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Will Trump’s latest jaw-dropper be a shrug or help Democrats?

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“Russia, if you’re listening….,” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said in a solicitation for campaign help heard around the world. He appeared to have received it, which prompt the two-year investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election to benefit the Reality TV star.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller accepted the premise of a Justice Department memo that a sitting president can not be indicted while in office and concluded that while he could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump knew that accepting anything of value from a foreign government is against the law, there is sufficient evidence that the Russian government interfered in a “sweeping and systemic fashion” to elect Trump. Evidence of duplicity concocted to conceal the Trump campaign’s desire to get “dirt” on opponent Hillary Clinton at a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer is apparently insufficient to prove intent and foreknowledge of wrong-doing.

But surely, out MSNBC host Rachel Maddow sarcastically opined on June 12, Trump knows now that accepting foreign assistance is illegal. The unvetted assistance could be a Trojan Horse hiding the foreign entity’s agenda of destabilizing the US government, its institutions and creating a useful secret asset.

If that was Russia’s intent, mission accomplished. America’s in a constitutional crisis with citizens being constantly told by Trump not to trust the FBI, the media (“Fake News”), or any source of information, other than him and his tweets, which are now considered policy statements. Meanwhile, as of March, the US debt to China is $1.12 trillion, an estimated 28% of the $4.07 trillion held by foreign countries, according to thebalance.com. With Trump’s imposition of punishing tariffs on China—which are actually hurting the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach—China and Russia have suddenly become close allies. If Trump goes through with his threats of levying tariffs against America’s biggest trading partner, Mexico, the Southern California region recently flipped from red to blue will be economically devastated.

But what Maddow was dumb-founded about was ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos’ jaw-dropping interview with Trump in the Oval Office earlier in the day. Stephanopoulos asked if Trump would accept opposition research on his 2020 opponent offered by a foreign government.

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump said. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

Trump disputed that such information could be construed as interference in the democratic electoral process.

“It’s not an interference, they have information—I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.”

But, Trump said, everyone does oppo research. “The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it,” he said. “You don’t call the FBI. You throw somebody out of your office, you do whatever you do.”

Stephanopoulos noted that FBI Director Christopher Wray said campaigns should report suspected interference.

“I think my view is that if any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation-state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation-state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that is something that the FBI would want to know about,” Wray told a May 7 Senate hearing.

“The FBI director is wrong,” Trump scoffed. “Give me a break. Life doesn’t work like that.”

The reaction was fast and furious. Some noted that Trump publicly and unabashedly just put a “For Sale” sign on his forehead. Others quipped this was “Russia, if you’re listening,” part two.

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam B. Schiff, former federal prosecutor who just return to DC from the LA Pride parade to start holding hearings into the Mueller Report, told CNN a change in the campaign laws is needed “to deter the kind of unethical unpatriotic conduct the president engaged in the last campaign and is completely willing to do all over again. He learned nothing.”  Schiff isn’t playing. As an assistant US Attorney based in LA back in the day, Schiff prosecuted a case against former FBI agent Richard Miller who was convicted on Schiff’s third attempt in 1990 of “passing secret documents to the Soviet Union in exchange for a promised $65,000 in gold and cash,” according to the LA Times.

Schiff said he is running out of patience with the Justice Department and might subpoena the FBI for information. “The FBI has an obligation by the National Security Act to brief us on a recent counterintelligence matter. If there are ongoing counterintelligence investigations involving people around the president, they must inform us,” Schiff told reporters after his Intelligence Committee hearing on the Mueller report.

“What Donald Trump said is unAmerican, unpatriotic, and unbelievable,” Rep. Ted Lieu said on MSNBC. Lieu sits on the House Judiciary Committee and was asked if Trump’s admission that he would violate the law would galvanize the movement to hold Impeachment hearings, for which he has already voiced support. The former active duty officer Air Force JAG officer, now a Colonel in the Reserves seemed to back the slow, methodical evidentiary hearing approach advocated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“The eyes of the nation tonight must look to Nancy Pelosi,” former Florida Republican Congress member David Jolly told MSNBC anchor Brian Williams, after tweeting that Trump’s comments are an “impeachable moment.”

To be sure, the pressure to start Impeachment hearings piled on Pelosi as the day and night wore on.

