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Congressional Democrats on Sunday called for the New York attorney general to investigate a second woman’s allegations of sexual harassment against the state governor, Andrew Cuomo, while the leader of the state’s ethics panel demanded his resignation.

Calls from several leading Democrats came after Charlotte Bennett, an executive assistant and health policy adviser to Cuomo until November, told The New York Times on Saturday that he had harassed her last spring, during the height of New York’s battle with the coronavirus pandemic.

She said he asked her inappropriate questions about her personal life, which she believed were sexual overtures.

Earlier this week another former aide, Lindsey Boylan described numerous past incidents with Cuomo, including an alleged unsolicited kiss in his Manhattan office, in an online essay, following initial allegations she made last December.

Cuomo has denied all the allegations, and on Sunday his office asked Letitia James, the New York attorney general, and Janet DiFiore, chief judge of New York’s court of appeals, to select an “independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation” to investigate.

James said on Twitter: “Allegations of sexual harassment should always be taken seriously. There must be a truly independent investigation to thoroughly review these troubling allegations against the governor, and I stand ready to oversee that investigation and make any appointments necessary.”

She added: “Given state law, this can only be accomplished through an official referral from the governor’s office and must include subpoena power. I urge the governor to make this referral immediately.”

The move came just hours after Democrats in Congress called on James to lead the investigation.

It was a significant step from Cuomo’s earlier position of asking a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, to lead an “outside review”.

The examination should be done “in a manner beyond reproach”, Cuomo’s office stated, adding it wanted to avoid “even the perception of a lack of independence or interference of politics”.

Mazie Hirono, Democratic senator of Hawaii, said claims of such “reprehensible, inexcusable behaviour” by figures such as Cuomo needed exploring.

“It seems to me that the New York attorney general would be the independent entity to conduct such an investigation,” she told ABC’s This Week, adding that it took “great courage” for women to come forward.

And Democratic New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that Boylan and Bennett’s “detailed accounts of sexual harassment by Gov Cuomo are extremely serious and painful to read”.

“There must be an independent investigation – not one led by an individual selected by the Governor, but by the office of the Attorney General,” she wrote.

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Meanwhile, Alessandra Biaggi, the Democratic chair of the state senate’s ethics and internal governance committee, called for Cuomo’s resignation, calling the allegations “the epitome of a hostile workplace environment” and accusing the governor of “a clear pattern of abuse and manipulation”.

New York City’s mayor and Cuomo’s Democratic political rival, Bill de Blasio, also weighed in, calling for two independent investigations, one over the sexual misconduct allegations, and another into claims the Cuomo administration withheld information about the extent of Covid-19 deaths in New York nursing homes.

“New Yorkers have seen detailed, documented accounts of sexual harassment, multiple instances of intimidation, and the admitted withholding of information on the deaths of over 15,000 people,” De Blasio said.

The twin scandals are placing Cuomo’s personal conduct under a harsh new spotlight despite his once-vaunted record in battling Covid-19 in New York.

He faces an investigation by the FBI and federal prosecutors, and his own party wants to take away the emergency powers they granted him during the pandemic.

Bennett told the New York Times that she’d informed Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about a particularly disturbing interaction with the governor less than a week after it occurred. She said she was transferred to another job on the opposite side of the state Capitol, in Albany, upstate New York. At the end of June she also gave a statement to a special counsel for Cuomo.

The governor’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, acknowledged that the complaint had been made and that Bennett had been transferred to a position in which she had already been interested.

Garvey said in a statement that Bennett’s allegations “did not include a claim of physical contact or inappropriate sexual conduct” and Bennett “was consulted regarding the resolution, and expressed satisfaction and appreciation for the way in which it was handled”.

“The determination reached based on the information Ms Bennett provided was that no further action was required, which was consistent with Ms Bennett’s wishes,” Garvey said.

Bennett told the newspaper she decided not to push for any further action by the administration. She said she liked her new job and “wanted to move on”.
(Guardian)

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coronavirus

American Airlines Under Fire After Letting John Kerry Violate Policy Without Consequence

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American Airlines is under fire for letting President Joe Biden’s Climate Envoy John Kerry violate its mask mandate without consequence.

Kerry — who was pictured on an American Airlines flight from Boston to Washington, DC, on Wednesday morning letting his mask hang off his ear while he was not eating or drinking — was in clear violation of the federal mandate requiring airline passengers wear a mask at all times when not eating or drinking. The federal mandate, implemented by Biden, is in addition to the policy from the airline itself requiring passengers wear masks to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Kerry is a former secretary of state. He previously was the Democrat presidential nominee in 2004 and served for decades in the U.S. Senate representing Massachusetts.

