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NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump sailed past a raft of allegations of sexual misconduct in last year’s presidential election.Now the national #MeToo spotlight is turning back to Trump and his past conduct. Several of his accusers are urging Congress to investigate his behavior, and a number of Democratic lawmakers are demanding his resignation.

With each day seeming to bring new headlines that force men from positions of power, the movement to expose sexual harassment has forced an unwelcome conversation on the White House. In a heated exchange with reporters in the White House briefing room on Monday, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders steadfastly dismissed accusations against the Republican president and suggested the issue had already been litigated in Trump’s favor on Election Day.

But to Trump’s accusers, the rising #MeToo movement is an occasion to ensure he is at last held accountable.

“It was heartbreaking last year. We’re private citizens and for us to put ourselves out there to try and show America who this man is and how he views women, and for them to say, ‘Eh, we don’t care,’ it hurt,” Samantha Holvey said Monday. The former beauty queen claimed that Trump ogled her and other Miss America pageant contestants in their dressing room in 2006.

“Let’s try round two,” she said. “The environment’s different. Let’s try again.”

Holvey was one of four women to make her case against Trump on Monday, both in an NBC interview and then in a news conference. Rachel Crooks, a former Trump Tower receptionist who said the celebrity businessman kissed her on the mouth in 2006 without consent, called for Congress to “put aside party affiliations and investigate Trump’s history of sexual misconduct.”

“If they were willing to investigate Sen. Franken, it’s only fair that they do the same for Trump,” Crooks said.

Franken, the Democratic senator from Minnesota, announced last week that he would resign amid an ethics probe into accusations that he sexually harassed several women. Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Trent Franks, R-Ariz., also resigned after misconduct accusations.

But a Capitol Hill investigation into Trump’s conduct appears unlikely. The Senate and House Ethics Committees investigate members of Congress, not presidents, and Republican-led committees are not apt to investigate Trump on sexual misconduct unless there is some sort of connection to the ongoing Russia probe.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Congress shouldn’t investigate the allegations against Trump.

“I don’t think there’s any forum for us to do that,” he said. “Just think about how that could be abused.”

Nonetheless, several Democratic senators have seized the moment and called for Trump to step down.

“President Trump should resign,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told CNN on Monday. “These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley have also called on Trump to resign.

White House aides have warily watched the movement sweep Capitol Hill, opting to repeat rote denials about allegations against the president. The president’s advisers were stunned Sunday when one of the highest-ranking women in the Trump administration broke with the White House line and said the accusers’ voices “should be heard.”

“They should be heard, and they should be dealt with,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in a CBS interview. “And I think we heard from them before the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.”

Haley’s comments infuriated the president, according to two people who are familiar with his views but who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly about private conversations. Trump has grown increasingly angry in recent days that the accusations against him have resurfaced, telling associates that the charges are false and drawing parallels to the accusations facing Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Sixteen women have come forward with a range of accusations against Trump, many after the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape last October in which Trump was caught on an open microphone bragging about groping women. One woman, Summer Zevos, a contestant on Trump’s reality show, “The Apprentice,” sued, contending that Trump’s denials of her accusations amount to false and defamatory statements.

Jessica Leeds, who appeared at Monday’s news conference, recalled sitting on an airplane next to Trump in the 1970s when he began to fondle her.

“All of a sudden, he’s all over me. Kissing and groping, groping and kissing,” she said. “Nothing was said. It was just this silent groping going on.”

Trump denied the allegations during the campaign, and Sanders did the same Monday.

“Look, as the president said himself, he thinks it’s a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegation shouldn’t determine the course,” Sanders said. “And again, the American people knew this and voted for the president. And we feel like we’re ready to move forward in that process.”

Sanders declined to say whether she believed the accusers or if she herself had been the victim of harassment. She grew impatient with the repeated questions and pledged to provide a list of eyewitnesses whose accounts exonerated the president.

The White House did not provide the list by late Monday.

___

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Richard Lardner contributed to this report from Washington.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and House Republicans have escalated their feud with Patagonia after the outdoor retailer told Americans that President Donald Trump “stole your land” in his move to shrink two sprawling Utah national monuments.

The dispute pitting the GOP against a private company raised questions about use of taxpayer resources for political criticism and whether Republicans are trying to stop Patagonia sales weeks before the Christmas holiday.

