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Hastert Allegations Cast New Light on His Speakership

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In this June 15, 2007 file photo, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., sits for a portrait in his Capitol Hill office. On Thursday, May 28, 2015, federal prosecutors indicted Hastert, 73, on bank-related charges. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

In this June 15, 2007 file photo, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., sits for a portrait in his Capitol Hill office. On Thursday, May 28, 2015, federal prosecutors indicted Hastert, 73, on bank-related charges. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

 

(Politico) – When former House Speaker Dennis Hastert appears in a Chicago courtroom on Tuesday to answer charges that he broke federal banking law and lied to the FBI, reportedly to cover up sexual abuse, it will amount to more than a personal comedown: It will cast a harsh new light on the GOP-controlled Congress he led and his lax response to the disparate range of scandals that erupted under his reign.

A reassessment of Hastert’s leadership began in earnest following his indictment two weeks ago. In hindsight, it now seems clear his avuncular persona — even political enemies couldn’t work up much animus against the former teacher and wrestling instructor known as “The Coach” — served to deter broader scrutiny of congressional misdeeds, including an Illinois land deal of his own that netted him millions.

A man hiding secrets like Hastert’s had a natural incentive to avoid calling out others, a lesson the speaker could have learned from his predecessor Newt Gingrich, whose efforts to take down Democrats from Jim Wright to Bill Clinton inspired his enemies to dig for — and uncover — scandals of his own.

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Bay Area

Mayor Sheng Thao Says, “I Am Innocent” While Addressing Public First Time After FBI Raid

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao finally addressed the public Monday morning after four days of silence following an FBI raid on her home last week and the certification of signatures required to trigger a recall election. Thao and her family woke up to FBI officers entering her home last Thursday morning and leaving with several boxes of unknown content. The FBI has not commented on what the investigation is about, but it has been reported that they are working in collaboration with the IRS and USPS.

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Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao during a press conference following the FBI raid on her home. Photo courtesy ABC7 San Francisco.
Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao during a press conference following the FBI raid on her home. Photo courtesy ABC7 San Francisco.

By Magaly Muñoz

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao finally addressed the public Monday morning after four days of silence following an FBI raid on her home last week and the certification of signatures required to trigger a recall election.

Thao and her family woke up to FBI officers entering her home last Thursday morning and leaving with several boxes of unknown content. The FBI has not commented on what the investigation is about, but it has been reported that they are working in collaboration with the IRS and USPS.

“I want to be crystal clear. I have done nothing wrong,” Thao stated emphatically at the press conference.

Three other properties were also searched that morning, including the residences of California Waste Solutions owners Andy and David Duong. The Duongs are at the center of an investigation by the Oakland Public Ethics Commission for political money-laundering, as reported by the Oaklandside.

Thao said that she was unaware of the investigation or raid prior to Thursday and would have fully cooperated had the FBI contacted her beforehand. She says she still has not received any information on what the investigation is about or whether she is the focus of it.

Bay Area defense attorney Anthony Brass, who took on Thao as a client shortly after the incident, and talked to press on Friday afternoon, withdrew his representation Monday.

He asked to withdraw from her legal team, and she accepted, Brass told the Post, but did not elaborate as to why.

Thao also addressed the shooting at Lake Merritt on June 19 during a Juneteenth celebration where 15 people were injured by gunfire. The incident was a result of a fight during a car sideshow that occurred at the Lakefest festival around 8 p.m.

This event resulted in yet another conversation about the lack of public safety and police presence in the city, an issue many have blamed Thao for.

“I want every Oaklander to know that we will work hard to ensure that those responsible are held accountable,” Thao said.

The FBI raid happened only two days after the Alameda County Registrar of Voters certified the signatures needed to trigger a recall election on the November ballot. Recall proponents submitted over 40,000 signatures seven weeks before their July deadline.

Thao accused billionaires from San Francisco and Piedmont for being behind the attempts to oust her and “buying the recall election.” She blamed them for empowering people like Seneca Scott, a leader behind the recall, to overturn the election.

“They were not only aiming to undermine the outcome of a fair and free election, but they empowered a dangerous man with a history of assault weapons violations to further attack me in life,” Thao said.

The “dangerous man” in question is Scott, a failed 2022 mayoral candidate who is spearheading the recall alongside former Police Commissioner Brenda Harbin-Forte. The recall group has called on Thao to resign since the unraveling of events on Thursday.

