisoner who is in the custody of such officer shall be guilty of a class E felony.

The legislation was designed to curtail police officers from using their power as law enforcement officers to gain sexual favors from people under their control.

May 25

Melinda Gates, left, and Bill Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson of the Associated Press).

Melinda Gates, left, and then-husband Bill Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson of the Associated Press).

Unz Review, Investigation: The Cover-Up Continues: the Truth About Bill Gates, Microsoft, and Jeffrey Epstein, Whitney Webb, below right, May 25, 2021. While more revelations about the Bill Gates–Jeffrey Epstein relationship have begun trickling out following the Gates’s divorce announcement, the strong evidence pointing to their relationship beginning decades prior to 2011 continues to be covered whitney webb newer smileup by the media—not necessarily to protect Bill but to protect Microsoft.

In early May, the announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates would be divorcing after twenty-seven years of marriage shocked both those that praise and those that loathe the “philanthropic” power couple.

Less than a week after the initial announcement of the divorce, on May 7, the Daily Beast reported that Melinda Gates had allegedly been “deeply troubled” by Bill Gates’s relationship with child sex trafficker and intelligence asset Jeffrey Epstein. The report suggested that Melinda was a major reason for her husband’s decision to distance himself from Epstein around 2014 because of her discomfort with Epstein after they both met him in 2013. That previously unreported meeting had taken place at Epstein’s mansion on New York’s Upper East Side.

The Daily Beast also revealed that the details of the Gates’s divorce had been decided several weeks prior to the official announcement. Then, on May 9, the Wall Street Journal published a report suggesting that the plans for divorce went back even farther, with Melinda having consulted divorce lawyers in 2019. Allegedly, that consultation was made after details of Bill Gates’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein had gained considerable mainstream media attention, including from the New York Times.

While mainstream media outlets apparently agree that Jeffrey Epstein was a likely factor in the Gates’s recently announced split up, what these same outlets refuse to cover is the real extent of the Bill Gates–Jeffrey Epstein relationship. Indeed, the mainstream narrative holds that Gates’s ties to Epstein began in 2011, despite the evidence pointing to their relationship beginning decades earlier.This blanket refusal to honestly report on the Gates-Epstein ties likely is due to Gates’s outsized role in current events, both in terms of global health policy as it relates to COVID-19 and in his being a major promoter and funder of controversial technocratic “solutions” to a slew of societal problems.

What is more likely, however, is that the nature of the relationship between Gates and Epstein before 2011 is even more scandalous than what transpired later, and it may have major implications not just for Gates but for Microsoft as a company and for some of its former top executives.

microsoft logo CustomThis particular cover-up is part of an obvious tendency of mainstream media to ignore the clear influence that both Epstein and members of the Maxwell family wielded—and, arguably, continue to wield—in Silicon Valley. Indeed, the individuals who founded tech giants such as Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, and Amazon all have connections with Jeffrey Epstein, some closer than others.

This investigation is adapted from my upcoming book One Nation Under Blackmail, which will be released early next year and will include a more complete investigation into Epstein’s ties to Silicon Valley, scientific academia, and intelligence agencies.

The Evening Standard Mystery

In 2001, perhaps the most important article ever written about Jeffrey Epstein was published. The article, which focused mainly on Ghislaine Maxwell’s and Epstein’s relationship with Prince Andrew, was published on January 22, 2001, in London’s Evening Standard. The article, written by Nigel Rosser, was never retracted and was published well before Epstein’s first arrest and the onset of his public notoriety. It has, nevertheless, since been removed from the Evening Standard’s website and can now only be found on professional newspaper databases. I made a PDF of that article and several other scrubbed Epstein-related articles publicly available in October 2019.

The full article here can also be accessed here: Download

Key statements made in the article make it clear why it was removed from the internet, apparently in the wake of Epstein’s first arrest in Florida. Rosser introduces Epstein as “an immensely powerful New York property developer and financier,” a nod to Epstein’s past in the New York real estate market. Later in the article, he notes that Epstein “once claimed to have worked for the CIA although he now denies it,” one of several likely reasons why the article was removed from the internet well before Epstein’s second arrest in 2019.

prince andrew jeff epstein news syndication CustomMuch of the article notes the closeness of Epstein and Maxwell to Prince Andrew (shown at left with Epstein) and suggests that both wielded considerable influence over the prince, largely due to Maxwell’s role as his “social fixer.” It states that Maxwell was “manipulating” the prince and that “the whole Andrew thing is probably being done for Epstein.”

One line stands out, however, as the first major clue toward demystifying the true origin the of the Gates-Epstein relationship. Soon after Rosser introduces Epstein in the article, he states that Epstein “has made many millions out of his business links with the likes of Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner, whose trust he runs.”

Both Wexner’s and Trump’s relationships with Epstein prior to 2001 are well known and date back to 1985 and 1987, respectively. Mainstream media, however, continue to report that Gates and Epstein first met in 2011 and have declined to follow the leads laid out by Nigel Rosser. I am personally aware of this withholding of information to a degree as a BBC reporter contacted me in 2019 for details about this 2001 Evening Standard article, which I provided. To date, the BBC has never reported on the contents of that article. Notably, the BBC has received millions in funding for years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Not only was Rosser’s article never retracted, but neither Gates, Trump, nor Wexner disputed the claims made in the article at the time, which was well before Epstein became notorious. In addition, given that Gates is named alongside two known close Epstein associates at the time—Donald Trump and Leslie Wexner—it further suggests that Gates’s ties to Epstein prior to 2001 were considerable enough to warrant his mention alongside these two other men.

.....

The ties of Epstein and the Maxwells to Silicon Valley, not just to Microsoft, are part of a broader attempt to cover up the strong intelligence component in the origin of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies. Much effort has been invested in creating a public perception that these companies are strictly private entities despite their deep, long-standing ties to the intelligence agencies and militaries of the United States and Israel. 

TThe true breadth of the Epstein scandal will never be covered by mainstream media because so many news outlets are owned by these same Silicon Valley oligarchs or depend on Silicon Valley for online reader engagement.

Perhaps the biggest reason why the military/intelligence origins and links to the current Silicon Valley oligarchy will never be honestly examined, however, is that those very entities are now working with breakneck speed to usher in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which would make artificial intelligence, automation, mass electronic surveillance, and transhumanism central to human society. One of the architects of this “revolution,” Klaus Schwab, said earlier this year that rebuilding and maintaining trust with the public was critical to that project. However, were the true nature of Silicon Valley, including its significant ties to serial child rapist and sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein and his network, to emerge, the public’s trust would be significantly eroded, thus threatening what the global oligarchy views as a project critical to its survival.

ny times logoNew York Times, Chicago Priest to Be Reinstated After Inquiry Finds Proof of Sex Abuse Lacking, Azi Paybarah, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). There is “insufficient reason to suspect” that the Rev. Michael Pfleger is guilty, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced, The Rev. Michael Pfleger, an influential Roman Catholic priest who temporarily stepped aside from his parish on the South Side of Chicago in January after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor more than 40 years ago, will be reinstated after an internal investigation found “insufficient reason to suspect” he was guilty, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced on Monday.

In a letter to the Faith Community of St. Sabina, the parish where Father Pfleger is assigned, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich said that the archdiocese’s Independent Review Board and its Office of Child Abuse Investigation and Review, as well as outside investigators, had “conducted a thorough review of the allegations.”

“The Review Board has concluded that there is insufficient reason to suspect Father Pfleger is guilty of these allegations,” the cardinal wrote. He said he accepted the decision and would reinstate Father Pfleger to his position as senior pastor at the church beginning June 5.

Father Pfleger, who did not return a telephone message left at his church or an email sent on Monday evening, wrote on Facebook that he was “overjoyed” by the decision to reinstate him after having been removed “because of False Accusations.”

A separate investigation by the Chicago Police Department is continuing. “It is still an open and active investigation,” Steve Rusanov, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement.

The inquiry into Father Pfleger was announced on Jan. 5., after the archdiocese received an allegation that he sexually abused a minor more than 40 years ago. “Allegations are claims that have not been proven as true or false,” Cardinal Cupich wrote at the time. “Therefore, guilt or innocence should not be assumed.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Gillibrand teams up with Hawley on a measure to combat sexual assault in the military, Jennifer Steinhauer, May 25, 2021. The lawmakers are on opposite ends of nearly all things kirsten gillibrand opolitical, but they are working together on a bill designed to improve the military’s response to sexual assault.

One of the most interesting new alliances in the Senate these days is between Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, right, Democrat of New York, and Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, who have been working together on the Senate Armed Services Committee on possible solutions to sexual assault in the military.

josh hawley missouriMr. Hawley, left, has repeatedly praised Ms. Gillibrand for her work on the issue culminating in bipartisan legislation to change the way those crimes are handled. Ms. Gillibrand has often sought out Mr. Hawley, a first-term lawmaker and vocal supporter of former President Donald J. Trump, directly for such work, even though the two are on opposite ends of nearly all things political.

The two are planning on Tuesday to introduce a bill designed to improve one of the military’s sexual assault response coordinators, which came under scrutiny after the killing of a soldier at Fort Hood, and an ensuing report that showed many members of the coordination team lacked training to help victims of assault

May 22

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP challenger to Cheney says he impregnated 14-year-old when he was 18: ‘It’s like the Romeo and Juliet story,’ Timothy Bella, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). Wyoming state Sen.Anthony Bouchard, a Republican who has announced his intention to challenge Rep. Liz Cheney (R) for her House seat, acknowledged Thursday that he had impregnated a 14-year-old and had liz cheney oa relationship with her when he was 18, comparing the teen intimacy to Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.”

Bouchard, right, first acknowledged that he impregnated a girl when he was 18 in a Facebook Live video, but did not initially disclose her age. He confirmed to the Casper Star-Tribune that the girl was14 and the couple, who were both living in Florida, later married when she was 15 and he was 19.anthony bouchard“So, bottom line, it’s a story when I was young, two teenagers, girl gets pregnant. You’ve heard those stories before,” he said in the Facebook Live video. “She was a little younger than me, so it’s like the Romeo and Juliet story.”

An 18-year-old having sex with a 14-year-old is considered statutory rape in most states. His actions would have been illegal under current Florida state law. It’s not clear what Florida’s laws were at the time as Bouchard did not specify the year the girl was impregnated. In cases where a pregnancy was involved, Florida law at the time allowed for people to marry at any age with a judge’s approval and consent from a parent.

republican elephant logoBouchard did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. He noted in his Facebook video that there was “pressure to abort a baby,” but claimed he and the girl, who has not been publicly identified, wouldn’t allow it.

“And there was pressure to have her banished from their family. Just pressure. Pressure to go hide somewhere,” he said on Facebook. “And the only thing I could see as the right thing to do was to get married and take care of him.

 

anthony michael peace

Tampa Bay Times, Hillsborough teacher dead after arrest in child predator sting, Jack Evans, May 22, 2021 (print ed.). A county spokesperson confirmed the death of Anthony Micheal Peace, 37, shown above in a mug shot, who was released from jail Thursday after being arrested May 19 on felony charges of unlawful use of a two-way communications device, use of computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts, and five counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor.

He died after being released from jail May 20, a county spokesperson said.

Associated Press, Epstein guards to skirt jail time in deal with prosecutors, Michael Balsamo, May 22, 2021. The two Bureau of Prisons workers tasked with guarding Jeffrey Epstein the night he killed ap logohimself in a New York jail have admitted they falsified records, but they will skirt any time behind bars under a deal with federal prosecutors, authorities said Friday.

The prison workers, Tova Noel and Michael Thomas, were accused of sleeping and browsing the internet instead of monitoring Epstein, right, the night he took his own life in August 2019.

They were charged with lying on prison records to make it seem as though they had made required checks on the financier before he was found in his cell. New York City’s medical examiner ruled Epstein’s death a suicide.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderAs part of the deal with prosecutors, they will enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department and will serve no time behind bars, according to a letter from federal prosecutors that was filed in court papers Friday. Noel and Thomas would instead be subjected to supervised release, would be required to complete 100 hours of community service and would be required to fully cooperate with an ongoing probe by the Justice Department’s inspector general, it says.

Justice Department log circularThe two have “admitted that they ‘willfully and knowingly completed materially false count and round slips regarding required counts and rounds’” in the housing unit where Epstein was being held, the letter says.

The deal would need to be approved by a judge, which could happen as soon as next week. Attorneys for the guards did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who has been a vocal critic of the Justice Department’s handling of Epstein’s case, called the deal “unacceptable” and said the public deserves to see a report detailing the prison agency’s failures.

“One hundred hours of community service is a joke — this isn’t traffic court,” Sasse said in a statement. “The leader of an international child sex trafficking ring escaped justice, his co-conspirators had their secrets go to the grave with him, and these guards are going to be picking up trash on the side of the road.”

Prosecutors alleged that Noel and Thomas sat at their desks just 15 feet from Epstein’s cell, shopped online for furniture and motorcycles, and walked around the unit’s common area instead of making required rounds every 30 minutes.

During one two-hour period, both appeared to have been asleep, according to the indictment filed against them.

Both officers who were guarding Epstein were working overtime because of staffing shortages. One of the guards, who did not primarily work as a correctional officer, was working a fifth straight day of overtime. The other guard was working mandatory overtime, meaning a second eight-hour shift of the day.

May 21

 

matt gaetz ginger luckey reagan portrait facebook

Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, R-1st District), is shown in a photo distributed via Facebook with Ginger Luckey, described as his fiancee. 

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend has officially flipped on him, Bill Palmer, right, May 21, 2021 There had been rumblings for the past week that it might be coming, and now here it is. Matt bill palmerGaetz’s ex-girlfriend has now flipped on him, according to CNN, and is cooperating with the Feds in their criminal investigation into whether Gaetz participated in underage sex trafficking and other crimes. This is a big deal for a few reasons.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, it gives the Feds an additional cooperating witness on top of Joel Greenberg, who earlier this week formally cut a cooperating plea deal of his own. The Feds apparently considered the ex-girlfriend’s cooperation so paramount, they previously threatened to charge her with obstruction of justice if she didn’t cooperate.

Second, awhile back Matt Gaetz went on the air and claimed that he and his ex-girlfriend had dinner with Tucker Carlson and his wife, causing Carlson to panic and claim he had no idea what was going on. By all accounts, this same ex-girlfriend is the one who just flipped on Gaetz. So whatever she knows about that dinner with Gaetz and Carlson, the Feds are about to know all about it.

CNN, Matt Gaetz's ex-girlfriend to cooperate with federal authorities in sex trafficking investigation, Paula Reid, David Shortell and Gloria Borger, May 21, 2021. Federal authorities investigating alleged sex trafficking by GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz have secured the cooperation of the congressman's ex-girlfriend, according to people familiar with the matter.

The woman, a former Capitol Hill staffer, is seen as a critical witness, as she has been linked to Gaetz as far back as the summer of 2017, a period of time that has emerged as a key window of scrutiny for investigators. She can also help investigators understand the relevance of hundreds of transactions they have obtained records of, including those involving alleged payments for sex, the sources said.

CNNNews of the woman's willingness to talk, which has not been previously reported, comes just days after the Justice Department formally entered into a plea agreement with Joel Greenberg, a one-time close friend of Gaetz whose entanglement with young women first drew the congressman onto investigators' radar.

CNN reported last week that investigators were pressing for the woman's cooperation. The sources would not say whether she had reached a formal cooperation agreement.

Information from Greenberg in the lead-up to his plea agreement has already helped investigators further their scrutiny of the congressman. As he worked towards a plea deal with federal prosecutors in recent months, Greenberg told investigators that Gaetz and at least two other men had sexual contact with a 17-year-old girl, CNN has learned. Gaetz has repeatedly denied he ever had sex with a minor or paid for sex.

"Congressman Gaetz doesn't seem to be named nor referenced in Mr. Greenberg's plea," said Gaetz spokesman Harlan Hill. "Congressman Gaetz has never had sex with a minor and has never paid for sex. Mr. Greenberg has now pleaded guilty to falsely accusing someone else of sex with a minor. That person was innocent. So is Congressman Gaetz."
Justice Department spokesman Joshua Stueve declined to comment to CNN. The ex-girlfriend's lawyer Timothy Jansen also declined to comment.

Greenberg plea agreement

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorThat allegation by Greenberg, right, described to CNN by multiple people familiar with the matter, is referenced briefly in an 86-page plea agreement that a federal judge accepted on Monday and is now at the center of the ongoing investigation into Gaetz. But prosecutors did not include any names in the court filing.

According to the plea agreement, Greenberg had sex with the girl "at least seven times when she was a minor" and "introduced the Minor to other adult men, who engaged in commercial sex acts with the Minor" in central Florida.

Greenberg's cooperation on the subject is a primary reason that 27 of the 33 charges he had been facing were wiped away. The extent to which he backs it up will have an impact on his final prison sentence. But already, a Gaetz associate, one of the men accused by Greenberg, has denied the allegation in a meeting with federal prosecutors, the associate told CNN.

Gaetz and his representatives have attacked Greenberg's credibility in recent days, pointing to the fact that Greenberg admitted in his plea agreement to falsely accusing someone of having sex with a minor.

"If the government is brave enough to call Joel Greenberg as a witness, [Marc] Mukasey and [Isabelle] Kirshner are champing at the bit to take him on," a person close to Gaetz's defense team said, referring to the congressman's two high-profile attorneys.

"We're ready for a fair fight on the facts and the law. Anywhere. Anytime. But the steady stream of leaks by anonymous sources undermines the integrity of this process. It is simply and unequivocally improper," the attorneys said in a statement to CNN.

Asked earlier this week about Greenberg's readiness to potentially testify against Gaetz, Fritz Scheller, Greenberg's defense attorney, said, "Mr. Greenberg has pled guilty pursuant to a plea agreement and has certain requirements and obligations on him and he intends to honor that."

As part of his plea agreement, Greenberg is required to cooperate fully with the federal government in other ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

Gaetz, who has not been charged with a crime, is also under investigation over allegations of prostitution and public corruption, CNN has reported. He has long denied having sex with the 17-year-old in public statements and interviews.

Gaetz associate meets with federal investigators

The Gaetz associate who met with the Justice Department earlier this month told CNN that investigators spent the bulk of the meeting asking questions about the congressmen and parties with young women, including the 17-year-old. Investigators appeared to be focused on encounters that took place in the summer of 2017, the associate said.

The associate, who was one of the men Greenberg told investigators had engaged in a sex act with the 17-year-old, denied to investigators that he had ever met the woman or had sexual contact with her in 2017, he told CNN. He also says he provided them with an independently administered polygraph exam that he had taken days before the meeting.

Details of the associate's meeting with investigators and the polygraph exam were first reported by Politico.

He shared with CNN details of his contact with investigators on the condition his name not be used.

Gaetz probe includes scrutiny of potential public corruption tied to medical marijuana industry

Investigators also briefly asked questions about possible influence peddling revolving around the medical marijuana industry and a 2020 Florida Senate race in which a third-party candidate ran as a spoiler, the associate added.

The associate said his meeting with investigators followed a December 2020 subpoena that requested communications and payments between him and Gaetz, Greenberg, and another man, from January 2016 to the present.

The subpoena indicated a grand jury was investigating allegations "involving commercial sex acts with adult and minor women, as well as obstruction of justice," the associate said.

There are new signs of investigative activity too, after sources had recently told CNN the FBI was mostly done gathering evidence.

One person familiar with the matter said that federal investigators have sought information from new witnesses as recently as this month, including communications and payments from a group of men that included Gaetz and Greenberg.

May 17

Bill and Melinda Gates in 2019  (Associated Press Photo by Elaine Thompson).

Bill and Melinda Gates in 2019  (Associated Press Photo by Elaine Thompson).

ny times logoNew York Times, Long Before Divorce, Bill Gates Had Reputation for Questionable Behavior, Emily Flitter and Matthew Goldstein, May 16, 2021. By the time Melinda French Gates decided to end her 27-year marriage, her husband was known globally as a software pioneer, a billionaire and a leading philanthropist.

But in some circles, Bill Gates had also developed a reputation for questionable conduct in work-related settings. That is attracting new scrutiny amid the breakup of one of the world’s richest, most powerful couples.

In 2018, Ms. French Gates wasn’t satisfied with her husband’s handling of a previously undisclosed sexual harassment claim against his longtime money manager, according to two people familiar with the matter. After Mr. Gates moved to settle the matter confidentially, Ms. French Gates insisted on an outside investigation. The money manager, Michael Larson, remains in his job.

microsoft logo CustomOn at least a few occasions, Mr. Gates pursued women who worked for him at Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to people with direct knowledge of his overtures.

In 2019, Microsoft’s board of directors, on which Mr. Gates sat, opened an investigation into one of those cases after being notified that he had “sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” Frank X. Shaw, a Microsoft spokesman, said on Sunday. The board hired a law firm to investigate. The following year, Mr. Gates stepped down from Microsoft’s board. The Wall Street Journal reported the 2000 incident and the board’s investigation.

“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” said Bridgitt Arnold, a spokeswoman for Mr. Gates. “Gates’s decision to transition off the board was in no way related to this matter.”

And then there was Jeffrey Epstein, whom Mr. Gates got to know beginning in 2011, three years after Mr. Epstein, who faced accusations of sex trafficking of girls, pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution from a minor. Ms. French Gates had expressed discomfort with her husband spending time with the sex offender, but Mr. Gates continued doing so, according to people who were at or briefed on gatherings with the two men.

So, in October 2019, when the relationship between Mr. Gates and Mr. Epstein burst into public view, Ms. French Gates was unhappy. She hired divorce lawyers, setting in motion a process that culminated this month with the announcement that their marriage was ending. 

It is not clear how much Ms. French Gates knew about her husband’s behavior or to what degree it contributed to their split.

The announcement of their divorce has brought attention to a marriage whose dissolution has large social and financial implications. Multiple people said that during their marriage, Mr. Gates engaged in work-related behavior that they said was inappropriate for a person at the helm of a major publicly traded company and one of the world’s most influential philanthropies.

Ms. Arnold disputed the characterization of his conduct and the couple’s divorce.

“It is extremely disappointing that there have been so many untruths published about the cause, the circumstances and the timeline of Bill Gates’s divorce,” Ms. Arnold said.

“Your characterization of his meetings with Epstein and others about philanthropy is inaccurate, including who participated,” she continued. “Similarly, any claim that Gates spoke of his marriage or Melinda in a disparaging manner is false. The claim of mistreatment of employees is also false. The rumors and speculation surrounding Gates’s divorce are becoming increasingly absurd, and it’s unfortunate that people who have little to no knowledge of the situation are being characterized as ‘sources.’”

Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates met at work. He was technically her boss. He ran Microsoft, and she began working there in 1987 as a product manager the year after she graduated from college.

Throughout their relationship, the two have played up the cute aspects of their office romance. He flirted with her when they sat together at a conference, then asked her out when they ran into each other in a company parking lot, according to Ms. French Gates, who described their relationship’s beginnings during a public appearance in 2016.

Long after they married in 1994, Mr. Gates would on occasion pursue women in the office.

In 2006, for example, he attended a presentation by a female Microsoft employee. Mr. Gates, who at the time was the company’s chairman, left the meeting and immediately emailed the woman to ask her out to dinner, according to two people familiar with the exchange.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bill Gates acknowledges an affair with an employee, which Microsoft investigated, Jay Greene, May 17, 2021. The confirmation of the affair and investigation comes two weeks after Gates and Melinda French Gates announced plans to divorce.

Bill Gates acknowledged through a spokeswoman that he had an extramarital affair with a Microsoft employee, which Microsoft said led its board to investigate the “intimate relationship” shortly before he resigned from the board last year.

microsoft logo CustomIt is not clear what role the investigation or the affair, which took place two decades ago, played in the decision the Microsoft co-founder and his wife, Melinda French Gates (shown together in a 2019 photo above), made to divorce after 27 years of marriage. When they announced their divorce earlier this month, the couple posted identical and simultaneous tweets saying that “after a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.”

In a divorce filing that day, French Gates called the marriage “irretrievably broken.”

“There was an affair almost 20 years ago which ended amicably,” Gates’s spokeswoman, Bridgitt Arnold, said in an emailed statement.

French Gates’s divorce lawyer, Robert Cohen, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Members of Microsoft’s board in 2019 looked into a Microsoft engineer’s allegations that she had a sexual relationship with Gates, according to Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw.

“Microsoft received a concern in the latter half of 2019 that Bill Gates sought to initiate an intimate relationship with a company employee in the year 2000,” Shaw said in an emailed statement. “A committee of the Board reviewed the concern, aided by an outside law firm to conduct a thorough investigation. Throughout the investigation, Microsoft provided extensive support to the employee who raised the concern.

May 16

ny times logoNew York Times, A Kevin Spacey Accuser Tried to Sue Anonymously. A Judge Said No, Graham Bowley, May 14, 2021 (May 16, 2021 (print ed.). As sexual assault cases proliferate, judges must weigh accusers’ requests for anonymity against the tradition of open courts and fairness toward defendants.

The man said he was 14 years old when he was sexually assaulted by the actor Kevin Spacey in the early 1980s. Last year he filed a lawsuit against Mr. Spacey in which he sought to maintain anonymity, identifying himself in court papers only as “C.D.”

kevin spaceyEarlier this year the judge in the case, which is being heard in the Southern District in New York, ordered the man’s lawyers to identify him privately to Mr. Spacey’s lawyers. And this month the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, went further: he ruled that C.D. would have to identify himself publicly if he wanted to continue on to trial.

The man’s lawyers responded Thursday that he would not, writing that the “sudden unwanted attention that revelation of his identity will cause is simply too much for him to bear.” They said in a letter to the court that they expect him to be removed from the case — which involves another plaintiff, who is using his real name — but suggested that they plan to pursue an appeal.

In the #MeToo era, as more people have been turning to civil courts with accounts of sexual assault, judges are increasingly being asked to weigh the strong desire of many accusers to maintain their anonymity against the presumption of openness in the court system and the ability of the accused to defend themselves.

“It’s the idea of balancing an open court system with the idea of protecting someone’s right to seek relief,” said Jayne S. Ressler, an associate professor of law at Brooklyn Law School.

May 15

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) is pictured with Megan Zalonka, a county government contractor, right, in a photo via Twitter and Daily Mail US, which reported on May 15, 2021 that Gaetz

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) is pictured with Megan Zalonka, a county government contractor, right, in a photo via Twitter and Daily Mail US, which reported that Gaetz "is said to have snorted cocaine and had sex with her." No information was reported about the woman portrayed at left.

