2017 United States political sexual scandals

The 2017–18 United States political sexual scandals are a string of allegations of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and sexual assault, and subsequent firings and resignations of American politicians in 2017 and 2018. Some of these allegations are linked to the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations starting in October 2017.[1][2][3]

Executive branch[]

Donald Trump (R)[]

Stormy Daniels

On January 12, 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported that Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in October 2016, shortly before the presidential election, as hush money to deny having had an affair with Trump in 2006.[4][5] The Wall Street Journal elaborated that the payment was done that month to a representative of Daniels via a private company established in Delaware by Cohen.[6] At the time, Clifford was reportedly in talks to share her account with Good Morning America and Slate.[7] Cohen has denied the existence of an affair on behalf of Trump; he also produced a letter allegedly signed by Daniels denying both the affair and the payment of hush money.[8]

On January 17, 2018, In Touch Weekly published excerpts of a 2011 interview of Daniels alleging a 2006 extramarital affair with Trump. The magazine describes her account as being supported by a polygraph and corroborated by both her friend and her ex-husband.[9]

The political watchdog group Common Cause filed a complaint on January 22, 2018, calling on the Federal Election Commission and U.S. Department of Justice to investigate if the reported payout violated campaign finance rules.[10] In response to this complaint, Cohen said that he had given $130,000 to Daniels from his own pocket, that it was for matters unrelated to the Trump campaign or Trump Organization, and that he was not reimbursed for the payment.[11]

As of April 9, 2018, Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Cohen, has been raided by the FBI concerning the allegation against Cohen. An FBI raid cannot occur without a strong belief that the subject being raided would have destroyed incriminating evidence if notified beforehand.[citation needed]

Karen McDougal

In February 2018, The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow wrote about an alleged affair between Trump and Playboy model Karen McDougal, as well as the "catch and kill" procedure of the purchase and withholding of the story by American Media, Inc. (AMI), largely corroborating a 2016 Wall Street Journal report, except that the affair had gone on for nine months. The story was based on McDougal's handwritten memoirs of the affair, which McDougal's friend passed to Farrow. McDougal confirmed to Farrow that she had written the memoirs. Farrow quotes the memoirs as stating that McDougal first met Trump in June 2006 at a party hosted by Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion. Trump kept in contact with McDougal, and they had sex on the first date. During the affair, she met members of his family and he promised to buy her an apartment in New York. To avoid "paper trails", Trump had McDougal pay for flight and hotel expenses when she flew to meet him, then he reimbursed her. McDougal ended the affair in April 2007 due to guilt and being offended by some of Trump's comments.[12][13][14]

McDougal declined to discuss details of the alleged affair due to her agreement with AMI, but she told Farrow that she regretted signing that agreement, saying, "It took my rights away... I don't know what I'm allowed to talk about. I'm afraid to even mention his name." Farrow also wrote that AMI CEO/Chairman David Pecker has a "favorite tactic" of buying "a story in order to bury it". AMI said it did not publish McDougal's story as it was not credible, and a spokesperson for the White House denied the affair.[12]

On March 22, 2018, McDougal was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on AC360 in which she detailed her alleged affair with Trump.[15][16] In the interview McDougal said that Trump tried to give her money after they first had sex. She also stated that their relationship lasted ten months and that she visited Trump "many dozens of times".[17][18]

In March 2018, McDougal filed a lawsuit against American Media, Inc. in Los Angeles Superior Court, aiming to invalidate the non-disclosure agreement.[19][20] On April 19, 2018, American Media, Inc. settled with McDougal; the settlement allows her to speak about the alleged affair.[21]

In July 2018, The New York Times reported that two months before the 2016 presidential election, Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had secretly recorded a conversation between him and Trump regarding paying McDougal. Another personal lawyer to Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, said that Trump did not know of the recording, and gave two versions of the topic of conversation, saying firstly that the discussion was planning to pay McDougal directly, and secondly that it was about planning to pay American Media Inc. (AMI) for the rights to McDougal's story. This appeared to contradict a previous claim by Trump's campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks days before the election when she responded to the report by the The Wall Street Journal about AMI's payment to McDougal that "we have no knowledge of any of this."[22]

United States Senate[]

Al Franken (D–MN)[]

United States Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, on November 16, 2017, was accused by media personality Leeann Tweeden, who wrote in a blog post that during a USO tour in 2006, Franken forcibly kissed her without her consent as part of a rehearsal for a USO skit. She wrote that he "put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth ... I felt disgusted and violated." Franken was also photographed appearing to grope her breasts while she was seated and sleeping on an aircraft wearing Interceptor Body Armor and a helmet.[23][24] In response Franken said, "I certainly don't remember the rehearsal for the skit in the same way, but I send my sincerest apologies to Leeann ... As to the photo, it was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't. I shouldn't have done it."[25] A few hours later, Franken issued a longer apology,[26] which Tweeden accepted.[27]

Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer sent the information to the Senate Ethics Committee for review, a decision supported by members of both parties including Franken himself.[24] The next day, Abby Honold, who had worked with Franken to introduce legislation that would provide training to law enforcement interviewing victims of trauma, requested that Franken withdraw his name as the sponsor of that bill. Honold was raped by a former Franken intern.[28][29] Franken complied and Senator Amy Klobuchar took over the bill's sponsorship.[30]

On November 20, 2017, Lindsay Menz accused Franken of touching her clothed buttocks while the two posed for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.[31] In a statement responding to the allegation, Franken said, "I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture. I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected."[32] Later, two more women accused Franken of similar misconduct during political events in 2007 and 2008, incidents Franken said he also did not remember.[33] Some liberal groups and commentators, including the Indivisible movement and Sally Kohn, called on Franken to resign because of these allegations.[34] Franken issued another apology on November 23, 2017, stating, "I've met tens of thousands of people and taken thousands of photographs, often in crowded and chaotic situations. I'm a warm person; I hug people. I've learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many."[35] A fifth woman, Stephanie Kemplin, alleged Franken touched her breast while posing for a photo with her during a 2003 USO tour. She is the second person to allege that such behavior took place while Franken was on a USO tour.[36]

On December 7, he announced his plan to resign from the Senate.

United States House of Representatives[]

John Conyers (D–MI)[]

Dean of the United States House of Representatives Congressman John Conyers of Michigan was found to have allegedly paid a settlement of $27,000 to a former member of his staff, who had accused him of sexual assault.[37] BuzzFeed reported on this settlement on November 20, 2017, based on documents from Mike Cernovich including accounts of other ethical concerns associated with Conyers's office such as sexual harassment of other female staffers.[38][39][40] Conyers responded to these reports, saying, "In our country, we strive to honor this fundamental principle that all are entitled to due process. In this case, I expressly and vehemently denied the allegations made against me, and continue to do so. My office resolved the allegations — with an express denial of liability — in order to save all involved from the rigors of protracted litigation."[41]

On November 21, 2017, the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into multiple sexual harassment allegations against Conyers.[42] Reports of a second woman accusing Conyers of sexual harassment appeared later in November 2017. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had initially stated that Conyers was an "icon" and had done a great deal to protect women,[43] called upon Conyers to resign, and called the allegations against him "very credible", as did House Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn.[44]

On December 5, he resigned from Congress.[45]

Blake Farenthold (R–TX)[]

Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas was discovered to have paid $84,000 to a former member of his staff after she accused him of sexually assaulting her.

He announced his retirement on December 15.[46][47] On April 6, 2017, however, Farenthold abruptly resigned from Congress.[48]

Trent Franks (R–AZ)[]

It was reported on December 7, 2017, that Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona was the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation over allegations of improper conduct. On December 7, 2017, Franks announced that he would resign on December 8, 2017.[49] According to a report in the Washington Post, Franks and his wife were struggling with infertility and Franks had asked two female staffers if they would consider serving as surrogate mothers for Franks and his wife.[50] Franks maintained that he never "physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff."[50]

Alcee Hastings (D–FL)[]

On December 8, it was discovered that $200,000, of taxpayers money, had been given to a former staff member of Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida, after she accused him of sexually harassing her.[51]

Ruben Kihuen (D–NV)[]

Congressman Ruben Kihuen of Nevada was accused by a former staffer on the Kihuen campaign of repeatedly propositioning her for dates and sex.[52] When asked about the accusations, Kihuen said, "I sincerely apologize for anything that I may have said or done that made her feel uncomfortable.”[52] The chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Ben Ray Luján, and Nancy Pelosi, said that he should resign.[52]

On December 16, he announced he would not seek re-election.

Eric Massa (D–NY)[]

It was revealed that secret payments, totaling $100,000, had been made to two men who had accused Congressman Eric Massa of New York of sexually harassing them. Massa resigned from Congress in 2010 after being accused of sexually harassing male members of his staff.[53]

Pat Meehan (R–PA)[]

On January 20, 2018, it was revealed that Congressman Pat Meehan of Pennsylvania used taxpayers money to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by a former member of staff. Meehan also allegedly grew hostile after the alleged victim rejected his advances.[54][55] Meehan was soon removed from the U.S. House Ethics Committee and announced he would retire at the end of his term.[56]

Federal judges[]

Alex Kozinski[]

Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Alex Kozinski (R), facing multiple accounts of sexual harassment against women[57] announced his immediate resignation.[58] The U.S. judicial council opened a probe in Kozinski's alleged misconduct, but closed it on February 5, 2018, reporting that Kozinski's retirement put the case outside its investigatory scope.[59][60]

State politicians[]

Alabama[]

Alaska[]

Arizona[]

California[]

Colorado[]

Florida[]

Hawaii[]

Idaho[]

Illinois[]

Iowa[]

Oklahoma[]

Kentucky[]

Louisiana[]

Massachusetts[]

Minnesota[]

Mississippi[]

Missouri[]

New York[]

Ohio[]

Oregon[]

Pennsylvania[]

Rhode Island[]

Texas[]

Utah[]

Wisconsin[]

Wyoming[]

See also[]

References[]

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