And surely, the first question asked at the first Democratic Party debates on June 26 & 27 will pertain to Impeachment and the Mueller report – which now even out Fox News anchor Shepard Smith has encouraged his fans to read, noting “10 instances of apparent obstruction of justice.”

“Remember, in his 400-plus page report that everyone in America should read ― everyone ― Robert Mueller laid out 10 instances of apparent obstruction of justice, criminal obstruction of justice, potentially, by President Trump,” Smith told his audience. “The special counsel did not exonerate the president. Said if they could’ve they would’ve, but they couldn’t so they didn’t.”

Of the many reasons Pelosi and others have cited for her cagey methodical approach to exposing Trump’s corruption and criminality is the fact that it is the Speaker’s job to protect the House majority. She is keenly aware that many Democrats are more moderate than the louder progressives, including the newly elected Democrats from the red-flipped-to-blue Southern California region.

Many of those areas – such as the closely won district represented by out bisexual Rep. Katie Hill — are also populated with residents who have a profound red respect for the military and the idea of law and order. It would be an ironic twist if they, too, start to consider Trump’s comments un-American, unpatriotic and a disgrace to all the cold warriors who sacrificed to keep Russia and China at bay.

But there is another below the radar issue that’s causing concern. Some politics fear that so much attention and money will go to ousting Trump and funding favorite Democratic presidential candidates that funding and volunteers will dry up for those incredibly important California congressional re-election races.

Equality California has already endorsed the seven new incumbents and one challenger in 2020 battleground Congressional districts: Rep. Josh Harder (CA-10), Rep. TJ Cox (CA-21), Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25), Rep. Gil Cisneros (CA-39), Rep. Katie Porter (CA-45), Rep. Harley Rouda (CA-48), Rep. Mike Levin (CA-49) and Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA-50).

“Protecting and expanding our pro-equality majority in the House is critical for the LGBTQ community and our allies,” Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a press release. “While the House was passing historic nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans this month, the Trump-Pence Administration spent the last month attacking LGBTQ healthcare and trying to kick LGBTQ people out of homeless shelters. The choice for pro-equality voters couldn’t be clearer. Each of these seven incumbents has been an invaluable partner in the fight for full, lived LGBTQ equality, and we can’t wait to have Ammar join them in 2021.”

Campa-Najjar came so close to defeating mega-anti-LGBT hater Rep. Duncan Hunter in 2018 there are high hopes for him again. Those hopes increased on June 12 when Hunter’s wife Margaret, who he threw under the bus when they were indicted on multiple felony campaign violations, withdrew her not guilty plea and is expected to testify against her husband.

But whichever way the political winds blow as the Democrats continue to deliberate over what to do with Trump and Trump continues his impervious bluster – the LGBT community will continue to assert itself in the march to June 28, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. And maybe, just maybe, another notch will be carved in the collective unconscious for LGBT visibility to survive past Pride Month.

Photo: Reps. Harley Rouda, Katie Hill, candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, Reps. Mike Levin , Katie Porter and Gil Cisneros (Photo by Karen Ocamb)

 

 

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California Politics

Karen Bass & her LGBTQ staff discuss commitment to equity & justice

“Diversity is something you have to do consciously,” Bass said. “I always look at my staff and [ask myself] ‘who’s missing?’

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Karen Bass with campaign staff, supporters, and former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (Photo by LeRoy Hamilton)

LOS ANGELES – U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), a leading candidate to become the next mayor of the city Los Angeles, has hired LGBTQ+ folks with diverse backgrounds to leadership positions on her Congressional staff and in her mayoral campaign because of “their dedication to fighting for social and economic justice,” Bass told the Los Angeles Blade over the phone Thursday morning. 

“Diversity is something you have to do consciously,” she said. “I always look at my staff and [ask myself] ‘who’s missing?’ to make sure we have representation. I think it’s really important to approach it that way.” 

Meanwhile three senior members of Bass’s staff, all of whom identify as LGBTQ+ – Senior Advisor and Policy Director Joey Freeman, Campaign Manager Jenny Delwood, and Chief of Staff Darryn Harris — spoke to The Blade about their personal relationships with the Congresswoman. 

They also highlighted what they described as a throughline in Bass’s adherence to principles of equity and justice, beginning with her early career as a nurse and physicians’ assistant through to her candidacy for mayor of Los Angeles. 

