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September 2, 2014

Late last week, prosecutors in Snohomish County, Washington, charged Carmela Panico with promoting prostitution and laundering the proceeds. What's unusual is the venue for the alleged sale of sex acts: Drive-thru coffee carts. Panico, a 52-year-old former nude dancer, owned and operated a fleet of Java Juggs coffee stands north of Seattle, featuring bikini-clad baristas.

Baristas told investigators that they earned $15,000 and $30,000 a month, mostly from tips. Panico hauled in more than $2 million in three years, and kept much of that cash hidden from the IRS, prosecutors say. Police found $250,000 in cash in Panico's house. Deputy prosecutor Bob Hendrix alleged in the charging documents that Panico would take a fixed cut from each of her seven stands, letting the baristas keep the rest: "The sales goals were effectively rent that the girls paid to have the opportunity to perform lewd conduct or acts of prostitution."

The Everett Herald's Diana Hefley explains the basic business model:

The women told cops the price for a cup of coffee started at $6 and customers typically paid with a $20 bill. The baristas kept the rest to shake their breasts or expose their genitals. They charged more for sex acts with the droves of men who stopped at the stands. [Everett Herald]

A sheriff's sergeant, Darrell O'Neill, is also accused of tipping off Panico and her workers to the police investigation, in return for sexual favors. He resigned following his arrest, after 30 years on the force, but pleaded not guilty to the charges. Seattle's KOMO News has more on the story below. --Peter Weber

12:10 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Monday refused to explicitly disavow Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore because of tax reform. Conway, appearing on Fox & Friends on Monday morning, warned the people of Alabama (and presumably the president) that a vote for Democratic candidate Doug Jones is "a vote against tax cuts."

After Conway made the case against Jones, Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade asked: "So vote Roy Moore?" Conway demurred and turned her ire toward embattled Democratic senators. "I'm telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through," she said. "And if the media were really concerned about all these allegations ... Al Franken would be on the ash heap of bygone half-funny comedians."

After the hosts noted that the Republican National Committee and various other top-tier Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), had withdrawn their support for Moore after allegations his sexual misconduct with teenagers became public, Conway assured them that President Trump would not campaign in Alabama on Moore's behalf.

Conway's remarks echo the White House's unofficial position on the Alabama Senate race: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week that while Trump takes the allegations against Moore seriously, "he thinks the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their senator should be."

Although Trump attacked Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Twitter last week for his alleged sexual misconduct, the president has not addressed the accusations against Moore. Sanders has defended the president against his own accusations of sexual assault by saying that "the American people I think spoke loud and clear when they elected this president."

Watch Conway talk taxes and Moore at Mediaite. Kelly O'Meara Morales

11:13 a.m. ET
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images for SiriusXM

New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush is accused of making unwanted advances on aspiring young female journalists, Vox reports. Formerly of Politico, Thrush, 50, is accused in one instance of paying for a colleague's cab in order to be left alone with Vox reporter Laura McGann. "He slid into my side of the booth, blocking me in," writes McGann of the incident, which she says took place five years ago. "I was wearing a skirt, and he put his hand on my thigh. He started kissing me."

In another account, from June 2015, a young woman at a bar with Thrush texted her friend, Bianca Padró Ocasio, from the bathroom: "I'm drunk," she wrote. "I'm nervous about this Glenn situation." The woman's friends urged her to get an Uber, but she reportedly left the bar with Thrush to get fresh air instead:

[Thrush] led her down an incline to a dimly lit path along the old C&O Canal bed. He kissed her, she says, and she panicked. Then her phone rang, jolting her. It was Padró Ocasio […] The young woman ordered an Uber — the receipt shows it was about 11 p.m. — and says she planned to call Padró Ocasio back once inside the car. In the few minutes she waited, she said, Thrush walked back over to her and started to kiss her again. She began to cry. When Thrush saw, he abruptly walked off, waving his hand flippantly, and left her alone to wait for her ride, she said. [Vox]

Thrush called the June incident "a life-changing event [for me]" and said that "over the past several years, I have responded to a succession of personal and health crises by drinking heavily." He added: "I have not taken a drink since June 15, 2017, have resumed counseling, and will soon begin out-patient treatment for alcoholism."

The New York Times says Thrush is suspended while the reports are investigated. Read more at Vox. Jeva Lange

11:06 a.m. ET
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Values voters are, as the name suggests, voters who say they make their Election Day choices primarily motivated by their moral values, a political calculus that would prioritize good moral character in candidates for office. In practice, however, a new data analysis from FiveThirtyEight shows the most important values for values voters are actually policies — and candidates who pledge to defend those positions can win values voters' support irrespective of their personal morality.

To be clear, values voters' views on these top policy topics are informed by their values, but when it comes to voting, those secondary positions, rather than the values themselves, dominate the decision. For example, a 2004 poll of self-describe values voters found 44 percent "mentioned specific issues like abortion or gay marriage" as the top concerns that came to mind when they thought of "moral values." Just 23 percent mentioned candidates' character.

