TPM News

WASHINGTON (AP) — More than one-third of employees at the Interior Department said they were harassed or discriminated against in the previous year, the department said Thursday as it released a report on workplace conditions at the sprawling agency.

Results from an anonymous survey of the department’s nearly 70,000 employees show that 8 percent reported being victims of sexual harassment and 16 percent reported harassment based on gender. More than 9 percent described harassment based on race or ethnicity.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and National Park Service reported the most incidents, with 40 percent of BIA workers and 39 percent of parks workers reporting some form of harassment.

The survey was conducted from January to March 2017 and covered the 12-month period before the survey was completed. More than 28,000 employees participated.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released the National Park Service figures two months ago at a Grand Canyon news conference intended to highlight widespread complaints of harassment and workplace discrimination within the agency.

Federal investigators have uncovered problems at many of the nation’s premier parks, including Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Canaveral National Seashore in Florida. A sexual harassment scandal at the Grand Canyon forced the retirement of the park superintendent in May 2016.

The former Yosemite superintendent retired last year after allegations that he created a toxic work environment surfaced at a congressional hearing. Don Neubacher headed the California park for nearly seven years and spent 37 years with the park service. Yosemite is one of the nation’s oldest and most popular national parks, drawing more than 4 million visitors a year.

Zinke said in a statement Thursday he has “zero tolerance for any type of workplace harassment,” adding that he has directed department leaders to move quickly “to improve accountability and transparency with regard to this absolutely intolerable behavior.”

A spokeswoman declined to provide specific examples of supervisors or other employees who were fired, citing personnel rules.

“Generally speaking, those terminated abused their authority to intimidate or harass fellow employees. This includes but is not limited to sexual harassment,” spokeswoman Heather Swift said.

While the National Park Service stood out in terms of sheer numbers in the new survey — nearly 7,200 employees reported harassment in the previous year— high rates of harassment were seen across the agency.

Thirty-five percent of workers at the Bureau of Land Management and 31 percent at the Fish and Wildlife Service reported some form of harassment.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led Senate has confirmed President Donald Trump’s nominee for a federal court.

The Senate voted 53-43 on Thursday to confirm James C. Ho to serve on the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ho is the 12th circuit court judge to be confirmed during Trump’s first year in office. That’s four times the number confirmed during President Barack Obama’s first year.

Ho is a partner in a Dallas-based law firm. Before that, he served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and as chief counsel to Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. Ho also worked at the Justice Department.

Democrats have raised concerns that Ho and two other appellate judges confirmed this week would seek to roll back abortion rights.

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ATLANTA (AP) — A recount in the Atlanta mayoral election runoff hasn’t altered results significantly.

Election officials in two counties that include parts of Atlanta on Thursday recounted the ballots cast on Dec. 5.

The result: Keisha Lance Bottoms still narrowly leads Mary Norwood, who asked for the recount after Bottoms was declared the winner by a margin of less than 1 percent.

Norwood said she’s still concerned about irregularities and will talk with her lawyers to decide her next step.

She picked up five votes and Bottoms lost six in Fulton County in the recount. DeKalb results remained the same.

The totals after the recount show Bottoms with 46,661 votes, or 50.44 percent, and Norwood with 45,840 votes, or 49.56 percent.

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On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and just two months after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, the White House refused to acknowledge that regulating access to guns would have prevented the massacres.

“What has President Trump done to try to protect the American people against a similar type of massacre?” CBS News’ Margaret Brennan asked Sanders, after referring to the two mass shootings.

Sanders said the administration’s goal of severely limiting immigration — even though the Sandy Hook and Las Vegas shooters were both born in the United States — would help “protect our citizens every single day.”

“One of the areas that the President has been outspoken about, not necessarily to those two instances but more broadly speaking in terms of national security and protecting individuals, certainly through border security, stronger vetting processes, and looking at whether or not there are other regulations that we can put in place that would offer protection,” she said.

“These were domestic shooters,” Brennan corrected her.

“Right, and I said I’m speaking more broadly in terms of national security as a whole,” Sanders said.

Sanders added, referring to the shootings: “Whether or not there is a regulation that could be put in place or not that could have prevented those things, frankly, I’m not aware of what that would be.”

Brennan pressed: Has the President highlighted any priorities to prevent further tragedies like these shooting massacres?

“I don’t think there is any one thing that you could do that could have prevented either one of those instances, horrible, horrible tragedies,” Sanders said.  

“But your prescription was given very quickly just the other day for this failed terrorist attack,” Brennan pushed back, referring to a poorly made pipe bomb detonated in a subway station in New York City on Monday. Hours later, the White House called for immigration restrictions, citing the bombing, and the following day the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Francis Cissna, laid out the same plan in a White House briefing.

“I mean, this is the worst shooting on U.S. soil on President Trump’s watch,” Brennan said.

“I understand that, and that’s why I think you have to take these matters obviously very seriously,” Sanders replied. “But if you could name a single thing that would have prevented both of these I would love to hear it because I don’t know what that would look like.”

“In terms of New York we know for a fact this individual came through chain migration system, this is something the president has been outspokenly against and something he wants to stop,” Sanders said. “So that’s a fact that we do know.”

Brennan tried one last time: “An assault weapons ban, any kind of regulation, any kind of mental health concern? The President specifically mentioned that as a possibility?”

Sanders dodged yet again.

“I know that they are looking at some of the mental health issues, it’s something the President has raised before. But in terms of a specific policy that we are moving forward with that would have prevented that, I’m not aware what that would be.”

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POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (AP) — A city official in the southeastern Missouri town of Poplar Bluff faces criminal charges for allegedly pumping a shotgun to tease a liberal co-worker.