Bass is slated to square off against billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso in the November 8 election to replace term-limited incumbent Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The two candidates advanced from the June 7 primary elections, having each received less than 50% of the vote. 

A longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community, Bass kicked off her “LGBTQ+ for Bass affinity group” Wednesday night at the historic Black Cat restaurant in Silver Lake.

Bass has been a mentor to the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders on her staff.

When it comes to her staff, Bass said, “I see my role as helping to develop their leadership and helping to support them however I can.” 

“I was able to be my full self here; fully black, fully gay,” said Harris, Bass’s chief of staff, who has known the Congresswoman for his entire adult life and served in multiple positions before being appointed to lead her congressional office. 

“When you have a boss who’s that supportive of you, it helps in so many different ways,” he said. “Not only with the work we do, but also it was one of the things that helped deepen our friendship and deepen our mutual trust, because I was able to bring my whole self to work.”

Delwood, Bass’s campaign manager, has also known the Congresswoman for more than a decade and served in multiple positions before her appointment to lead her mayoral campaign. As a human being, as a professional, and as a lesbian, Delwood said Bass has embraced every part of who she is. 

“The Congresswoman has been not only a boss, but also a mentor,” Delwood said. “I started working for her as a fellow/intern in 2007 in the California Assembly, and she and I have built a very strong relationship over the years. She is part of my extended family, now.”

Jenny Delwood, pictured right, with Bass (center) officiating her wedding to wife Christine
(Photo courtesy of Jenny Delwood)

Beginning with her early career in healthcare, Bass has been an ally of the LGBTQ+ community

“When I went to school to be a physicians’ assistant in the early 1980s,” Bass said, the virus that would become known as HIV/AIDS began to emerge, disproportionately impacting gay men. “It was unbelievable, in the first few years of the epidemic, how [badly] these patients were treated,” she said. 

In her work treating patients, and as a full-time clinical instructor at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, Bass pushed for better treatment of HIV/AIDS patients, practicing what she preached. 

“From that time on, she’s been standing for and with the community,” said Freeman, Bass’s senior advisor and policy director, who identifies as gay. 

“She was on the ground floor of the HIV AIDS epidemic,” Delwood said, “providing medical care for people with HIV/AIDS when folks were steering clear of and being discriminatory [against those who were positive].” From those early days of her career, Delwood said, “Congresswoman Bass has been in deep solidatiry with the LGBTQ community.”

“It wasn’t just gay men with HIV,” said Zach Seidl, Bass’s communications advisor, “but trans folks, too.”  In the best of cases, doctors would greet HIV/AIDS patients in hazmat suits; in the worst, refusing treatment, Seidl said. Bass, meanwhile, insisted she needed to help them, he added.   

Bass believes in consulting people who will be directly impacted by policy

Policymakers often speak with subject matter experts without consulting those who will be directly impacted, Bass said. It’s an oversight the Congresswoman has been careful to avoid. 

For example, Bass told the Blade she visited a federal prison yesterday morning to hand out copies of draft legislation that concerns women in the criminal justice system, inviting incarcerated women to read and share comments or input by email. 

This will extend to her work as mayor, Freeman said. If elected, Bass will be charged with selecting staff, commission members, and general manager appointments, roles where she will ensure LGBTQ+ people are well represented, because this is how she prefers to govern – by consulting with people who are directly affected by policy. 

Working so closely with Congresswoman Bass, “I have the opportunity to see that every single day,” Harris said, “Ordinary people influencing public policy at state, federal, and – soon – the citywide level” under her leadership. 

Bass believes the most effective way to create lasting change is to work with community members and to bring forward solutions that are community driven, Delwood agreed. “In order to actually solve homelessness or address crime in LA or deal with our lack of affordable housing, it’s imperative” to work with a variety of stakeholders from the community as well as in the county, state, and federal government, she said. 

Bass and her staff have big plans to address problems afflicting Los Angelinos 

“I could have stayed in Congress to fight for a leadership spot,” said Bass, who was reported as a front runner for President Joe Biden’s vice president during his 2020 electoral campaign. But there are crises in Los Angeles, she said, pointing to the latest figures on the city’s unhoused population as an example. 