Daily MailOnline US, 'One of 15 women Matt Gaetz paid for sex with was an escort and Instagram model who led a cocaine-fueled party after 2019 GOP fundraiser and was paid $17,500 from taxpayers' money to be a social media expert but did NOTHING,' Harriet Alexander and Jen Smith and Rachel Sharp, Updated May 15, 2021.

  • joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorJoel Greenberg, right, Gaetz's friend, will plead guilty on Monday on six felonies
  • He will also agree to cooperate as a witness and tell all to investigators
  • Greenberg will discuss Gaetz and escort Megan Zalonka, it is claimed
  • Gaetz allegedly brought Zalonka, an escort and Instagram model, to a 2019 fundraiser
  • At an after-party in Gaetz's Orlando hotel room, Zalonka allegedly cut lines of cocaine
  • Greenberg will say Zalonka is one of more than 15 women Gaetz paid for sex, it is claimed
  • Greenberg paid Zalonka for a non-existent job in his role as tax collector
  • Zalonka was given $3,500 a month of taxpayer cash for no work, it's claimed
  • Gaetz has insisted he has never paid for sex, or had sex as an adult with a minor
  • Greenberg's plea deal was filed in court in Florida on Friday morning
  • Scandal-hit congressman Matt Gaetz snorted cocaine and had sex with an escort who was paid taxpayers money for a separate role that involved no work, a new report claims.

Matt Gaetz's 'wingman' Joel Greenberg will appear in court on Monday to plead guilty to six counts of fraud and sex crimes, it was reported on Friday. He will accuse Gaetz of paying prostitute Megan Zalonka after a cocaine-fueled party at a Trump fundraiser.

Greenberg, a former Florida tax collector, will accuse Gaetz of paying at least 15 young women for sex, The Daily Beast reported.

Megan Zalonka TwitterAmong them is Zalonka, left, an escort and amateur Instagram model, who was Gaetz's date in October 2019 at the Trump Defender Gala in Orlando.

She is said to have been paid up to $15,000 of taxpayers money by Greenberg after he hired her for a social media manager job in Seminole County, Florida, that did not require Zalonka to do any work, a new report claims.

After the gala, an after-party was held in Gaetz's hotel room, The Daily Beast reported.

matt gaetz officialZalonka, 28, chopped up lines of cocaine, which she and Gaetz took together, a new report claims.Two sources told the site that Zalonka and the Florida congressman, right, had an ongoing financial relationship in exchange for sex. However, the Daily Beast could not confirm that Zalonka and Gaetz had sex the night of the gala.

'She was just one of the many pieces of arm candy he had,' said one source familiar with the encounters between Gaetz and Zalonka.

The congressman wrote off the stay at the hotel as a campaign expense, with his donors picking up the tab.

Zalonka had, in 2017, used her relationship with Greenberg -- who according to reports worked to procure women for Gaetz -- to secure a $3,500-a-month social media job at Seminole County in Florida.

She was paid with taxpayer funds, and yet never worked in the office, and did not appear to do any work, it is alleged.

She earnt up to $17,500 from Greenberg, the site reported.

The 'work' began in December 2017, when she liaised with Greenberg while creating her own company, MZ Strategy Group LLC.

The next month, Greenberg awarded her a county contract, agreeing to pay her $3,500 a month for 'management of digital content' and 'production of social media engagements.'

Zalonka's firm received $3,500 installments in Seminole County taxpayer funds in January and April 2018, according to an analysis of Greenberg's government spending obtained via a public records request.

Auditors flagged other $3,500 installments in February, March, and May 2018, in the form of suspicious cash advances directly to Greenberg.

Accountant Daniel J. O'Keefe, who led a forensic audit of Greenberg's alleged self-dealing, said tax collector employees told him the woman behind the company was a mystery.

O'Keefe added that he found no proof Zalonka ever provided the services itemized in her contract with Greenberg.

'I have no idea what they were doing. And employees wouldn't know what they were doing. Totally a no-show job,' O'Keefe said.

matt gaetz djt selfie facebookGreenberg, who is married, would also transfer large sums of cash to Zalonka via Venmo -- one of 40 women the 37-year-old regularly paid, it is alleged.

His Venmo records show that he paid her $500 for 'Stuff,' another $500 for 'Orher stuff' [sic], and $1,000 for 'Pool.'

On a single day in November, he paid her $500 for 'Food' and another $500 for 'Appetizers.'

Gaetz, a prominent Trump defender as illustrated by an undated self above right and the featured speaking role at a 2019 "Trump Defender" rally, has denied ever paying women for sex.

matt gaetz featured trump defender gala 2019A public relations firm he has hired, Logan Circle Group, said in a statement: 'Congressman Gaetz won't be commenting on whether he dated or didn't date specific women.

'The privacy of women living private lives should be protected.'

Harlan Hill, the president of the firm, did not address questions about cocaine, the party, or the fundraiser, when asked by The Daily Beast.

Mark J. O'Brien, a criminal defense lawyer, said the allegations about Zalonka were not 'accurate' but said she would not be clarifying.

Zalonka is currently communications director for the American Medical Marijuana Physicians Association -- a group founded by Gaetz's friends, and which he has openly supported.

On Friday morning federal prosecutors dropped 27 charges against Greenberg in exchange for his cooperation and testimony.

Greenberg had been facing 33 counts with a maximum of life behind bars but his plea deal reveals he has reached a deal to plead guilty to just six of those charges; sex trafficking a child, using a fake ID, identity theft, wire fraud, stalking and conspiring to commit a crime against the US.

The plea deal doesn't specify what he'll be sentenced to but it does confirm he will cooperate with the ongoing investigation into Gaetz, and testify at court if necessary.

The most severe charge he will plead to is paying a 17-year-old girl for sex, trafficking her across state lines and giving her drugs with other men -- which is what might implicate Gaetz.

The sex trafficking charge has a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison.

The charges that have been dropped include four domestic violence charges, one sex trafficking charge, nine fraud charges, bribing a public official, and a range of lesser identity theft and fraud charges.

Prosecutors say depending on how much he assists them going forward, they'll recommend various levels of leniency when it comes to Greenberg's sentencing.

Greenberg, a disgraced tax collector, also has to forfeit $650,000.

He was arrested last year and immediately started telling the feds about Gaetz and how they 'sex trafficked' together to get himself a deal.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Matt Gaetz is in the weeds, Bill Palmer, May 15, 2021.When Matt Gaetz went on a national tour this month, some took it as a sign that he was somehow magically going to escape bill palmerthe federal criminal investigation that was closing in on him. After all, the defeatist logic went, Gaetz wouldn’t be out there strutting on stage like that unless he knew he was magically going to get off the hook.

Of course nothing works that way, which is why that kind of defeatist logic nearly always results in predictions and interpretations that prove to be wildly incorrect. If anything, Gaetz was either trying to prove to himself that he was somehow not in trouble, or if he did understand what was coming, he was looking for one last hurrah while raising money on tour for his criminal defense.

bill palmer report logo headerWe now know that because the Feds went ahead and gave Joel Greenberg a plea deal, even though he’s a confessed underage sex trafficker. Prosecutors don’t give a scumbag like that a cooperating plea deal unless they know for certain that the scumbag has the goods on other, more important scumbags. The kicker is that all along, Gaetz knew precisely how much dirt Greenberg had on him, even though we didn’t. So Gaetz presumably knew that Greenberg had enough on him to qualify for a deal. Yet Gaetz went on tour anyway, knowing this day was coming, and coming soon.

Here is Matt Gaetz’s last tweet before the Greenberg deal was formally announced: “People are saying the Strongsville GOP has never sold more tickets to an event in its history. Join me in Ohio Saturday!”

Gaetz should be hunkered down with the best lawyers he can afford, focusing on a criminal defense strategy that just might convince a trial jury of reasonable doubt, or figuring out how he can try to flip on even bigger fish. Instead he’s in Strongsville, Ohio, trying to convince us – or himself – that none of this is happening to him.

May 7

 

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary and Opinion: Qanon and pedophilia -- Hold your cards, we have a Bingo! Wayne Madsen, left, May 7, 2021. U.S. Representatives Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMarjorie Taylor-Greene (R-GA) are kicking off their "America First" national tour at the Brownwood Hotel and Spa in The Villages, a central Florida retirement community that is over 70 percent Republican.

The pairing of Gaetz, who is under federal investigation for being involved in an Orlando-based sex trafficking ring involving minors, and Taylor-Greene, a Qanon advocate who believes that leading Democrats are involved in child sex trafficking operations that use pizza restaurants as fronts, points to the dirty secret that it is the far-right and Qanon that are involved in pedophilia and child sexual exploitation.

It does not take the political marriage of Gaetz, who is suspected of committing other bizarre sexual crimes, and Taylor-Greene, who subscribes to the Qanon "Pizzagate" nonsense, to shine the light on the fact that it is Qanon and their far-right allies who are involved in international satanic pedophilia activities.

May 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court declines to revisit precedent that restricts lawsuits from service members, Robert Barnes, May 4, 2021 (print ed.). Justice Clarence Thomas said the court should have granted a former West Point cadet’s suit over an alleged rape.

The Supreme Court on Monday turned down an attempt by a former West Point cadet to sue the military academy’s leadership over her alleged sexual assault.

It was the latest unsuccessful plea to justices to revisit a 70-year-old court precedent that restricts lawsuits against the government when the alleged injuries arise from military service.

As he has in the past, Justice Clarence Thomas said it was time for the court to take another look at the Feres Doctrine. It comes from a 1950 decision that Thomas said mistakenly expanded a limited exception in the Federal Tort Claims Act concerning combat-related injuries.

May 1

Daily Beast, Commentary: Guys Like Gaetz ‘Don’t Think They’re Paying for Sex,’Prostitution, sugaring, or being a trophy wife may be a matter of degree, Jessie Sage, Updated May 1, 2021.
Likewise with paying for time, paying for attention, paying for fantasy fulfillment, or paying for sex.

daily beast logoA lot of men like to think that they’re paying for something else, but women who have done the work say there’s no question that sex is part of the package—along with emotional labor.

matt gaetz o CustomWhile Matt Gaetz, right, denies purchasing sex, he admits to having paid for hotel rooms and flights for lovers: “I’ve been, you know, generous as a partner.”

His scandal has been free advertising for the sugar daddy site Seeking Arrangements, which claims to match beautiful young women (sugar babies) and successful older men (sugar daddies) in “mutually beneficial relationships.”

While the direct exchange of sex for money (i.e., prostitution) is against the site’s terms of service, Seeking Arrangements doesn’t shy away from asserting on its front page that the benefit for sugar babies is being pampered.

“Indulge in shopping sprees, expensive dinners, and exotic travel vacations,” the site promises. You can guess what the benefit is for the daddies, including Gaetz, who is alleged to have used Apple Pay and Cash App to pay multiple women from the site for sex—and also a 17-year-old girl—with payments funneled through his close associate Joel Greenberg, who the Beast reported this week drafted a confession letter, while trying to purchase a presidential pardon from Roger Stone, admitting to those payments he made for himself and his friend Matt.

 

April

April 29

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

Daily Beast, Bombshell Note: Gaetz Paid for Sex With Minor, Wingman Says, Jose Pagliery and Roger Sollenberger, April 29, 2021. The Daily Beast has obtained a confession letter that Joel Greenberg wrote after asking Roger Stone to help him obtain a pardon.

A confession letter written by Joel Greenberg in the final months of the Trump presidency claims that he and close associate Rep. Matt Gaetz paid for sex with multiple daily beast logowomen—as well as a girl who was 17 at the time.

“On more than one occasion, this individual was involved in sexual activities with several of the other girls, the congressman from Florida’s 1st Congressional District and myself,” Greenberg wrote in reference to the 17-year-old. “From time to time, gas money or gifts, rent or partial tuition payments were made to several of these girls, including the individual who was not yet 18. I did see the acts occur firsthand and Venmo transactions, Cash App or other payments were made to these girls on behalf of the Congressman.”

The letter, which The Daily Beast recently obtained, was written after Greenberg asked Roger Stone to help him secure a pardon from then-President Donald Trump.

FBI logoIn late 2020, Greenberg was out of jail and in communication with Stone. A series of private messages between the two—also recently obtained by The Daily Beast—shows a number of exchanges between Greenberg and Stone conducted over the encrypted messaging app Signal, with communications set to disappear. However, Greenberg appears to have taken screenshots of a number of their conversations.

“If I get you $250k in Bitcoin would that help or is this not a financial matter,” Greenberg wrote to Stone.

“I understand all of this and have taken it into consideration,” Stone replied. “I will know more in the next 24 hours I cannot push too hard because of the nonsense surrounding pardons.”

“I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident,” Stone wrote to Greenberg on Jan. 13.

In a text message to The Daily Beast, Stone said that Greenberg had tried to hire him to assist with a pardon but he denied asking for or receiving payment or interceding on his behalf. He did, however, confirm he had Greenberg prepare “a document explaining his prosecution.”

They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.

— Message from Joel Greenberg to Roger Stone

In the private text messages, Greenberg described his activities with Gaetz, repeatedly referring to the congressman by his initials, “MG,” or as “Matt.”

“My lawyers that I fired, know the whole story about MG’s involvement,” Greenberg wrote to Stone on Dec. 21. “They know he paid me to pay the girls and that he and I both had sex with the girl who was underage.”

As part of the effort to obtain a pardon, Greenberg wrote multiple drafts of his confession letter. The Daily Beast obtained two typed versions and an earlier handwritten one. Certified forensic document examiner and handwriting expert Wendy Carlson compared the letter to writing samples obtained through two public records requests. She said it was her professional expert opinion that the person who authored a 2019 financial disclosure for Joel Greenberg, as well as Greenberg’s 2020 board of elections form, was the same as the author of the letter.

“The person who authored the forms has been identified as the person who authored the letter,” Carlson said.

In those letters, Greenberg detailed his relationship with Gaetz. He confessed to paying young women for sex. And he claimed that he, Gaetz, and others had sex with a minor they believed to be 19 at the time. Greenberg said he learned she was underage on Sept. 4, 2017 from “an anonymous tip” and quickly contacted Gaetz.

“Immediately I called the congressman and warned him to stay clear of this person and informed him she was underage,” Greenberg wrote. “He was equally shocked and disturbed by this revelation.”

Justice Department log circularGreenberg continued in the handwritten draft that he “confronted” the then-17-year-old and explained to her “how serious of a situation this was, how many people she put in danger.”

“She apologized and recognized that by lying about her age, she endangered many people,” he continued. “There was no further contact with this individual until after her 18th birthday.”

But after she reached the age of legal consent in Florida, Greenberg reestablished contact. As The Daily Beast previously reported, about five months after her 18th birthday, Gaetz sent Greenberg $900 in two Venmo transactions—one titled “Test” and the other titled “hit up ___.” The blank, however, was a nickname for this girl, and Greenberg paid her and two other women a total of $900 about six hours later.

In his confession letter, Greenberg also admitted he facilitated Gaetz’s interaction with college students—and paid them on his behalf.

“All of the girls were in college or post college and it was not uncommon for either myself or the Congressman to help anyone [sic] of these girls financially, whether it was a car payment, a flight home to see their family or something as simple as helping pay a speeding ticket,” Greenberg wrote.

A partial record of Greenberg’s Venmo and Cash App transactions suggests that payments were usually for a lot more than “gas money.” The Daily Beast identified more than 150 Venmo payments from Greenberg to women, as well as more than 70 additional payments on the Cash App, that were generally between $300 and $500—though some exceeded $1,000. The Daily Beast also talked to 12 of the more than 40 different women who received money, and they all said they understood Greenberg was paying them at least in part for sex.

Greenberg, a disgraced local politician in Florida, currently faces a sweeping 33-count indictment that ranges from stalking to sex trafficking. In March, The New York Times revealed that the initial investigation into the Seminole County tax official expanded as agents looked into his role in arranging paid sexual encounters for his friend, Matt Gaetz.

Federal prosecutors have not criminally charged Gaetz—or even publicly confirmed the expansion of their probe. While Gaetz acknowledges the existence of the investigation, he denies having sex with an underage teen. But at some point, Greenberg began to cooperate with investigators, a development his lawyer has suggested poses a serious problem for Gaetz.

That defense lawyer, Fritz Scheller, declined to comment on this story, citing attorney-client privilege.

Gaetz’s office did not respond. However, Logan Circle Group, an outside public relations firm Gaetz has hired, sent the following statement:

“Congressman Gaetz has never paid for sex nor has he had sex with a 17 year old as an adult. We are now one month after your outlet and others first reported such lies, and no one has gone on record to directly accuse him of either. Politico, however, has reported Mr. Greenberg threatening to make false accusations against others, which seems noteworthy for your story and in fact sounds like the entirety of your story. Congressman Gaetz has had no role in advocating for or against a pardon for Greenberg and doubts such a pardon was ever even considered.”

The Politico article does not say Greenberg was threatening to make false accusations against others, but does say that an associate claimed Greenberg had warned friends that “everyone is going to need a lawyer.”

In the final months of the Trump presidency, Greenberg and Stone exchanged several texts about a pardon over the encrypted messaging app Signal. While images show that the pair frequently set messages to automatically delete, Greenberg regularly took screenshots of their communications.

Stone, who received a presidential commutation in July but at the time had not yet been pardoned, communicated with Greenberg for months about his desire for a pardon.

The messages show that in November, the pair discussed putting together a “document,” which later took the form of a confession letter and background missive about all the ways in which Greenberg had been loyal to Trump. In their early conversations, Greenberg told Stone that the letter was “about 8-10 pages” and asked if it should be shortened.

“No,” Stone replied, “use as much space as you need to tell the story fully but be certain to include your leader ship [sic] for Trump prominently.”

Greenberg almost immediately responded that he had “killed” himself for Trump. “And I’ve killed my self [sic] for Matt,” he said. 

 roger stone headshot

Palmer Report, Opinion: Roger Stone caught allegedly seeking $250,000 bribe to get Trump to pardon Matt Gaetz pal Joel Greenberg, Bill Palmer, right, April 29, 2021. This evening the Daily Beast broke the bill palmerbombshell that Joel Greenberg wrote a letter confessing that he and Matt Gaetz both had sex with an underage girl. If Greenberg’s claims can be substantiated, then Gaetz will go to prison for sure. But it turns out Gaetz may not be the only one.

bill palmer report logo headerTwo weeks ago it was reported that Roger Stone, shown above, was hanging out with Greenberg and Gaetz, at Greenberg’s hotel, during the weekend that Greenberg allegedly paid for sex with an underage girl. Then a week ago it was reported that Gaetz paid Stone $5,000 in nonsensical consulting fees, which was a red flag given that Stone is apparently a material witness in the case against Gaetz.Now the Daily Beast is reporting that in late 2020, Joel Greenberg offered Roger Stone $250,000 to convince Donald Trump to pardon Greenberg and Gaetz. Stone replied that “I hope you are prepared to wire me $250,000 because I am feeling confident.” Greenberg committed a crime by offering to pay for a pardon, and Stone committed a crime by acknowledging that he wanted to get paid if he was able to make the pardon happen.

Roger Stone is claiming that the $250,000 was a legal retainer, and that he declined it. But Stone isn’t a lawyer, so this was obviously not a retainer, and the text messages show that Stone made clear that he wanted the money.

Will Stone now claim that he was merely joking, or that his text messages have been fabricated by someone on the other end? This just keeps getting uglier for him.

April 28

scott stringer campaign resized

ny times logoNew York Times, Scott Stringer, New York Mayoral Candidate, Is Accused of Sexual Assault, Dana Rubinstein, Jeffery C. Mays and Katie Glueck, April 28, 2021. Jean Kim said Mr. Stringer (shown above in a campaign photo) assaulted her when she was an unpaid intern on his campaign 20 years ago and warned her not to tell anyone. He denied the allegation.

A woman who said she worked as an unpaid intern on a 2001 election campaign for Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller who is now running for mayor, has accused him of sexually assaulting her 20 years ago.The woman, Jean Kim, now a political lobbyist, said at a news conference on Wednesday that Mr. Stringer, without her consent, “repeatedly groped me, put his hands on my thighs and between my legs and demanded to know why I would not have sex with him.”

She said that Mr. Stringer warned her not to tell anyone about his advances, some of which she said took place during taxi rides.

Mr. Stringer, through his campaign press secretary, Tyrone Stevens, said on Wednesday that he and Ms. Kim had an “on-and-off romantic relationship.” But he denied the crux of her allegations on Tuesday evening, saying they were “untrue and do not reflect my interactions with anyone, including any woman or member of my staff.”

Mr. Stringer was expected to hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

Ms. Kim said Mr. Stringer, who was then a state assemblyman running for New York City public advocate, had offered to make her the first Asian Democratic Party district leader on the Upper West Side, with one proviso.

“You would have to prove yourself to me,” she recalled Mr. Stringer saying.

Ms. Kim said she did not come forward earlier because she was “fearful of his vindictive nature and that he would retaliate against me and destroy my career in politics.” Her lawyer said that Ms. Kim faced less of a risk now that she was transitioning away from political work

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Shift Could Be Coming in How Military Law Addresses Sexual Assault, Jennifer Steinhauer, April 28, 2021 (print ed.). Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has fought for years to remove commanders from deciding assault cases. Now, more colleagues and a Pentagon panel agree.

After decades of failing to curb sexual assault in the armed forces, lawmakers and Pentagon leaders are poised to make major changes in military laws that many experts have long argued stand in the way of justice.

kirsten gillibrand oA bill championed by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, right, Democrat of New York, would remove military commanders from a role in prosecuting service members for sexual assault and has gained support from scores of key members of Congress. Among them is Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa and a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel, who said her joni ernst oown experience with assault and her daughter’s stories from West Point helped shift her views on the issue.

“I have been torn,” Ms. Ernst, left, said in an interview. “On the one hand, I was a commander in the National Guard and know how important that role is. But also, as a sexual assault survivor, I know we have to do more. I never really wanted to take this out of chain of command, but we are not seeing a difference.”

Ms. Ernst’s nod on a new bipartisan measure is likely to attract several other key lawmakers, whose combined support could usher in the biggest change to military rules since the repeal of the ban on service by gays and lesbians in 2010. Other senators — many of whom voted against the measure in the past — said in interviews that they had waited long enough for the military to solve the problem and agreed that Congress should step in.

 April 27

 

aaron von ehlinger

Idaho Rep. Aaron von Elhlinger, show above in a campaign photo, has been accused of raping an intern, age 19 (Idaho Statesman photo).

Associated Press via ABC News, Idaho lawmaker accused of rape was warned about his behavior, Rebecca Boone, April 27, 2021. An Idaho lawmaker facing rape allegations from a 19-year-old intern was ap logopreviously warned against hitting on women who work at the Statehouse after his colleagues heard complaints from other staffers, according to documents gathered by the Legislature’s ethics committee and obtained by The Associated Press.

The investigation into Lewiston Republican Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s conduct began in March when a 19-year-old legislative intern told a supervisor that the 38-year-old lawmaker raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner at a restaurant.

The Boise Police Department has a criminal investigation underway, and the Legislature’s Ethics Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on Wednesday to determine if the lawmaker “engaged in conduct unbecoming a representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House.” The Associated Press obtained the investigatory documents on Monday via a public records request.

republican elephant logoaaron von ehlinger oVon Ehlinger, left, has denied the allegations and maintains the sexual encounter was consensual. He has not responded to requests for comment from the Associated Press, but according to the documents he told the ethics committee that he was surprised by the complaint and that he was falsely accused.

“I take my my service seriously, both to my Country and to my State and the idea that I would be out doing something like this is um, preposterous,” he told the committee according to a transcript of the interview. “And it disgusts me to even be accused of it.”

The ethics committee documents include text messages, letters and transcriptions of interviews the committee did with von Ehlinger, his colleagues, other Statehouse staffers and the young intern who made the rape report. Several of those interviewed testified that they had grown concerned about von Ehlinger’s behavior after hearing that he had flirted with staffers or otherwise made women who worked at the Statehouse uncomfortable.

One staffer asked a supervisor for help after she said von Ehlinger made her feel uncomfortable and asked her on a date. That situation was resolved with an email from the staffer who told the lawmaker that she was married and not comfortable being alone with him, according to the documents.

In another instance, a lobbyist reported that von Ehlinger followed her around and made her feel uncomfortable during events outside the Statehouse, and that at one event she was worried he might have even rifled through her purse in an attempt to find her home address.

During his testimony, von Ehlinger told the committee that he had previously asked out another woman who works on the Capitol grounds.

At various times, Speaker of the House Scott Bedke and House Majority Caucus Chair Rep. Megan Blanksma were alerted to the complaints, according to the documents. Blanksma was concerned enough that she asked a colleague to warn von Ehlinger that he needed to remain strictly professional and avoid any behavior that could be perceived as flirtatious.

Von Ehlinger did not seem receptive to the warning, Blanksma told the committee.

“I hate to attribute, you know, any particular attitude to him but, it was, he was defensive when he came upstairs and I don't know that he appreciated the effort or the spirit in which the suggestion was made," Blanksma said. “I felt that he was pushing back on me even suggesting that path forward.”

Von Ehlinger told the committee that despite the warning, he still thought it was appropriate to ask staffers out on dates because he believed if the individual had a problem with it, they would let him know, “and that the matter would be closed.”

The 19-year-old intern told the committee that von Ehlinger brought her back to his apartment instead of to her car after dinner because he said he had to pick up something first. When they were inside, she said he physically carried her to the bedroom and at one point he was kneeling on her with his knees on top of her shoulders.

She said she told von Ehlinger she didn’t want to have sexual contact and at one point lied and said she wasn’t on birth control in hopes that he would be dissuaded. She said the lawmaker ignored her, forcing her to have oral sex.

The documents also include transcripts of a call between the intern and von Ehlinger, in which she confronted him and said he forced her to perform oral sex.

“Like I told you I didn't wanna do that. I said I was was uncomfortable,” she told von Ehlinger during the call.

Von Ehlinger countered that he thought she was enjoying the physical interaction, but said he now has regrets.

“I um clearly made you feel uncomfortable,” he said, according to the transcript. “And um, I didn't know that at the time, but I do now. And that's why I'm, uh, like seriously remorseful about it.”

The intern told the ethics committee that the investigation had been overwhelming, but that she would do what she needed to in order to support the process. “And that's what I'm doing. I'm doing my job,” she said. “ ... I'm doing my best to hold my integrity.

