Linda Tripp, Whose Tapes Exposed Clinton Scandal, Dies at 70 

Linda Tripp, whose secretly recorded conversations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died Wednesday at age 70. Her death was confirmed by attorney Joseph Murtha. He provided no further details.In August 1994, Tripp became a public affairs specialist at the Pentagon, where Lewinsky worked after being a White House intern. The two reportedly became friends. Tripp made secret tapes of conversations with Lewinsky, who told her she had had an affair with Clinton. Tripp turned almost 20 hours of tapes over to Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor investigating the president, prompting the investigation that led to his impeachment. As news broke Wednesday that Tripp was near death, Lewinsky tweeted that she hoped for her recovery “no matter the past.”  



read more

Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Trump Assails Push for Mail-In Voting

U.S. President Donald Trump is waging a new political fight against the adoption of mail-in voting rights throughout the U.S., claiming it is rife with possible fraud and would significantly benefit opposition Democrats.Trump himself recently requested an absentee ballot to vote in the Republican presidential primary in Florida, the Atlantic coastal state he now claims as his official home after spending his entire life as a New York resident.But he said on Twitter on Wednesday, “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting.”“Democrats are clamoring for it,” he said. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it. Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans. FILE – Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during the 11th Democratic candidates debate, held in CNN’s Washington studios, March 15, 2020.Democrats have long voiced support for expansion of the electorate through mail-in voting, on the theory that given an easier option to vote other than showing up at polling stations on Election Day, more people would cast ballots.  It also would likely help more Democrats win office.  Some polling over the years has suggested Republican voters are more committed than Democrats to showing up at polling places and thus as a group do not necessarily need the added possibility of voting by mail.  Trump claims that if mail-in voting becomes the dominant way to vote, “You’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”In fact, voting by mail already plays an important role in some U.S. elections, but not nationwide and not just in Democratic-leaning states. The National Vote at Home Institute says that in the western part of the country, 69 percent of ballots are already cast by mail, but only 27 percent nationwide.The western part of the country includes the deeply conservative state of Utah, which votes heavily for Republicans, and has moved almost entirely to vote-by-mail in recent years. The Republican secretary of state in the northwestern state of Washington also champions mail-in voting.Democrats failed in their efforts to include financial assistance for states to adopt mail-in voting as it recently approved a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package.  Republicans in Washington remain adamantly opposed, citing security concerns and objecting to transforming election laws as part of the coronavirus aid measure.Sorry, but your browser cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline. Embed” />CopyNow, one Democratic activist, Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, said, “With the insanity of Wisconsin, Democrats have the proof they need to make this a mandate for November.”She urged Democrats to ensure vote-by-mail becomes a possibility throughout the country as a “fallback” in the event the virus limits people from voting in person.Trump pointedly expressed his opposition to mail-in voting at his Tuesday coronavirus news conference, particularly if some activists collect the votes of many people rather than people mailing in their ballots themselves.  “Mail ballots are a very dangerous thing for this country, cause they’re cheaters,” he said. “They go and collect them, they’re fraudulent in many cases. You gotta vote. And they should have voter ID, by the way, you want to really do it right, you have voter ID.” 



read more

Lawmakers Race to Approve Additional Coronavirus Funding for Struggling Americans