Bass Policy Director Joey Freeman (Middle) and Campaign Manager Jenny Delwood (far right)
(Photo by LeRoy Hamilton)

It was the second time in her career that Bass was faced with such a decision, she said. “I was a full-time faculty member of the medical school” when Los Angeles began to experience a crack-cocaine epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

“I was mortified at how the city was responding to crack cocaine and gang issues,” Bass said. “These were health, social, and economic issues, but the response of policymakers was to criminalize everything and everyone in South LA.”

Leaving USC, Bass formed the Community Coalition and began her work as a community organizer. “I worked to prevent the city from locking everyone up, and to steer people away from gangs,” the Congresswoman said. “And then I looked for how we organize people to fight for drug treatment instead of incarceration for those who were addicted.” 

Likewise, Bass said, the current moment calls for coalition building and working across the government to improve the lives of Angelenos and effectuate just policymaking for, especially, vulnerable communities.

Members of Bass’s staff pointed to how the Congresswoman could be particularly effective as mayor on issues of homelessness, LGBTQ+ rights, child welfare reform, foster care reform, housing affordability, and violence against Black trans people. 

“Forty percent of young people on the streets are LGBTQ+,” said Delwood. “Being able to address that is a top priority of the congresswoman as well as our entire team.” Many children land in the foster care system because of discrimination over their sexual orientation or gender identities, she said, and while LGBTQ+ adoptive or foster parents are greeted with “open arms” in LA, such is not the case in many other parts of the country. 

As Mayor, in coordination with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Bass will be able to champion foster youth, reform the child welfare system, and prove to the rest of the country how successful LGBTQ adoptive and foster parents can be, Delwood said. 

Freeman agreed. There is a lot of overlap, he said, with issues concerning the foster care system, with high rates of homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth, with the housing crisis. “What we need to do to address homelessness and prevent future homelessness is to tackle the root cause,” Freeman said. “Are LGBTQ  youth receiving the support they need?”  

Congresswoman Bass “has deep relationships with folks here, in DC, and in Sacramento, so when you’re dealing with challenges in LA, she knows how to go in there and how to pool the resources in order to solve them,” Harris said. 

Harris highlighted Bass’s community organizing and coalition building roots, arguing she is the best candidate to represent all of Los Angeles as the city’s mayor.

One issue Harris said he is eager to see Bass’s leadership in addressing is the high rates of murder and violent crime against members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly Black trans people. “I’m excited to see how she would be able to ensure that they are safe, tracking some of those federal dollars to ensure that they have protections against domestic and sexual violence,” he said.

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California Politics

Rep. Karen Bass greets LGBTQ+ affinity group at the historic Black Cat

Bass has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community. In her remarks she listed some of her achievements in the battles for LGBTQ+ equality

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Screenshot via video by Troy Masters for the Los Angeles Blade

LOS ANGELES – Surrounded by well-wishers, supporters, and former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez at her side, U.S. Representative Karen Bass launched the official “LGBTQ+ for Bass affinity group” Wednesday evening at the Black Cat, an LGBTQ+ historic site located in the Silver Lake neighborhood of the City.

Pérez, an openly Out gay man served as the 68th Speaker of the California State Assembly, succeeding Bass as Speaker in 2010. Bass made several warm references to their mutual past political history. She also spoke on subjects that are critical to furthering LGBTQ+ equality and equity in her six-minute chat.

U.S. Representative Karen Bass & former California Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez
(Photo by Troy Masters)

The congresswoman is locked in a close race with billionaire real estate tycoon Rick Caruso to succeed current Los Angeles City Mayor Eric Garcetti in the Fall elections on November 8. Both candidates advanced from the June 7 primary election since neither received 50% of the vote. Incumbent Mayor Garcetti is unable to stand for re-election due to term limits.

Bass has been a longtime ally of the LGBTQ+ community. In her remarks Wednesday at the Black Cat she listed some of her achievements in the battles for LGBTQ+ equality, first in the California Assembly, then in Congress.

The venue where the Congresswoman launched the LGBTQ+ political affinity group is famed as an LGBTQ+ historic site. The Black Cat was the site of one of the first demonstrations in the United States protesting police brutality against LGBT people, preceding the Stonewall riots by over two years.

From the One Archives at USC: A New Year’s 1967 raid by the Los Angeles Police turned brutal as LAPD undercover officers began beating several of the patrons and ultimately arrested fourteen patrons for “assault and public lewdness.” As reported by the local gay newspaper Tangents, two bartenders were beaten unconscious. The paper also noted that patrons fled to another gay bar, New Faces, but they were followed by police and arrested. The officers mistook the manager, a woman named Lee Roy, for a man (named “Leroy”) wearing a dress, and beat her severely.