Associated Press via ABC News, Idaho lawmaker accused of rape was warned about his behavior, Rebecca Boone, April 27, 2021. An Idaho lawmaker facing rape allegations from a 19-year-old intern was ap logopreviously warned against hitting on women who work at the Statehouse after his colleagues heard complaints from other staffers, according to documents gathered by the Legislature’s ethics committee and obtained by The Associated Press.

The investigation into Lewiston Republican Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger’s conduct began in March when a 19-year-old legislative intern told a supervisor that the 38-year-old lawmaker raped her at his apartment after the two had dinner at a restaurant.

Idaho Statesman, Idaho lawmaker accused of rape was warned about his behavior, Hayat Norimine, April 26, 2021. An Idaho lawmaker accused of sexual misconduct was warned in the past about his behavior toward women and told to stop, documents released to the Idaho Statesman on Monday afternoon show.

Documents related to the ethics complaint against Rep. Aaron von Ehlinger, right, a Lewiston Republican, show that a House leader directed another lawmaker to talk to von Ehlinger about his behavior aaron von ehlinger otoward women who worked at the Idaho Capitol.

The Ethics and House Policy Committee will hold a Wednesday hearing on a complaint of “inappropriate sexual conduct” by von Ehlinger after a 19-year-old legislative staffer accused him of forcing her into oral sex, according to documents released by the Idaho House of Representatives. The committee unanimously ruled there was “probable cause” after a month-long investigation. Von Ehlinger denied the allegation and said the sexual contact was consensual, according to ethics committee documents.

Newly released documents also provide more detail into the accusation. According to a Boise Police Department report, the accuser told “her supervisor that she had been raped” by von Ehlinger. The accuser described to ethics committee members that he had put himself on top of her with his groin in her face despite her having said “no.”

“I feel like you kind of used me,” she told von Ehlinger in a text message, and reiterated to him that she had told him “no.” She told him she hadn’t slept in days.

Boise Police said it’s investigating the allegation.

The definition of rape in Idaho code includes forced oral penetration. The Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, which is representing the accuser, declined to comment Monday night.
Blanksma ‘uncomfortable’ after being confronted by von Ehlinger

House Caucus Chair Megan Blanksma, R-Hammett, directed Rep. James Holtzclaw, R-Meridian, to speak to von Ehlinger after a lobbyist told her that von Ehlinger made her uncomfortable at a reception. Holtzclaw also has faced sexual harassment allegations in the past.

The woman told Blanksma that she “tried several times to move away. He continued to follow,” according to a transcript in the ethics committee documents. The woman said she believed von Ehlinger also followed her to the bathroom, Blanksma told the committee. Blanksma said she is keeping the woman anonymous upon her request.

james holtzclawHoltzclaw, left, told the committee that he took von Ehlinger out to lunch and advised him not to flirt with or date anyone in the Capitol. After the lunch, Blanksma told the committee that von Ehlinger confronted her about setting it up.

“He was defensive when he came upstairs, and I don’t know that he appreciated the effort or the spirit in which the suggestion was made,” Blanksma said.

He demanded to know more about the accusation, Blanksma said, and made her uncomfortable. Von Ehlinger asked her whether the complaint involved “some sort of touching incident,” and began to talk about a staff member. Blanksma said it caught her off guard.

Blanksma said she tries to keep fellow Republicans “all out of trouble,” she told the committee. She said she told him that she was trying to help him.

“He made a comment about, well, you know, he was single, tall, blond, good-looking guy and, you know, sometimes people take things the wrong way,” Blanksma said.

When asked about the power differential between von Ehlinger and the woman who spoke to her, Blanksma said she is a lobbyist “who relies on representative votes to make a living.”

Von Ehlinger told the committee he had “no idea” he was going against any policy.

republican elephant logo“I’ll tell you, if there was a House rule or a law against it, I guarantee all of you that I would have never engaged this person at all,” von Ehlinger told the committee.

In another instance, von Ehlinger asked a House clerk out to dinner, according to documents. She later emailed him to tell him she was married and felt uncomfortable spending time alone.

Carrie Maulin, House chief clerk, told the ethics committee that she was concerned about the “power differential” between von Ehlinger and the staffer, who told Maulin she felt uncomfortable speaking to him in person. The new members had also just had their “respectful workplace” training, Maulin said.

When asked about an “unspoken” understanding that there’s a hierarchy with representatives and staffers, Holtzclaw told the ethics committee that he believed it would be inappropriate to date staff members in the Legislature. Holtzclaw didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.

“You should not date anyone in this sphere of who we are, who we work with,” Holtzclaw told the committee, according to the transcript. “Anyone in this building is off-limits.”

April 22

blake bailey roth cover

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Allegations Against Biographer Halt Shipping of His Roth Book, Alexandra Alter and Rachel Abrams, Updated April 22, 2021. The publisher W.W. Norton, citing the accusations against the author, Blake Bailey, shown above left adjoining the cover of his new book, said it would stop promoting his new book on the novelist Philip Roth.

Earlier this month, the biographer Blake Bailey was approaching what seemed like the apex of his literary career. Reviews of his highly anticipated Philip Roth biography appeared before the book came out, with major stories in magazines and literary publications. It landed on the New York Times best-seller list this week.

Now, allegations against Mr. Bailey, 57, have emerged, including claims that he sexually assaulted two women, one as recently as 2015, and that he behaved inappropriately toward middle school students when he was a teacher in the 1990s.

His publisher, W.W. Norton, took swift and unusual action: It said on Wednesday that it had stopped shipments and promotion of his book. “These allegations are serious,” it said in a statement. “In light of them, we have decided to pause the shipping and promotion of ‘Philip Roth: The Biography’ pending any further information that may emerge.”

Norton, which initially printed 50,000 copies of the title, has stopped a 10,000-copy second printing that was scheduled to arrive in early May. It has also halted advertising and media outreach, and events that Norton arranged to promote the book are being canceled. The pullback from the publisher came just days after Mr. Bailey’s literary agency, The Story Factory, said it had dropped him as a client.

In an email Wednesday night, Mr. Bailey denied the allegations, calling them “categorically false and libelous.” A lawyer for Mr. Bailey, Billy Gibbens, said in an email that his client “disagrees with Norton’s decision to stop promoting his book.” Some of the allegations were reported earlier by The Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate and The Los Angeles Times.

April 21

April 18

The Circle of Hope Ranch and Boarding School in rural Missouri is now closed after abuse charges against its proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (Cedar County Republican photo).

The Circle of Hope Ranch and Boarding School in rural Missouri is now closed after criminal abuse charges against its proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (Cedar County Republican photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Will abuse charges at a boarding school finally push Missouri to regulate faith-based institutions? David Von Drehle, right, April 18, 2021 david von drehle twitter(print ed.). Adolescence is stormy for most young people, and for some it is a Category 5. Parents of struggling teenagers can find themselves at wit’s end — which is often located in rural Missouri.

For some parents of troubled girls, wit’s end has been the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in rural Cedar County, Mo. The year-round boarding school offered structure and discipline in a Christian environment, but that’s not what an investigation by the Missouri attorney general’s office found. Last month, the state filed more than 100 charges against the proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (shown at left in a family photo and below right in mug shots), for offenses including statutory boyd householder stephanie householder family photorape, sodomy and child neglect.

The accusations against Boyd Householder include beatings, restraints in stress positions, humiliations (one girl’s face was shoved in horse manure) and other abuse, according to court documents. Stephanie Householder, Boyd’s wife, is the subject of 22 of the charges. The Householders, who closed the school in August, have pleaded not guilty; their estranged daughter Amanda differs, telling the Kansas City Star she believes the charges “100 percent.”

Before founding Circle of Hope in 2006, Boyd Householder worked at nearby Agapé Boarding School, another professedly Christian institution serving parents at wit’s end. Agapé is the Greek word for a beautiful concept: unconditional love. But the attorney general’s investigation has grown to include allegations that a boyd household stephanie householder mugssimilar culture of abuse exists at that school; no charges have been filed.

Laura Bauer and Judy L. Thomas, two reporters at the Star, began last fall detailing the results of their examination of religiously themed boarding schools for troubled youths in rural Missouri. It is no accident, Bauer and Thomas explained, that Missouri is where so many parents arrive at wit’s end. The state permits zero — repeat, zero — regulation or oversight of boarding schools that claim to be religious. Such schools are not even required by Missouri to announce their existence to state or local authorities in charge of educational standards or child safety, the pair of reporters found.

“Even after [abuse] reports are substantiated” by law enforcement authorities, “the state still has no authority over the operation of the schools,” they wrote in December.

This is a loophole big enough to drive a church bus through. It’s of a piece with rhetoric in Republican circles that freedom of religion is under assault in one of the world’s most pluralistic nations. The exemption has made Missouri a magnet of the worst kind: At least seven boarding schools have relocated from other states to Missouri after being investigated or shut down for child abuse, the Star has reported.

April 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Do We Let Corporations Profit From Rape Videos? Nicholas Kristof, below left, Video by Adam Westbrook and Lindsay Van Dyke, April 16, 2021 (for Sunday print ed.). With help from Google and PayPal, XVideos lets people leer at the worst moment in a child’s life. This article contains descriptions of sexual assaults.

nicolas kristoffThis isn’t about pornography, but about rape and sexual abuse.

“I’ve no problem with consensual adults making porn,” says a Canadian student. “Who cares?”The problem is that many people in pornographic videos weren’t consenting adults. Like her.

google logo customJust after she turned 14, a man enticed her to engage in sexual play over Skype. He secretly recorded her. A clip, along with her full name, ended up on XVideos, the world’s most-visited pornography site. Google searches helped direct people to this illegal footage of child sexual abuse.

In a video above this column, she recounts how she begged XVideos to remove the clip. Instead, she says, the website hosted two more copies, so hundreds of thousands of people could leer at this most mortifying moment of her life, preserved forever as if in amber.

That happens all over the world: Women and girls, and men and boys, are sexually assaulted or secretly filmed, and then video is posted on a major website like XVideos that draws traffic through search engines. While the initial video assault may be brief, the attack on dignity becomes interminable.

“The shame I felt was overwhelming,” the Canadian student says.

youtube logo CustomI wrote in December about Pornhub, a Montreal-based website that pioneered access to free porn uploaded by anyone — so-called tube sites that are like YouTube for nudity and sex. Since that article, credit card companies have stopped working with Pornhub, the site has removed more than nine million videos, and the Canadian and United States governments have been cracking down on the company’s practices.

But as I noted at the time, the exploitation is rooted not in a single company but in an industry that operates with impunity, and punishing one corporation may simply benefit its rivals. That’s happening here. When Pornhub deleted videos, millions of outraged customers fled to its nemesis, XVideos, which has even fewer scruples.

Pierre Woodman, a veteran European pornographer, told me that while I may have damaged Pornhub financially, for XVideos “you are Santa Claus.”

That’s not a comfortable feeling, and it’s why we need to work to rein in an entire rogue industry — and for now, the behemoth is XVideos, bolstered by Google and other search engines.

Santa Fe New Mexican, Former campaign staffer who accused Lujan Grisham of abuse receives settlement, Daniel J. Chacón, Updated April 14, 2021. The Republican Governors Association pounced on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Tuesday following revelations of a settlement of at least $62,500 with a former campaign staffer who accused the first-term Democrat of grabbing his genitals.

The association, which already has put a target on the governor’s back as she seeks a second term in office, dubbed the settlement “a $62,500 crotch grab.”

michelle lujan grisham 2018 Custom“After years of vehement denial, Governor Lujan Grisham’s now revealed sexual harassment settlement certainly raises questions of why she tried to discredit her alleged victim,” association spokesman Will Reinert wrote in an email. “Where there is smoke there is usually fire, and Lujan Grisham just wrote a check for $62,500 worth of kindling.”

Actually, a series of checks.

According to campaign finance reports filed Monday with the Secretary of State’s Office, the governor’s campaign, New Mexicans for Michelle, made five monthly payments of $12,500 each between November and March to Buckley Beale LLP, an Atlanta-based law firm representing James Hallinan, who served as Lujan Grisham’s communications director during her candidacy for governor.

“Governor Lujan Grisham and Mr. Hallinan have resolved any differences or issues to their satisfaction. I am not able to provide any further information,” Rachel Berlin Benjamin, a senior partner at the firm, wrote in an email.

Hallinan, who did not return a message seeking comment, accused Lujan Grisham, right, of sexual assault during a routine campaign meeting in the months leading up to the 2018 general election.

democratic donkey logoHallinan, who first alluded to the alleged assault in a 2019 Christmas Day tweet, told The New Mexican in an interview that year Lujan Grisham had dumped water on his crotch and then touched his genitals. He described the incident as a “slap and grab” that haunted him daily.

“It’s eaten away at me every single day, all the time. And I’m not the only one, like I tweeted,” he said at the time. “They can try to defame me and say I’m horrible, that I’m this or that. No one is perfect, and they can criticize me all they want, but that doesn’t change what happened.”

The settlement involved Hallinan, the governor and her gubernatorial campaign, and Dominic Gabello, who worked as her campaign adviser and now works in the Governor’s Office.

Nora Meyers Sackett, the governor’s press secretary, wrote in an email that “the state doesn’t have any comment as this is not official state business. Our office maintains there is no merit to the allegations.”

In a statement, campaign spokesman Jared Leopold said the agreement with Hallinan settles “numerous dubious and disputed potential claims made by Mr. Hallinan arising from his employment in 2018 with the campaign organization and his subsequent search for employment.”

In the 2019 interview with The New Mexican, Hallinan said he tried to leave Lujan Grisham’s campaign after the incident, but Gabello encouraged him not to go to the police and pressured him to stay on the campaign staff until the election.

“He pressured me on the phone later that night not to quit. I tried to quit,” Hallinan said. “And I wanted to talk and they didn’t want me to talk to law enforcement.”

Leopold also said the settlement agreement “fully resolves the disputed potential claims,” but he did not respond when asked if the total settlement was $62,500 or if future payments were planned.

“Governor Lujan Grisham, the campaign organization and Mr. Gabello strenuously deny that there is any merit or truth to Mr. Hallinan’s claims including his claims about difficulty finding or keeping work after the campaign,” he said in the statement. “They reached a settlement in order to avoid the continuing distraction and significant expense of possible litigation and allow them to concentrate on working for the people of New Mexico during this pandemic.”

Reinert, the Republican Governors Association spokesman, claimed the payments to Hallinan “certainly suggest that there must be some truth to the story” and wrote that Lujan Grisham “should publicly apologize to her victim for her behavior.”

While Leopold wouldn’t disclose whether the settlement exceeds $62,500, he called Reinert’s comments a Republican political attack that isn’t credible or true.

“There is no merit or truth to the claims,” he wrote.

In campaign finance reports, the payments were listed only as “legal expenses” to Buckley Beale LLP but didn’t state a purpose. The Republican Party of New Mexico tweeted that Lujan Grisham is “quietly paying off a former staffer” who accused her of grabbing his crotch after pouring a bottle of water on his genitals.

Alex Curtas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said the payments from campaign funds are a permissible expenditure under the Campaign Finance Act.

April 15

 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan,via Getty Images)

Miami Herald, Appeals court upholds deal that silenced Epstein victims, Julie K. Brown, April 15, 2021. Appeals court upholds Jeffrey Epstein deal that minimizedmiami herald logopunishment, silenced victims.

How a Miami Herald investigation "Perversion of Justice" and the voices of four brave survivors, once silenced by the courts, helped to blow up Jeffrey Epstein’s sweetheart deal,  Brittany Peterson | Emily Michot (Video investigation).

In a landmark decision, a U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected the 12-year quest of a Jeffrey Epstein survivor to hold the government accountable for giving the infamous child predator a clandestine deal that essentially allowed him to get out of jail after a minimal sentence, and, according to recent lawsuits, continue to abuse girls and women.

The 7-4 decision by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was split mostly along gender lines, with four female judges issuing a scathing rebuke of the majority’s interpretation of the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA). The decision, unless it is overturned on further appeal, could allow wealthy defendants to continue to arrange favorable plea deals from the government without any oversight or accountability, said an attorney who originally filed the challenge.

“The ruling is very disturbing. It sets up two systems of justice, one for wealthy defendants who can negotiate deals before charges are filed — and one for most criminal defendants, who don’t have the wealth and power to arrange those kinds of deals,’’ said the attorney, Paul Cassell.

The plaintiff, Courtney Wild, was 14 when she was first raped by Epstein at his Palm Beach mansion. Wild, now 33, has waged a one-woman crusade against the federal government on behalf of Epstein’s victims since the case was filed in 2008.

courtney wild

While underage, Courtney Wild was a victim of Jeffrey Epstein (Photo by Emily Michot / Miami Herald)

The court ruled that, because federal prosecutors never lodged criminal charges against Epstein — he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in state court in Palm Beach County — neither Wild nor any of Epstein’s victims has standing to successfully file such a challenge citing the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

perversion of justice miami herald logoCircuit Judge Kevin C. Newsom, in writing the majority’s opinion, said that while “we have the profoundest sympathy for Ms. Wild and others like her, who suffered unspeakable horror at Epstein’s hands, only to be left in the dark — and, so it seems, affirmatively misled by government attorneys,’’ the court nevertheless concludes that the CVRA doesn’t give crime victims the right to file a lawsuit or seek judicial enforcement of the law.

The CVRA, passed by Congress in 2004, enumerates certain rights that victims of crimes are entitled to during the criminal justice process. Among them: that victims have a right to confer with prosecutors about their case, that they should be treated with fairness and that they be given an opportunity to appear at sentencing.

Years later, Epstein's victims discuss the lasting impact of sexual abuse. Victims of Jeffery Epstein share the emotional toll that sexual abuse has taken on them — even years after the abuse occurred. Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown interviewed the young women, most speaking for the first time about Epstein. By Emily Michot | Julie K. Brown

Epstein signed a secret plea agreement with federal prosecutors in September 2007, agreeing to shift the case into state court. Despite the fact that a deal had jeffrey epstein sex offenderbeen negotiated and signed, federal authorities met with Wild in January 2008 and assured her that the investigation into Epstein was continuing. She didn’t learn about the deal until well after Epstein was sentenced and sent to the Palm Beach County jail, where he would serve just 13 months, most of it while on work release. He was let out for good in 2009.

Epstein’s deal was sealed by federal prosecutors at the behest of Epstein’s high-powered lawyers, who reasoned that if the victims found out, they might strenuously object and even convince the judge to derail the deal.

The Epstein case was detailed in a 2018 Miami Herald series, “Perversion of Justice,’’ that led federal prosecutors to take another look at the crime. Epstein was arrested on sex trafficking charges six months later in the Southern District of New York. One month after that, however, he was dead. The medical examiner ruled that he hanged himself at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.

frank hull resized In her dissenting opinion, Senior Circuit Judge Frank Hull, right, skewered the majority’s “sense of sorrow,’’ over not being able to give Epstein’s victims justice. Noting that the decision would have far-reaching impact in other cases involving wealthy defendants, she said the ruling “leaves federal prosecutors free to engage in the secret plea deals and deception’’ before criminal charges are ever made public, resulting in “the travesty” that happened in the Epstein case.

She also noted that “the Department of Justice’s failure to discipline its own prosecutors heightens the importance of the CVRA’s private right alexander acosta labor oof action.’’

DOJ’s investigation found that prosecutors exercised “poor judgment,’’ but stopped short of recommending sanctions against prosecutors, including Alexander Acosta, the U.S. Attorney in Miami who approved the secret deal.

Acosta (left, later U.S. Labor Secretary under President Trump) declined to comment on the ruling.

“Most would-be defendants lack resources and usually have no counsel during this pre-charge period,’’ Hull pointed out, referring to the time before a defendant is formally charged with a crime. “Consequently, they do not have the pre-charge opportunity to negotiate the kind of extremely favorable deal that Epstein received.’’

virginia roberts giuffre nbc screenshot
Virginia Roberts was working at Mar-a-Lago at age 17 when she was recruited to be a masseuse to Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein. She was lured into a life of depravity and sexual abuse. (Story by Emily Michot | Julie K. Brown, photo via recent NBC screenshot).

Cassell suggested that the case would be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the meantime, Wild continues to lobby Congress to pass the Courtney Wild Crime Victims’ Rights Reform Act, which would strengthen the law and close loopholes that federal prosecutors used to exploit the law and justify giving Epstein one of the most lenient plea deals for a serial sex offender in history.

His alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, was arrested in July and now faces sex trafficking charges in connection with Epstein’s crimes. Her trial is scheduled for July 2021.

Since Epstein’s arrest, several women have filed lawsuits claiming that they were sexually abused while Epstein was on work release and after he was released from jail.

Thus far, Epstein’s estate has paid out more than $67 million in damages to more than 175 victims who have come forward alleging they were abused by Epstein.

 

April 14

Springfield News-Leader, Missouri GOP state lawmaker Rick Roeber resigns amid allegations he abused his children, Austin Huguelet, April 14, 2021. A Kansas City-area lawmaker accused of sexually and physically abusing his children when they were younger submitted his resignation Tuesday as an investigation into his rick roeberbehavior neared completion.

Rep. Rick Roeber, R-Lee’s Summit, right, did not mention the allegations against him or an ongoing probe by the House ethics committee in a letter to the state House clerk. Instead, he said he’s leaving because he and his fiancée are preparing to move out of state to be closer to their extended families, including his ailing mother.

republican elephant logoRoeber, who was elected to a two-year term in November, said he only ever wanted to serve a single year to pass a bill naming a highway after his late wife, Rep. Rebecca Roeber, who died in 2019, and help pass school choice bills.

He said that because both things seem to be moving along well, he’s done what he set out to do and can now leave.

In reality, neither of his priorities has received final approval in both chambers, and a bill that would honor his late wife has yet to pass the House.
Allegations against Roeber

Roeber’s announcement also came as fellow lawmakers investigating the allegations against him appeared close to publishing damaging conclusions.

For months, he has denied allegations he made sexual advances toward his adopted daughter when she was 9 years old and physically abused his son, as reported by the Kansas City Star, which interviewed his ex-wife and their three children.

After Republicans barred him from their caucus meetings in December, he said he looked to a reversal “once these allegations have been dismissed by the Ethics Committee.”

More:Children of Missouri Rep.-elect say he abused them, House leaders to investigate

But last week, GOP leaders, including the ethics committee chair, told the Jackson County prosecutor they had “information that needs to be forwarded to the proper authorities in your jurisdiction,” according to a report in the Missouri Independent.

April 8

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), center, in a 2017 Facebook photo with friends and fellow ardent Trump supporters Roger Stone and Joel Greenberg, the latter a former Florida tax collector now facing trial on multiple federal felony charges alleging sex trafficking.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz associate likely to strike plea deal with prosecutors in sex trafficking case, Barbara Liston and Matt Zapotosky, An associate of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) who had been charged with sex trafficking of a minor and was suspected of connecting the congressmen to women with whom he could have sex is in plea negotiations to resolve the allegations against him, according to his lawyer and a prosecutor on the case, a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz if the associate ultimately cooperates with prosecutors in a bid for leniency.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorJoel Greenberg, right, the former tax collector for Seminole County, Fla., had first been charged last summer in a bare-bones indictment that prosecutors repeatedly superseded to add charges of sex trafficking of a minor, stealing from the tax office and even trying to use fraud to get covid-19 relief money while out on bond. In the course of the investigation into his conduct, people familiar with the matter have said, federal authorities came across evidence that Gaetz might have committed a crime and launched a separate investigation into him.

At a status conference in the case Thursday, federal prosecutor Roger Handberg told a judge he expected the case to end in a plea, though negotiations are ongoing. Fritz Scheller, an attorney for Greenberg, asked the judge to set a deadline of May 15 for the two sides to either reach a deal, or move toward a trial in the summer.

It was not immediately clear how far the negotiations had gotten, or to what extent a plea agreement would require Greenberg to cooperate with investigators. If matt gaetz officialprosecutors were to get Greenberg on their side as a cooperator, it is possible he could help bolster the case against Gaetz, a higher-profile target. A person who pleads guilty in a criminal case can often lessen their potential penalty by providing information that might be helpful to investigators in other matters.

Gaetz, left, known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, would boast to people in Florida politics that he met women through Greenberg, and he also showed them videos on his phone of naked or topless women on multiple occasions, including at parties with Greenberg, people familiar with the matter have said.

Greenberg had been a colorful political player in Seminole County, where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans.

A 2019 photograph that Greenberg posted on Twitter shows him with Gaetz at the White House. He also posted a picture in 2017 of him with Gaetz and Roger Stone, another well-known Trump political ally.

Wayne Madsen Report, Commentary: WMR's scoop on Gaetz's sex trafficking to Bahamas confirmed, Wayne Madsen, left, April 8, 2021. WMR's April 1 report that wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallRepublican U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida is under investigation for trafficking at least one underage girl to the Bahamas is gaining wayne madesen report logoadditional coverage.

Our report on Gaetz and his friend, indicted and jailed former Tax Collector of Seminole County Joel Greenberg, revealed that Greenberg and Gaetz trafficked underage girls across state and international lines. Our report was: "WMR has been told by knowledgeable sources that one international destination was the Bahamas."

 Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Six Compelling Pieces of Evidence Suggesting Matt Gaetz Was Concerned About Insurrection Planning, Not Sex Trafficking, seth abramson headshotWhen He Sought a Blanket Pardon From Trump, Seth Abramson, left, April 7, 2021. The NYT's theory of Gaetz's unprecedented proposal—taken, the paper concedes, from "Trump associates"—doesn't add up.

seth abramson proof logoAnd it may hide Gaetz's darker motives.Yesterday (April 6), the New York Times issued a stunning report alleging that Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), arguably former president Donald Trump’s most sycophantic congressional ally, asked the then-president for an unprecedented “blanket pardon” in the waning days of the Trump presidency. But behind this excellent reporting by the Times lies a significant journalistic error.

 

Eric Lipman

Eric Lipman, general counsel for the Florida Elections Commission, speaks during a 2019 meeting of the board. His mugshot did not appear in the Sheriff’s Office’s daily booking report because of a Sunshine Law exemption involving certain current or former state agency investigators and employees.

Tallahassee Democrat, Florida Elections Commission general counsel arrested on child porn charges, Jeff Burlew, April 8, 2021. The top lawyer for the Florida commission that investigates and prosecutes election law violations is facing charges of possession of child pornography.