Less than two weeks after U.S. lawmakers passed the largest economic relief package in the country’s history, Congress is set to advance even more funding Thursday to help struggling American workers. The measure would provide additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a $350 billion program that is part of the broader Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act.That $2.2 trillion rescue package was quickly written and passed by Congress late last month, as businesses nationwide dealt with the economic fallout of coronavirus stay-at-home orders.The temporary closure of millions of businesses triggered historic levels of unemployment, with nearly 10 million Americans filing assistance claims in a two-week span in March. That marked the worst period for unemployment filings since 1982. Many analysts predict those numbers could soon reach levels last seen in the United States during the Great Depression in the 1930s.FILE – In this image from video, the final vote of 96-0 shows passage of the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package in response to coronavirus pandemic, passed by the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 25, 2020.The CARES Act gives federal unemployment benefits of $600 a week to laid-off and out-of-work Americans in addition to state unemployment benefits. The new bills also make benefits available for the first time to the self-employed and small-business owners. The PPP gives loans to small businesses to cover their payroll and expenses during the economic slowdown. According to the White House, the Small Business Administration has awarded over 220,000 loans totaling $66 billion as of April 7, just five days into availability of the program. In a request to Congress, the White House asked lawmakers for an increase of $251 billion for the program.”It is quickly becoming clear that Congress will need to provide more funding, or this crucial program may run dry,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement Tuesday. “That cannot happen. Nearly 10 million Americans filed for unemployment in just the last two weeks. This is already a record-shattering tragedy, and every day counts.”The program had a rocky rollout when it opened for applications last Friday. Many business owners were deemed ineligible to apply because their business banks were not on the list of lenders participating in the government program. Others reported long hold times to obtain information on applications that had been quickly written to encompass a rapidly changing situation.In a joint statement Wednesday, congressional Democrats appeared to support the increase, while calling for some of that new funding to be directed to women, minority and veteran-owned businesses.”As Democrats have said since day one, Congress must provide additional relief for small businesses and families, building on the strong down payment made in the bipartisan CARES Act,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.FILE – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., joined by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., speaks during a news conference, on Capitol Hill, Feb.11, 2020.The U.S. Senate is set to vote on the increase Thursday, using fast-track procedures that would pass the measure without requiring most senators to fly back to Washington. The legislation would then move to the House of Representatives for a likely vote on Friday.Republican Congressman Thomas Massie has already tweeted concerns about fast-tracking the legislation in the House. He voiced similar objections to the CARES Act vote last month, forcing many members to fly back to Washington to establish the necessary numbers to overcome his objection.But there appears to be bipartisan consensus to move quickly on the increases and get the legislation to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.”We have days, NOT weeks to address this,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the co-sponsors of the PPP legislation, tweeted Tuesday.  The fear that #PPP will run out of money is creating tremendous anxiety among #SmallBusiness. We have days, NOT weeks to address this. We are working with @USTreasury to make a formal request for additional funds ASAP & with Senate leadership to get fast track vote ASAP.— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) April 7, 2020 Negotiations on a second-round economic relief package are already under way, with lawmakers set to return to session on Capitol Hill on April 20.Pelosi initially proposed legislation heavy on infrastructure initiatives that would address broader problems exposed by the coronavirus outbreak — failures in broadband technology and the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. But that approach did not gain sufficient traction.Democrats will likely ask for another round of direct payments to Americans, even as the first $1,200 payments to many lower- and middle-class Americans are set to be distributed through April. A proposal for vote-by-mail is also likely to receive a renewed push following criticism of Tuesday’s primary election in Wisconsin, the first state to hold in-person elections since coronavirus stay-at-home orders went into effect.In a press call with reporters Tuesday, Schumer also called for $25,000 pay increases for essential emergency and health care workers fighting the coronavirus.”No proposal will be complete without addressing the need for essential workers,” Schumer said. 
 



