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Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 2:51 AM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 2:50 AM
SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon state senator resigned after an investigation determined he had harassed women in the Capitol building with prolonged hugging, groping and other unwelcome physical contact.
Sen. Jeff Kruse, in a statement Thursday, remained defiant, indicating he was deprived of his rights and proclaiming his innocence. He said his resignation is effective March 15.
An investigative report released Tuesday said the long-time Republican senator from the former timber town of Roseburg had groped or gave lingering hugs to two female senators, two law students who used to work for him, Republican and non-partisan staffers, a former legislative aide and a lobbyist.
The report said the behavior had continued for years, despite warnings that he stop.
The investigation was one of many in statehouses nationwide following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against men in power since an October expose of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein by the New York Times.
In Arizona, Republican state Rep. Don Shooter was voted out of office on Feb. 1 after sexual misconduct allegations, becoming the first state lawmaker in the U.S. to be expelled since the #MeToo movement gained steam.
Several Oregon politicians, including Gov. Kate Brown, had called for Kruse to leave the Legislature.
Sen. Sara Gelser, a Democrat who said she had been subjected to the unwanted physical contact for years, made a formal complaint last November, giving the #MeToo movement its highest-profile case in Oregon. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward later made a similar complaint.
Gelser said that when she was sitting at her desk on the House floor in 2011, where she first served in the Legislature, Kruse leaned onto her back and put his hands and arms down her shoulders and across her breasts.
The 51-page report by investigator and employment law attorney Dian Rubanoff cited complaints by other women who weren't named.
A Senate panel had scheduled a hearing to determine whether to recommend expulsion or other sanctions, or take no action.
In his statement Kruse said: "For civil rights to be meaningful, there must be civil rights for all people, including the right to fundamental fairness for persons accused of harassment.
"I continue to deny these allegations and I regret that I will not have the opportunity to defend myself before the Senate Conduct Committee," he said.
He said he was resigning so his constituents could "receive the fullest representation they are due."
Kruse told the investigator that he believed his behavior was "instinctual" and that although he wanted to change, "It's not easy to change when you have been doing something for 67 years."
Senate President Peter Courtney said Kruse made the right decision.
"While Senator Kruse's resignation ends a difficult chapter for the Legislature, we cannot allow it to end this discussion," Courtney said. "We owe it to the courageous women who came forward to seize this moment."
Jackie Winters, the Senate Republican leader in the Legislature dominated by Democrats, thanked Kruse for his 22 years of service.
"As we move forward, we must work to provide a safe work environment for all," Winters said.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick praised the women who spoke up about harassment.
"Women showed incredible courage to come out with their experiences, and hopefully this will provide them with some comfort," the Democrat told reporters.
Kruse said he was proud of his accomplishments in health care and education.
"I look forward to returning to the wonderful community that has supported me for over two decades," he said.
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM
WASHINGTON — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.
Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.
Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.
Porter has denied any wrongdoing.
"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy on allegations of spousal abuse against former top White House aide Rob Porter: “How in the hell was he still employed… How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” https://t.co/vuNO7b7riO https://t.co/nHySCCvUGb— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2018
Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.
The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.
“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.
White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.
“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.
Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.
Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.
She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM
ANDERSON, S.C. — A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.
In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.
Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 4:16 PM
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.
“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”
The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.
Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.
“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.
Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.
“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.
According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”
Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.
Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”
Published: Saturday, February 03, 2018 @ 2:58 PM
— A Democratic congresswoman from Michigan was caught playing Candy Crush on her phone during Tuesday's State of the Union address.
A Getty photographer captured U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence playing the game on her iPhone during President Trump's address, the Detroit Free Press reported. Other photographs taken during the address show many legislators using their phones.