Eric M. Lipman, general counsel for the Florida Elections Commission, was arrested Wednesday on 11 counts of the crime. He was taken to the Leon County Detention Center and later released.

The Leon County Sheriff’s Office announced his arrest Wednesday but did not mention his occupation and would not confirm it when asked, citing Sunshine Law exemptions. However, Tim Vaccaro, executive director of the commission, acknowledged the arrest in an email to the Tallahassee Democrat.

"The commission is fully cooperating with law enforcement’s investigation," Vaccaro said. "The employee has been placed on administrative leave pending further information."

The Sheriff’s Office’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force got a tip Feb. 24 from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children about child pornography that was transmitted through a Yahoo email account, according to court records.

That touched off a six-week investigation, culminating in the execution of a search warrant Wednesday at his home on Benchmark Trace. Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations assisted deputies at the scene, seizing personal and work computers and his iPhone.

Investigators obtained 19 files allegedly sent by Lipman’s email account and confirmed that each one contained child sexual abuse material, according to the arrest report.

They also found a number of internet searches on his work laptop involving child sexual abuse, pedophiles and children between the ages of 3 and 5, the report says.

Lipman, 59, agreed to speak with detectives, saying he understood his right to remain silent.

“Lipman confirmed the suspect email account belonged to him at the time of the incident, but refused to answer any further questions related to the email, or anything else related to the search warrant related material,” the report says.

He was put in double handcuffs and taken to the county jail. Leon County Judge Augustus Aikens placed him on pretrial release Thursday during his first court appearance.

Aikens ordered him to keep away from places where minors gather and to stay off the internet other than for matters involving work or his criminal case.

Lipman, a 59-year old Boston native well-known in Tallahassee legal circles, began working for the commission in 2001 as assistant general counsel, according to his online bio, which was later scrubbed from the agency's website. He earns $85,444 a year.

Before that, he worked as a senior attorney with the Florida Department of Children and Families in Leon, Wakulla and Franklin counties.

He also served as an officer with the Capital Soccer Association, a nonprofit soccer league for boys and girls ages 4 to 17, according to Florida corporate filings.

Lipman earned his law degree at the University of Miami School of Law and was admitted to the Nevada bar in 1991 and the Florida Bar in 1992. The Florida Bar confirmed it opened a case against Lipman following his arrest.

U.S. Political Tactics, Scandal

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is flanked by two visitors to his office in 2018, Cesaire McPherson at left in the photo and a friend. Merrill described them in a Facebook caption he posted as

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill is flanked by two visitors to his office in 2018, Cesaire McPherson at left in the photo and a friend. Merrill described them in a Facebook caption he posted as "“They are committed to supporting candidates who support families first!” McPherson is shown also at right below in a Facebook photo.

washington post logoWashington Post, Confronted with leaked phone call, Alabama Republican John Merrill admits to affair, drops Senate bid, Katie Shepherd, April 8, 2021. On Wednesday morning, Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill went on a local conservative radio show to deny a story posted by a right-wing blog claiming he had an affair with a legal assistant, who also accused him of using racist language. The story was a false smear designed to end his bid for U.S. Senate, he said.

“People are attempting to use this to either advance the candidacy of other people, or they are doing it primarily to harm me and my family,” he said on the radio. cesaire mcpherson facebook“It’s very frustrating and very sad.”

Hours later, when an AL.com reporter confronted him with a recording of an explicit phone call between Merrill and the woman, the politician changed his story. Merrill acknowledged the affair — and said that he would drop his plans to run for Senate.

“It’s clear that I had an inappropriate relationship with her, and it is not something that I am proud of or something that is something that — I’m very disappointed in myself,” Merrill, who is married with two children, told AL.com. “I’m also disappointed that I allowed my family to be embarrassed by this action. And it’s something that I certainly will always regret because of the pain that it has caused my family.”

April 7

ghislaine maxwell via reuters

The Telegraph via Yahoo News, Ghislaine Maxwell ordered to clean her 'very dirty and smelly' prison cell, Nick Allen, April 7, 2021. Prosecutors have accused Ghislaine Maxwell (shown above via a photo distributed by Reuters) of allowing her prison cell to become "dirty and smelly" by not cleaning it and regularly failing to flush her toilet.

In a lengthy letter to a judge they rejected allegations from Ms Maxwell's lawyers that her conditions were "fitting for Hannibal Lecter".

They also disputed suggestions the former socialite had lost 15 pounds, and some of her hair.

A claim that she had been physically abused during a pat-down search had been investigated and was "unfounded", they added.

Audrey Strauss, a New York prosecutor, wrote: "Staff directed the defendant to clean her cell because it had become very dirty.

"Among other things, staff noted that the defendant frequently did not flush her toilet after using it, which caused the cell to smell. In addition, the defendant had not cleaned her cell in some time."

Ms Maxwell, 59, has pleaded not guilty to sex trafficking charges and denies grooming girls for sex with Jeffrey Epstein.

A week ago, her lawyers suggested jail was having a "deleterious effect on her health" and she may not be "strong enough" to stand trial in July.

Ms Strauss said Ms Maxwell's lowest observed weight had been 133 lb and she was now 137.5 lbs, which was "normal" for her height of 5ft 7ins. She added that Ms Maxwell had "received a Covid-19 vaccine and is now fully vaccinated" and was "physically healthy".

Prosecutors said Ms Maxwell was being given more time to review documents than any other inmate at the jail in Brooklyn: 13 hours a day, seven days a week. For all that time she had access to a desktop computer, and a laptop, in a day room away from her cell, and was able to email her lawyers.

April 3

Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL), shown at left above, mocked coronavirus prevention measures last year by wearing a gas mask last year on Capitol Hill.

New York Post, Matt Gaetz and Florida pols played Harry Potter-themed ‘sex challenge’ game: report, Laura Italiano, April 3, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz and fellow Florida lawmakers played a creepy, competitive, “sex challenge” game while working at the statehouse ten years ago — in which participants won varying points depending on who they slept with, according to a new report.

Competitors could earn extra points for bedding a married legislator or spending the night at a college sorority house, a female GOP insider told Business Insider in the report, published Friday.

And anyone who slept with one particular conservative female politician “won the whole game regardless of points,” said the source, who spoke to Business Insider on condition of anonymity.

That woman was known as the game’s “snitch,” after the coveted flying golden ball in Quidditch, a magical sport played by young wizards in the Harry Potter book series, the source said.

The source declined to name the “snitch” to protect her privacy, and told Business Insider she “heard specific references of Gaetz being involved and scoring points,” back when he served in the state House of Representatives.

matt gaetz o CustomThe latest sordid revelation comes just when it seemed that the accusations couldn’t possibly get any raunchier against Gaetz, who is already mired in a federal sex-trafficking investigation.

The sex game has been alluded to in less detail in previous stories, Business Insider noted.

In January, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Florida state Rep. Chris Latvala accused Gaetz in a 2020 tweet of having “created a game where members of the FL House got “points” for sleeping with aides, interns, lobbyists, and married legislators.”

Legislators got one point for sleeping with a lobbyist, two for sleeping with legislative staff, three for another legislator and six for a married legislator, the Tampa Bay Times alleged.

Sleeping with “virgins” was another way to get points, ABC News alleged this week, citing a source.

April 2

Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Justice Dept. Inquiry Into Matt Gaetz Said to Be Focused on Cash Paid to Women, Katie Benner and Michael S. Schmidt, April 2, 2021 (print ed.). The congressman and a former official in Florida sent money to the women using cash apps, receipts showed. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was first elected to the House in 2016 at the age of 34 and cast himself as a die-hard Trump supporter.

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorInvestigators believe Joel Greenberg, left, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.

Mr. Gaetz denied ever paying a woman for sex.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department inquiry is also examining whether Mr. Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and whether she received anything of material value, according to four people familiar with the investigation. The sex trafficking count against Mr. Greenberg involved the same girl, according to two people briefed on the investigation.

The authorities have also investigated whether other men connected to Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg had sex with the 17-year-old, two of the people said.

Mr. Gaetz, 38, was elected to Congress in 2016 and became one of President Donald J. Trump’s most outspoken advocates.

The Times has reviewed receipts from Cash App, a mobile payments app, and Apple Pay that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.

One person said that the men also paid in cash, sometimes withdrawn from a hotel ATM.

Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal hallucinogenic drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.

In some cases, Mr. Gaetz asked women to help find others who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends, according to two people familiar with those conversations. Should anyone inquire about their relationships, one person said, Mr. Gaetz told the women to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.

FBI logoThe F.B.I. has questioned multiple women involved in the encounters, including as recently as January, to establish details of their relationships with Mr. Gaetz and his friends, according to text messages and two people familiar with the interviews.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear. Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday night in a response to a request for comment.

“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” the statement said. “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”

A lawyer for Mr. Greenberg, Fritz Scheller, declined to comment, as did a Justice Department spokesman.

It is not illegal to provide adults with free hotel stays, meals and other gifts, but if prosecutors think they can prove that the payments to the women were for sex, they could accuse Mr. Gaetz of trafficking the women under “force, fraud or coercion.” For example, prosecutors have filed trafficking charges against people suspected of providing drugs in exchange for sex because feeding another person’s drug habit could be seen as a form of coercion.

It is also a violation of federal child sex trafficking law to provide someone under 18 with anything of value in exchange for sex, which can include meals, hotels, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. A conviction carries a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

The investigation stems from the Justice Department’s continuing inquiry into Mr. Greenberg, who potentially faces decades in prison on three dozen charges. The U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida initially secured an indictment against Mr. Greenberg in June, alleging that he had stalked a political rival and had used his elected office to create fake identification cards.

During the investigation, the authorities discovered evidence that prompted them to broaden it, and Mr. Greenberg was indicted in August on the sex trafficking charge.

One of the sites the men met women through was called Seeking Arrangement, which describes itself as a place where wealthy people find attractive companions and pamper them “with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances.” The site’s founder has said it has 20 million members worldwide. The F.B.I. mentioned the website in a conversation with at least one potential witness, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Mr. Greenberg was indicted this week on additional charges, accusing him of submitting false claims to receive pandemic relief aid from the government and trying to bribe a government official. The authorities said Mr. Greenberg undertook those efforts after he was initially indicted last summer.

Mr. Greenberg, who has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, is scheduled to go on trial in June. He was sent to jail in March for violating the terms of his bail.

Mr. Gaetz said this week that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. Subjects of investigations are often witnesses or people who might have information that could help the government pursue its targets. But it is common for that designation to shift over the course of an investigation.

“I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

Mr. Gaetz, a lawyer, was first elected to the House representing the Florida Panhandle at age 34. The son of a former president of the Florida State Senate, Mr. Gaetz attended Florida State University and William & Mary Law School before serving in the Florida State Legislature.

Mr. Gaetz has sought to divert attention from the Justice Department investigation by claiming that he and his father were the targets of an extortion plot by two men trying to secure funding for a separate venture.

The men — Robert Kent, a former Air Force intelligence officer who runs a consulting business, and Stephen Alford, a real estate developer who has been convicted of fraud — approached Mr. Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, about funding their efforts to locate Robert A. Levinson, an American hostage held in Iran. They suggested to Don Gaetz that Mr. Levinson’s successful return could somehow be used to secure a pardon for Matt Gaetz if he were charged with federal crimes, according to a copy of their proposal provided to The Times.

Soon after, Don Gaetz hired a lawyer and contacted the F.B.I. Matt Gaetz said his father wore a wire and taped a meeting and a telephone conversation with Mr. Alford. An email exchange between Don Gaetz’s lawyer and the Justice Department provided to The Times appears to confirm he was generally cooperating with the F.B.I. as it looked into his claims.

Mr. Kent denied the Gaetzes’ assertions. He said he had heard rumors that Matt Gaetz might be under investigation and mentioned them only to sweeten his proposal. “I told him I’m not trying to extort, but if this were true, he might be interested in doing something good,” Mr. Kent said in an interview.

Last year, the Trump administration notified the family of Mr. Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent, that he had died while in captivity in Iran, where he disappeared in 2007 while on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A.

But some people involved with the Levinson case continued to believe that he might still be alive, including Mr. Kent.

He was stunned when he heard that Matt Gaetz had sought to tie the Justice Department investigation to an extortion plot related to the Levinson case.

“He threw Levinson and the entire Levinson family under the bus,” Mr. Kent said. “I can’t imagine what these poor people have been through. This guy, to divert attention from himself, has raked up the attention to the family.”

Don Gaetz also taped a phone call and a meeting with David McGee, a Levinson family lawyer, where they discussed the rescue proposal. In an interview, Mr. McGee denied any involvement and suggested Matt Gaetz was conflating the matter inappropriately with his own potential criminal liability.

“He’s trying to distract attention from a pending tidal wave that is about to sink his ship,” Mr. McGee said.

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. @NYTMike

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Indicted Gaetz sex trafficking accomplice inherited Jeffrey Epstein blackmail duties, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 18 books and former Navy intelligence officer. @WMRDC), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallApril 1, 2021. WMR has learned from sources close to the federal prosecution of disgraced Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel M. wayne madesen report logoGreenberg, indicted in Orlando last year for the sexual trafficking of a 14-year old girl, inherited some of the political blackmail duties previously assigned by Israeli intelligence to the late Palm Beach, Florida resident Jeffrey Epstein.

Greenberg has been identified as a partner of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, who is currently the target of a federal grand jury in Orlando for sexually trafficking a 17-year old girl.

New York Post, Rep. Matt Gaetz’s communications director resigns amid federal probe, Emily Jacobs, April 2, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz — who is facing a federal sex-trafficking probe, accusations that he showed lawmakers pictures and videos of nude women he claimed to have slept with and an alleged extortion plot — was hit with more bad PR Friday.

Luke Ball, communications director for Gaetz (R-Fla.), is resigning his post, the congressman’s office announced ahead of the weekend.

“The Office of Congressman Matt Gaetz and Luke Ball have agreed that it would be best to part ways,” a joint statement read. “We thank him for his time in our office, and we wish him the best moving forward.”

Ball scrubbed mentions of Gaetz, 38, from his Twitter biography by midday Thursday.

The Florida lawmaker has found himself embroiled in a considerable amount of controversy over the past week.

Previous stories:

  • CNN, Gaetz showed nude photos of women he said he'd slept with to lawmakers, sources tell CNN, Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox and Ryan Nobles, April 1, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican being investigated by the Justice Department over sex trafficking allegations, made a name for himself when he arrived on Capitol Hill as a conservative firebrand on TV and staunch defender of then-President Donald Trump. Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN.
  • New York Post, Meet Ginger Luckey, Matt Gaetz’s fiancée amid sex trafficking probe, Gabrielle Fonrouge, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz — who’s reportedly facing a federal criminal probe for allegedly enticing a minor to travel for sex — is engaged to 26-year-old Ginger Luckey, a Harvard business school student who lives in California. Gaetz — who has strenuously denied the new allegations — met Luckey in March 2020 at a fundraiser at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
  • New York Post, Oculus founder, just 21, ‘never imagined’ $2B Facebook deal, Kaja Whitehouse, March 26, 2014.
  • Washington Post, Gaetz investigation complicated by overture to his father about ex-FBI agent who went missing, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Matt Gaetz, right, a Florida Republican known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, had been under Justice Department investigation for months for a possible sex crime when two men approached his father with a proposal, people familiar with the matter said. matt gaetz o CustomThe men had learned of the investigation, they wrote to Don Gaetz, and wanted to offer an opportunity to help his son, the people said. He could give a huge sum of money to fund their effort to locate Robert A. Levinson — the longest-held American hostage in Iran, whose family has said they were told he is dead. If the operation was a success, he would win public favor and help alleviate Matt Gaetz’s legal woes.
  • New York Times, Investigation: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, March 31, 2021 (print ed.). An inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said.
  • Washington Post, Tucker Carlson denies Gaetz claim that he met witness in FBI probes: ‘One of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted,’ Teo Armus, March 31, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) was on Fox News on Tuesday night, defending himself against newly public allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl, when he seemed to pull his interviewer into the matter.
  • Washington Post, Ex-GOP official Joel Greenberg flaunted ties to Matt Gaetz. Then he was charged with child sex trafficking, Katie Shepherd,  March 31, 2021.joel greenberg seminole county tax collector Until last year, Joel Greenberg was an ascendant political player in Seminole County, Fla., where he unseated a longtime incumbent in the race for county tax collector, won a political battle to allow his deputies to carry guns on the job and flaunted his connections to prominent Republicans with close ties to president Donald Trump, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Roger Stone. But last June his reputation fell apart in spectacular fashion when federal investigators arrested him on stalking and child sex trafficking charges, prompting his resignation

 

April 1

Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe

 Trump Team: Profiteering On Pandemic?

 

Top Stories 

  • Matt Gaetz Scandal Probe

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Justice Dept. Inquiry Into Matt Gaetz Said to Be Focused on Cash Paid to Women, Katie Benner and Michael S. Schmidt, April 1, 2021. The congressman and a former official in Florida sent money to the women using cash apps, receipts showed. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, was first elected to the House in 2016 at the age of 34 and cast himself as a die-hard Trump supporter.

A Justice Department investigation into Representative Matt Gaetz and an indicted Florida politician is focusing on their involvement with multiple women who were recruited online for sex and received cash payments, according to people close to the investigation and text messages and payment receipts reviewed by The New York Times.

joel greenberg seminole county tax collectorInvestigators believe Joel Greenberg, left, the former tax collector in Seminole County, Fla., who was indicted last year on a federal sex trafficking charge and other crimes, initially met the women through websites that connect people who go on dates in exchange for gifts, fine dining, travel and allowances, according to three people with knowledge of the encounters. Mr. Greenberg introduced the women to Mr. Gaetz, who also had sex with them, the people said.

One of the women who had sex with both men also agreed to have sex with an unidentified associate of theirs in Florida Republican politics, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Mr. Greenberg had initially contacted her online and introduced her to Mr. Gaetz, the person said.

Mr. Gaetz denied ever paying a woman for sex.

Justice Department log circularThe Justice Department inquiry is also examining whether Mr. Gaetz had sex with a 17-year-old girl and whether she received anything of material value, according to four people familiar with the investigation. The sex trafficking count against Mr. Greenberg involved the same girl, according to two people briefed on the investigation.

The authorities have also investigated whether other men connected to Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg had sex with the 17-year-old, two of the people said.

Mr. Gaetz, 38, was elected to Congress in 2016 and became one of President Donald J. Trump’s most outspoken advocates.

The Times has reviewed receipts from Cash App, a mobile payments app, and Apple Pay that show payments from Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg to one of the women, and a payment from Mr. Greenberg to a second woman. The women told their friends that the payments were for sex with the two men, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

In encounters during 2019 and 2020, Mr. Gaetz and Mr. Greenberg instructed the women to meet at certain times and places, often at hotels around Florida, and would tell them the amount of money they were willing to pay, according to the messages and interviews.

One person said that the men also paid in cash, sometimes withdrawn from a hotel ATM.

Some of the men and women took ecstasy, an illegal hallucinogenic drug, before having sex, including Mr. Gaetz, two people familiar with the encounters said.

In some cases, Mr. Gaetz asked women to help find others who might be interested in having sex with him and his friends, according to two people familiar with those conversations. Should anyone inquire about their relationships, one person said, Mr. Gaetz told the women to say that he had paid for hotel rooms and dinners as part of their dates.

FBI logoThe F.B.I. has questioned multiple women involved in the encounters, including as recently as January, to establish details of their relationships with Mr. Gaetz and his friends, according to text messages and two people familiar with the interviews.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear. Mr. Gaetz’s office issued a statement on Thursday night in a response to a request for comment.

“Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex,” the statement said. “Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life.”

A lawyer for Mr. Greenberg, Fritz Scheller, declined to comment, as did a Justice Department spokesman.

It is not illegal to provide adults with free hotel stays, meals and other gifts, but if prosecutors think they can prove that the payments to the women were for sex, they could accuse Mr. Gaetz of trafficking the women under “force, fraud or coercion.” For example, prosecutors have filed trafficking charges against people suspected of providing drugs in exchange for sex because feeding another person’s drug habit could be seen as a form of coercion.

It is also a violation of federal child sex trafficking law to provide someone under 18 with anything of value in exchange for sex, which can include meals, hotels, drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. A conviction carries a 10-year mandatory minimum prison sentence.

The investigation stems from the Justice Department’s continuing inquiry into Mr. Greenberg, who potentially faces decades in prison on three dozen charges. The U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida initially secured an indictment against Mr. Greenberg in June, alleging that he had stalked a political rival and had used his elected office to create fake identification cards.

During the investigation, the authorities discovered evidence that prompted them to broaden it, and Mr. Greenberg was indicted in August on the sex trafficking charge.

One of the sites the men met women through was called Seeking Arrangement, which describes itself as a place where wealthy people find attractive companions and pamper them “with fine dinners, exotic trips and allowances.” The site’s founder has said it has 20 million members worldwide. The F.B.I. mentioned the website in a conversation with at least one potential witness, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Mr. Greenberg was indicted this week on additional charges, accusing him of submitting false claims to receive pandemic relief aid from the government and trying to bribe a government official. The authorities said Mr. Greenberg undertook those efforts after he was initially indicted last summer.

Mr. Greenberg, who has pleaded not guilty to the earlier charges, is scheduled to go on trial in June. He was sent to jail in March for violating the terms of his bail.

Mr. Gaetz said this week that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. Subjects of investigations are often witnesses or people who might have information that could help the government pursue its targets. But it is common for that designation to shift over the course of an investigation.

“I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

Mr. Gaetz, a lawyer, was first elected to the House representing the Florida Panhandle at age 34. The son of a former president of the Florida State Senate, Mr. Gaetz attended Florida State University and William & Mary Law School before serving in the Florida State Legislature.

Mr. Gaetz has sought to divert attention from the Justice Department investigation by claiming that he and his father were the targets of an extortion plot by two men trying to secure funding for a separate venture.

The men — Robert Kent, a former Air Force intelligence officer who runs a consulting business, and Stephen Alford, a real estate developer who has been convicted of fraud — approached Mr. Gaetz’s father, Don Gaetz, about funding their efforts to locate Robert A. Levinson, an American hostage held in Iran. They suggested to Don Gaetz that Mr. Levinson’s successful return could somehow be used to secure a pardon for Matt Gaetz if he were charged with federal crimes, according to a copy of their proposal provided to The Times.

Soon after, Don Gaetz hired a lawyer and contacted the F.B.I. Matt Gaetz said his father wore a wire and taped a meeting and a telephone conversation with Mr. Alford. An email exchange between Don Gaetz’s lawyer and the Justice Department provided to The Times appears to confirm he was generally cooperating with the F.B.I. as it looked into his claims.

Mr. Kent denied the Gaetzes’ assertions. He said he had heard rumors that Matt Gaetz might be under investigation and mentioned them only to sweeten his proposal. “I told him I’m not trying to extort, but if this were true, he might be interested in doing something good,” Mr. Kent said in an interview.

Last year, the Trump administration notified the family of Mr. Levinson, a former F.B.I. agent, that he had died while in captivity in Iran, where he disappeared in 2007 while on an unauthorized mission for the C.I.A.

But some people involved with the Levinson case continued to believe that he might still be alive, including Mr. Kent.

He was stunned when he heard that Matt Gaetz had sought to tie the Justice Department investigation to an extortion plot related to the Levinson case.

“He threw Levinson and the entire Levinson family under the bus,” Mr. Kent said. “I can’t imagine what these poor people have been through. This guy, to divert attention from himself, has raked up the attention to the family.”

Don Gaetz also taped a phone call and a meeting with David McGee, a Levinson family lawyer, where they discussed the rescue proposal. In an interview, Mr. McGee denied any involvement and suggested Matt Gaetz was conflating the matter inappropriately with his own potential criminal liability.

“He’s trying to distract attention from a pending tidal wave that is about to sink his ship,” Mr. McGee said.

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. @NYTMike

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Indicted Gaetz sex trafficking accomplice inherited Jeffrey Epstein blackmail duties, Wayne Madsen, left (author of 18 books and former Navy intelligence officer. @WMRDC), wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallApril 1, 2021. WMR has learned from sources close to the federal prosecution of disgraced Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel M. wayne madesen report logoGreenberg, indicted in Orlando last year for the sexual trafficking of a 14-year old girl, inherited some of the political blackmail duties previously assigned by Israeli intelligence to the late Palm Beach, Florida resident Jeffrey Epstein.

Greenberg has been identified as a partner of U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz, who is currently the target of a federal grand jury in Orlando for sexually trafficking a 17-year old girl.

CNNCNN, Gaetz showed nude photos of women he said he'd slept with to lawmakers, sources tell CNN, Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox and Ryan Nobles, April 1, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican being investigated by the Justice Department over sex trafficking allegations, made a name for himself when he arrived on Capitol Hill as a conservative firebrand on TV and staunch defender of then-President Donald Trump.

Behind the scenes, Gaetz gained a reputation in Congress over his relationships with women and bragging about his sexual escapades to his colleagues, multiple sources told CNN.

Gaetz allegedly showed off to other lawmakers photos and videos of nude women he said he had slept with, the sources told CNN, including while on the House floor. The sources, including two people directly shown the material, said Gaetz displayed the images of women on his phone and talked about having sex with them. One of the videos showed a naked woman with a hula hoop, according to one source.

"It was a point of pride," one of the sources said of Gaetz.

Gaetz, 38, who was elected to Congress in 2016, has been at the center of a number of controversies in his four-plus years in Congress. But he's now embroiled in easily his biggest scandal yet, after the Justice Department began investigating him in the final months of the Trump administration under then-Attorney General William Barr as part of a larger investigation into another Florida politician. Federal investigators are examining whether Gaetz engaged in a relationship with a woman that began when she was 17 years old and whether his involvement with other young women broke federal sex trafficking and prostitution laws, two people briefed on the matter said.

Gaetz has denied the allegations, saying "no part of the allegations against me are true," and he claimed Tuesday that he was the victim of an extortion plot, which the FBI is separately investigating.

"Over the past several weeks my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI's direction to catch these criminals," Gaetz said in a statement.

Gaetz and a spokesperson for Gaetz did not respond to requests for comment on the images and videos he allegedly showed to lawmakers.
After the DOJ investigation into Gaetz surfaced this week, there were a handful of Republicans in Congress who defended him, speaking out on his behalf, including both Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. But many House Republicans stayed quiet.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said Wednesday there were "serious implications" involving the DOJ allegations, adding that he would remove Gaetz from the Judiciary Committee if they were proven true.