On the day of Trump’s announcement about the monuments, the California-based retailer replaced its usual home page last week with a black screen and stark message: “The President Stole Your Land.” Patagonia filed suit to block the planned reduction to Utah’s Bears Ears National Monument.

In a tweet, the House Natural Resources Committee said Patagonia is “lying” and making the allegation about Trump’s plan “to sell more products to wealthy elitist urban dwellers from New York to San Francisco.”

The Republican-led committee also sent out a widely distributed email with the subject line, “Patagonia: don’t buy it.”

A committee spokesman said Monday the email was not urging a boycott of Patagonia, but rather was telling consumers, “Don’t buy the lies” about Trump’s plan.

“We’re just telling Patagonia: stop selling a false narrative,” said Parish Braden, a spokesman for the committee.

Patagonia’s lawsuit, filed in conjunction with a rock climbing advocacy group and other organizations, is among a flurry of lawsuits that have been filed over Trump’s move to reduce the size of Bears Ears by nearly 85 percent and cut in half the land protected in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

The company said it spent years supporting groups creating other national monuments and directly lobbied for protections at Bears Ears.

Zinke accused Patagonia of lying about Trump’s actions and retweeted the committee post on his official account.

In response, former government ethics chief Walter Shaub launched a tweet storm, saying Zinke “misused his official position by re-tweeting this wildly inappropriate tweet.”

Shaub, who resigned in July as head of the Office of Government Ethics after repeated battles with the Trump administration, called Zinke “the poster child for this lawless administration’s misuse of governmental authority & resources.”

Zinke’s “thuggish interference with a business is outside the scope of his duties, raising a question as to whether a sovereign immunity defense might fail” if Patagonia sues him for libel or slander, Shaub said.

The committee may have violated House rules against advertising for or against a private individual, firm or corporation, Shaub said.

“The federal govt officially and publicly calling a company a liar for political reasons is a bizarre and dangerous departure from civic norms. It’s also decidedly anti-free market,” he tweeted.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who serves on the committee, said Republicans were spending taxpayer money to attack a private company that criticized Trump.

“Allowing them to get away with it is a dangerous precedent,” Gallego said.

Committee Democrats, meanwhile, appeared to welcome the GOP feud with Patagonia, tweeting that it was resulting in “greater awareness that our #publiclands are under attack.”

More attacks from Zinke and other Republicans will only lead to more business for Patagonia, which equals “an increased bottom line for a company that defends #MonumentsForAll,” the Democrats said.

The confrontation could be paying off for Patagonia.

Teresa Courage, a former Utah resident who now lives in New York, said on the company’s Facebook page that she did all her Christmas shopping at Patagonia because of its politics.

“I love supporting a company that’s going to go out on a limb and do that,” she told The Associated Press. “It speaks to me about its integrity. They’re not just following the money.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A government watchdog on Monday urged the Education Department to resume the process of forgiving student loans for tens of thousands Americans who were defrauded by for-profit colleges.

The Office of Inspector General, an independent body within the education agency, recommended in a report that the department restart “review, approval, and discharge process” for defrauded studs.

The group also recommended that the department establish timeframes for considering the claims and “develop controls to ensure timeframes are met.” The report also noted that the department has significantly shrunk the staff of its unit the processes these claims, from 19 contracted staff, on top of attorneys, in November 2016, to just six contracted staff in September 2017.

A spokeswoman for the department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has come under criticism for stalling the review of over 95,000 claims for loan cancellations. The agency has not approved a single claim during her time in office and DeVos’ critics charge that she is looking out for the interests of the for-profit industry, rather than colleges. DeVos says she needs time to put together new rules for how loans are forgiven that would be fair to students, but also prevent any potential abuse of the system.

The AP reported in October that the department is considering abandoning the Obama-era practice of full loan forgiveness in favor of partial relief.

The department has halted Obama-era revisions to the process of loan forgiveness that boosted protections for students, citing pending litigation. The agency is now in the process or rewriting those rules with input from educators and experts.

Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate committee overseeing education, said the report confirms that DeVos “tried to shirk her responsibility to these students and shut down the borrower defense program, leaving them with nowhere to turn.”