The story first broke Monday afternoon in the Tennessee Star and has since made the rounds across the media, including in Breitbart News.

The White House declined to comment on the matter, instead referring Breitbart News to the State Department — where Kerry works as the special climate envoy — which has not yet commented on the matter. Kerry himself dismissed the violation of the federal order in a tweet as just a “momentary” lapse in his mask-wearing, and American Airlines announced as the news spread about the incident that it is conducting an investigation.

The official American Airlines Twitter account has repeatedly said Wednesday evening the airline is “looking into” the matter but has offered no clear resolution of the violation on Kerry’s part.

Kerry, who was sitting in first class on the flight, was in clear violation of the order:

An American Airlines spokeswoman, Stacy Day, told Breitbart News on Wednesday the company intends to communicate to Kerry that he needs to wear his mask for the duration of a trip and that this so-called “momentary” slip was unacceptable. Day said, too, flight attendants did not observe Kerry maskless on this flight, and other customers did not alert the staff to the violation before it broke in the media.

“Masks are required on board our aircraft,” Day said in an email:

Our team works diligently to make sure customers are wearing masks properly as they travel with us, and flight attendants pass through the cabin several times during flight to ensure compliance. The crew did not observe Secretary Kerry without a mask, and they were not alerted by other customers to a non-compliance issue. We continue to review the matter and we are reaching out to Secretary Kerry to underscore that all customers are expected to wear masks for the duration of their trip.

Despite Day’s comments on this, American Airlines has not answered a set of detailed questions this incident raises sent to them from Breitbart News. The company’s lack of clarity on its mask policy potentially presents a risk to the public health, and the unclear level of enforcement of it also creates broader confusion in the public. In particular, Day did not answer when asked in a follow-up if Kerry will be banned from future American Airlines flights for violating the order as the company said in an announcement in February that it would do for those who do not follow its mask mandate.

David Seymour, American’s chief operating officer, is quoted in a press release after Biden’s executive order federally requiring masks on U.S. flights as saying the airline will enforce the order.

“Our mask requirement has been and will continue to be a critical component of our comprehensive effort to protect the health and well-being of our customers and team members during the pandemic,” Seymour said. “This federal mandate will provide additional support to our crew members who are working diligently to enforce our policy and further reinforce the safety of air travel during COVID-19.”

That particular press release said people who refuse to wear a mask and do not comply with the order may be denied boarding, kicked off a boarded flight, or even barred from future American Airlines flights.

“Consistent with U.S. government directives, individuals who refuse to wear a mask may be denied boarding, removed from the aircraft or subject to penalties under federal law, in addition to being barred from future travel with American,” the American Airlines press release said.

But now that American Airlines refuses to say whether Kerry — for whose violation of the order photographic evidence exists — will be barred from future flights, the legitimacy and seriousness of the entire mandate is, at best, in question or perhaps, at worst, non-existent.

American Airlines refused to answer a series of questions about Kerry’s mask order violation, and more broadly about the company’s enforcement of the policy.

The questions sent to the American Airlines staff that they did not answer include:

1.) John Kerry said in a tweet about this photographic evidence about this clear violation of the federal order and American Airlines policy that it was “momentary.” He was not eating or drinking. He does not claim that he was. If that is okay for John Kerry to do, can anyone else have a “momentary” slip of their mask?

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2.) What is an acceptable amount of time for someone to have their mask slip off their nose and mouth for a “momentary” period?

3.) Has John Kerry been disciplined in any way for his violation of this health order?

4.) Will American Airlines allow John Kerry to continue to fly, or ban him from future flights for this violation?

5.) Why has it taken so long for American Airlines to do something about this violation? When ordinary people violate the mask mandate, they get held accountable almost immediately. Do you have different standards for politically-connected Democrats than you do for ordinary Americans?

6.) What exactly are the standards of the American Airlines mask mandate policies? If someone violates it, what are the consequences? Are those consequences the same for every person and are these standards the same for every person? Is there an exemption to the policy that allows Democrat politicians to avoid enforcement?

7.) Are we to take the lack of enforcement–and the lack of urgency on the part of American Airlines–to mean that masks are not required on American Airlines flights anymore?

8.) Have you had any communication with the Department of Transportation about this? If so, please detail that communication.

9.) Have you had any communication with the White House about this? If so, please detail that communication.

10.) Have you had any communication with Kerry, his representatives, or anyone from the State Department about this? If so, please detail that communication.

11.) Does American Airlines think it is “malarkey” to call out government officials who violate the government’s and American Airlines’ mask mandate policies?