"I haven't heard anything from the DOJ or others, but I will deal with it if anything comes to be true" McCarthy said in response to a question from CNN at a town hall event in Iowa.

Gaetz made a name for himself on conservative television soon upon his arrival to Congress in 2017, where he's often been a thorn in the side of House Republican leadership while aligning himself closely with the Freedom Caucus and Trump during his presidency. Gaetz has been a constant presence on both Newsmax and Fox News -- much more than any typical rank-and-file House member -- and he turned to Fox soon after the allegations surfaced Tuesday.

At one point during Gaetz's first term, staff for then-House Speaker Paul Ryan held a short meeting with Gaetz in the Capitol, where they had a discussion with Gaetz about acting professionally while in Congress, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting. One source said the conversation wasn't tied to a specific incident. Ryan didn't directly have a conversation with Gaetz.

Gaetz's spokesperson denied that he was ever reprimanded by Ryan or his staff. "That did not happen, no meeting with the speaker or his staff," the spokesperson said.

Hours before the news broke Tuesday of the investigation involving Gaetz, Axios reported he was considering leaving Congress for a job at the conservative television station Newsmax.

washington post logoWashington Post, Gaetz investigation complicated by overture to his father about ex-FBI agent who went missing, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, April 1, 2021 (print ed.). Rep. Matt Gaetz, right, a Florida Republican known for his fierce allegiance to former president Donald Trump, had been under Justice Department investigation for months for a possible sex crime when two men approached his father with a proposal, people familiar with the matter said.

matt gaetz o CustomThe men had learned of the investigation, they wrote to Don Gaetz, and wanted to offer an opportunity to help his son, the people said. He could give a huge sum of money to fund their effort to locate Robert A. Levinson — the longest-held American hostage in Iran, whose family has said they were told he is dead. If the operation was a success, he would win public favor and help alleviate Matt Gaetz’s legal woes.

But Don Gaetz, a prominent Florida Republican who once led the state Senate, viewed the communication suspiciously, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe a continuing and politically sensitive probe. The investigation into Matt Gaetz’s alleged crime — he is suspected of having sex with a 17-year-old girl, as well as funding her travel — was not public knowledge. Fearing his family was being extorted, Don Gaetz contacted the FBI.

Justice Department log circularThe messy political drama has in some ways diverted attention from a grim reality for the congressman. He remains under investigation for possible sex crimes, leaving him vulnerable to potentially serious legal jeopardy.

The men who approached Gaetz’s father, people familiar with the matter said, had no apparent connection to the sex crimes investigation of his son, other than having somehow learned about it before it was publicly reported. But when news of law enforcement’s interest in Gaetz surfaced Tuesday, the congressman asserted that the allegation was “rooted in an extortion effort against my family for $25 million,” and he identified by name a former federal prosecutor who he said was part of the effort.

While the Justice Department investigates possible sex crimes, the FBI is separately examining whether the request to his father about Levinson might constitute extortion, with Gaetz and his family as possible victims. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.

The Washington Examiner on Wednesday published a text message and a document that purports to outline the proposal to Don Gaetz.

The materials show that Bob Kent, a former Air Force intelligence analyst, told the former Florida lawmaker in a mid-March text he had a plan that could make Gaetz’s “future legal and political problems go away,” and claimed that Levinson was still alive.

The next day, according to the Examiner, the analyst met with Don Gaetz and gave him a proposal, titled “Project Homecoming,” which made specific claims about the sex-crimes investigation and other lurid allegations against Matt Gaetz, and proposed a plan to make the case go away.

robert levinson“Our strategy for Congressman Gaetz to mitigate his legal, and political, troubles would be for him, or someone else, to arrange for the funds required to obtain the immediate release of Robert Levinson (shown in three photos at right) from captivity in Iran,” the proposal said. “In exchange for the funds being arranged, and upon release of Robert Levinson, Congressman Gaetz shall be given credit for facilitating the release of Mr. Levinson.”

Substantiating criminal charges in the extortion probe could be difficult, people familiar with the matter said, noting that, when the two men — who have not been identified — first contacted Don Gaetz, they did not explicitly threaten to expose the congressman unless they were paid. Even if investigators do come to believe there was an attempt to extort the Gaetz family, it appears connected to the sex-crimes investigation only because the men involved discovered it and used it as leverage for personal purposes, people familiar with the matter said.

Don Gaetz and a spokesman for Matt Gaetz did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday. The congressman has not been charged with any crimes and has insisted he did nothing wrong.

Beyond his potential legal problems, Gaetz faces the prospect of political blowback. Lawmakers in both parties took a wait-and-see approach or remained quiet on the issue.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that Gaetz would be removed from the Judiciary Committee if the allegations he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl and paid for her travel prove to be true. Federal child sex trafficking laws are implicated when the victim is less than 18 years old.

“Those are serious implications,” McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox News. “If it comes out to be true, yes, we would remove him if that was the case. Right now, Matt Gaetz says it’s not true, and we don’t have any information.”

Gaetz has told associates he is contemplating leaving Congress early, possibly for a position at Newsmax. Brian Peterson, a Newsmax spokesman, declined to comment on any discussion between Gaetz and the network, saying, “Newsmax doesn’t comment on possible talent negotiations or plans the network may have been underway. But a person familiar with the deliberations said that Gaetz and Newsmax were talking, and Gaetz was interested in a possible role at the conservative media outlet, but Newsmax had not extended him an offer.

david mcgee resizedGaetz said in a statement Tuesday night that his family had been cooperating with federal authorities in the extortion probe and that his father had “even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals.” In an interview on Fox News, he identified one person he claimed was involved in the effort: David McGee, left, a former federal prosecutor in Florida now at the firm Beggs & Lane.

Tucker Carlson denies Gaetz claim that he met witness in FBI probes: ‘One of the weirdest interviews I’ve ever conducted’

McGee has long represented the Levinson family in their more than a decade-long quest to find the FBI agent. In an interview Tuesday night, he said Don Gaetz “called me and asked to talk to me,” though would only say of their talk, “It is a pleasant conversation of a dad concerned about his son, and the trouble his son was in.” McGee disputed that he was part of an effort to extort Gaetz or that he was connected to the Justice Department’s investigation of possible sex trafficking by the congressman.

The initial communications to Don Gaetz referencing Levinson’s case came from Kent and a Florida developer named Stephen Alford, according to the Examiner and a person familiar with the matter. According to court records and local media reports, Alford has previously been convicted in local and federal fraud cases and spent significant time in prison.

Alford and Kent did not return messages seeking comment. McGee appeared to have had at least broad knowledge of the men’s interaction with Don Gaetz, people familiar with the matter said.

“It’s a blatant attempt to distract from the fact that he’s under investigation for sex trafficking of minors,” McGee said Tuesday night of the congressman’s allegations against him, adding, “I have no connection with that case at all, other than, one of a thousand people who have heard the rumors.”

McGee declined to comment Wednesday, but his firm issued a statement saying the congressman’s allegation was “false and defamatory.”

It is not clear how the men came to know about the investigation into Gaetz. Their proposal makes many claims, some of which seem to indicate specific, insider knowledge, that could not immediately be confirmed.

Levinson’s case has long vexed his family and the U.S. government. The retired FBI agent disappeared under murky circumstances in March 2007 while on Kish Island, a tourist spot off the coast of Iran, during an unauthorized trip for the CIA to gather intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program. He was not spotted publicly again, and was last viewed alive in a 2010 hostage video.

The State Department and the Justice Department had offered a combined reward of $25 million for information on Levinson, and officials repeatedly pressed Iran on the matter. But last year, the government concluded he was dead, and the FBI briefed the family on the evidence they had found pointing to that result.

According to “Missing Man,” a 2016 book about the Levinson case by former New York Times reporter Barry Meier, McGee befriended Levinson when the lawyer was working as a federal prosecutor in Florida and Levinson was serving as an FBI agent.

By 2005, they had both left government for the private sector — Levinson as a private investigator and McGee as a defense attorney. Meier reported that Levinson sought legal advice from McGee when a federal prosecutor began asking questions about about his relationship with a man who was one of his sources and allegedly involved in cigarette smuggling. Levinson denied involvement but told McGee he feared indictment, the book reports.

Previous stories:

 

March 2021 Update

March 30

Trump Team Scandals?

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17, Michael S. Schmidt and Katie Benner, March 30, 2021. An inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said.

matt gaetz o CustomRepresentative Matt Gaetz, right, Republican of Florida and a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, is being investigated by the Justice Department over whether he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Investigators are examining whether Mr. Gaetz violated federal sex trafficking laws, the people said. A variety of federal statutes make it illegal to induce someone under 18 to travel over state lines to engage in sex in exchange for money or something of value. The Justice Department regularly prosecutes such cases, and offenders often receive severe sentences.

Justice Department log circularIt was not clear how Mr. Gaetz met the girl, believed to be 17 at the time of encounters about two years ago that investigators are scrutinizing, according to two of the people.

The investigation was opened in the final months of the Trump administration under Attorney General William P. Barr, below right,l the two people said. Given Mr. Gaetz’s national profile, senior Justice Department officials in Washington — including some appointed by Mr. Trump — william barr new owere notified of the investigation, the people said.

The three people said that the examination of Mr. Gaetz, 38, is part of a broader investigation into a political ally of his, a local official in Florida named Joel Greenberg, who was indicted last summer on an array of charges, including sex trafficking of a child and financially supporting people in exchange for sex, at least one of whom was an underage girl.

Mr. Greenberg, who has since resigned his post as tax collector in Seminole County, north of Orlando, visited the White House with Mr. Gaetz in 2019, according to a photograph that Mr. Greenberg posted on Twitter.

No charges have been brought against Mr. Gaetz, and the extent of his criminal exposure is unclear.

republican elephant logoMr. Gaetz said in an interview that his lawyers had been in touch with the Justice Department and that they were told he was the subject, not the target, of an investigation. “I only know that it has to do with women,” Mr. Gaetz said. “I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward.”

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Central Florida.

Mr. Greenberg pleaded not guilty last year and was sent to jail this month for violating the terms of his bail. He is scheduled to go on trial in June in Orlando.

A frequent presence on Fox News and other conservative media, Mr. Gaetz has recently mused with confidants about quitting elected politics and taking a full-time job with the conservative television channel Newsmax or another network, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Axios first reported on Tuesday that Mr. Gaetz was considering leaving Congress.

Matt Gaetz, center, Roger Stone, left, and Joel Greenberg in a 2017 Facebook photo.

Mr. Greenberg maintained ties to controversial figures who have supported Mr. Trump, an examination of court records, social media posts and far-right websites showed. A website run by a member of the far-right group the Proud Boys and a network of fake social media accounts linked to Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. have promoted false accusations about Mr. Greenberg’s rivals similar to rumors that prosecutors accused Mr. Greenberg of secretly trying to spread.

It was not clear how Mr. Greenberg (shown at right in the photo adjoining) knew either Mr. Gaetz (shown at center) or Mr. Stone (shown at left). He posted a selfie with both in 2017 (shown at left), tweeting, “Great catching up.” The following year, Mr. Gaetz  expressed support for Mr. Greenberg’s successful bid for local office, predicting he would someday make a great member of Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Gaetz has embraced the role of villain to the left as much as he has served as one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders and enablers, often with theatrical flair. He wore a gas mask on the House floor last year in the early days of the pandemic, insisting he was demonstrating concern for public safety amid accusations he was mocking the seriousness of the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr. Gaetz was first elected to Congress in 2016. As a member of the Florida State Legislature and the scion of a Republican political family, he had initially backed former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in the Republican presidential primary that year before hitching his political fortunes to Mr. Trump.

It paid off. He won a seat in Congress representing part of the Florida Panhandle, and as one of Mr. Trump’s most flamboyant supporters on Capitol Hill and on cable television, his profile skyrocketed.

Mr. Gaetz invited a right-wing Holocaust skeptic to the State of the Union address in 2018, and attended an event last year where he said the Proud Boys had provided security, though he has distanced himself from the group on his podcast. When Democrats moved in 2019 to impeach Mr. Trump for the first time, Mr. Gaetz and a phalanx of Republicans following him barged past Capitol Police into the secure rooms of the House Intelligence Committee to briefly break up the investigation into the president.

After Mr. Trump’s defeat last year, Mr. Gaetz once again rallied to his side, defending the president’s baseless claims of widespread election fraud. Mr. Gaetz helped organize efforts among lawmakers to challenge President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory during Congress’s certification of it on Jan. 6 that was disrupted for hours by a pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol. Mr. Gaetz later traveled to Wyoming to hold a rally against Representative Liz Cheney, a Republican leader who had voted to impeach Mr. Trump for inciting the riot.

In 2017, Mr. Gaetz was the only member of Congress to vote against a law that gave the federal government more power and money to fight human trafficking.

“Voters in Northwest Florida did not send me to Washington to go and create more federal government,” Mr. Gaetz said in a local television interview at the time. “If anything, we should be abolishing a lot of the agencies at the federal level.”

Mr. Gaetz’s personal life has gained attention before. Last summer, he announced that he had a son, Nestor Galban, 19, though Mr. Gaetz said he was not Mr. Galban’s biological father, nor had he adopted him. Mr. Galban had been 12 when they met and had come to the United States from Cuba; Mr. Gaetz was at the time dating Mr. Galban’s sister.

“He is a part of my family story,” Mr. Gaetz told People magazine in June. “My work with Nestor, our family, no element of my public service could compare to the joy that our family has brought me.”

Mr. Gaetz proposed to his girlfriend, Ginger Luckey, at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club on Dec. 30.

It was unclear how investigators in the Greenberg case began examining Mr. Gaetz’s conduct. Last June, federal prosecutors secured an indictment against Mr. Greenberg, accusing him of stalking a political rival.

Around that time, federal authorities seized Mr. Greenberg’s phone and laptop, according to court records. They discovered evidence that Mr. Greenberg, whose job responsibilities included issuing licenses, was creating fake identification cards for himself and a teenage girl, and was experimenting with holograms used on permits for concealed firearms, according to court documents.

Two months later, he was indicted on the sex trafficking charge. From May to November 2017, prosecutors said, Mr. Greenberg targeted the girl, who was between 14 and 17, saying he “recruited” and “solicited” her for sex acts in exchange for unspecified perks or favors.

Mr. Greenberg worked in advertising before running successfully at the age of 31 in 2016 for tax collector in Seminole County.

Within days of taking office, he fired three employees who had supported his predecessor and began spending more than $1.5 million in taxpayer money on personal expenses, including guns, ammunition, body armor and a drone, as well as on computers for his own cryptocurrency venture, a county audit later revealed.

The following year, according to The Orlando Sentinel, Mr. Greenberg posted a photograph of himself on social media with Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing personality who has a history of making racist remarks. The newspaper also detailed Mr. Greenberg’s own misogynist and anti-Muslim comments on Facebook.

In his bid for re-election, Mr. Greenberg turned in late 2019 to clandestine tactics to undermine a possible rival, according to court papers. Prosecutors said he sent an anonymous letter to the school where one potential candidate worked that made unfounded accusations of sexual misconduct with a student and making similar claims on a fake Facebook account.

As the primary race intensified last summer, similar messaging began appearing on fake social media accounts that have been tied to Mr. Stone.

“Watch out Seminole county,” said someone named April Goad on Facebook, warning Floridians “don’t open your door” to the rival candidate, according to Graphika, a company that specializes in analyzing social media.

The post linked to an article about the rival published on Central Florida Post, a website controlled by Mr. Stone’s associates that had written favorable articles about Mr. Greenberg. The website was founded by a member of the Proud Boys who has been linked to security providers for Mr. Stone on Jan. 6 in Washington in the lead-up to the insurrection at the Capitol.

Mr. Greenberg’s re-election efforts quickly evaporated when he was first indicted last June, and he resigned a day later.

Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett and Susan C. Beachy contributed research.

Michael S. Schmidt is a Washington correspondent covering national security and federal investigations. He was part of two teams that won Pulitzer Prizes in 2018 — one for reporting on workplace sexual harassment and the other for coverage of President Trump and his campaign’s ties to Russia. @NYTMike

Katie Benner covers the Justice Department. She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for public service for reporting on workplace sexual harassment issues. @ktbenner

Axios, Investigation: Rep. Matt Gaetz eyes early retirement from Congress to take job at Newsmax, Alayna Treene, March 30, 2021. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has axios logoprivately told confidants he's seriously considering not seeking re-election and possibly leaving Congress early for a job at Newsmax, three sources with direct knowledge of the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: Gaetz is a provocative figure on the right who's attracted attention by being a fierce defender of former President Trump. The Republican also represents a politically potent district on the Florida panhandle.

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free

What we’re hearing: Gaetz has told some of his allies he’s interested in becoming a media personality, and floated taking a role at Newsmax.

One of the sources said Gaetz has had early conversations with the network about what a position could look like.

The backdrop: Many Republicans turned to the network after Fox News called Arizona early for President Biden.

Some critics now say Fox is not conservative enough for their tastes, providing an opening for Newsmax and the One America News Network (OANN).

Gaetz has previously toyed with the idea of running for higher office.

Between the lines: Gaetz, 38, went to Florida State University and received a law degree from the College of William and Mary. He served in the Florida House before being elected to Congress in 2016.

While the party out of power tends to gain seats in midterm elections — creating the possibility of Republicans' taking control of the House in 2022 — a prominent spot in the media could give Gaetz a platform for a future national political role.

Former Fox executives and contributors were among Trump's many senior advisers, including Bill Shine, John Bolton and Larry Kudlow.

Trump has stoked speculation he may seek a second and final term in 2024.

For the record: Gaetz and his spokesman did not immediately respond to several requests for comment.

 

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Reuters via Yahoo News, Trump must face 'Apprentice' contestant's defamation lawsuit -NY court, Jonathan Stempel, March 30, 2021. New York state's highest court on Tuesday cleared the way for a former contestant on "The Apprentice" to sue Donald Trump for defamation, after the former U.S. president called her a liar for accusing him of sexual assault.

summer zervosTrump (shown above in a publicity photo for the show) had argued before leaving the White House on Jan. 20 that Summer Zervos (shown in a file photo) could not pursue her case because a sitting president could not be sued, but the state Court of Appeals said in a brief order that "the issues presented have become moot."

Zervos' case will now return to a Manhattan trial court, where her lawyers may have an opportunity to question Trump under oath. The case had been on hold during Trump's appeal.

"Now a private citizen, the defendant has no further excuse to delay justice for Ms. Zervos, and we are eager to get back to the trial court and prove her claims," Beth Wilkinson, a lawyer for Zervos, said in an email.

Lawyers for Trump did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Zervos came forward during the 2016 presidential campaign with accusations that Trump subjected her to unwanted kissing and groping after she sought career advice in 2007, two years after her appearance on his reality television show.

She sued Trump in January 2017 after he branded such allegations by women "lies" and retweeted a post calling Zervos' claims a "hoax."

Zervos has sought a retraction or an apology, plus compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Trump has denied Zervos' claims, and called her case politically motivated.

Former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll is also suing Trump for defamation, after he denied having raped her in the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.

Trump has also denied claims by several other women of improper sexual conduct.

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images)

ny times logoNew York Times, Ghislaine Maxwell Charged With Sex Trafficking of 14-Year-Old Girl, Benjamin Weiser, March 30, 2021 (print ed.). A new indictment accuses Ms. Maxwell of paying a victim of her longtime associate Jeffrey Epstein.

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, was charged on Monday for the first time with sex trafficking of a minor, as federal prosecutors accused her of grooming a 14-year-old girl to engage in sexual acts with Mr. Epstein and later paying her.

A new federal indictment filed in Manhattan charged that on multiple occasions between 2001 and 2004, the girl provided nude massages to Mr. Epstein at his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, during which he engaged in sex acts with her.

The new charges against Ms. Maxwell go further than those contained in an earlier indictment that accused her of helping Mr. Epstein recruit, groom and ultimately sexually abuse girls, but did not include sex trafficking allegations.

The new indictment says that after the girl provided Mr. Epstein with the massages, Ms. Maxwell or others who worked for him paid the girl hundreds of dollars in cash.

A lawyer for Ms. Maxwell did not respond to a request for comment on the new charges.

The indictment comes almost nine months after Ms. Maxwell, 59, once a fixture on New York’s social scene, was arrested in New Hampshire on charges she had lured underage girls — one as young as 14 — into Mr. Epstein’s orbit, and contributed to his abuse of them.

The indictment issued on Monday cites an additional 14-year-old girl who is identified only as Minor Victim-4.

March 29

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: House Republican Reed's demise predicted by WMR in 2012, Wayne Madsen, left, March 29, 2021. 
wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSomething unsurprising happened on Representative Tom Reed's (R-NY) way to officially declare his candidacy to run for governor of New York.

tom reed oReed, right, a co-chair of the bipartisan and centrist "Problem Solvers Caucus," was one of the first politicians to declare his candidacy against his Democratic predecessor, Eric Massa, who was falsely accused by his male staffers of sexual misconduct. Massa, who resigned his seat in 2010, was later cleared by a House panel of any wrongdoing.

Our January 12, 2012 report follows: "WMR . . . learned of another incident in which Reed, while mayor of Corning, invited a group of wayne madesen report logoyoung people he met at the bar at the Switzerland Inn in Corning, including two members of Massa's congressional staff, to a friend's lakeside home. Reed, who was clearly drunk, drove a boat across the lake to the residence. When at the residence, Reed, who is married, attempted to sexually assault some of the females from the bar. The episode was captured on one of Massa's staffers video-phones."

March 25

washington post logoWashington Post, USC reaches $852 million settlement in lawsuits involving ex-gynecologist accused of sexual abuse, Nick Anderson, March 25, 2021. The lawsuits allege that the george tyndalluniversity failed to respond adequately to complaints that former USC gynecologist George Tyndall, right, sexually abused patients at its student health center. Tyndall is awaiting trial on criminal charges in connection with the accusations.

The University of Southern California has agreed to an $852 million settlement to resolve lawsuits from hundreds of women alleging that the university failed to respond adequately to complaints that a gynecologist sexually abused patients at its student health center, according to terms disclosed Thursday.

USC and attorneys for the plaintiffs made the terms public after a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The magnitude of the settlement — about one seventh of the size of the $5.9 billion endowment USC reported in 2020 — made it a landmark case for higher education.

Previously, the university had also agreed to pay more than $200 million in a 2018 federal class action settlement involving women who were patients of Tyndall. Counting Thursday’s developments, the total bill for legal settlements now exceeds $1 billion.

March 22

 

robert aaron long cherokee county sheriffs office 641

washington post logoWashington Post, Accused Atlanta gunman’s church expels him, saying his actions display ‘total corruption of mankind, Jonathan Krohn, Drew Harwell and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). Crabapple First Baptist Church said Sunday that Robert Aaron Long, shown above, is no longer considered a “regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

The conservative Baptist church attended by the accused Atlanta gunman expelled him from its congregation Sunday morning, saying he is no longer considered a “regenerate believer in Jesus Christ.”

Parishioners of Crabapple First Baptist Church in Milton, Ga., voted to remove Robert Aaron Long, 21, from the church’s membership following an hour-long service dedicated to the eight people he is charged with killing at three Atlanta-area spas Tuesday night.

“Our hearts are filled with so many emotions; with grief, with anger, sadness, with emptiness, confusion,” Associate Pastor Luke Folsom said in a prayer before a crowd of more than 100 congregants. “There’s so much confusion. It doesn’t make any sense. But, father, we know this is the result of sin. It displays the total corruption of mankind.”

Long, 21, was charged with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault. The eight victims included a woman two days shy of her 50th birthday and a newlywed who had just given birth to her second child. Seven of the eight killed were women; six of them were of Asian descent.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP Rep. Tom Reed apologizes for sexual misconduct, won’t challenge Cuomo in 2022, Beth Reinhard, March 22, 2021 (print ed.). Two days after a former lobbyist accused him of sexual misconduct in a Washington Post report, Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) on Sunday publicly apologized, vowed not to seek reelection and abandoned a possible run against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

tom reed oReed, right, said in a statement that he was “struggling” in early 2017, when the incident occurred, and entered treatment for alcohol abuse that year.

Reed recently has been weighing a bid to unseat Cuomo (D) and had called for the governor to be impeached amid allegations that he sexually harassed multiple women, mostly state employees. Since he was elected to Congress in 2010, Reed has cast himself as a republican elephant logochampion of women’s rights.

In the story that published Friday, Nicolette Davis, a former lobbyist for Aflac insurance, said that Reed rubbed her back and unhooked her bra during a gathering with other lobbyists at a Minneapolis pub in 2017. She was 25 years old at the time and on her first networking trip. He was 45.

“A drunk congressman is rubbing my back,” she texted a friend and co-worker at Aflac that evening, adding later, “HELP HELP.”

 

leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, left, CEO and co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Leon Black to Leave Apollo Sooner Than Expected, Matthew Goldstein, March 22, 2021. The Wall Street billionaire, who was the main client of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein in recent years, decided to leave for health reasons.

Leon Black, the Wall Street billionaire who was the main client of the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein for the last decade of his life, is stepping down as chief executive of Apollo Global Management, several months ahead of schedule.

Mr. Black also will give up the chairmanship of the private equity firm, which he helped found roughly three decades ago, the firm said in a statement on Monday. Jay Clayton, the former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman who recently joined the firm as an independent director, will take his place.

The firm had said in January that he would step down as chief executive before his 70th birthday in July while retaining the chairman role. But Mr. Black said on Monday that he had decided to leave now to focus on his family and his and his wife’s health.

Apollo had previously announced that Marc Rowan, another Apollo co-founder, would succeed Mr. Black as chief executive. News of the succession came after the release of a report by an outside law firm that detailed how Mr. Black had paid Mr. Epstein, the registered sex offender who killed himself in August 2019 while facing federal sex trafficking charges, $158 million in fees and lent him nearly $30 million. The review by the Dechert law firm found no wrongdoing by Mr. Black.

Mr. Black said in a statement that the firm expected its quarterly earnings would exceed expectations and that it was “the ideal moment to step back and focus on my family, my wife Debra’s and my health issues, and my many other interests.”

In a letter to the Apollo board that the company included in a regulatory filing, Mr. Black said the controversy over his ties to Mr. Epstein had taken a toll on him and his family.

“The relentless public attention and media scrutiny concerning my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein — even though the exhaustive Dechert Report concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing on my part — have taken a toll on my health,” Mr. Black said.