Poplar Bluff Streets Superintendent Denis Kearbey, 53, is charged with the unlawful use of a weapon and is free on $25,000 bond. He pleaded not guilty Monday.

In a probable cause statement, the Missouri State Highway Patrol alleges that Kearbey brought a short-barrel shotgun to the clerk’s office on Sept. 12, pumped it several times and asked if the female clerk was scared.

Kearbey initially denied that he took a gun to the office, the Highway Patrol said. But troopers were granted a search warrant and found a short-barrel shotgun under a bed in his home, Trooper Matthew B. Foster wrote.

Later, in an interview with troopers, Kearbey “stated he did take the firearm into the office and was teasing (the clerk) about being a liberal,” Foster wrote. Kearbey told the troopers he never threatened anyone with the gun.

Kearbey’s attorney, Daniel Moore, said Wednesday that Kearbey has a right to carry a firearm and denies any wrongdoing.

“Fortunately the Second Amendment gives you quite a bit of protection,” Moore said.

Poplar Bluff, with 17,000 residents, is 150 miles south of St. Louis.

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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Thursday that he won’t vote for his party’s huge corporate tax cut plan unless GOP leaders increase the size of the child tax credit.

“I want to see the refundable portion of the child tax credit increased from its current number,” Rubio told reporters as he entered the Senate floor. “If it stays at $1,100, I’m a no. Let’s hope it doesn’t.”

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White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said there are “a lot of different protocols” that explain why Omarosa Manigault Newman is still getting paid by President Donald Trump’s administration despite her resignation.

“Why are the taxpayers continuing to pay her salary for another month if she’s no longer here at the White House?” CNN’s Jeff Zeleny asked Sanders during her daily briefing.

“I’m not going to weigh in any further, as we often do,” Sanders said. “The President likes Omarosa, thanked her for her service, and again she’ll be here later this afternoon, so she’s resigned from her position, but there’s really nothing else to add on that front.”

“If she’s resigned, though, why is she on the payroll for another month? Is that normal?” Zeleny pressed.

“Look, there is a lot of different protocols that take place in the government. That’s part of the process. If you want to reach out to HR, they might be able to walk you through that in a more detailed way,” Sanders said. “Thankfully I haven’t been through the process myself so I can’t speak to it from firsthand knowledge.”

The White House on Wednesday announced that Manigault Newman resigned “to pursue other opportunities” and said her departure “will not be effective until January 20, 2018.”

American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan reported later Wednesday that Manigault Newman, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” spoke with White House chief of staff John Kelly about her departure and subsequently “tried to go into the residence.”

“And mind you, Gen. Kelly has cut off her walk-in access to go into the Oval Office and things of that nature,” Ryan said. “She was escorted off the property.”

Ryan in February said that Manigault Newman “physically intimidated” her at one point and claimed the White House had “dossiers” of negative information on journalists, including Ryan.

Sanders ended her briefing with a quip that appeared to reference Ryan’s reporting on Manigault Newman’s departure and their previous animosity.

“April, I’m looking forward to having some pie with you here momentarily,” she said, to laughter, before leaving the room.

Trump offered his own summary of Manigault Newman’s tenure during a photo opportunity Thursday afternoon: “I like Omarosa. Omarosa is a good person.”

This post has been updated.

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Count the White House out of Roy Moore’s quest to challenge the results of the special election in Alabama.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that Moore “should have already” conceded to Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-AL).

While President Trump endorsed Moore in his Senate bid, Trump accepted the election results Tuesday evening and called Jones on Wednesday to congratulate him on his win.

“They had a great conversation, had a positive conversation,” Sanders said. “He likes Doug Jones and looks forward to meeting him in person and hopes that he will come and follow through on his commitment to work with the President on some things that they agree on.”

When asked if Moore should concede to Jones, Sander said “it should have already taken place.”

“Look, the President has called and congratulated Doug Jones and expressed his willingness to work with him and meet with him when he arrives in Washington,” she said.

Jones beat Moore by 1.5 percentage points, according to unofficial results, but Moore has refused to concede to his opponent. On Wednesday night, his campaign released a video of Moore suggesting that provisional and military ballots could still change the outcome of the results. The Alabama secretary of state has not yet certified the ballot results, but has already said that it’s unlikely that Moore could win given the current margin of the race.

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Following reports indicating that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) is seriously considering retiring from Congress, a spokeswoman for the speaker said that he is “not going anywhere anytime soon.”

Strong indicated that Brendan Buck, a counselor to Ryan, would have additional comment, but he had not yet weighed in early Thursday afternoon.

Ryan also addressed speculation that he is thinking about retiring on Thursday. Asked as he was leaving his weekly press briefing whether he was quitting any time soon, Ryan replied, “I’m not.”

Two recent reports sparked the speculation.

The Huffington Post reported on Wednesday night that Republicans in Congress have been hearing rumors and speculation that Ryan will step aside soon now that he’s on the cusp of passing tax cuts, a long-held dream of his.

Politico followed up Thursday afternoon reporting that Ryan has told confidants that this will be his final term as speaker and that he’s considering retiring from Congress altogether at the end of this congress. Per Politico:

More recently, over closely held conversations with his kitchen cabinet, Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress.

After the Politico report dropped, CNN published a report that Ryan has been “soul searching” about his future with close friends, and that those friends think it’s possible Ryan could leave Congress after the 2018 election.

Asked about the reports that Ryan is considering retirement, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday afternoon that Trump spoke with Ryan recently and that the speaker assured him that the reports were not accurate.

“The President did speak to the speaker not too long ago, and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly, in no uncertain terms, that if that news was true he was very unhappy with it. The speaker has assured the President that those were not accurate reports, and they look forward to working together for a long time to come,” Sanders told reporters at the daily press briefing.

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