Several top conservative leaders, from former Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to Donald Trump Jr. and more, have called out American Airlines for the lack of clarity on this matter.

If American Airlines does indeed allow Kerry to continue flying on its airline after this evidence of his violating the mask mandate emerged, it will present an interesting dilemma for the company that has already banned several Americans from flying on its planes for similar violations. Brandon Straka, a conservative activist and leader of the Walk Away movement encouraging people to leave the Democrat Party, was banned last summer for not wearing a mask.

“American Airlines has banned a man who was kicked off a plane for refusing to wear a face covering, among the first such incidents since airlines promised this week to step up enforcement of their mask rules,” the Associated Press reported in July 2020, for instance:

A spokesman for American said Thursday that the airline decided to ban the man after reviewing the incident, which occurred Wednesday at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

According to the airline, conservative activist Brandon Straka ignored requests by crew members to wear a mask while the plane with 122 passengers prepared to leave for Dallas-Fort Worth. He was ordered off the 172-seat plane and put on a later flight.

American said Straka will be banned until the airline drops its requirement that passengers and crew members wear face coverings to limit spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Other similar incidents have cropped up for the past year.

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Border Crisis

Democrats: When Trump Pauses Funds, It’s Illegal. When Biden Does It, It’s Fine

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GAO has no option other than to find that President Biden’s pause of the border wall funds is unlawful and should issue an opinion stating the Biden administration has broken the law.

Last Congress, many Democrats, including Rep. John Yarmuth, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, claimed the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) broke the law when it paused the obligation of funds to Ukraine for 50 days to determine the best use for them.

On the very first day of his administration, however, President Biden directed that funding specifically appropriated to build the wall along the southern border be paused for 60 days to determine how best to spend those funds. Press reports indicate that all funding for the wall construction has stopped.

Biden has now held these funds longer than OMB held the Ukraine funding. But Yarmuth has stayed silent about the Biden hold on funds, demonstrating that the congressman cares nothing about the law and only about partisan politics. In contrast to this hypocritical silence, 40 Republican senators have requested that GAO look into whether the Biden hold is unlawful.

As OMB general counsel during the Trump administration, I authorized the Ukraine funds pause so President Trump could consider the best use of those funds, consistent with the law and his policy. Although those funds were designated for Ukraine, there were a variety of ways they could be spent to benefit the government of Ukraine, from purchasing weapons to blankets. This pause was entirely appropriate and legal, and once the president made a decision OMB made the funds available and they were obligated before the end of the fiscal year.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is simply an instrumentality of Congress, rushed out an opinion during the failed partisan impeachment effort claiming that OMB had violated the Impoundment Control Act by pausing the spending of those Ukraine funds. GAO concluded that the president could never pause funds to conduct a policy review to determine the best use of those funds, even if the law allowed for a variety of ways for the funds to be spent.

Based on this GAO reasoning, President Biden’s order is an unlawful act and a violation of the Impoundment Control Act. Yet Yarmuth, who accused the Trump OMB’s of breaking the law for pausing funds and cited this very GAO opinion, has not raised a single objection to President Biden’s hold. GAO has also remained silent and done nothing. This is plainly hypocrisy and the use of double standards.

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OMB’s pause on the obligation of the Ukraine funds was in fact perfectly legal and appropriate pending a policy review. GAO’s opinion (and Yarmuth’s position) is legally wrong. It’s also reckless to argue that a president does not have the discretion to determine how best to spend funds when the law in fact provides that discretion.

For example, last year, as it has done for many years, Congress appropriated a lump sum of funding to the State Department for international organizations. The World Health Organization (WHO) is one of those qualifying international organizations, but President Trump did not want to provide funding to WHO because of its complicity in aiding China in lying and covering up the spread of COVID 19. As OMB general counsel, I determined that the president had the legal authority to pause the obligation of those funds to determine where best to spend them, and the funds were obligated to other international organizations, consistent with the law.

But since GAO rejects this executive branch latitude with respect to pausing funds for a policy review, GAO has no option other than to find that President Biden’s pause of the border wall funds for a policy review is unlawful. It should forthwith issue an opinion stating that the Biden administration has broken the law.

Most important, Yarmuth, based on his support of GAO’s position and his accusations last year, should publicly object to the Biden administration’s hold or admit he was simply playing partisan politics when he criticized OMB for pausing funding during the Trump administration to determine how best to spend those funds. But I won’t hold my breath.

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Biden administration

VIDEO: Tucker Carlson tears into Biden’s immigration policy live from El Salvador

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‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ host takes on President Biden’s border crisis.

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