“Secretary DeVos needs to stop listening to the for-profit executives she hired and start following the recommendations of the Department’s independent watchdog by providing much needed, and legally required, relief to students who were cheated out of their education and savings,” Murray said in a statement.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer advocates reported some glitches Monday in the final days for “Obamacare” sign-ups, although the Trump administration largely seemed to be keeping its promise of a smooth enrollment experience.

In Illinois, some consumers who successfully completed an application for financial assistance through HealthCare.gov got a message saying they would likely be eligible to buy a health plan, “but none are available to you in your area.”

That information was incorrect because every county in the nation currently has at least one health insurer offering plans under the Affordable Care Act for next year.

Friday is the last day to enroll for subsidized private coverage in 39 states served by the federal HealthCare.gov website. Consumer interest has remained brisk, even as the Trump administration cut the sign-up season in half, reducing it from roughly from 90 days to 45 days.

Former President Barack Obama offered encouragement Monday for the closing push, posting on social media and joining a conference call with enrollment counselors.

On the call, Obama accused “Republicans in Washington” of trying to “sabotage” progress made reducing the number of uninsured. The American people “don’t want a health care system that’s sent into chaos just for partisan reasons,” Obama said, according to a transcript provided by his office.

President Donald Trump came into office looking to dismantle his predecessor’s health law, but it survived. Although the administration slashed the ad budget for sign-up season and scaled back grants for enrollment counselors, officials promised the HealthCare.gov website would work seamlessly this year. That promise will be tested in this week’s crush.

Stephani Becker of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago said the glitch in which consumers were told there were no plans was reported by counselors starting late last week, and again Monday. It also surfaced in other states besides Illinois, she said.

Trained counselors know enough about the program to question the accuracy of the message, but “the average consumer might just walk away,” Becker said.

An administration official said the issue has been resolved, and HealthCare.gov is reaching out to the consumers affected to encourage them to complete their applications. However, Becker said advocates had gotten a similar response from the administration last week, and the problem continued.

For millions of consumers eligible to enroll time runs out on Dec. 15. Thursday and Friday are expected to be the heaviest days.

That could slow the HealthCare.gov website, and lead to long hold times at the federal call center. For most people, this is the last opportunity to secure coverage for 2018, or switch from an existing plan.

One exception: People living in hurricane-affected areas can get an extension to sign up by Dec. 31 by contacting the HealthCare.gov call center. That could make a difference in states such Florida, Texas, and Georgia.

Enrollment fluctuates in the course of the year, but it’s estimated that 9 million to 10 million people currently have coverage through the ACA’s marketplaces. The markets cater to people who don’t have access to a job-based plan, and participation is expected to dip somewhat next year.

In a twist, many people eligible for financial help may actually be able to pay lower premiums in 2018. Although list price premiums for the most popular plans went up sharply, so did taxpayer-provided subsidies that limit how much individuals actually have to pay. In many communities, bare-bones “bronze” plans are available for no monthly premium to those eligible for subsidies.

Deadline hour for enrollment will remain the same this year — midnight Pacific time. That means consumers on the East Coast will have until 3 a.m. on Saturday morning to enroll.

Although the Trump administration slashed the advertising budget, HealthCare.gov has been sending out targeted emails to people potentially eligible. Example:

— “FINAL DEADLINE: Enroll in a 2018 health plan before December 15 or risk going without Marketplace coverage.”

During the Obama years, officials allowed a grace period for consumers who started an application, but were unable to finish by the deadline. It’s unclear if the Trump administration will allow such extensions, or whether it will strictly enforce the deadline hour. Previous extensions allowed hundreds of thousands of consumers to enroll.

Failure to provide extensions this year would be a mistake, said Andy Slavitt, who oversaw HealthCare.gov under Obama.

“It really would not be fair to people, particularly if there are technology challenges with the last minute surge as there have been every year,” Slavitt said.

While Dec. 15 is the deadline for states served by HealthCare.gov, that’s not the case everywhere. Most states that run their own health insurance websites are providing an extended period for consumers to enroll. In California and New York, for instance, the deadline remains the same as last year — Jan. 31. Other states have deadlines spanning from late December to mid-January.

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President Donald Trump on Monday used a bombing in New York City to once again advocate for stricter limits on immigration into the United States.

Calling his executive action to restrict travel from six Muslim-majority nations — in addition to travel from North Korea and for some Venezuelan officials and their families — “just one step,” Trump argued for further congressional action.