read more

Sanders Drops 2020 Presidential Bid, Leaving Biden as Likely Nominee

Sen. Bernie Sanders, who saw his once strong lead in the Democratic primary evaporate as the party’s establishment lined swiftly up behind rival Joe Biden, ended his presidential bid on Wednesday, an acknowledgment that the former vice president is too far ahead for him to have any reasonable hope of catching up.The Vermont senator’s announcement makes Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge President Donald Trump in November.Sanders plans to talk to his supporters later Wednesday.Sanders initially exceeded sky-high expectations about his ability to recreate the magic of his 2016 presidential bid, and even overcame a heart attack last October on the campaign trail. But he found himself unable to convert unwavering support from progressives into a viable path to the nomination amid “electability” fears fueled by questions about whether his democratic socialist ideology would be palatable to general election voters.The 78-year-old senator began his latest White House bid facing questions about whether he could win back the supporters who chose him four years ago as an insurgent alternative to the party establishment’s choice, Hillary Clinton. Despite winning 22 states in 2016, there were no guarantees he’d be a major presidential contender this cycle, especially as the race’s oldest candidate.Sanders, though, used strong polling and solid fundraising — collected almost entirely from small donations made online — to more than quiet early doubters. Like the first time, he attracted widespread support from young voters and was able to make new inroads within the Hispanic community, even as his appeal with African Americans remained small.Sanders amassed the most votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which opened primary voting, and cruised to an easy victory in Nevada — seemingly leaving him well positioned to sprint to the Democratic nomination while a deeply crowded and divided field of alternatives sunk around him.But a crucial endorsement of Biden by influential South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and a subsequent, larger-than-expected victory in South Carolina, propelled the former vice president into Super Tuesday, when he won 10 of 14 states.In a matter of days, his top former Democratic rivals lined up and announced their endorsement of Biden. The former vice president’s campaign had appeared on the brink of collapse after New Hampshire but found new life as the rest of the party’s more moderate establishment coalesced around him as an alternative to Sanders.Things only got worse the following week when Sanders lost Michigan, where he had campaigned hard and upset Clinton in 2016. He was also beaten in Missouri, Mississippi and Idaho the same night and the results were so decisive that Sanders headed to Vermont without speaking to the media.The coronavirus outbreak essentially froze the campaign, preventing Sanders from holding the large rallies that had become his trademark and shifting the primary calendar. It became increasingly unclear where he could notch a victory that would help him regain ground against Biden.Though he will not be the nominee, Sanders was a key architect of many of the social policies that dominated the Democratic primary, including a “Medicare for All” universal, government-funded health care plan, tuition-free public college, a $15 minimum wage and sweeping efforts to fight climate change under the “Green New Deal.”He relished the fact that his ideas — viewed as radical four years ago— had become part of the political mainstream by the next election cycle, as Democratic politics lurched to the left in the Trump era.Sanders began the 2020 race by arguing that he was the most electable Democrat against Trump. He said his working-class appeal could help Democrats win back Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016, including Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But as the race wore on, the senator reverted to his 2016 roots, repeatedly stressing that he backs a “political revolution” from the bottom up under the slogan “Not me. Us.”Sanders also faced persistent questions about being the field’s oldest candidate. Those were pushed into the spotlight on Oct. 1, when he was at a rally in Las Vegas and asked for a chair to be brought on stage so he could sit down. Suffering from chest pains afterward, he underwent surgery to insert two stints because of a blocked artery, and his campaign revealed two days later that he had suffered a heart attack.But a serious health scare that might have derailed other campaigns seemed only to help Sanders as his already-strong fundraising got stronger and rising stars on the Democratic left, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, endorsed him. Many supporters said the heart attack only strengthened their resolve to back him.Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren outshone him throughout much of the summer, but Sanders worked his way back up in the polls. The two progressive candidates spent months refusing to attack each other, though Sanders offered a strong defense of Medicare for All after Warren offered a transition plan saying it would take the country years to transition to it.The two longtime allies finally clashed bitterly, if briefly, in January, when Warren said that Sanders had suggested during a 2018 private meeting that a woman couldn’t be elected president. Sanders denied saying that, but Warren refused to shake his outstretched hand after a debate in Iowa.Warren left the race after a dismal Super Tuesday showing in which she finished third in her own state.In 2016, Sanders kept campaigning long after the primaries had ended and endorsed Clinton less than two weeks before their party’s convention. This cycle, he promised to work better with the national and state parties. His dropping out of the race now could be a step toward unity.