Apollo’s announcement in January that Mr. Black would eventually step down as chief executive, along with a number of corporate governance changes, helped soothe many investors who were nervous about Mr. Black’s association with Mr. Epstein. But some, like the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, had offered only cautious support.

March 19

National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center, XVideos Parent Company Sued for Hosting Child Sexual Abuse, Sex Trafficking Videos in Class Action amazon logo smallLawsuit, Staff Report, March 19, 2021. XVideos Visited More than Netflix, Amazon, and Wikipedia Combined.

A class action lawsuit was filed against XVideos and its parent company, WebGroup Czech Republic (WGCZ), for trafficking Jane Doe, a victim of child sexual abuse material (child pornography) and sex trafficking. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Doe by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation Law Center (NCOSE) together with five other survivor-focused and commercial litigation law firms. Jane Doe represents the class of numerous victims who, as children, had their child sexual abuse images published and monetized by this online international pornography company. The case, Jane Doe v. WebGroup Czech Republic et al, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, in Los Angeles.

Plaintiff Jane Doe, using a pseudonym in litigation to protect her safety, is a victim and survivor of childhood sex trafficking. Videos of her childhood sexual abuse were sold, published, and distributed on websites owned and operated by XVideos, which commercially monetized the images. This violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, among other laws.

“XVideos not only violated the law by hosting Jane Doe’s child sexual abuse material, it profited from her abuse given that each image and video of her was monetized. This cannot be allowed to stand and remain unchallenged. Victims of childhood sexual abuse such as Jane Doe unequivocally deserve justice,” said Dani Pinter, senior legal counsel of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation.

XVideos boasts that it has 200 million daily visitors and 6 billion daily impressions on its various websites from which it has consolidated production and distribution. As of January 2021, XVideos is the most frequently visited pornography website in the world and the 7th most trafficked website in the world, visited more than Netflix, Amazon, and Wikipedia, with over 3 billion visits a month.

As a child, Jane Doe was trafficked and sold for sex. Many of these sex acts were recorded on video and uploaded to the XVideos website. At least four videos that included Jane Doe being trafficked as a minor have been identified on WGCZ sites. At least one “content partner” and official “channel” on XVideos disseminated these illegal videos of Jane Doe’s rape. This “content partner” continues to be a promoted channel on XVideos.

Neither XVideos, nor any other website, owned or operated by these Defendants undertook any measure to verify Jane Doe’s identity or age. As a result, child sex abuse material depicting Jane Doe was distributed broadly throughout the world on XVideos internet websites. During the time that XVideos distributed and advertised this child sex abuse material, it profited financially through the sale of advertising and by drawing users to its websites to view the videos.

“Jane Doe has courageously stepped out to share her story to help other victims of XVideos. We stand ready to help others who have experienced similar abuse at the hands of XVideos or any other WGCZ entities. It is time to end this pornography company’s abuses and egregious violations of the law,” Pinter added.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former lobbyist accuses Rep. Tom Reed, a potential Cuomo challenger, of sexual misconduct, Beth Reinhard, Nicolette Davis, now a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, told The Post the Republican congressman rubbed her back and unhooked her bra during a gathering at a Minneapolis pub when she was a junior lobbyist in 2017. Reed says her account is “not accurate.”

tom reed oNicolette Davis said she was 25, on her first networking trip as a junior lobbyist for an insurance company, when she felt the 45-year-old congressman’s hand on her back. She and other lobbyists had gathered at an Irish pub in Minneapolis after a day of ice fishing, Davis told The Washington Post, and Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y), right, was seated to her left.

“A drunk congressman is rubbing my back,” she texted a friend and co-worker at Aflac that evening in 2017, adding later, “HELP HELP.”

republican elephant logoReed, his hand outside her blouse, briefly fumbled with her bra before unhooking it by pinching the clasp, Davis told The Post. He moved his hand to her thigh, inching upward, she said.

Frozen in fear, she said, she asked the person sitting to her right for help. He obliged by pulling the congressman away from the table and out of the restaurant, Davis said.

Reed declined to be interviewed for this story. In response to a detailed list of questions, he said in a statement provided by his office: “This account of my actions is not accurate.”

Davis’s account comes at a time when Reed is considering a run against New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who is facing calls to resign after multiple women, mostly former state employees, accused him of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior. Reed, who has described combating sexual violence and harassment as one of his priorities in Congress, recently argued that Cuomo should be impeached.

March 17

ny times logoNew York Times, How Cuomo’s Team Tried to Tarnish One of His Accusers, Maggie Haberman and Jesse McKinley, March 17, 2021 (print ed.). People tied to Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to damage the credibility of Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment.

Days after Lindsey Boylan became the first woman to accuse Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of sexual harassment in a series of Twitter posts in December, people tied to the governor started circulating an open letter that they hoped former staff members would sign.

andrew cuomoThe letter was a full-on attack on Ms. Boylan’s credibility, suggesting that her accusation was premeditated and politically motivated. It disclosed personnel complaints filed against her and attempted to link her to supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.

“Weaponizing a claim of sexual harassment for personal political gain or to achieve notoriety cannot be tolerated,” the letter concluded. “False claims demean the veracity of credible claims.”

The initial idea, according to three people with direct knowledge of the events, was to have former Cuomo aides — especially women — sign their names to the letter and circulate it fairly widely.

Multiple drafts were created, and Mr. Cuomo was involved in creating the letter, one of the people said. Current aides to the governor emailed at least one draft to a group of former advisers. From there, it circulated to current and former top aides to the governor.

It is not clear how many people were asked to sign the letter, but two former officials — speaking on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to anger Mr. Cuomo, New York’s Democratic governor — decided that they did not want their names on it.

The letter, which was reviewed by The New York Times, was never released. Ms. Boylan did not immediately elaborate or follow up on her Twitter posts in December, allowing her accusations to fade, along with the urgency of the effort to discredit her. Still, the letter shows that the Cuomo administration was poised to quickly and aggressively undercut Ms. Boylan, a Democrat who is running for Manhattan borough president.

 

Donald Trump, Melania Knauss (future Melania Trump), Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at a party at Mar-a-Lago (Getty / Davidoff Studios).

Donald Trump, Melania Knauss (future Melania Trump), Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell (left to right) at a party at Mar-a-Lago (Getty / Davidoff Studios).

washington post logoWashington Post, Ghislaine Maxwell’s tawdry fall from grace — and her new PR push, Manuel Roig-Franzia, March 17, 2021. In times gone by, she luxuriated on a yacht named in her honor by her publishing mogul father. She befriended British royalty. She dazzled in three languages at galas. She dated a billionaire.

Ghislaine Maxwell moved in the rarest of rare air. There she is boarding a private jet with former president Bill Clinton, his forearm resting casually on her right shoulder; and another time attending his daughter Chelsea’s wedding. There she is, slender, fashionably coifed, eminently poised — again and again and again — in photos with a future president, Donald Trump.

It all seems so long ago.

Far from gliding into a gilded future that has been her destiny, Maxwell is now firmly fixed in a tabloid rogues’ gallery, as she stands accused of procuring and grooming underage girls to satisfy the boundless sexual appetite of her onetime lover, the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein.

For the past eight months, Maxwell, 59, has been imprisoned at a federal detention center in Brooklyn, twice denied bail as a flight risk while she awaits a trial scheduled to begin in July on charges of perjury and conspiracy to entice three minors in the 1990s to have sex with Epstein, who committed suicide in jail in 2019. Maxwell’s third attempt to persuade a judge to release her before her trial has set in motion in the past few days an effort by her family to reshape her image, aided by publicists and a family attorney.

Her brother, Ian Maxwell, has appeared on television in the United States and Britain, portraying his sister as a woman of substance and as a victim being used as a substitute for Epstein, who received an extraordinary light sentence after pleading guilty in an underage sex case in Florida in 2005 and died before facing trial in a massive sex trafficking case in New York. If Maxwell succeeds in altering public opinion of his sister — even a little — he’ll have accomplished a monumental public relations feat.

In a video interview with The Washington Post over the weekend from London, Ian Maxwell compared his sister’s situation to that of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been accused by numerous women of sexual harassment and bullying.

“I see that AOC has come out and said, ‘I believe these women,’ ” Ian Maxwell said, using the shorthand for Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. “Well, how does she know that? Cuomo is entitled to have an investigation of his actions, just as Ghislaine is entitled to have one of hers.”

March 16les wexner mansion jeffrey epstein wmr graphic maria

The photo collage above shows a Manhattan mansion owned by Jeffrey Epstein following a transfer from retail magnate Les Wexner. The graphic by investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, who collaborated on a series about Epstein with the Justice Integrity Project, raises still-unanswered questions about sexual abuse allegations involving the locale and a purported video taping system used by Epstein to record his and others' activities.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion fetches $51 million after a judge denies a request to freeze the sale, Matthew Goldstein, March 16, 2021. A deed for the sale has yet to be recorded, but one of the estate’s lawyers said that funds from the sale were being transferred to a compensation program for Mr. Epstein’s victims.

Jeffrey Epstein’s Manhattan mansion has been sold to an unidentified buyer for about $51 million, which will go to a fund providing restitution for the disgraced financier’s sexual abuse victims.

A lawyer for Mr. Epstein’s estate said the seven-story mansion on East 71st Street was sold earlier this week — although for considerably less than the initial $88 million asking price.

The sale was completed after a judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands rejected an attempt by the territory’s attorney general to freeze the sale of any further asset by his estate, which is now worth about $240 million. Once valued at nearly $600 million, the estate has been paying out expenses including taxes and contributions to the restitution fund, which has distributed about $55 million to dozens of Mr. Epstein’s accusers.

The attorney general, Denise George, requested the asset freeze after the estate said a cash crunch was preventing it from providing new money to the restitution fund. The judge overseeing the administration of Mr. Epstein’s estate ruled that Ms. George did not have legal standing to request the asset freeze.

A deed for the sale has yet to be recorded, but Daniel Weiner, one of the estate’s lawyers, said in an email that funds from the sale were being jeffrey epstein sex offendertransferred to the compensation program so that it could “resume issuing new claims determinations.”

Several other major transactions loom, including the sales of Mr. Epstein’s homes in Palm Beach, Fla.; Paris; and New Mexico, and the two private islands he owned in the Virgin Islands. The sale of the islands, however, will not happen anytime soon: Ms. George’s office has placed a lien on them as part of the civil racketeering lawsuit she filed last year against Mr. Epstein’s estate.

Mr. Epstein, right, [allegedly] killed himself while in federal custody in August 2019, a month after his arrest on sex trafficking charges. To date, about 150 women — most of whom claim they were sexually abused by Mr. Epstein as teenagers — have registered with the restitution fund to submit claims.

March 14

taylor lorenz tucker carlson

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Online harassment of female journalists is real, and it’s increasingly hard to endure, Margaret Sullivan, right, March 14, 2021. It can margaret sullivan 2015 photomake you think twice about your next story, or even whether being a journalist remains worth it.

Take the case of Taylor Lorenz (shown above at right), a reporter in her mid-30s who joined the New York Times about a year and a half ago. She has drawn a lot of attention for covering some of the bigger players and cultural trends in the male-dominated tech world, and she herself is active and outspoken on social media.

Last week, she tweeted about “the harassment and smear campaign I’ve had to endure” in a message urging her followers to “consider supporting women” dealing with such attacks. A harmless enough tweet, one might think. Not for Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. The most-watched host in cable news proceeded to lavish significant airtime over two nights bashing the journalist for this sentiment, calling her “a deeply unhappy narcissist” and an example of “the most privileged in our society pretending to be oppressed.”

It’s not what Carlson says about her that’s so bad. It’s that his disproportionate focus on her before his audience of millions has unleashed ever more troll attacks. Lorenz called that “an attempt to mobilize an army of followers to memorize my name and instigate harassment.” And, she wrote, “the scope of attacks has been unimaginable. There’s no escape.”

The digital harassment is pervasive, and it is destructive to the lives and careers of female journalists. Much of it dates back to GamerGate, the Internet culture war that began in 2013, in which armies of misogynistic Internet trolls were sicced on female gamers and journalists. The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey called it “a proxy war for a greater cultural battle over space and visibility and inclusion, a battle over who belongs to the mainstream.”

Misogyny, often racist misogyny, is at the heart of the more recent attacks on journalists, too. And it’s happening all over the world.

May 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Says He Won’t Bow to ‘Cancel Culture’ and Rejects Calls to Resign, Luis Ferré-Sadurní and Jesse McKinley, March 13, 2021 (print ed.). Nearly all of the Democrats in New York’s congressional delegation, including Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, say that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has lost the ability to govern.

andrew cuomo

Dozens of current and former employees of Mr. Cuomo’s executive chamber described the office as chaotic, unprofessional and toxic, especially for young women.

A raft of powerful Democratic members of New York’s congressional delegation, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jerrold Nadler, called on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to resign on Friday, saying Mr. Cuomo, right, had lost the capacity to govern amid a series of multiplying scandals.

May 11

ny times logoNew York Times, Latest Accusation Against Cuomo Is Reported to Albany Police, Jesse McKinley and Luis Ferré-Sadurní, March 11, 2021. The police characterized the alleged groping by the governor of a female aide as something that may rise “to the level of a crime.”

andrew cuomoAlbany Police Department officials said on Thursday that they had been notified by the New York State Police and the governor’s office about an alleged incident at the Executive Mansion involving Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and a female aide that may have risen “to the level of a crime.”

Steve Smith, a spokesman for the Albany police, said that the department had not received a formal complaint from the woman, who has not been identified, but that it had reached out to a lawyer for her.

This does not mean, Mr. Smith said, that the department has opened a criminal investigation, but it has offered its services to the alleged victim, “as we would do with any other report or incident.”

Albany police officials said they heard from the state police on Wednesday night after the publication of an article in The Times Union of Albany that detailed accusations leveled by an unidentified aide to the governor who accused Mr. Cuomo of groping her at the governor’s mansion, where he lives, late last year.

William Duffy, a spokesman for the State Police, confirmed the contact with the Albany department, saying it was “to facilitate a contact with the executive chamber regarding the alleged incident.”

Mr. Smith said that the deputy chief of police, Edward Donohue, who oversees the department’s criminal investigation unit, then spoke to the governor’s counsel.

The governor’s acting counsel, Beth Garvey, confirmed the conversation, saying that she had initiated the call and reported the allegations, after a lawyer for the female aide told the governor’s office that the aide did not want to file a report.

“As a matter of state policy, when allegations of physical contact are made, the agency informs the complainant that they should contact their local police department,” Ms. Garvey said in a statement. “If they decline, the agency has an obligation to reach out themselves and inform the department of the allegation.”

March 5

ny times logoNew York TImes, Film Criticism: Why My Teenage Self Gave Woody Allen a Pass, Ginia Bellafante, March 5, 2021. The urbane paradise of “Manhattan” looks a lot different through the lens of the new HBO documentary “Allen v. Farrow.” A comedy about a 42-year-old man sleeping with a 17-year-old girl is not a love story.

Between the years 1979, when it opened in theaters, and 1984, I saw “Manhattan” 11 times, after which I stopped keeping count. The early 1980s marked both the period of my adolescent hunger for an urbane, grown-up life in New York and the dawn of VHS, enabling the obsessive consumption of movies, which in my case meant the obsessive consumption of movies by Woody Allen.

In them, I found a vision of the future I wanted, a series of aspirations — to have opinions, to write, to go to book parties but also to make fun of people who approached those things too seriously. The hope was to inhabit the world the way Woody Allen did, as both conspirator and judge.

March 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Sexual Assault Allegations Divide Mexico’s Governing Party, Maria Abi-Habib and Natalie Kitroeff, March 2, 2021. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has backed a candidate accused of sexual assault, testing his promise to create a more egalitarian Mexico.

Basilia Castañeda said she was such a fervent believer in Mexico’s president that she founded the first chapter of his political party in her small town and stumped with the president’s son on the campaign trail.

Then, in December, the man she has accused of raping her when she was just 17 years old was nominated by the president’s party to run for governor of her state, Guerrero.

In statements to prosecutors, Ms. Castañeda and at least one other woman have accused the candidate for governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio, a former senator who is favored to win the election in June, of rape. Local news media have reported that another woman made sexual assault allegations against him in 2007.

One of the criminal investigations is still open, yet Mr. Salgado has enjoyed weeks of public support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has defended the candidate by calling the accusations politically motivated.

The president’s backing of Mr. Salgado is creating significant cracks inside the governing party, presenting a potential challenge to Mr. López Obrador’s popularity and promised transformation of Mexican society.

During a news conference on Tuesday, Mr. López Obrador once again blamed the political opposition for the outcry over Mr. Salgado, claiming that it is “such a shame that the feminist movement is used for other purposes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Catholic clergy in France abused more than 10,000 child victims, independent commission estimates, Rick Noack, March 2, 2021. The independent commission, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 calls from people providing testimony on incidents over the past seven decades.

The head of a commission examining sexual abuse in France’s Catholic Church put the possible number of child victims at more than 10,000 on Tuesday, portending a public reckoning in a country where church officials long stalled efforts to investigate complicity.

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, set up two years ago with the approval of French church officials, has so far received more than 6,500 testimonies from victims and witnesses on incidents alleged to have happened in the past seven decades.

“The big question for us is: How many victims came forward? Is it 25 percent? 10 percent, 5 percent or less?” commission leader Jean-Marc Sauvé told journalists.

March 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Accused of Unwanted Advance at a Wedding: ‘Can I Kiss You?’ Matt Flegenheimer and Jesse McKinley, March 1, 2021. A young woman’s account follows two separate accusations that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed two female state employees.

Anna Ruch had never met Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo before encountering him at a crowded New York City wedding reception in September 2019. Her first impression was positive enough.

The governor was working the room after toasting the newlyweds, and when he came upon Ms. Ruch, now 33, she thanked him for his kind words about her friends. But what happened next instantly unsettled her: Mr. Cuomo put his hand on Ms. Ruch’s bare lower back, she said in an interview on Monday.

When she removed his hand with her own, Ms. Ruch recalled, the governor remarked that she seemed “aggressive” and placed his hands on her cheeks. He asked if he could kiss her, loudly enough for a friend standing nearby to hear. Ms. Ruch was bewildered by the entreaty, she said, and pulled away as the governor drew closer.

anna ruch andrew cuomoAnna Ruch, shown at right, said she felt “uncomfortable and embarrassed” when Mr. Cuomo, shown at far right, placed his hands on her face and asked to kiss her (Personal photo).

“I was so confused and shocked and embarrassed,” said Ms. Ruch, whose recollection was corroborated by the friend, contemporaneous text messages and photographs from the event. “I turned my head away and didn’t have words in that moment.”

Ms. Ruch’s account comes after two former aides accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment in the workplace, plunging his third term into turmoil as the governor’s defenders and Mr. Cuomo himself strain to explain his behavior.

A spokesman for the governor did not directly address Ms. Ruch’s account, referring to a general statement that Mr. Cuomo released on Sunday night in which he acknowledged that some things he has said “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

“To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that,” the statement said.

Ms. Ruch’s example is distinct from those of the former aides: A former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign, Ms. Ruch has never been employed by the governor or the state. But her experience reinforces the escalating concerns and accusations about Mr. Cuomo’s personal conduct — a pattern of words and actions that have, at minimum, made three women who are decades his junior feel deeply uncomfortable, in their collective telling.

Exactly a year after the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case — the dawn of a crisis that eventually propelled Mr. Cuomo to national Democratic stardom — the governor was silent on Monday, even as the fallout continued to shadow his beleaguered administration.

His accusers were not quiet, however: Charlotte Bennett, a former aide who accused Mr. Cuomo of sexual harassment, issued her first public statement since outlining her claims in a New York Times article, saying that the apology and attempted explanation issued by the governor on Sunday night was woefully inadequate.

“These are not the actions of someone who simply feels misunderstood,” Ms. Bennett wrote. “They are the actions of an individual who wields his power to avoid justice.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Democrats Aren’t Asking Cuomo to Resign, Michelle Goldberg, right, March 1, 2021. The diminishing power of MeToo. It seems obvious enough that Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York did what his former aide Charlotte Bennett said he did. Bennett, 25, told The New York Times that, michelle goldberg thumbamong other things, Cuomo asked her if she ever had sex with older men, complained about being lonely and wanting a hug, and said he would date someone in her 20s.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” she said.

Bennett memorialized her discomfort in texts to friends and family. She met with Cuomo’s chief of staff, after which she accepted a transfer to a job on the other side of the Capitol from the governor’s office. She said she gave a statement to a special counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, and she showed The Times a text from Mogul alluding to their meeting, if not its content.

And Cuomo hasn’t denied Bennett’s claims. Instead, he’s issued a sort-of apology that seems to confirm some of them: “I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended.” He acknowledged comments that “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation.”

The New York attorney general, Letitia James, will oversee an investigation into all these charges, but that will only delay an eventual reckoning. Given what we know of Bennett’s story, it’s hard to imagine how an inquiry could exonerate the governor; it can probably only determine the degree and prevalence of his apparent harassment. So eventually, Cuomo’s fate will tell us whether there’s still power in the #MeToo movement.

My guess is that if this scandal had broken a few years ago, high-profile Democrats would have felt no choice but to call for Cuomo’s resignation. Since then, however, a few things have happened. Most significantly, among many Democrats, there’s tremendous bitterness toward those who pressured Al Franken to leave the Senate in 2018 after he was accused of grabbing several women’s butts.

But eventually the results of the investigation are going to come out, and unless they show that Cuomo is innocent of behavior he himself seemed to admit, Democrats will have to pick a side.

ny times logoNew York Times, Under Siege Over Sex Harassment Claims, Cuomo Offers Apology, Jesse McKinley and Dana Rubinstein, Updated March 1, 2021. Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought to stem the growing political fallout over the allegations, acknowledging that he may have made inappropriate remarks. Here’s what we know so far about the sexual harassment claims.

andrew cuomoGov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday sought to stem the growing political fallout over fresh allegations of sexual harassment, acknowledging that he may have made inappropriate remarks that could “have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation” to a young female aide during private meetings last spring.

Mr. Cuomo, right, 63, said his comments — including those which emerged in an account from the aide, Charlotte Bennett — were an extension of life spent at work, where he sometimes “teased people about their personal lives and relationships.”

“I now understand that my interactions may have been insensitive or too personal and that some of my comments, given my position, made others feel in ways I never intended,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

The response from the governor seemed to reflect the gravity of Ms. Bennett’s accusations, and those of another former aide last week, as well as the potential damage that they could cause to Mr. Cuomo, a third-term Democrat.

Mr. Cuomo, who emerged as a national leader during the pandemic, also repeated his calls for an independent investigation of his own behavior, though the decision over who would oversee that inquiry has already proved torturous. His initial choice of a former federal judge to lead the investigation was met with overwhelming criticism, as was his second suggestion that Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, be paired with Janet DiFiore, the chief judge on New York State’s highest court, to jointly pick someone to investigate the matter. Ms. James rejected that proposal.

Finally, late Sunday, Mr. Cuomo relented again, saying in a statement that he would grant subpoena power to whomever Ms. James designated as the outside investigator, as Ms. James had demanded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Andrew Cuomo’s survival in office looks doubtful, Karen Tumulty, right, March 1, 2021 (print ed.). It is starting to look as if the karen tumulty resize twitterquestion will soon be not if but when New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will be forced to resign.

The New York Times has published a blockbuster story in which a second former aide to the governor has accused him of making unwanted sexual overtures. The account given to the paper by Charlotte Bennett, 25, is devastating and thoroughly corroborated.

 

February

Feb. 28

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawyer Seeks Criminal Investigation of T.I. and Tiny on Behalf of Multiple Women, Melena Ryzik and Joe Coscarelli, Feb. 28, 2021. The Atlanta superstar rapper and his wife have denied allegations that they drugged and sexually assaulted women, and their lawyer called it a “shakedown.”

Weeks after accusations of sexual abuse and assault against the rapper T.I. and his wife, Tameka Harris, started circulating on social media, a lawyer has approached law enforcement authorities in two states seeking criminal inquiries, on behalf of 11 people who said they were victimized by the couple or members of their entourage.

Four women have accused the celebrity pair of drugging and sexually assaulting them, including two instances of rape that were said to have occurred in Georgia and California, according to the letters sent on Feb. 19 by the lawyer, Tyrone A. Blackburn, to state and federal prosecutors in both states. Similar letters were sent to the attorneys general in those states.

Mr. Blackburn, a New York-based lawyer, said that the “eerily similar” experiences spanned more than a decade, beginning in 2005; the most recent allegation of sexual abuse occurred in 2017 or 2018, he said. None of the women involved know one another, but described “sexual abuse, forced ingestion of illegal narcotics, kidnapping, terroristic threats and false imprisonment” at the behest of T.I., Ms. Harris and their associates or employees, Mr. Blackburn wrote. His letters also included instances of nonsexual intimidation, assault and harassment.

A lawyer for T.I. and Ms. Harris said that the couple “deny in the strongest possible terms these baseless and unjustified allegations.”

“We fully expect that if these claims are thoroughly and fairly investigated, no charges will be forthcoming,” the lawyer, Steve Sadow, said in a statement on Friday. “These allegations are nothing more than the continuation of a sordid shakedown campaign that began on social media and now attempts to manipulate the press and misuse the justice system.”

Mr. Blackburn’s letters called on the officials to investigate the behavior of T.I., an Atlanta superstar born Clifford J. Harris Jr., and Ms. Harris, also known as Tiny, a member of the R&B group Xscape, in order “to tackle and end the stream of depravity being committed.” Most of his clients were referred to anonymously in the letters, Mr. Blackburn wrote, because they were “in fear for their lives and safety,” citing T.I.’s reputation as a powerful man who has been convicted in the past of federal weapons charges.

However, the lawyer added: “My clients and their witnesses are prepared to speak with investigators and prosecutors from your office.”

Feb. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Cuomo Is Accused of Sexual Harassment by a 2nd Former Aide, Roni Caryn Rabin, Feb. 27, 2021. Charlotte Bennett, the aide, told The Times that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had harassed her last spring. He denied any impropriety and called for an outside review. Ms. Bennett, 25, said he had asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in relationships and if she had been with older men.

andrew cuomoA second former aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is accusing him of sexual harassment, saying that he asked her questions about her sex life, whether she was monogamous in her relationships and if she had ever had sex with older men.