“Congress must end chain migration,” he wrote, presumably referring to the preferential visa status given to some migrants with family members who are U.S. citizens. “Congress must also act on my Administration’s other proposals to enhance domestic security, including increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, enhancing the arrest and detention authorities for immigration officers, and ending fraud and abuse in our immigration system.”

It’s not immediately clear how the latter proposals would have prevented the suspect in Monday’s bombing, Akayed Ullah, 27, originally from Bangladesh, from carrying out his alleged attack.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said Monday that Ullah had been admitted to the United States in 2011 “after presenting a passport displaying an F43 family immigrant visa.”

“The suspect is a Lawful Permanent Resident from Bangladesh who benefited from extended family chain migration,” the spokesperson, Tyler Q. Houlton, wrote on Twitter.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defines F43 visa holders as the children of F41 visa holders, who in turn are defined as the brothers or sisters of U.S. citizens.

Trump also advocated for “the strongest penalty allowed by law, including the death penalty in appropriate cases” for those convicted on terrorism charges.

Following the White House’s acknowledgement that the President had been briefed on the bombing Monday morning, he made no mention of it in four subsequent tweets.

Read Trump’s full statement below:

Today’s attempted mass murder attack in New York City—the second terror attack in New York in the last two months—once again highlights the urgent need for Congress to enact legislative reforms to protect the American people.

 First and foremost, as I have been saying since I first announced my candidacy for President, America must fix its lax immigration system, which allows far too many dangerous, inadequately vetted people to access our country.  Today’s terror suspect entered our country through extended-family chain migration, which is incompatible with national security.  My Executive action to restrict the entry of certain nationals from eight countries, which the Supreme Court recently allowed to take effect, is just one step forward in securing our immigration system.  Congress must end chain migration.  Congress must also act on my Administration’s other proposals to enhance domestic security, including increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, enhancing the arrest and detention authorities for immigration officers, and ending fraud and abuse in our immigration system.  The terrible harm that this flawed system inflicts on America’s security and economy has long been clear.  I am determined to improve our immigration system to put our country and our people first. 

Second, those convicted of engaging in acts of terror deserve the strongest penalty allowed by law, including the death penalty in appropriate cases.  America should always stand firm against terrorism and extremism, ensuring that our great institutions can address all evil acts of terror.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump wants to send man back to the moon — and on to Mars.

Trump signed a policy directive Monday instructing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to “refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.”

The move, Trump said, “marks an important step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-time exploration.”

“This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint,” he said, “we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

Past presidents, including George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, have also proposed returning to the moon and missions to Mars, Budget constraints derailed their plans.

Trump was joined at the White House by several current and former astronauts, including Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, and former U.S. Sen. and Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, the next-to-last person on the moon.

“Today we pledge that he will not be the last, and I suspect we’ll be finding other places to land in addition to the moon,” Trump said.

No human has been on the moon since Apollo 17 in December 1972. Only 12 men have set foot on the moon, all have been Americans.

Under the directive, the government is also expected to work closely with other nations and private industry.

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The New Yorker on Monday announced it had “severed ties” with prominent political reporter Ryan Lizza over what the magazine called “improper sexual conduct.”

“The New Yorker recently learned that Ryan Lizza engaged in what we believe was improper sexual conduct,” a New Yorker spokesperson said in a statement to TPM. “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.”

Lizza was the magazine’s Washington correspondent, a CNN political analyst and an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University.

“We have just learned of the New Yorker’s decision,” a CNN spokesperson told TPM in a statement Monday afternoon. “Ryan Lizza will not appear on CNN while we look into this matter.”

“Georgetown recently learned of the New Yorker’s actions,” a spokesperson for the university told TPM. “Classes have concluded for the fall semester at the University. Mr. Lizza will not be teaching any classes next semester.”

Lizza said in a statement that he was “dismayed” by the New Yorker’s description of his behavior, which he characterized as “a respectful relationship with a woman I dated.”

“The New Yorker was unable to cite any company policy that was violated,” he claimed. “This decision, which was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts, was a terrible mistake.”

Wigdor LLP, an employment law firm in New York, on Monday said it is representing “the victim” of 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,” the firm said in a statement.

In July, then-White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci called Lizza and regaled him with a profanity-laced rant about then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and then-chief White House strategist Steve Bannon.