Photo by Troy Masters

The historical account continued: Contrary to popular myth, there was no “riot” at the Black Cat, but a civil demonstration of 200 attendees to protest the raids was held on February 11, 1967. The demonstration was organized by a group called PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education) – founded by Steve Ginsberg – and the SCCRH (Southern California Council on Religion and Homophile). The protest was met by squadrons of armed policemen. Demonstrators carefully adhered to all laws and ordinances so that the police had no legitimate reasons to make arrests.

Two of the noteworthy events that arose from the Black Cat arrests and later protests was the establishment of The Advocate, which began as a newspaper for the group PRIDE and has continued publishing to this day and formation of the Metropolitan Community Church led by Los Angeles LGBTQ+ pioneer, the Reverend Troy Perry.

Karen Bass speaks at LA’s iconic Black Cat:

Editor’s Note: The Los Angeles Blade has endorsed Rep. Bass in her election campaign to become the next mayor of the city of Los Angeles.

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Politics

Gay man wins Democratic congressional primary in Ill.

Eric Sorensen running for retiring U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos’ seat

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Eric Sorensen (Photo courtesy of Eric Sorensen)

MOLINE, Ill. — Illinois Democrats are hoping to send a gay person to Congress for the first time in the state’s history.

Voters in the 17th Congressional District in northwest Illinois on Tuesday voted to have Eric Sorensen, a former meteorologist, become the Democratic nominee for the district’s U.S. House of Representatives seat currently held by retiring Democratic Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.

“THANK YOU to everyone who was a part of this movement,” Sorensen wrote on Twitter following his primary victory. “From day one this campaign has been built on three pillars: Trust, science, and communication. I’m honored to be your #IL17 Democratic nominee for Congress.”

Sorensen, who bested his closest primary opponent by more than 13,000 votes, has centered much of his campaign messaging around the issue of mitigating the effects of climate change.

Sorensen’s candidacy and potential to become the state’s first openly gay member of Congress has been met with celebration from those advocating for more of such representation on Capitol Hill. After Sorensen claimed victory on Tuesday, advocacy groups and political organizations like Equality PAC and the LGBTQ Victory Fund were quick to offer their support.

“It has never been more important to defend our pro-choice, pro-equality majority in Congress,” Victory Fund President Annise Parker said in a statement. “As a meteorologist, Eric spent the last two decades keeping his local community safe by telling the truth and promoting a pro-science agenda. His success tonight is a testament to his continued leadership and grassroots support, as well as a highly effective ground game focused on candid conversations about how to make government work for all Americans.”

Hoping to keep the district from flipping to Republican control in a midterm year that is expected to be an uphill battle for Democratic congressional majorities, Sorensen has also gained the backing of the district’s current congresswoman. Bustos took to Twitter following Sorensen’s victory to announce her support.

“Illinoisans deserve a representative who will fight for working families, help build our local economy and continue to lift up Midwestern voices,” Bustos wrote. “Eric will do that.”

Sorensen’s ultimate ascension to Illinois’ 17th Congressional District seat, however, is not assured. Though the district leans Democratic, it is widely labeled as a competitive race following nationwide redistricting of congressional maps ahead of this year’s midterms.

Such a competitive landscape is coupled with a competitive rival battling Sorensen for the seat.

His Republican opponent, lawyer and Army Reserve Capt. Esther Joy King, previously ran for the seat in 2020, losing to Bustos by just four percent of the overall vote.

Having already secured a number of high-profile Republican endorsements including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, King has already begun her November messaging campaign after besting her primary opponent by more than 30 percentage points.

“It doesn’t have to be a choice if we elect leaders who will put their constituents first rather than far-left, out-of-touch policies and that’s exactly what I’m running to do,” King said in a statement Tuesday night. “Let’s come together to win this in November.”

Groups like the Victory Fund, however, are remain optimistic that Sorensen’s potential to make history will be within reach when voters enter the polls on Nov. 8.

“Voters are clearly enthusiastic about Eric’s vision for a more equitable future,” Parker said. “We trust Eric will be a vital voice in Congress come November. The stakes have never been higher.”

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