The aide, Charlotte Bennett, who was an executive assistant and health policy adviser in the Cuomo administration until she left in November, told The New York Times that the governor had harassed her late last spring, during the height of the state’s fight against the coronavirus.

Ms. Bennett, 25, said the most unsettling episode occurred on June 5, when she was alone with Mr. Cuomo, right, in his State Capitol office. In a series of interviews this week, she said the governor had asked her numerous questions about her personal life, including whether she thought age made a difference in romantic relationships, and had said that he was open to relationships with women in their 20s — comments she interpreted as clear overtures to a sexual relationship.

Mr. Cuomo said in a statement to The Times on Saturday that he believed he had been acting as a mentor and had “never made advances toward Ms. Bennett, nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate.” He said he had requested an independent review of the matter and asked that New Yorkers await the findings “before making any judgments.”

Ms. Bennett said that during the June encounter, the governor, 63, also complained to her about being lonely during the pandemic, mentioning that he “can’t even hug anyone,” before turning the focus to Ms. Bennett. She said that Mr. Cuomo asked her, “Who did I last hug?”

Ms. Bennett said she had tried to dodge the question by responding that she missed hugging her parents. “And he was, like, ‘No, I mean like really hugged somebody?’” she said.

Mr. Cuomo never tried to touch her, Ms. Bennett said, but the message of the entire episode was unmistakable to her.

“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Ms. Bennett said. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”

Ms. Bennett said she had disclosed the interaction with Mr. Cuomo to his chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, less than a week later and was transferred to another job, as a health policy adviser, with an office on the opposite side of the Capitol, soon after that. Ms. Bennett said she had also given a lengthy statement to a special counsel to the governor, Judith Mogul, toward the end of June.

Ms. Bennett said she ultimately decided not to insist on an investigation because she was happy in her new job and “wanted to move on.” No action was taken against the governor.

In his statement, Mr. Cuomo called Ms. Bennett a “hard-working and valued member” of his staff with “every right to speak out.” He said that Ms. Bennett had spoken to him about being a sexual assault survivor — an experience about which she had been open in the past — and he had tried to be supportive and helpful. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported,” the governor said.

Feb. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-aide says Gov. Cuomo sexually harassed her, kissed her and left her ‘nauseous’ at work, Hannah Knowles and Reis Thebault, Feb. 24, 2021. A former aide to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo made detailed allegations Wednesday that the politician sexually harassed her, describing an unwanted kiss in Cuomo’s office and a pattern of behavior that she says left her “nauseous” going to work.

andrew cuomoLindsey Boylan, who eventually resigned from the Democratic governor’s team, described deep discomfort with Cuomo, right, starting in 2016, when she says her boss told her the governor had a “crush” on her. Boylan said in an online post that Cuomo “would go out of his way to touch me on my lower back, arms and legs,” and shared images of text messages and emails that she said supported her story, an expansion on public allegations she made last year.

“He is a sexist pig and you should avoid being alone with him!” Boylan’s mother texted her at one point about Cuomo, according to pictures of the exchange.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Caitlin Girouard, said Wednesday that Boylan’s “claims of inappropriate behavior are quite simply false.” She focused on the former’s aide’s opening anecdote about the governor allegedly suggesting they “play strip poker” while seated close together on Cuomo’s jet in October 2017.

Four people listed as taking flights with Cuomo and Boylan that month issued a statement through the governor’s office that the conversation Boylan described “did not happen.” Girouard did not comment on other specifics of Boylan’s account.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ted Cruz has a whole new scandal, Bill Palmer, right, Feb. 24, 2021. Even if Ted Cruz’s Cancun scandal doesn’t end up fully setting his Senate career on fire, it’s finally bill palmerplaced a national spotlight on corruption, derangement, and unfitness for office. That kind of spotlight tends to quickly bring a politician’s other scandals to light as well.

bill palmer report logo headerWe’re already seeing this with Ted Cruz. Salon has uncovered a scheme in which Cruz has apparently been using a PAC to buy a ton of his own books, which just so happens to funnel PAC money into his own pocket through the book royalties. There aren’t nearly enough rules when it comes to PACs, but funneling PAC money into your own pocket is one of the few things you can’t do.

The thing about far right anti-government politicians like Ted Cruz, who spend all their time yelling around about the inherent corruption of the government, is that they nearly always turn out to be financially corrupt themselves. We’ll see how deep this corruption rabbit hole goes for Ted Cruz.

Feb. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Allen v. Farrow’ Episode 1 Recap: ‘Inappropriately Intense’ Behavior, Julia Jacobs, Feb. 21, 2021. The new HBO documentary series takes another look at Dylan Farrow’s sexual abuse allegations against her adoptive father, Woody Allen.

The first episode of the four-part HBO docuseries “Allen v. Farrow” debuted on Sunday night, providing a fresh examination of Dylan Farrow’s decades-old sexual abuse allegations against the filmmaker Woody Allen, her adoptive father.

When Ms. Farrow was 7 years old, she accused Mr. Allen of sexually assaulting her at the family’s Connecticut country house on Aug. 4, 1992. Mr. Allen has long denied the allegations, which were front and center in a bitter custody battle between Mr. Allen and Mia Farrow, the Hollywood power couple who made 13 films together.

Mr. Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, is also central to the series. About seven months before the day that Dylan Farrow says her father assaulted her, Mia Farrow discovered nude photographs of Ms. Previn, then a first-year college student, in Mr. Allen’s apartment.

Feb. 20

woody allen v farrow hbo poster

CT Post, TV Film Commentary: Susan Campbell: ‘Allen v. Farrow’ will put spotlight back on infamous case, Susan Campbell, right, Feb. 20, 2021. Andy Thibault susan campbellhas spent a lifetime covering courts, cops and corruption, and in the ’90s, as an editor at The Register Citizen, he reported a story involving a shocking accusation that movie director and actor Woody Allen had sexually abused his stepdaughter, Dylan Farrow, then 7.

At the time, the little girl lived in Connecticut with her mother, the actor Mia Farrow (shown above), who had been Allen’s longtime companion.

Like a dog with a bone, Thibault, left, now city editor at the Waterbury Republican-American, continued to pursue the story for his andy thibault new mug Smallnewspaper, and eventually, for Connecticut magazine, and The New York Post, and his blog, Cool Justice.

Allen, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing — including in a recent memoir — was never charged with the crime — in no small part because a Yale New Haven Hospital Child Sexual Abuse Clinic report concluded that Dylan Farrow was not sexually abused, and that she either made up the stories or had been manipulated by her mother to accuse Allen.

The press — mostly — moved on. Allen continued to attract bold-faced names to his projects, and only a few stalwarts — mostly Thibault — remained committed to the story.

That’s about to change with Allen v. Farrow, a four-part documentary that debuts Sunday on HBO. Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have turned the camera back on, using what “The Hollywood Reporter” calls “explosive” new information to make the case that we shouldn’t have moved on so fast.

The filmmakers have produced other meticulously researched documentaries about sexual abuse in the military and on college campuses, including 2012’s “The Invisible War” and 2015’s “The Hunting Ground,” among others. This docuseries is a natural progression; in an interview with the New York Times, Ziering called the childhood sexual abuse and incest “the third rail,” the topic no one wants to talk about.

Reviews call the docuseries a “horrifying indictment” of Allen (Daily Beast) and “very powerful” (Scott Feinberg, of The Hollywood Reporter, who also wrote on Twitter, “I went in pretty convinced of one thing and came out pretty convinced of another.”

Thibault, the tenacious guardian spirit who kept the light burning, is credited as a research consultant for the docuseries. In fact, in a 2018 Guardian ronan farrowarticle, investigative reporter Ronan Farrow, right, Dylan’s younger brother who won a Pulitzer for his coverage of Hollywood predator Harvey Weinstein, credits Thibault’s reporting around Farrow’s accusations with encouraging him to speak out in support of his sister.

Dylan Farrow, who was born in Texas, was adopted by Mia Farrow in 1985. At the time the family began dealing with her sexual abuse, Allen was discovered in an affair with one of Mia Farrow’s other adopted children, Soon-Yi Previn. Previn and Allen later married and are still together. Previn, too, has continued to protest that her husband is innocent.

(Full disclosure: In April 2018, Dylan Farrow spoke at a sexual assault survivor panel at Quinebaug Valley Community College, where I was also a speaker and Thibault was an organizer. Farrow was the last speaker of the evening, and she began by saying that she didn’t often speak in public, but that for survivors, “even with these truths confirmed or heavily implied with evidence, the assailant still gets the benefit of the doubt.”)

dylan farrow woody allenIn fact, Dylan Farrow, left, has been trying to tell her story for years. She first wrote publicly about the assault in 2014 for the New York Times. Two years later, her brother wrote about it an op-ed in Hollywood Reporter. His essay got far more attention, and as Dylan Farrow said at Quinebaug, “Why did it take a white man repeating my story for it to be believed?”

Thibaut signed a document that doesn’t allow him to talk in detail about his involvement with the documentary, but in a 2015 interview with HuffPost Live, he said that during the ‘90s, he covered Allen and his cadre of lawyers filing complaints against local Connecticut prosecutors. Thibault said in that interview that Allen hired private investigators to dig up dirt on cops and prosecutors, and the Allen team also hired detectives to follow the Farrow children to a local mall to see if they could catch them doing something - like shoplifting -- that would discredit them as witnesses.

He called the Yale study “pathetic malpractice, at best.” Others have questioned the veracity of the study, including a judge in the family’s custody case.

As the docuseries is gaining attention, Elle Magazine recently released its April cover story on Farrow, who is now a 35-year old author of a young adult fantasy novel. She is married, and a mother, and lives near her mother in western Connecticut.

For a journalist, this is the kind of story that could eat you alive. Maybe Thibault has survived by remembering his journalistic tenets. The powerful are no better than the rest of the world. A crime is a crime. When the Huffington reporter asked Thibault how he felt about the case — whose side was he on, in other words, Thibault answered, in true journalist’s fashion, “I’m not on Team Mia or Team Woody,” he said. “I’m on Team Newspaper — or Magazine.”

Susan Campbell is the author of "Frog Hollow: Stories From an American Neighborhood," "Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker," and "Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl." She is a distinguished lecturer at University of New Haven, where she teaches journalism.


Feb. 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Kathleen Ham, Who Met Her Rapist Twice in Court, Dies at 73, Katharine Q. Seelye, Feb. 15, 2021. “He’s been out there for 32 years,” she said in a voice turned gravelly by years of chain-smoking. “And I’ve been in my own private jail.”

She saw something moving on her fire escape. In the next instant, a man smashed through her window and raped her at knifepoint. A neighbor heard her screams and called the police, who caught the assailant near her apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. At his trial in 1974, the jury deliberated for eight days without reaching a verdict, and he was let go.

More than three decades later, in 2005, the man was retried; the woman testified again, and this time, he was found guilty and sent to jail.

In the interim, the criminal justice system and society had undergone major changes regarding rape. One was improved DNA technology. Another was that the victim was no longer ashamed to be identified in public.

Her name was Kathleen Ham. At the time of the crime she was 26, a young professional who had come to New York from California to make her mark in the publishing industry.

Instead, she made legal history. After the man’s conviction, the notoriety of her case — backed by the lobbying muscle of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, and the National Organization for Women — helped persuade New York State to drop its five-year statute of limitations for first-degree rape, making it easier to prosecute old cases. (Hers could be prosecuted a second time so many years later because the first prosecution fell within the five years.)

Ms. Ham died on Jan. 20 at her home in Santa Monica.

Feb. 14

Denver Post, Investigation: Judicial discipline largely handled in “darkness” in Colorado, with most states offering greater transparency, Noelle Phillips, Feb. 14, 2021. Confidentiality in judicial discipline proceedings is embedded in Colorado’s Constitution.

The three-minute video posted on the Florida Supreme Court’s website shows the moment a judge, dressed in her black robes, put her hands on the shoulders of a courthouse employee and briefly shook him.

The video, along with 62 documents that outline the judicial misconduct case against Circuit Judge Vegina T. Hawkins, became public record in July 2019 once the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission began formal disciplinary proceedings against the judge. Hawkins lost her re-election bid in 2020, and the disciplinary case was dismissed. But as the case wound through the state’s formal disciplinary process, the public could follow along.

Florida is one of 26 states where confidentiality for a judge accused of misconduct ends once formal charges are filed by a disciplinary commission. Other states with similar practices include California, Kansas and Washington. Another seven states make the cases public once the accused has a chance to respond to the allegations, and two more states allow the public to watch hearings but don’t reveal any details until then, according to the Center for Judicial Discipline at the National Center for State Courts.

But Colorado is one of 15 states where disciplinary cases against judges are secret until a recommendation for a public punishment is ordered. In most cases, however, Colorado judges are disciplined through informal proceedings that end with a private disciplinary decision.

“There’s no other state that is as dark as Colorado,” said Chris Forsyth, executive director of The Judicial Integrity Project, which pushes for judicial disciplinary reform in Colorado.

The state’s judicial disciplinary proceedings came under scrutiny last week after the Colorado Supreme Court released a previously secret memo that cited multiple examples of sexual misconduct and harassment by judges, allegations that reached the highest levels of the Colorado Judicial Department. The memo was released after a series of articles in The Denver Post about allegations a former human resources administrator threatened to tell everything she knew in exchange for a $2.5 million contract. The contract has been dissolved.

In Colorado, complaints against judges remain confidential until the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline recommends public discipline. Twelve other states have similar laws, including New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Only three states — Delaware, Hawaii and North Carolina — keep discipline a secret until a court orders it to become public, according to the National Center for State Courts Center for Judicial Discipline.

Forsyth has pushed for years for change, saying judges are public servants, and their misdeeds deserve public scrutiny.

“There’s no other reason for this darkness other than to undermine the trust and confidence of judges in Colorado,” he said.

Transparency varies from state to state. Some commissions such as Florida’s post documents as cases move through proceedings, some issue news releases about decisions and some issue orders along with board member’s opinions on why they determined discipline was warranted. Nowhere in the United States can the public see a list of formal complaints against judges, said Cynthia Gray, director of the Center for Judicial Ethics at the National Center for State Courts.

“That would be true in every state,” Gray said. “You just can’t go in and look at them.”

But many states offer more information to the public than in Colorado.

In Arkansas, for example, the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission published a news release in May announcing a judge had resigned and was barred from serving again after he was caught receiving sexual photographs — and asking for more — from a woman facing charges in his courtroom. In Colorado, if a judge resigned before a disciplinary decision, it’s likely the allegation never would become public.

In Minnesota, a judge in March was publicly reprimanded for failing to appropriately supervise a law clerk, approving inaccurate time cards and sending inappropriate email messages about attorneys arguing in her courtroom. Judicial reprimands in Colorado remain confidential.

The Colorado Supreme Court memo released last week listed specific examples of judicial misconduct, but it’s impossible to know if disciplinary action was instigated or whether anyone was at least reprimanded or censured.

A few of the instances discussed in the memo include:

  • A judge sent a pornographic email over judicial email and still was promoted to a chief judge position
  • A law clerk was given a release agreement to protect a court of appeals judge from harassment accusations during the Supreme Court selection process
  • Another judge took off his shirt and rubbed his chest hair on a female employee and no action was taken.

None of those instances are available for review on the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline’s website. That could mean those judges were considered for discipline and none was given. Or they were privately admonished, reprimanded or censured. Or the commission may never have received those cases for review.

William Campbell, executive director of the Colorado Commission on Judicial Discipline, said it would “verge on breaching confidentiality” if he confirmed whether any of those incidents came before the commission. However, in a Friday news release, the commission said it had “reviewed its records spanning the last five years and has not been able to identify a referral from the State Court Administrator’s Office or the Office of the Chief Justice that appears to match the limited details reported publicly.”

The commission only investigates the cases it knows about and if no one complains to the commission, no case is considered. And no changes in law can fix a culture where formal complaints of misbehavior are not made.

Feb. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Lincoln Project Co-Founder Resigns From Board Amid a Deepening Crisis, Danny Hakim and Maggie Astor, Feb. 12, 2021. Steve Schmidt said he was stepping down from the board but remaining with the organization, and eight former workers said they wanted to share information about the handling of harassment allegations against another co-founder.

The crisis engulfing the anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project deepened on Friday when Steve Schmidt, a co-founder, resigned abruptly from the board and former employees renewed demands to be released from nondisclosure agreements in order to provide more information about the organization’s handling of harassment allegations against another co-founder, John Weaver.

Mr. Schmidt will remain with the organization in an executive capacity after he takes a temporary leave. He stepped down from the board to quell a growing furor around the Lincoln Project, but had only joined the board after the November election.

In an extraordinary statement Friday evening, Mr. Schmidt described being sexually assaulted as a teenager, evoking his own experience as he sought to explain his widely criticized response to the allegations against Mr. Weaver.

“I am incandescently angry about it,” he said of Mr. Weaver’s actions, which involved unwanted sexual messages to numerous young men. He added, referring to the man he said assaulted him, “I am angry because I know the damage that he caused to me, and I know the journey that lies ahead for every young man that trusted, feared and was abused by John Weaver.”

Mr. Schmidt reiterated his claim that he had not known of Mr. Weaver’s behavior until last month. However, a former Lincoln Project employee told The New York Times that Mr. Schmidt had known by October 2020 at the latest. The former employee described being in the room when Mr. Schmidt spoke about it.

Mr. Schmidt issued his statement Friday night after a lawyer for a third co-founder, Jennifer Horn, sent the Lincoln Project a notice instructing it to preserve documents in anticipation of a lawsuit, according to a person familiar with the communication.

The turmoil this week has been deeply damaging to the Lincoln Project, which emerged over the last year as the leading group of Republicans opposed to the presidency of Donald J. Trump. It skewered Mr. Trump with mocking ads and drew a large following on the left.

But the group’s leadership has fractured since the election. Two board members, Ron Steslow and Mike Madrid, left in December. George T. Conway III, another key figure, has also departed. Ms. Horn recently resigned, issuing a scathing statement, and on Thursday, the group tweeted her private Twitter messages with a reporter.

Those tweets were subsequently deleted, and Mr. Schmidt said in his statement: “That direct message should never have been made public. It is my job as the senior leader to accept responsibility for the tremendous misjudgment to release it.” He apologized to Ms. Horn, calling her “an important and valuable member of our team.”

Also on Friday, the host of a program on the group’s media arm resigned after less than one week. And a top international affairs expert, the prominent anti-Trump conservative Tom Nichols, said he was stepping down as an unpaid adviser to the group.

The backlash against the Lincoln Project began with the revelation last month that Mr. Weaver had repeatedly harassed young men and at least one minor. It intensified on Thursday with published reports that leaders had known about the harassment last year and failed to act, the demand by former workers to be released from their N.D.A.s, and the unauthorized posting of Ms. Horn’s Twitter messages.

Top Lincoln Project officials said on Thursday night that they were hiring an outside investigator to review Mr. Weaver’s tenure, promising transparency and saying that Mr. Weaver’s conduct “must be reckoned with.”

Ms. Horn, who resigned from the Lincoln Project last week, said in a statement Thursday that she had recently learned that other leaders of the group had ignored warnings about Mr. Weaver’s conduct. In addition to the former employee who said Mr. Schmidt had known by October, several other people who worked for the group have said leaders knew even earlier.

The young men Ms. Horn spoke with were “hurt that their experiences were being denied, angry that they had been used and lied to, and fearful that they would be targeted again,” she wrote in her statement. “When I spoke to one of the founders to raise my objections and concerns, I was yelled at, demeaned and lied to.”

More disclosures could be imminent. Eight former employees and associates — six on Thursday night, and two more on Friday — have now signed the letter asking for release from their N.D.A.s. The signers have not yet spoken publicly, but they provided a copy of the letter to The New York Times, and their identities are known to The Times.

They said they were not comfortable contacting the organization directly to be released from their N.D.A.s, as Lincoln Project leaders suggested in a statement.

“Expecting victims and those close to victims to contact and engage the people and organization accused of protecting the very predator at issue is absurd, unreasonable and insensitive,” they wrote.
Image
In a letter, former Lincoln Project employees have requested a release from nondisclosure agreements they signed with the group.
In a letter, former Lincoln Project employees have requested a release from nondisclosure agreements they signed with the group.

Further controversy erupted late Thursday night when the Lincoln Project posted screenshots from Ms. Horn’s Twitter account, revealing her direct messages with a reporter, and then quickly took them down. Unauthorized access of a social media account can be illegal, depending on the circumstances.

Those posts were the last straw for Mr. Nichols, an international affairs expert at the U.S. Naval War College, who announced on Friday that he was ending his ties to the organization.

“I have been thinking about whether to continue my association for a while,” Mr. Nichols said in an email to The Times. “I was upset by John Weaver’s despicable behavior and concerned about the ongoing public conflict among the principals, but I made my final decision yesterday when Jennifer Horn’s personal messages were published. I’m glad they’re bringing in an outside adviser to help them sort through everything, and I hope there is accountability for what happened with Weaver.”

Mr. Nichols said that as a volunteer, he had no insight into the group’s internal governance.
ImageJohn Weaver said last month that he would not return to the Lincoln Project from a medical leave.
John Weaver said last month that he would not return to the Lincoln Project from a medical leave.Credit...Open Mind/CUNY-TV, via YouTube

Mr. Weaver, 61, is a longtime Republican presidential campaign adviser who gained prominence during John McCain’s runs in 2000 and 2008 and also worked for John Kasich in 2016. The Times reported last month, based on interviews with 21 young men, that Mr. Weaver had for years sent unsolicited and sexually provocative messages online.

The youngest person The Times interviewed was 14 when Mr. Weaver first contacted him; the messages became overtly sexual after he turned 18.

On Thursday, The Associated Press and New York magazine, citing unidentified former employees, reported that Lincoln Project leaders knew about Mr. Weaver’s behavior last summer, which Mr. Schmidt has continued to deny. Mr. Weaver took a medical leave from the group in August and announced last month that he would not return.

In its statement on Thursday, the Lincoln Project said that Mr. Weaver had “betrayed all of us” and that it was bringing in “a best-in-class outside professional” to “establish both accountability and best practices going forward.”

At the same time, the group’s leaders have repeatedly dismissed reporting about when they learned of Mr. Weaver’s behavior, and about Ms. Horn’s resignation, as hit jobs from supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.

The eight former employees and associates expressed anger at that in their open letter. To insinuate that their efforts constituted a right-wing attack, they wrote, “is not in keeping with the values we signed up to uphold, and resembles the tactics and behavior we joined the Lincoln Project to defeat.”

Feb. 11

ravi zacharias

washington post logoWashington Post, Evangelist Ravi Zacharias engaged in rape, financial misconduct and spiritual abuse, report says, Michelle Boorstein, Feb. 11, 2021. Zacharias, whose followers included Mike Pence and Tim Tebow, had aggressively denied the misconduct allegations for years. He died in May of cancer at age 74.

Ravi Zacharias, a towering Indian American evangelist who helped legions worldwide believe in Christianity through a ministry focused on open questioning and truth-seeking, led a double life that included extorting dozens of massage therapists for sexual attention — including multiple women who accused him of sexual aggression and one who accused him of rape, according to an independent report released Thursday.

The report, commissioned by the global Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, is a shameful coda to the career of the late minister, whose books and radio programs have been a staple of evangelical Christian media for decades. Zacharias died in May of cancer at age 74, after spending several years aggressively denying sexual misconduct allegations made in 2017 by Lori Anne Thompson, a former follower, and her husband, Brad, and portraying them as extortionists.

The RZIM board, which is accountable for a ministry operating in 15 countries and with nearly 300 staffers, issued a four-page response to the report that was dramatically contrite. The board apologized to staff who had questioned Zacharias and were rebuffed or punished, and to the Thompsons for the years that “they were slandered ... and their suffering was greatly prolonged and intensified.” As recently as the fall, the board had issued statements minimizing new allegations.

The ministry, which has employed Zacharias’s wife and his three children and is now led by his daughter, said through the board statement that it has hired prominent victim advocate Rachael Denhollander and an independent firm to help it completely investigate its structures, look for other possible victims and consider how to make restitution.

The Circle of Hope Ranch and Boarding School in rural Missouri is now closed after abuse charges against its proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (Cedar County Republican photo).

The Circle of Hope Ranch and Boarding School in rural Missouri is now closed after criminal abuse charges against its proprietors, Boyd and Stephanie Householder (Cedar County Republican photo).

Cinemaholic, Where Is Circle of Hope Located? Is It Still Open? What Was the Cost? Kriti Mehrotra, Feb. 11, 2021. NBC’s ‘Dateline: Broken Circle’ is an episode investigating the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse allegations against the owner of the religious reform institution by the name of Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and Boarding School.

boyd householder stephanie householder family photoOwned and operated by Boyd and Stephanie Householder (shown at right in a family photo), who billed it as an entity for “troubled” girls to get better by following a strict regimen, this school allegedly became a nightmare for at least some of them because of the harrowing misuse and neglect. And now, if you’re here wondering whether the school is still operational, along with its cost, we’ve got you covered.

The Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and Boarding School’s property was a 35-acre estate just outside of Humansville, a small town of about 1,000 residents in western Missouri. Having opened up in July 2006 after Boyd, a Vietnam veteran, worked at similar establishments in Missouri and Florida, it incorporated two properties; one that functioned as the school and the other that became the Householders’ home. The faith-based reform academy was at 20285 E Highway N Humansville, Missouri, 65674, whereas the couples’ home was at 5705 S 2021st Road, Humansville.

The two-story, four-bedroom residence that housed girls as young as 6-year-olds acted as the place where they were required to do a myriad of chores, school work, and Bible study. The females were expected to keep up with everything, and if they failed, they were punished by apparently being restrained or any other unconventional way. Following the negative media attention on the school and its co-owners, though, who are currently under criminal investigation for the alleged abuse (and shown in mug shots below right after indictment), Circle of Hope closed its doors for good, even going as far as to list its properties for sale.

What Was The Cost of Circle of Hope?

boyd household stephanie householder mugsAs per the tax returns filed by Circle of Hope, the ranch averaged 20 to 30 youth residents at a time, collecting about $285,000 in tuition fees in the year 2019, indicating that parents paid somewhere between $9,500 to $14,000 in total. The cost of attending the boarding school always fluctuated. After all, according to NBC, while one parent gave $300 a month for their daughter to go there, a few others revealed that it cost them over $1,000. Therefore, it seems like the tuition fees depended upon the time and the needs of the establishment.

