July 11, 2014

Sometimes, rock, paper, scissors just won't do.

On Tuesday, Kenneth Howard Jr. and Robert Baca used a coin toss to determine which man would become the next McKinley County magistrate judge. The pair met in a Gallup, New Mexico courtroom, and Howard made the lucky call.

How did it come down to this? A recount found that both received 2,879 votes in the June 3 Democratic primary. The state law mandates a tie must be decided by lot, The Associated Press reports, so a Democratic Party official flipped a 50-cent piece. Because Howard was lower on the ballot, he was able to make the call.

There isn't an opponent on the general election ballot, making Howard the magistrate judge for the next four years. While Baca was saddened by the loss, both are glad they finally have a winner, and it didn't have to come down to arm wrestling. Catherine Garcia

9:06 a.m. ET
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Who investigates the investigators? President Trump's legal team, frustrated by the ongoing probe into their client's potential ties with Russia, is now proposing naming a second special counsel to investigate the FBI and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Axios reports.

The idea of naming an additional special counsel beyond Robert Mueller stems from a Fox News article that found a "senior Justice Department official" had been demoted after "concealing his meetings with the men behind the anti-Trump 'dossier' had even closer ties to Fusion GPS, the firm responsible for the incendiary document, than have been disclosed." The wife of the demoted official reportedly worked at Fusion GPS during the presidential campaign.

The article spurred Trump attorney Jay Sekulow to tell Axios that "the Department of Justice and FBI cannot ignore the multiple problems that have been created by these obvious conflicts of interests. These new revelations require the appointment of a special counsel to investigate."

If everyone got their way, there could be four different special counsels running about Washington. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) has demanded support for "a special counsel to investigate ALL THINGS 2016" and Sessions himself "is entertaining the idea of appointing a second special counsel to investigate a host of Republican concerns," The Washington Post reports. Read more at Axios. Jeva Lange

9:06 a.m. ET
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Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) is not stepping down despite an $84,000 sexual harassment settlement he reached with his former press secretary, Lauren Greene, a new House Ethics Committee investigation of that settlement, and five Republican challengers in his safe GOP district. "It's lonelier than it's been in past times, but he's not alone," Farenthold's chief of staff, Bob Haueter, told The Texas Tribune on Monday evening.

Also on Monday evening, The New York Times took "a peek into the inner workings" of Farenthold's Capitol Hill office, revealing a "hostile work environment, rife with sexual innuendo" and fueled by alcohol, where "sexually explicit conversations are routine, pickup lines are part of daily life, hiring can be based on looks, tolerance is expected, and intolerance of such behavior is career-ending." The Times based its report on House aides, former Farenthold staffers, and legal documents. Some of the details make Farenthold's office sound like the fraternity in Animal House, the Times reports:

The refrigerator in the "bullpen" — the open area where aides worked — was filled with beer, and sometimes happy hour would begin at 4:30 p.m., which his aides called "beer-thirty." [Former Press Secretary Elizabeth] Peace said women would discuss which male lobbyists had texted them pictures of their genitals, and both men and women would talk about strip clubs and whether certain Fox News anchors had breast implants. [The New York Times]

Greene's complaint alleged that Farenthold liked redheads especially, "regularly drank to excess, and because of his tendency to flirt, the staffers who accompanied him to Capitol Hill functions would joke that they had to be on 'redhead patrol' to keep him out of trouble." Farenthold's lawyers denied that there client's attraction to redheads "was a source for, or cause of, concern for any staffer." You can read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

8:28 a.m. ET
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In a year bookended by worldwide Women's Marches and the #MeToo movement, it is perhaps no surprise to hear that "feminism" is the 2017 Merriam-Webster dictionary word of the year. "No one word can ever encapsulate all the news, events, or stories of a given year," said the editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster, Peter Sokolowski, in a statement. "But when we look back at the past 12 months and combine an analysis of words that have been looked up much more frequently than during the previous year along with instances of intense spikes of interest because of news events, we see that one word stands out in both categories."

Last year, the Merriam-Webster word of the year was "surreal," with searches of the word spiking on Nov. 9, the day after Donald Trump won the presidential election. The Trump administration similarly shaped the linguistic landscape in 2017, with searches of "feminism" spiking after Kellyanne Conway said she did not consider herself to be "classic" feminist.

Merriam-Webster defines feminism as "the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes" and "organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests." Dictionary.com picked "complicit" as its 2017 word of the year. Jeva Lange

8:11 a.m. ET
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The Senate hopes to vote on a negotiated final version of the Republican tax plan early next week, with the House voting no later than Wednesday and the whole package landing on President Trump's desk by a Dec. 20 deadline. But the progress of reaching an agreement between the chambers is slow going, and Republicans are acutely aware that the clock is ticking. "I don't think you can say at this point anything is really nailed down," Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) confessed to Politico on Monday.

There are a number of thorny issues left to resolve, and the Senate is operating with strict budget rules. The corporate tax rate stands out as one topic of major debate, with the chambers agreeing to a lower 20 percent rate, but the Senate has suggested delaying the rate until 2019. A higher rate, such as 21 or 22 percent, is also being discussed to generate around $200 billion to offset the cost of other provisions. Questions about individual income brackets and state and local tax write-offs also have yet to be fully resolved.

Complicating matters is the looming end-of-the-year deadline, even as some Republicans "take a second look, making sure the final product is one Republicans can support," the Los Angeles Times writes. As Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) put it to the paper: "The desperation is palpable."

Thune indicated there is still a long road ahead. "Nothing really" has been resolved, he admitted to Politico. Read more about the differences between the House and Senate bills at The Week. Jeva Lange

7:42 a.m. ET
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On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it will allow qualified transgender people to enlist in the military starting in January, in compliance with an order from the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration had appealed the court ruling, and the district court rejected an emergency stay on Monday. "As required by recent federal district court orders, the Department of Defense recently announced it will begin processing transgender applicants for military service on Jan. 1, 2018," the Defense Department said in a statement Monday. "This policy will be implemented while the Department of Justice appeals those court orders."

President Trump announced in July and signed a memorandum on Aug. 25 giving the Pentagon six months to develop a plan to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military, with the plan to take effect next March 23. The Pentagon will allow transgender enlistees who have completed their sex transition and "been stable in their preferred gender for 18 months." Peter Weber

7:37 a.m. ET

President Trump is once again denying allegations of sexual misconduct after several of his accusers came forward for "round two" on Monday:

Trump has consistently denied allegations against him, although he admitted to making lewd comments on an Access Hollywood tape about forcing himself on women without their consent. In response to a question on the topic Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: "In this case the president has denied any of these allegations, as have eyewitnesses and several reports have shown those eyewitnesses also back up the president's claim in this process. And again, the American people knew this and voted for the president and we feel like we're ready to move forward in that process."

Samantha Holvey, who claimed in October of last year that Trump inappropriately inspected women who participated in his beauty pageants, called it "heartbreaking" on Monday to have gone public with her story "and nobody cared." Jeva Lange

6:52 a.m. ET

Ed Lee, San Francisco's mayor, died Tuesday morning, according to a statement from his office. He was 65, and no cause of death was given. "It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we confirm that Mayor Edwin M. Lee passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 1:11 a.m. at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital," Lee's office said. "Family, friends, and colleagues were at his side. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anita, his two daughters, Brianna and Tania, and his family."

Lee, San Francisco's first Asian American mayor, took the job reluctantly in 2011, but was re-elected in 2015. London Breed, the president of the city Board of Supervisors, was named acting mayor, effective immediately. Peter Weber

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