To all Morning Jolt readers who celebrate the Festival of Lights, Happy Hanukkah! For those who celebrate Christmas, you’ve got twelve days to finish your gift shopping!
Welcome to Alabama: Ragnarok!
Our David French lays out the comprehensive case against Roy Moore.
Kayla Moore did her best to add one more reason to the list last night, offering further confirmation that the mouths of both of the Moores are as uncontrollable and dangerous as nitroglycerin: “Fake news,” she declared, “would tell you that we don’t care for Jews. I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all and I just want to set the record straight while they’re all here. One of our attorneys is a Jew.”
A senior Justice Department official demoted last week for concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump “dossier” had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed, Fox News has confirmed: The official’s wife worked for Fusion GPS during the 2016 election.
Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr’s duties – including whether she worked on the dossier – remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.
Fusion GPS has attracted scrutiny because Republican lawmakers have spent the better part of this year investigating whether the dossier, which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, served as the basis for the Justice Department and the FBI to obtain FISA surveillance last year on a Trump campaign adviser named Carter Page.
We already knew that Christopher Steele was sharing portions of his dossier with the FBI last year as he was compiling them for Fusion GPS. He claims he did that on his own because his findings seemed so significant. This story suggests Steele also had a direct, high-level connection at the DOJ. In addition, it seems Fusion GPS which was shopping the document to various news outlets last fall, also had a potential back-channel of communication to Ohr through his wife. To be clear, there’s no proof Mrs. Ohr worked on the dossier or talked about it with her husband at this point. What stinks here, and the reason Ohr was demoted last week, is that he failed to disclose his meetings with Steele and Simpson.
Did Monday Mark a Turning Point for #MeToo?
My interactions with Ryan Lizza, formerly the chief political correspondent at The New Yorker are limited to some cordial exchanges in cable news green rooms, so I don’t know if he’s guilty as sin or innocent as a lamb. But late Monday afternoon, the magazine announced, “The New Yorker recently learned that Ryan Lizza engaged in what we believe was improper sexual conduct. We have reviewed the matter and, as a result, have severed ties with Lizza. Due to a request for privacy, we are not commenting further.”
(What does that “what we believe was” qualifier there mean?)
Within a few minutes of The New Yorker’s announcement, a chunk of the Twitter crowd was mocking and denouncing Lizza as a creep . . . without knowing what, exactly, his alleged misdeeds were. Did he say something? Do something? Was this a digital form of inappropriate behavior? Was it a particular event or interaction, or was it a pattern of behavior?
Apparently due to the not-named victim (or victims?) request for privacy, the magazine felt we in the public shouldn’t know. But they felt we should certainly know that he’s a bad guy.
Lizza responded quite differently from the other prominent men accused in the recent spate of scandals. He insisted he had done nothing wrong, and that the magazine was railroading him on baseless charges — and from his statement, this appears to stem from a single complainant.
“I am dismayed that The New Yorker has decided to characterize a respectful relationship with a woman I dated as somehow inappropriate. The New Yorker was unable to cite any company policy that was violated. I am sorry to my friends, workplace colleagues, and loved ones for any embarrassment this episode may cause. I love The New Yorker, my home for the last decade, and I have the highest regard for the people who work there. But this decision, which was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts, was a terrible mistake.”
Douglas Wigdor, who heads up one of the country’s top employment litigation law firms issued a statement countering Lizza: “Wigdor LLP represents the victim of Mr. Lizza’s misconduct. Although she desires to remain confidential and requests that her privacy be respected, in no way did Mr. Lizza’s misconduct constitute a ‘respectful relationship’ as he has now tried to characterize it. Our client reported Mr. Lizza’s actions to ensure that he would be held accountable and in the hope that by coming forward she would help other potential victims.”
Lizza’s insistence that he did nothing wrong, and that all of the complaints stem from a consensual relationship, ought to set off alarm bells. “Improper sexual conduct” covers a really wide range, from awkward unwanted flirting to being the villain from The Silence of the Lambs. If we’re all supposed to think worse of Lizza because of his actions, it seems fair to ask for at least some sense of why. And if he’s going to have his career and reputation destroyed, doesn’t he have a right to have his side of the story heard?
Just how thoroughly did the magazine investigate the accusations? Just how much evidence was there? Were there particularly strong reasons to believe or disbelieve his accuser? For now, the magazine is effectively saying, “trust us.” The irony is this is the magazine that obliterated the reputation of Harvey Weinstein with a mountain of evidence and testimony collected by Ronan Farrow. The reporters at The New Yorker would not just take it on faith from any other institution.
I don’t know if this is the case that will cause the backlash against #MeToo, but it’s coming. So far, most of the famous men named have more or less admitted the behavior, and the alleged acts are beyond the pale: Weinstein’s monstrous assaults, threats, and blackmail; the bizarre secret button in Lauer’s office; Charlie Rose just getting on top of a woman during a private plane ride. Very few of the allegations have been in anything resembling a “gray area.” Everybody knows you’re not supposed to pinch or grab a woman’s backside when posing for a photo . . . apparently except for one of Minnesota’s senators.
But after the Weinstein revelations, BuzzFeed and a few other publications reported about an “[Expletive] Men in Media List” spreadsheet that various women had put together, listing allegations against a slew of men, mostly in the New York media and publishing world. This list can now be found on the Internet if you’re clever, but I’m not linking to it, as the whole thing is unverified allegations. There’s a huge range of allegations, from sexual assault to “idea theft,” “emotional manipulation,” and “those weird lunch dates that aren’t about work.”
The list includes names that are famous and not-so-famous, those that have already faced public accusations and those that haven’t. (The list does not, at least as far as I can tell, include any men who work for conservative publications. I continue to wonder if our cultural elites include a disproportionate share of men who believe that because they’re self-proclaimed feminists and progressives, they’ve earned some free passes for bad behavior.)
You’re already hearing some progressives grumbling that they’ve sacrificed too much with Al Franken’s resignation. More than a few men who haven’t committed these acts wonder how they will be able to defend themselves if they’re falsely accused. And there are probably still some powerful creeps around, nervously chatting with their lawyers and wondering how to mount a defense.
At some point, some #MeToo accusation will turn out to be false, or a well-regarded man will be accused of behavior that doesn’t really sound all that inappropriate. A complaint of “weird lunch dates that aren’t about work” doesn’t really belong on the same list as sexual assault, and doesn’t sound like a firing offense.
The day a #MeToo complaint is discredited, all of these factions who are wary of this movement will push back, aiming to discredit as many women as possible. I suspect few figures in public life are really ready for that moment.
ADDENDA: “Jim Geraghty is right.” – Fox News contributor Juan Williams.
Sure, technically he means in a specific context, but I’m just going to cite that quote forever in all contexts for the rest of my life.