Along with that, Circle of Hope only had a handful of staff members at all times, who apparently received little to no monetary pay. A former worker, who served there in 2009, has come out to state that she was only given a room and some clothing but no compensation. On the other hand, another former employee reported that she was paid $350 a month for working there from 2009 to 2011. However, according to the tax return filing, the ranch spent over $51,000 on salaries in 2019, with $13,495 from there going to Boyd Householder himself.

Feb. 8

djt michael cohen

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen draws the line on Trump and the SDNY, Bill Palmer, Feb. 8, 2021. Earlier this week the AP reported that the Feds at the SDNY currently have no plans to pursue criminal charges against Donald Trump for his felony campaign finance fraud scandal involving Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, right.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Palmer Report explained at the time, this case has been picked up by the Manhattan District Attorney. But now Michael Cohen is stormy daniels 2010 83 wspeaking out on MSNBC, and he’s drawing the line when it comes to the SDNY’s unwillingness to run with federal charges in the scandal.

Michael Cohen, who participated in the scandal and has since become a cooperating witness, knows better than anyone the strength of the criminal case against Trump. Cohen is also calling for a DOJ investigation into why the SDNY abandoned the case and left New York State prosecutors to pick up the slack. Given Cohen’s intimate knowledge of this case, we’re inclined to back him 100% on this.

 wayne madesen report logo

  Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Another child porn bust; another GOP congressional staffer, Wayne Madsen, left, Feb. 8, 2021. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallThe February 5 arrest by Washington Metropolitan Police of former Senate Republican Conference "senior digital strategist" and Donald Trump re-election campaign aide Ruben Verstigui, right, for distribution of child pornography is not the first time a GOP Senate staffer has been busted in ruben verastigui headshota law enforcement sting of on-line pedophiles.

On December 11, 2013, Ryan Loskarn, who was a senior staffer for the Senate Republican Conference, was busted for possession of "hundreds of videos depicting underage boys engaged in sexually explicit conduct." After being released from jail to home confinement at his parents' Maryland home, Loskarn's body was found hanging in his parents' basement. Police ruled the death a suicide.

ruben verastigui white houseLoskarn had worked for Tennessee Republicans Senator Lamar Alexander and then-Representative (now Senator) Marsha Blackburn. Loskarn was arrested as part of the multinational Project SPADE task force, which saw the arrest in November 2013 of several hundred people around the world for possession of child pornography.

Verstigui's resume includes stints with the Republican National Committee, Trump Make America Great Again Committee, and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. from 2017 to 2018. He also was employed by a number of anti-ab ortion groups, including March for Life and Students for Life America. Verstigui posted a number of photos of himself at the Trump White House [as shown at right in a Christmas photo taken at the White House late last year].

What is noteworthy about the Verstigui case is that he was under investigation while he worked for the Senate Republican Conference from March 2019 until July 2020. Homeland Security was investigating Verstigui and a group of 18 people involved in trading child pornography. Court documents state that Verstigui "distributed, received, and possessed images of child pornography” between March 2020 and February 2021.

Daily Beast, Former Trump and GOP Aide Charged With Distributing Child Porn, Alaina Demopoulos, Feb. 6, 2021. Court documents allege that, while working daily beast logofor Republican senators, Ruben Verastigui distributed, received, and possessed images of child pornography.

A former digital strategist for the Senate Republican Conference, who also worked for pro-life groups and designed social media ads for Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, has been charged with distributing child pornography.

D.C. Metropolitan Police arrested Ruben A. Verastigui on Friday after an investigation revealed he allegedly “distributed, received, and possessed images of child pornography” between March 2020 and February 2021. Jared Holt, resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, first reported ruben verastigui white houseVerastigui’s arrest on Twitter.

Verastigui, left, who posted a photo of himself at the White House just two months ago, worked for the Senate Republican Conference until July 2020, according to his LinkedIn. The investigation into his alleged offenses took place while he was still working for the GOP.

He had been working as a communications manager for a non-profit called Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions until Saturday. A spokesperson for the non-profit said: “The details of the allegations against Mr. Verastigui are tragic and shocking. He is no longer employed by the organization and we are prepared to fully cooperate with law enforcement requests in this matter to any extent needed.”

ruben verastigui headshotThe Daily Beast was unable to reach Verastigui, right, and a family member didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Court documents obtained by The Daily Beast say that Homeland Security special agents came across Verastigui while looking into a group of at least 18 people who were trading child porn on a website that remains unnamed “to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

In a group chat on the site, Verastigui went by the username “Landon” and the handle @somethingtaken, according to investigators.

The court documents detail a very disturbing chat on the site in which Verastigui told another user that “babies” were his “absolute favorite.”

“Well like I said babies are some of my biggest turn-ons and beast,” Verastigui wrote in the direct message, per court documents. “Young rape… Fuck I love all that.”

Verastigui sent further messages about wanting to view “hardcore” videos however The Daily Beast has withheld them due to their graphic nature.

When he was sent a video file showing an adult sexually penetrating a child, he replied “FUCK YES!!!”

Feb. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Jack Palladino, 76, Hard-Charging Private Investigator, Dies After ‘Brutal Attack,’ Michael Levenson and Alan Yuhas, Updated Feb. 2, 2021. Jack Palladino, a private investigator who had worked for Bill Clinton and other famous clients, died four days after he sustained a severe head injury in an attempted robbery, the authorities said. Mr. Palladino was placed on life support after sustaining a severe head injury on Jan. 28 in what the San Francisco district attorney, Chesa Boudin, called “a brutal attack” in the city’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

Two people were arrested in the attack and booked at the San Francisco County Jail on charges that include attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse.

Mr. Palladino was known for making surreptitious recordings, deploying attractive women or posing as a journalist to extract information and discredit accusers.

During the 1992 presidential campaign, he was hired by the Clinton campaign after Gennifer Flowers released tapes of phone calls with Mr. Clinton to back up her claim that they had had an affair.

Mr. Palladino embarked on a mission, as he put it in a memo, to impugn Ms. Flowers’s “character and veracity until she is destroyed beyond all recognition.”

“Every acquaintance, employer and past lover should be located and interviewed,” Mr. Palladino wrote. “She is now a shining icon — telling lies that so far have proved all benefit and no cost — for any other opportunist who may be considering making Clinton a target.”

Mr. Weinstein, the once-powerful movie mogul who was sentenced last March to 23 years in prison for sex crimes, had hired Mr. Palladino’s firm to defend him against accusations of sexual assault, the journalist Ronan Farrow reported in The New Yorker in 2019.

As a part of its work for Weinstein, Mr. Palladino’s firm “created dossiers on both journalists and accusers,” Mr. Farrow reported.
The Morning: Make sense of the day’s news and ideas. David Leonhardt and Times journalists guide you through what’s happening — and why it matters.

According to The New Yorker, Mr. Palladino also worked for the singer R. Kelly, who was arrested in 2019 on federal child pornography and obstruction charges.

January

Jan. 28

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan,via Getty Images)

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell Forced Young Girls Into an Orgy: Court Records, Katie Baker and Allison Quinn, Jan. 28, 2021. A witness “watched Maxwell direct a room full of underage girls to kiss, dance, and touch one another in a sexual way for [her] and Epstein to watch,” newly unsealed documents say.

Jeffrey Epstein’s accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell forced young girls into an orgy while she and Epstein watched, according to newly unsealed documents that detail how the British socialite allegedly recruited underage girls to provide sexual favors for the pedophile financier.

A witness to the depraved activity “testified that he watched Maxwell direct a room full of underage girls to kiss, dance, and touch one another in a sexual way for [her] and Epstein to watch,” the records state. The same unnamed man “was in tears as he recounted [Maxwell] bringing a 15-year-old girl to his employer’s home who, in utmost distress, told him that [Maxwell] stole the young girl’s passport and tried to make her have sex with Epstein and then threatened her.”

The disturbing allegations emerged in thousands of court documents that were unsealed in a lawsuit against Maxwell by Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who says the duo loaned her out for sex with powerful men, including Britain’s Prince Andrew. (Maxwell and Andrew have denied her claims. Epstein killed himself in jail in 2019 after being charged with crimes related to the sex trafficking of minors.) The lawsuit was settled in 2017, and a court has since ordered the release of many of the documents under seal, despite Maxwell’s protestations.

The British heiress was nabbed by the FBI in July 2020 while laying low at a swanky New Hampshire hidey-hole and is awaiting trial for having allegedly facilitated Epstein’s sex-trafficking ring.

The unsealed documents paint a portrait of Maxwell at the center of Epstein’s web of abuse.

Jan. 27

leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, left, CEO and co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Amid Epstein Revelations, Leon Black Remains Chairman of MoMA, Robin Pogrebin, Jan. 27, 2021. After the disclosure that Mr. Black had paid Jeffrey Epstein $158 million, some have called for his removal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Harvey Weinstein Accusers Agree to $17 Million Settlement, Melena Ryzik and Cara Buckley, Jan. 27, 2021. Some 40 women will harvey weinsteinparticipate in the bankruptcy court agreement, though others who have sued Mr. Weinstein, right, and accused him of sexual abuse have objected to the terms and are considering an appeal.

On Monday, a bankruptcy court judge in Delaware confirmed the settlement deal, clearing the way for dozens of women who say they were sexually assaulted or harassed by Mr. Weinstein to receive a portion of the $17 million victims fund, largely by ending their civil claims against him.

“Eighty-three percent of the victims have expressed very loudly that they want closure through acceptance of this plan,” the bankruptcy judge, Mary F. Walrath, said in a hearing. Nearly 40 women voted last month to accept the terms of the settlement, which would allow their claims to be evaluated and paid out using a point system, potentially putting an end to a lengthy and anguishing process to determine how the numerous women who accused Mr. Weinstein of misconduct might find restitution.

Mr. Weinstein, 68, was sentenced last March to 23 years in prison after being convicted of rape and another felony sex crime in a criminal trial in New York.

Jan. 26

leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, left, CEO and co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, What Jeffrey Epstein Did to Earn $158 Million From Leon Black, Matthew Goldstein and Steve Eder, Jan. 26, 2021. Mr. Epstein specialized in aggressively pitching ways to minimize paying taxes. And not just to Mr. Black, the private equity chief executive who was his main benefactor in his later years.

He styled himself as a math whiz and “financial doctor” to the rich — even though he was a college dropout who had only a brief tenure at a traditional Wall Street firm. It was said his services were available only to billionaires, whose affairs he handled mostly from a tropical island hideaway.

So what did Jeffrey Epstein do to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from a handful of wealthy clients like the private equity billionaire Leon Black?

The answer: help rich people pay less in taxes.

In the case of Mr. Black, the chief executive of Apollo Global Management, his advice could have been worth as much as $2 billion in savings, according to a law firm’s review of Mr. Black’s business dealings with Mr. Epstein. On Monday, Mr. Black announced that he would step down as Apollo’s chief executive this year after the review found he had paid Mr. Epstein $158 million over five years for his services.

Mr. Epstein’s specialty was suggesting ways for wealthy clients to use sophisticated trusts and other investment vehicles to reduce their tax liability while passing on assets to their children, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times and interviews with 11 people familiar with his work. In the process, he collected hefty fees — usually based on a cut of the anticipated tax savings.

In the years after 2008, when Mr. Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to prostitution charges involving a teenage girl, he often advised clients on the use of grantor retained annuity trusts, or GRATs, according to three people familiar with his work.

GRATs are a form of sophisticated trust that broke into the mainstream after a high-profile court fight involving a Walmart heir, and have been used by wealthy people including the father of former President Donald J. Trump, according to published reports. These trusts permit a person to keep collecting income from assets of all kinds — including stocks, real estate and art — and then hand them off to family members without paying the large gift or estate taxes normally associated with such transfers.

One person who did business for Mr. Epstein over the past decade said the disgraced financier’s “biggest thing was GRATs.” The person, who stopped working with Mr. Epstein in 2018 but spoke on the condition of anonymity because he continues to advise wealthy clients, said Mr. Epstein had bragged about using GRATs to save money for a small group of clients, including Mr. Black.

In Mr. Black’s case, according to the review by the law firm Dechert, the savings were enormous: about $1 billion for a single GRAT. Mr. Epstein’s detection of a problem in a trust set up in 2006 and his proposed solution were “the most valuable piece of work” that he performed, the report said.

“Outside legal counsel described the solution as a ‘grand slam,’” according to the Dechert report, which was commissioned at Mr. Black’s request after The Times reported in October that he had paid Mr. Epstein at least $75 million in fees.

The Dechert report — 22 double-spaced pages delivered to Apollo’s board — cleared Mr. Black of any wrongdoing, but he said he would step down as chief executive by the time he turned 70 in July. Another Apollo founder, Marc Rowan, will take over that role, and Mr. Black will remain the company’s chairman. Apollo’s shares were up 7 percent on Tuesday.

Mr. Epstein was compensated for the resolution of the GRAT problem as part of a $23.5 million agreement with Mr. Black in 2013, according to the report. After that, they entered a series of agreements that netted Mr. Epstein more than $100 million more before the two men parted ways in 2018.

Jack Blum, a Washington lawyer who has led corruption investigations for several Senate committees, said he was surprised by the size of the fees Mr. Epstein’s work commanded. “You could be the best lawyer in Manhattan working on the most complicated trusts and estates and it would never come anywhere close to that kind of money,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Deborah Rhode, Who Transformed the Field of Legal Ethics, Dies at 68, Clay Risen, Jan. 26, 2021 (print ed.). A Stanford professor, she pushed the legal profession to confront the ways it failed clients and to be more inclusive of women.

deborah l rhode resizedDeborah L. Rhode, right, a law professor who transformed the field of legal ethics from little more than a crib sheet for passing the bar exam into an empirically rich, morally rigorous investigation into how lawyers should serve the public, died on Jan. 8 at her home in Stanford, Calif. She was 68.

Her husband, Ralph Cavanagh, confirmed her death but said the cause had not yet been determined.

With 30 books and some 200 law review articles to her name, Professor Rhode, who spent over four decades teaching at Stanford, was by far the most-cited scholar in legal ethics, with a work ethic that astounded even her hard-charging colleagues.

“She was done with all her chapters before I started mine,” said David J. Luban, a law professor at Georgetown and one of her co-authors on Legal Ethics, a casebook now in its eighth edition.

To Professor Rhode, the core issues in legal ethics were not about bar association rules, but the politics and interests behind those rules, especially those that limited who could practice law and how lawyers should go about providing services to people who could not afford them.

“In her view, it wasn’t enough to memorize rules or espouse airy principles," said Nora Freeman Engstrom, a fellow law professor at Stanford. “Legal ethics — and legal ethics scholars — would have to refocus on what matters: access to justice, integrity, accountability, and equality.”

Professor Rhode was a relentless critic of the American Bar Association, which she believed was too focused on barriers to entry that undermined innovation and kept legal fees high. Such was her intellectual standing that in 2014 the association nevertheless gave her its Outstanding Scholar Award.

She was equally concerned with issues of gender in the legal profession, a subject she knew well from deep personal experience. As one of a handful of women at Yale Law School in the mid-1970s, and later as only the second woman to receive tenure at Stanford Law School, she found herself constantly harassed, demeaned and excluded by colleagues.

When she arrived at Stanford in 1979, she had wanted to teach gender and the law, but the dean refused, telling her to pick a “real subject,” as she recalled. She agreed to teach contracts instead, but changed her mind two years later when the dean retired and several alumni threw him a party — and invited a stripper.

“I said to hell with contracts,” she later wrote.

But progress on gender-equity issues brought its own complications. As women made their way into law firms and legal faculties, among other professions, during the 1980s and ’90s, it became easy to conclude that sex discrimination had disappeared, or was fast on its way to disappearing — what Professor Rhode referred to as the “no-problem problem.”

One of Professor Rhode’s best known books grew out of an Op-Ed for The New York Times about her distaste for high heels and the social mores that demand women wear them.

Through law review articles and countless opinion pieces in publications like The New York Times, The New Republic and Slate, she documented the barriers that women still faced, among them unconscious bias, unequal pay, lack of mentors, stereotypes and inflexible workplace structures.

Jan. 25

 leon black jeffrey epstein

Leon Black, left, CEO and co-founder of Apollo Global Management, and the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Apollo C.E.O. to Step Down After Firm Finds More Payments to Jeffrey Epstein, Matthew Goldstein and Katherine Rosman, Jan. 25, 2021. An inquiry’s finding that Leon Black, the billionaire boss of Apollo Global Management, paid the convicted sex offender $158 million touched off an attempt to remove him.

The founders of Apollo Global Management, one of the world’s biggest private equity firms, engaged in a brief power struggle this weekend over control of the firm, a rift that opened up after an inquiry revealed that one founder — Apollo’s chief executive and chairman, Leon Black — had paid more than $150 million jeffrey epstein sex offenderto the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, right.

On Monday, Mr. Black announced his plan to step down as chief executive this year. “I have advised the Apollo board that I will retire as C.E.O. on or before my 70th birthday in July and remain as chairman,” he said in a statement.

The review — ordered by the firm’s board at Mr. Black’s behest in October, after The New York Times detailed at least $75 million in payments — found that Mr. Black had paid Mr. Epstein $158 million in a five-year period ending in 2017. He had also lent Mr. Epstein more than $30 million, only $10 million of which was paid back, the report found.

Mr. Black’s payments effectively bankrolled the lifestyle of Mr. Epstein — whom Mr. Black viewed as a “confirmed bachelor with eclectic tastes,” according to the report — in the years after his 2008 guilty plea in Florida to a prostitution charge involving a teenage girl.

leon black black and whiteAlso, Mr. Black, shown at left in a company photo, believed that Mr. Epstein had “served his time” for that case and deserved a second chance, the report said. It found there was no evidence that Mr. Black had participated in any of Mr. Epstein’s criminal activities, or that Mr. Epstein had ever introduced Mr. Black to any underage girl.

The details of their financial dealings — Mr. Epstein’s advice was worth perhaps $2 billion in tax savings to Mr. Black, according to the report — created friction between Mr. Black and one of Apollo’s other founders, Joshua Harris, according to three people briefed on the discussions. In recent months, Apollo investors had begun openly questioning the financial ties between Mr. Black and Mr. Epstein, who died in 2019.

joshua harris1One of the people said Mr. Harris, right, believed that Mr. Black showed poor judgment in consorting with Mr. Epstein, and that the new findings would further hurt Apollo’s reputation.

Apollo’s board held a videoconference on Sunday to approve the findings of the review, according to two people briefed on the discussions. At the meeting, Mr. Black also announced his plans to step down this year and hand over the chief executive job to Marc Rowan, Apollo’s third founder. Mr. Black intends to remain chairman of the New York firm, which manages $455 billion for institutional investors, including pension plans and sovereign wealth funds.

During a series of meetings on Sunday evening, including with individual board members, Mr. Harris raised objections to Mr. Black’s timeline for stepping down, believing that the reputational threat was so serious that Mr. Black should relinquish the chief executive role without delay, the people said. Mr. Harris also made his case to his co-founders that night in discussions with Apollo’s executive committee — which consists of the three of them.

Mr. Rowan, who built Apollo’s insurance business but had largely stepped away from the firm’s day-to-day operations in recent years, will take over when Mr. Black steps down.

Mr. Black informed Apollo’s clients of the succession plan and the findings of the review in a letter on Monday evening.

Mr. Harris will continue in his current role as a senior managing director, focused on the firm’s financial performance and working closely with Mr. Rowan, according to the letter, the contents of which were reviewed by The Times. The letter also informed clients of other proposed governance changes, including adding four more independent directors. It also laid out Mr. Black’s plan to donate $200 million to charities that support gender equality and fight sex trafficking.

Jan. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, Mets fire GM Jared Porter after ESPN details lewd, harassing texts to female reporter, Dave Sheinin and Cindy Boren, Jan. 19, 2021. Mets owner Steven Cohen said "there should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior" in announcing the firing. Porter admitting to sending a sexually explicit image among the texts.

major league baseball mlb logoThe New York Mets moved swiftly Tuesday morning to fire their new general manager, Jared Porter, less than 12 hours after ESPN reported he had sent inappropriate text messages and pictures, including one of an erect penis, to a female reporter in 2016.

Mets owner Steve Cohen announced the firing himself in a tweet. Cohen became the Mets’ majority owner in November — promising accountability and integrity for an organization that had often lacked both — while Porter, 41, was hired as GM in December.

“In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it,” Cohen wrote on Twitter. “There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”

Major League Baseball plans to open an investigation into Porter’s actions, a person familiar with those plans confirmed Tuesday. That investigation, first reported by USA Today, could result in a leaguewide suspension for Porter that would require him to petition for reinstatement if he hoped to work in baseball again.

Jan. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Attorney Roberta Kaplan is about to make Trump’s life extremely difficult, Karen Heller, Jan. 18, 2021. On the other side of Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency, the lawyers are waiting.

Leaving aside his Senate impeachment trial, mounting government investigations include a civil probe by New York Attorney General Letitia James, right, a criminal letitia james o headshotprobe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., and a federal probe by acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin that may include Trump’s role in the catastrophic storming of the U.S. Capitol this month.

But already pending for the soon-to-be South Florida retiree is a trio of lawsuits that allege defamation, fraud and more fraud — all of which are helmed by one attorney.

Roberta Kaplan’s clients include writer E. Jean Carroll, left, who filed a defamation case after Trump claimed she was “totally lying” about her e jean carrollallegation that he raped her a quarter-century ago in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room, and niece Mary L. Trump, who claims that Trump and two of his siblings deprived her of an inheritance worth millions.

“I became the go-to person to sue the president,” says Kaplan, 54, with considerable relish.

She is in many ways the ideal legal adversary to take on Trump. Kaplan is a brash and original strategist, with neither a gift for patience nor silence, a crusader for underdogs who has won almost every legal accolade imaginable. Kaplan, says New York Democratic Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in an email, “has been indispensable in the fight against the cancer of hate and division that Trump spent four years exacerbating.”

Before the presidency, Trump was often as engaged in legal tussles as he was in real estate, suing and threatening to sue his way out of financial trouble. With a return to private life, “his terror is that he will no longer be protected by the office and will have to deal with these lawsuits,” says his niece. Trump faces the prospect of spending considerable time in the role of defendant. Kaplan says she will seek to depose him in all three cases. Trump’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment on the cases in this story.

Jan. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Revives Abortion-Pill Restriction, Adam Liptak, Jan. 12, 2021. In the Supreme Court’s first ruling on abortion since the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court on Tuesday reinstated a federal requirement that women seeking to end their pregnancies using medications pick up a pill in person from a hospital or medical office.

supreme court graphicThe court’s brief order was unsigned, and the three more liberal justices dissented. The only member of the majority to offer an explanation was Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who said the ruling was a limited one that deferred to the views of experts.

The question, he wrote, was not whether the requirement imposed “an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion as a general matter.” Instead, he wrote, it was whether a federal judge should have second-guessed the Food and Drug Administration’s determination “because of the court’s own evaluation of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Here as in related contexts concerning government responses to the pandemic,” the chief justice wrote, quoting an earlier opinion, “my view is that courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence and expertise to assess public health.’”

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, said the majority was grievously wrong.

“This country’s laws have long singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Like many of those laws, maintaining the F.D.A.’s in-person requirements” for picking up the drug “during the pandemic not only treats abortion exceptionally, it imposes an unnecessary, irrational and unjustifiable undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to choose.”

She suggested that the next administration should revisit the issue.

“One can only hope that the government will reconsider and exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

Judge Theodore D. Chuang, of the Federal District Court in Maryland, had blocked the requirement in light of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that a needless trip to a medical facility during a health crisis very likely imposed an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion.

The case concerned a restriction on medication abortions, which are permitted in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. About 60 percent of abortions performed in those weeks use two drugs rather than surgery.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups, all represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued to suspend the requirement that women make a trip to obtain the first drug in light of the pandemic. There was no good reason, the groups said, to require a visit when the drug could be delivered or mailed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Columbia Settles a Complicated Sexual Assault Case, Anemona Hartocollis, Jan. 12, 2021. The university restored the diploma of the accused man, but stands by its initial findings against him.

It began as a night of drinking and flirtation between two Columbia University classmates four years ago. It turned into a federal lawsuit with unusually detailed documentation.

And now it has ended in a settlement that underscores the contentiousness of the national debate over campus sexual misconduct cases, a debate that the incoming Biden administration is expected to join soon as it considers whether to overhaul federal sexual assault policies.

Under the settlement filed on Dec. 23, Columbia has restored the diploma of Ben Feibleman, whom a three-member university panel had found responsible for sexually assaulting a female classmate. It has also agreed to pay him an undisclosed cash award and to send a statement to prospective employers describing him as an alumnus in good standing, Mr. Feibleman’s lawyer and a spokesman for the university said.

The case is unusual because Mr. Feibleman willingly sued under his own name, rather than a pseudonym, and because he had made a 30-minute audiotape of the sexual encounter. That recording became a centerpiece of his defense.

In a statement, Columbia said that it had not withdrawn its findings against Mr. Feibleman even though it had settled with him. And the accuser, who has not been identified in court papers, continues to say that an assault took place. But Mr. Feibleman’s lawyer, Kimberly Lau, said: “We consider this a victory.”

The case spanned two presidential administrations and now may have implications for a third. It paints a picture of a campus culture in which students have become hyper-aware of the rules of academic sexual misconduct and worry about how every intimate encounter is going to look down the road.

The complaint against Mr. Feibleman was filed in the fall of 2016 during the Obama administration, whose campus sexual assault policies broadly favored believing the accusers, who are usually women. Those policies were in effect through the adjudication of the case by Columbia.

In the background was the presidential campaign, during which a tape surfaced of Donald J. Trump, the Republican candidate for president, boasting about forcing himself on women. Columbia had also in the recent past received widespread media attention from the case of Emma Sulkowicz, who carried a mattress around the campus as a piece of performance art to protest what she said had been her rape by a fellow student, whom Columbia cleared.
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Columbia issued its verdict against Mr. Feibleman in June 2017, declining to give him his diploma. He filed a federal suit against the university in May 2019. That suit was settled after the Trump administration had adopted a regulation to give more due process protections to the accused, generally men, effective in August.

Now, the incoming administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to consider whether to try to dismantle the Trump administration’s rules.

 

Note: This near-daily summary of #MeToo and related sexual assault news has been divided up to encompass below news stories beginning in 2020. For previous periods extending back to 2018, kindly visit these links:  2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

 

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