As of Monday afternoon, Lizza’s staff biography on the New Yorker’s website had been converted to the past tense.

This post has been updated.

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ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta is a step closer to having an official record of how close its mayoral election runoff was.

Fulton County election officials on Monday morning certified the county’s vote totals from the Dec. 5 runoff. Election officials in DeKalb County, which also includes part of Atlanta, planned to certify their results later Monday.

The official Fulton County results show Keisha Lance Bottoms with 42,887 votes, or 51.33 percent, and Mary Norwood with 40,668, or 48.67 percent.

That represents a slight bump for Bottoms in Fulton County. She had 42,747 votes, or 51.28 percent, compared with Norwood’s 40,612, or 48.72 percent, in unofficial Fulton tallies released the day after the election.

Norwood told reporters after the Fulton count was certified Monday that she planned to ask for a recount.

“It is absolutely imperative that we take a look at every single ballot,” she said.

Fulton County elections director Richard Barron said his staff could likely complete a recount Thursday if Norwood made her request Monday.

Norwood previously ran for mayor in 2009, when she lost to Mayor Kasim Reed by 714 votes. She requested a recount in that election, and it ultimately produced one additional vote.

The Tuesday runoff between Bottoms, who is black, and Norwood, who is white, split Atlanta just about in half after a campaign marked by political grudges and allegations of corruption, and a turnout of less than 20 percent of the city’s roughly 500,000 residents.

A victory for Bottoms would give Atlanta its sixth consecutive black mayor since Maynard Jackson was elected to the office in 1973. An upset by Norwood would give the city its first-ever white, female mayor.

Several people confronted Fulton election officials at Monday’s meeting, saying members of the public were prevented from observing as votes were counted after the polls closed on Dec. 5. They said officers aggressively obstructed them and threatened them with arrest.

Barron said the tabulation happened in public view and that the people who claimed obstruction were being disruptive.

The secretary of state’s office has opened an investigation into public access to vote tabulation in Fulton County, spokeswoman Candice Broce said. She declined to release any details since the investigation is ongoing.

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) on Monday afternoon called on President Donald Trump to resign as accusations of sexual misconduct against the President have seen renewed scrutiny.

“President Trump should resign. These allegations are credible; they are numerous. I’ve heard these women’s testimony, and many of them are heartbreaking,” Gillibrand said on CNN.

Gillibrand said that it’s unclear whether Trump will ever hold himself accountable, and so if he does not “immediately” resign, Congress should investigate the allegations made about his behavior.

The senator’s comments came the same day that several of Trump’s accusers held a press conference to reiterate that Trump groped or harassed them and to call on Congress to investigate the allegations about the President’s conduct before taking office. Several other Democratic senators recently suggested that Trump resign after placing pressure on Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to resign over sexual misconduct claims.

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The White House said Monday that President Trump wants women to feel comfortable coming forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, but that doesn’t mean he believes every accusation, especially those levied against him.

“As the President said himself, he thinks it’s a good thing that women are coming forward, but he also feels strongly that a mere allegation shouldn’t determine the course and in this case, the President has denied any of these allegations as have eyewitnesses and several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the President’s claims in this process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “The American people knew this and voted for the President and we feel like we’re ready to move forward in that process.”

In recent weeks, Trump has said he thinks it’s a good thing that more women are coming forward, but he has since backed Alabama Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct toward them when they were teens.

Before the election, Trump was accused by more than a dozen women of sexual harassment and assault. Trump has denied all the claims and called the women liars.

On Monday, three of Trump’s accusers went public and asked for a congressional ethics probe into the allegations against him. In the last week, several Democratic lawmakers have called on the President to resign, including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Kirsten Gillabrand (D-NY).

The White House has continuously defended the President, saying the American people made a judgment on whether they believed the Trump accusers by electing him President. On Monday, Sanders mildly dialed back on that outright rejection of the claims and suggested there were “eye witnesses” to refute the women’s accusations.

“The President has addressed these accusations directly and denied all of these allegations and this took place long before he was elected to be President and the people of this country had a decisive election, supported President Trump, and we feel that these allegations have been answered through that process,” she said.

When asked whether she struggled personally, as a woman, with the President’s response to the allegations, Sanders shot down the question, saying she’s there to relay Trump’s message. 

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