The mayor also suggested that this situation would not be happening if she were a rich politician. She stated that she’s aware that former elected officials have committed campaign finance violations with “mountains” of evidence to prove the wrongdoing, but “their front doors remain intact.”

Because the press was told Thao would not take questions, following her lawyer’s advice, no one asked for further details about this claim.

Thao promised to continue her work to keep Oakland safe and fight against the “right-wing forces” behind her recall. She reiterated her commitment to major city projects like the sale of the Coliseum property to the African American Sports Entertainment Group, emphasizing that this investment would proceed without derailment.

“I will not be bullied, and I will not be disparaged, and I will not be frightened out of this office,” Thao said.

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Bay Area

Oakland Mayor’s Team is Jumping Ship: Personal Attorney, Chief of Communications Resigns Following FBI Raids

Mayor Sheng Thao’s Chief of Communications Francis Zamora announced his resignation from her administration Tuesday morning, following Thao’s attorney withdrawing representation Monday afternoon. The mayor’s office sent out a brief statement where Zamora thanked his colleagues for their dedication and professionalism. He had worked for Thao’s office for less than a year before this announcement.

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Mayor Sheng Thao.
Mayor Sheng Thao.

By Magaly Muñoz

Mayor Sheng Thao’s Chief of Communications Francis Zamora announced his resignation from her administration Tuesday morning, following Thao’s attorney withdrawing representation Monday afternoon.

The mayor’s office sent out a brief statement where Zamora thanked his colleagues for their dedication and professionalism. He had worked for Thao’s office for less than a year before this announcement.

“It was an honor to serve the City of Oakland beside them,” he said.

Zamora did not share any additional details on why he is choosing to leave the mayor’s team, but it does come only days after Thao’s home was raided by the FBI last Thursday.

“Francis was a valuable member of the team whose contributions are greatly valued and appreciated. I thank him for his service and wish him well,” Thao said in a statement.

Pati Navalta, who previously held the now vacant communications position, will step in as interim chief of communications until a new person is hired.

The mayor has had a tumultuous week following the raid on her home, along with three other residences, with no explanation provided by the FBI. The other properties are owned the Duong family, who are currently the focus of an Oakland Public Ethics Commission investigation on political money laundering.

Bay Area defense attorney Anthony Brass, who Thao hired to represent her after the raids, also announced that he was withdrawing from her legal team.

Brass confirmed his withdrawal with the Post but did not elaborate on his decision to leave.

In an interview with CBS Monday evening, Brass told reporters that he and Thao had “very different approaches or different philosophies about how to proceed” with her case.

Apparently, Brass had not even known that Thao was addressing the press that morning. Brass himself had spoken to reporters last Friday afternoon, assuring the public that Thao has “nothing to hide.”

At the time, neither Brass nor the mayor had any iknowledge that she was the target of the FBI investigation. Thao echoed similar statements at her press conference on Monday.

In less than a week, Thao has had her administration, and possibly her legacy, turned upside down. She’s not only juggling this crisis, but the city is also up in flames over the large budget deficit, the recent shooting at Lake Merritt on Juneteenth, and her upcoming recall election in November.

The optics are not favoring Thao, considering her former chief of staff is also coming out and alleging that the mayor’s office engaged in pay-for-play schemes in her tenure.

Renia Webb worked for Thao during her time as an Oakland City Councilmember and was with her briefly after she won the mayoral election in 2022. She told CBS that she was not surprised to see the FBI investigating Thao and has called on Thao to resign following the incident.

Webb is also being interviewed by the FBI.

Thao’s opponents have not wavered in using recent events to prove that she is not fit for office and must be removed.

Since Thursday, multiple groups and residents have called on Thao to resign and save the city the trouble and money to put the recall on the ballot. Opponents are alleging corruption and mismanagement of the city by several city leaders aside from Thao, such as Council President Nikki Fortunato-Bas and Carroll Fife.

Thao stated that she would not be bullied out of her position and will fight against anyone who is attempting to oust her.

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Community

The First Presidential Debate of 2024 Mired in Trump’s Lies, Poor Media Moderation

Forget alternative facts and political spin: the first presidential debate of 2024 was an overwhelming flood of falsehoods. The twice-impeached and 34-times convicted felon former President Donald Trump unleashed a torrent of misinformation on topics ranging from terrorism to taxes during the first debate of the 2024 general election. Poorly moderated to the point of farce by two CNN anchors, the debate will likely go down in history for the sheer volume of lies broadcast to the American people.