Likewise, a 2015 poll of evangelicals, a group with considerable overlap with the values voters category, found their presidential vote was more determined by positions on key policies than by whether moral values were evident or absent in candidates' own lives. There's even some anecdotal evidence of this dynamic among this morning's headlines here at The Week: "Trump voter claims not even Jesus could convince him Trump has done anything wrong." Bonnie Kristian

10:22 a.m. ET
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump believes Special Counsel Robert Mueller is nearly finished with his investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged Trump campaign participation therein, The Washington Post reported Sunday afternoon in an article on the White House climate as Mueller's probe works "through the staff like Pac-Man."

White House lawyer Ty Cobb has assured the president Mueller will wrap things up and declare Trump himself innocent by early 2018 at the latest. (He initially predicted Mueller would be done by Thanksgiving but has adjusted that timeline.) "The president says, 'This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,'" said an anonymous source the Post describes as "close to the administration." "[Trump] is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration."

Many White House staffers have grimmer — and likely more realistic — expectations. "Of course they are worried," said an unnamed Republican operative in regular communication with the West Wing. "Anybody that ever had the words 'Russia' come out of their lips or in an email, they're going to get talked to. These things are thorough and deep. It's going to be a long winter."
Bonnie Kristian

10:12 a.m. ET

Nearly two weeks after alleging that she was sexually assaulted by Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore when she was just 14, Leigh Corfman gave her first public interview Monday. Speaking with the Today show's Savannah Guthrie, Corfman recounted how Moore brought her to his home, stripped her down to her undergarments, and began touching her before she told him that she was uncomfortable and wanted to go home.

"I was a 14-year-old child trying to play in an adult's world," Corfman said, "and he was 32 years old."

Corfman first told her story to The Washington Post, which included her as one of four women who alleged inappropriate conduct by Moore. Corfman was the only one of the women who alleged that Moore had sexually assaulted her; the others said he courted or kissed them when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Since the Post's story, five more accusers have come forward to allege that Moore groped, assaulted, or pursued them when they were minors. Moore has mostly denied the allegations.

When asked to address Moore's claim that he did not know Corfman, she replied, "I wonder how many me's he doesn't know." Corfman stressed that the Post sought her out for its story, and that she was reluctant to come forward until reporters were able to find other women who had similar experiences with Moore. She added that she blamed herself for her encounter with Moore for decades and did not speak out earlier in fear that she and her family would be "castigated."

Watch her interview below. Kelly O'Meara Morales

9:55 a.m. ET

Fox News host Sean Hannity has provided perhaps the most sympathetic media space for embattled Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to respond to multiplying, credible allegations of his sexual misconduct toward girls as young as 14. It was on Hannity's show, for example, that Moore felt comfortable revealing he doesn't "remember dating any girl without the permission of her mother," an unusual detail when one dates adults.

Still, Hannity's confidence in Moore seems to have been shaken, especially as his show bleeds advertising revenue because of the Moore scandal. This is perhaps why his staff reached out to one of Moore's accusers asking for an interview. The response from her attorney, Paula Cobia, was swift and brutal.

"Mr. Hannity has belittled, defamed, and engaged in an on-air intimidation campaign against the victims of Mr. Moore," Cobia wrote. "He is totally uninterested in discovering the truth. He gave Mr. Moore a lazy, softball interview which his own panel did not find credible. In fact, the panel mocked Mr. Moore over his inconsistencies and lies." Read the full response below, knowing that somewhere, right now, Hannity may be taking out his anger on a coffee machine. Bonnie Kristian

9:21 a.m. ET
Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM

A second woman has come forward to complain about the conduct of Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), CNN reports. Lindsay Menz, now 33, claims Franken "put his hand full-fledged on my rear" when she posed with him for a photo at the Minnesota State Fair in 2010.

"It was wrapped tightly around my butt cheek," Menz told CNN. "It wasn't around my waist. It wasn't around my hip or side. It was definitely on my butt. I was like, oh my God, what's happening."

Menz's husband, who was taking the photo, said that while he could not see the contact his wife described because he was standing in front of the pair, he could confirm that Franken had "reached around [Lindsay Menz] and kind of pulled her into him." Menz posted the photo to Facebook and replied to a comment from her sister by writing: "Dude — Al Franken TOTALLY molested me! Creeper!"

Menz reached out to CNN after reporter Leeann Tweeden accused Franken last week of groping her in her sleep and kissing her without her consent while on a USO tour in 2006. Menz said of her own experience: "I felt gross. It'd be like being walking through the mall and some random person grabbing your butt. You just feel gross. Like ew, I want to wash that off of me."

Franken said in a statement that he did not remember the events Menz described. "I take thousands of photos at the state fair surrounded by hundreds of people, and I certainly don't remember taking this picture," he said. "I feel badly that Ms. Menz came away from our interaction feeling disrespected." Read the full report at CNN. Jeva Lange

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