read more

Black Voters Weigh History, Health As They Vote in Wisconsin

After going to sleep angry and afraid to vote, Xavier Thomas woke up on Election Day in Wisconsin thinking about how hard black people had to fight for the right to cast a ballot.He didn’t want to be deterred despite the coronavirus pandemic and the government’s failure to get him an absentee ballot in time.”We had to be willing to die to get our vote, and the same thing is happening right now,” said Thomas, a 33-year-old director of youth ministry at a Milwaukee church.Across Wisconsin on Tuesday, voters had an impossible decision to make: whether to risk their health and possibly their lives to cast a ballot, or stay away and miss exercising a fundamental right of democracy. The conservative-learning state Supreme Court declined to delay the election, despite a statewide order from the Democratic governor telling people to stay home and avoid crowds to contain the spread of the highly infectious disease.Going forward with the election was especially problematic in the state’s largest city, Milwaukee, where roughly 4 in 10 residents are black. The city of 590,000 has suffered roughly half the state’s coronavirus deaths, many of them minorities. Officials closed all but five of the city’s 180 polling places, forcing thousands of voters to congregate at only a handful of voting sites.Vanessa Wroten-Gassama waited for two hours to cast her ballot at Washington High School in the Sherman Park neighborhood, a predominantly black community where rioting broke out in 2016 over a fatal shooting by police.  The wait was particularly difficult for her because she has a variety of health problems, including the need for dialysis.
“A lot of people aren’t going to go vote, especially the elderly,” said the 59-year-old, who wore a mask and gloves. “A lot of people aren’t going to go because they are desperately scared, especially in my community.”Another problem: Many voters said they requested absentee ballots but had not received them by Election Day.Calena Roberts was trying to figure out how she would tell her 89-year-old mother-in-law, who now lives in a Milwaukee nursing home, that she would not be able to vote because her absentee ballot hadn’t shown up.
“What do I say to her? Other than, ‘Mother, I am so sorry you won’t be able to cast your ballot in 2020, after all the years and all the struggles for African Americans to get the right to vote,'” said Roberts, 67.
She said she could not “in good conscience” take her mother out of the nursing home and bring her to a crowded polling place. More than half of the city’s known infections are within the black community.  
“People should not have to make a choice about being able to cast their ballot or taking a chance on becoming deathly ill or dying,” Roberts said. “There was no reason, no excuse for any human being to think this is OK.”
Tuesday’s election was remarkable in that it happened at all. All other states scheduled to hold primaries in recent weeks have delayed voting by days, weeks or months so election officials can adjust to the coronavirus restrictions and prepare for a dramatic increase in absentee ballot requests. Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried to postpone the primary but was stopped by the conservative-leaning state Supreme Court, which ordered the election to proceed.
Traditional voter-outreach efforts to push people to the polls were largely abandoned. Concerns over public safety prompted the presidential campaign of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to cancel its planned get-out-the-vote activities. The campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden said it began weeks ago shifting all of its voter turnout efforts toward vote-by-mail.
Michael Claus, 66, was among voters who lined up Tuesday morning outside one of Milwaukee’s five polling places.
Claus, who is black, wore a protective mask and a Tuskegee Airmen cap. He said he tried to vote absentee and requested a ballot in March, but it never showed up and his only option was to vote in person. He blamed the Republican-controlled Legislature, saying the election “is more about politics for them than our safety.”
“They could have delayed the election with no problem,” Claus said. “They decided if they can suppress the vote in Milwaukee and Madison, where you have a large minority presence, you can get people elected you want elected. And that’s sad.”
Democrats had accused Republicans of holding to the Tuesday election date in part to benefit from reduced turnout in the state’s most populous cities, which lean Democratic. Reduced turnout there would benefit a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who is on the ballot for re-election.
Republicans had defended moving ahead with the election, saying it can be done safely and that elections have not been delayed during other times of national crisis. They also argue it’s important to fill thousands of local offices where terms expire later this month.
It was too early to say how much of an effect fears over coronavirus along with all the last-minute confusion about whether the election would happen would reduce turnout. But any decline could have long-term consequences.
“If black voices are not represented in the vote and in decisions that are made by folks that are elected, their communities suffer,” said Ryeshia Farmer with the ACLU of Wisconsin. “They don’t receive the same amount of resources, the same amount of funding in their communities. Long term, this will have a ripple effect.”
Keisha Robinson, 43, of Milwaukee, works to mobilize voters with BLOC — Black Leaders Organizing Communities. Robinson herself requested an absentee ballot from the city on Thursday, a day before the deadline.  
She had her fingers crossed that it would arrive in Tuesday’s mail. When it didn’t, Robinson had to decide whether to go vote in person. With an immune system she said “is not so strong,” and feeling scared, she decided against it.
“Not being able to vote when that’s exactly what I urge and inform my community to do feels like hypocrisy almost,” she said. “It feels like i didn’t complete my end of an important deal or something.” 



read more

Wisconsin Voters Brave Coronavirus

Amid coronavirus fears, Wisconsin voters went to the polls Tuesday after the state supreme court reversed the Democratic governor’s postponement of the election.  Mike O’Sullivan reports, disputes over the voting process foreshadow battles ahead of the presidential election in November.



read more