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The First Presidential Debate of 2024
The First Presidential Debate of 2024.

By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire

Forget alternative facts and political spin: the first presidential debate of 2024 was an overwhelming flood of falsehoods.

The twice-impeached and 34-times convicted felon former President Donald Trump unleashed a torrent of misinformation on topics ranging from terrorism to taxes during the first debate of the 2024 general election.

Poorly moderated to the point of farce by two CNN anchors, the debate will likely go down in history for the sheer volume of lies broadcast to the American people.

Trump, who boasted that he could grab women by their private parts and later was found responsible for sexually assaulting a woman, lied about everything from the economy to racism and having sex with an adult film star.

“I spent 90 minutes debating on a stage with a guy who has all the morals of an alley cat. I mean, did you see Donald Trump last night? He must have set a new record for the number of lies ever told in a single debate,” President Joe Biden said after the June 27 debate.

“He lied about what a great economy he created when we all remember the pandemic. He lied about how great he was for veterans when we can recall how he called veterans who had given their lives for this country ‘suckers’ and ‘losers.’

And he even lied about how he had nothing to do with January 6,” Biden asserted.

Biden reminded debate viewers that they had all witnessed a Trump-supporting mob attack the U.S. Capitol, including assaults on police officers. “The Capitol was ransacked,” Biden said. “Folks, for all of Trump’s lies, we did learn some important truths. We learned he is still proud of being the person who killed Roe v. Wade. Donald Trump showed us who he is last night. We have to believe him.”

The litany of key questions Trump refused to answer on the debate stage further highlighted his evasion and dishonesty. Instead, Trump deflected, blamed others, and continued his pattern of misinformation.

He also made racially charged claims about immigrants taking jobs from Black and Hispanic Americans. “They’re taking Black jobs now, and it could be 18, it could be 19, and even 20 million people,” Trump said, showing just how racist he can be. “They’re taking Black jobs, and they’re taking Hispanic jobs, and you haven’t seen it yet, but you’re going to see something that’s going to be the worst in our history.”

Derrick Johnson, CEO of the NAACP, responded succinctly, “There’s no such thing as a Black job or a white job.”

Although Biden received poor marks and criticism for his performance, backlash against Trump also proved swift and severe. Democratic Party of Virginia Chair Susan Swecker; Army veteran Terron Sims II, chair of the DNC Veterans and Military Families Council; and Air Force veteran Sean Monteiro, chair of the Virginia Beach Democratic Committee, all called out Trump for his long record of disrespecting Americans in uniform.

They criticized his efforts with MAGA GOP extremists to cut veterans’ benefits, which would have a significant impact on the Hampton Roads area — home to nearly 120,000 active-duty military members and 220,000 veterans.

“Donald Trump’s record, rhetoric, and actions have all proved that he is against everything that our military stands for and works to protect,” Swecker stated.

“There is only one man on the ballot in November who has stood up for veterans time and again.” Swecker said. “That man is Joe Biden, a father who knows what it feels like to have a son fighting for his country, and a president who has delivered the most significant expansion of benefits and services for veterans.”

President Biden and Democrats are working to protect freedom and defend democracy, standing up against aggression abroad and hate at home,” said Monteiro.

“Donald Trump only cares about himself – and, with the backing of his MAGA Republican allies, he’s willing to insult service members and destroy the very ideals of democracy in his own pursuit of personal power, revenge, and retribution,” Monteiro said. “We have to defeat Trump and MAGA Republicans once and for all — so he doesn’t have a chance to do any more damage to our democracy and our values as a country.”

The debate has revealed the stark choice facing American voters. On one side is Biden, 81, who has spent four years cleaning up his predecessor’s misdeeds. Biden has worked tirelessly to rebuild the economy, navigate the country through a devastating pandemic, and restore America’s global reputation.

He has fought for healthcare, veterans’ rights, and the middle class, as well as relieving tens of millions of dollars of student debt.

On the other side stands Trump, 78, whose presidency nearly decimated the economy, whose inaction during the pandemic allowed countless people to die, who spews hate, racism, and violent rhetoric, and who all but ruined America’s standing in the world.

For over a century, the NAACP has worked tirelessly to ensure Black voices are heard in every election,” Johnson stated. “This year is no different. We need candidates who are going to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, not attempt to mischaracterize Black workers as anything but American workers.”

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