Gymnastics in crisis
Three members of USA Gymnastics’ senior board resigned this week, as scores of girls and women offered harrowing testimony about the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of former team physician Larry Nassar. Nearly 160 young women provided victim statements in court about Nassar, 54—including Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman. Some sobbed as they recounted how Nassar molested them during physical therapy sessions; others commanded him to look at them as they described their subsequent struggles with depression and self-harm. “We, this group of women you so heartlessly abused...are now a force,” said Raisman. “You are nothing.” Nassar had already been handed a 60-year prison sentence for federal child pornography charges. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar to another 40 to 175 years for criminal sexual conduct and told him, “I just signed your death warrant.’’ She also called for a “massive investigation” into the inaction and silence that enabled Nassar’s 25 years of abuse.
A 15-year-old boy opened fire with a handgun inside his high school this week, killing two fellow students and wounding 18 others. The shooting began around 8 a.m. in the school’s atrium, where students were gathering before the start of classes. Sheriff’s deputies responded within minutes and tackled the shooter, who was arrested without further struggle. At least four students were wounded in the panicked rush to escape. Police haven’t determined a motive, but the shooter is expected to face two charges of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder. There have been at least 11 shootings on school campuses in the U.S. since Jan. 1. “We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings,” said Katherine Schweit, a former senior FBI official who co-authored a study of active shooter incidents. “I think that will continue.”
Federal agents last week arrested a man for making menacing calls to CNN and threatening to massacre its employees for spreading “fake news.” The FBI alleges that Brandon Griesemer, 19, made 22 calls to the main CNN switchboard in Atlanta between Jan. 9 and Jan. 10. “Fake news. I’m coming to gun you all down,” he said in one call. In another, he used anti-Jewish slurs while threatening to come to CNN headquarters and shoot “every single last one of you.” Griesemer was charged with transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort, threaten, or injure and was released on a $10,000 bond. CNN anchor Don Lemon explicitly blamed President Trump’s frequent attacks on CNN for inciting the threats. “There’s nothing random about this. Nothing,” Lemon said on air. Just hours after CNN reported on the arrest, President Trump tweeted about “Crazy Jim Acosta of Fake News CNN.”
The ongoing nationwide battle over partisan gerrymandering heated up this week when Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court struck down the state’s congressional map, ruling that it “clearly, plainly, and palpably” violates the state’s constitution by giving Republicans an unfair political advantage. The GOP-controlled legislature drew up the current map in 2011. The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and other plaintiffs subsequently sued, alleging that some of the bizarrely shaped districts—one of which was nicknamed “Goofy kicking Donald Duck”—marginalized Democratic voters, potentially allowing Republicans to pick up two or three additional House seats. Lawmakers have until Feb. 9 to submit a new map; the new district lines could help Democrats capture as many as half a dozen now-Republican seats in the state—boosting their efforts to flip 24 seats nationwide and recapture the House in the midterms.
Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, who has helped lead a recent effort to combat sexual harassment in Congress, used taxpayer money to settle his own sexual misconduct complaint from a former aide last year. Meehan, a 62-year-old married father of three, used thousands of dollars in office funds to settle the former aide’s complaint that he made unwanted romantic overtures to her and grew hostile when she didn’t reciprocate. The congressman confirmed the settlement but denied harassing the aide, explaining to The Philadelphia Inquirer that he saw the woman, who is decades his junior, as his “soul mate.” He admitted reacting “poorly” when he found out that the woman had started a serious relationship with someone else and said he felt the woman “invited” his intimate communications. Any hostility, he said, came from his stress over the Obamacare repeal vote. Meehan has been removed from the House Ethics Committee, which is now investigating his actions.
The FBI is investigating whether a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help elect Donald Trump, McClatchy newspapers reported last week. The investigation is focused on Alexander Torshin, a Russian banker who has been accused of money laundering by Spanish authorities and allegedly has links to Russian organized crime. Torshin has cultivated close ties with the NRA, becoming a lifetime member and hosting a delegation of high-ranking NRA leaders in Moscow in 2015. He also met with Donald Trump Jr. in May 2016 during the NRA’s national convention in Kentucky. It is illegal to use foreign money in federal elections, though it is not clear what, if any, evidence the FBI has that might connect Torshin and the NRA’s campaign spending. The NRA spent $30 million to support Trump in 2016, triple what it spent on Mitt Romney’s candidacy in 2012. The NRA has denied being contacted by the FBI regarding Russia.