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July 12, 2019

Lawyers for President Trump released a 15-second video clip they say clears Trump of allegations that he forcibly kissed a campaign staffer, Alva Johnson, without her consent before an August 2016 rally in Tampa, Florida. Lawyers for Johnson, who quit the campaign a few weeks later, after watching Trump's infamous Access Hollywood sexual assault confessional, say the video corroborates her account that Trump grabbed her hand, leaned in for a kiss on the mouth, and landed the kiss nearby on her cheek after Johnson turned her head at the last second.

In February, when Johnson sued Trump, she called the encounter "super creepy and inappropriate" and said, "I immediately felt violated because I wasn't expecting it or wanting it. I can still see his lips coming straight for my face." Far from "providing clarity" about what really happened, The Washington Post notes, "the 15-second video released Wednesday by Charles Harder, an attorney for Trump, only led to conflicting interpretations."

Harder said in a court filing Wednesday that Johnson's claim is "unmeritorious and frivolous" and the video proves the encounter was an "innocent interaction that is mutual — and not forcible." Johnson's lawyer, Hassan Zavareei, responded in a statement that that the video "corroborates exactly what Alva said." It's "an open question" whether "everybody would have felt violated" by Trump actions, he added. "But Alva was. And she testified exactly why she felt uncomfortable. She testified that she didn't really know how to react when it happened and that she was confused and uncomfortable."

Zavareei also said former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and other Trump supporters were dishonest when they claimed the incident never happened. And Johnson's lawyers said that because Trump's team removed all metadata, Johnson can't know "who created the video, when it was created, and other important information about its origins." The video was apparently shot by a campaign volunteer, the Post reports. Peter Weber

7:19 p.m.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a resolution condemning President Trump's "racist comments" directed at four Democratic congresswomen, all women of color.

Four Republicans — Reps. Will Hurd of Texas, Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Susan Brooks of Indiana — and one independent — former Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan — voted with the Democrats to pass the resolution, 240-187.

Trump tweeted that the women should "go back" to their home countries — three were born in the U.S., and all are citizens — and has refused to apologize, instead doubling-down and saying people agree with him. Before Tuesday's vote, Trump tweeted, "Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don't have a Racist bone in my body!" Catherine Garcia

5:16 p.m.

The House of Representatives has some absurdly specific rules.

Inside the manual governing the chamber's parliamentary procedures, there's a ban on calling the president "a little bugger," and on saying they "do not care about black people." And there's a broad rule against calling the president or anything they say "racist," which came into question Tuesday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did just that.

After President Trump on Sunday tweeted racist attacks on four Democratic congressmembers, House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a resolution condemning them. Pelosi called the tweets "racist," and also "disgraceful and disgusting" on the House floor, and before she even finished her speech, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) asked if she'd like to "rephrase" that comment. Pelosi bluntly shut that idea down, and Collins moved to have Pelosi's words struck from the record.

Cue Democrats huddling, the arrival of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and an hourlong delay that got a GOP meeting with Trump canceled. Finally, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who was chairing the hearing, stepped back up. He then heatedly called the whole ordeal an "excuse to escalate," dropped his gavel, said "I abandon the chair," and walked away.

After several more minutes of nothingness, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) affirmed Pelosi's words were "out of order," as the House parliamentarian had confirmed earlier. That meant Pelosi couldn't speak on the floor for the rest of the day, though the House still voted against striking her words from the record. And all the while, Pelosi stood firm with what she'd said. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:58 p.m.

Dr. Leana Wen, the first physician to lead Planned Parenthood in decades, was removed by the organization's board on Tuesday less than a year into her tenure, The New York Times reports.

People familiar with the situation said that Wen's removal was a result of internal strife regarding her management. That was magnified by the organization's general turbulence at the moment; several states are attempting to roll back abortion rights in an attempt to chip away at Roe v. Wade. Wen allegedly did not fit the bill when it came to political action, the Times reports, and the board was reportedly looking for a more "aggressive" leader.

In Wen's stead, the board voted unanimously to appoint Alexis McGill Johnson as acting president and chief executive of both Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which provides health care services, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the political wing of the organization. McGill Johnson has served on Planned Parenthood's board for nearly a decade and was previously its chair, the Times reports.

Wen, the former Baltimore health commissioner, apparently knew her tenure was over. But she doesn't seem thrilled with how it all went down.

In her statement, Wen wrote that she is leaving due to "philosophical differences" with the board, largely over their approach toward protecting abortion care. Wen said she views it "not as a political issue but a health care one." Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

4:07 p.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday blasted President Trump for his "disgraceful" and "racist" tweets about four minority congresswomen.

Pelosi spoke on the House floor ahead of a planned vote on a resolution officially condemning Trump for the tweets telling minority congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from, which the resolution describes as racist. Pelosi on Tuesday said that Trump's comments were "disgraceful and disgusting," as well as "racist."

The House speaker also said it's "shameful" to hear Trump "continue to defend those racist words," which she described as "not only divisive but dangerous." Trump on Tuesday once again insisted that his comments were not racist, writing, "I don't have a racist bone in my body!" On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also came to Trump's defense over the comments.

"There's no excuse for any response to those words but a swift and strong unified condemnation," Pelosi said. "...To do anything less would be a shocking rejection of our values and a shameful abdication of our oath of office to protect the American people."

After Pelosi finished, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) requested for Pelosi's comments, which he called "unparliamentary," to be taken down due to a rule saying that "remarks may not refer to the president as a racist," reports Politico's Jake Sherman. A decision on that request has not yet been reached. Watch Pelosi's comments below. Brendan Morrow

3:49 p.m.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had a tense exchange with President Trump's defense secretary nominee Mark Esper during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Warren didn't shy away from Esper's association with defense contractor Raytheon, where the Army secretary worked as a lobbyist. Warren seemed miffed when Esper would not commit to extending his recusal from issues involving Raytheon for his entire tenure at the Pentagon. He also refused to pledge not to seek employment in the defense industry for four years after leaving the government.

So, fast friends they did not make.

That said, Committee Chair Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) drew extra attention to the tension, even apologizing to Esper "for what you had to be confronted with. It was unfair and you handled it beautifully." For what it's worth, Esper seemed less affronted than Inhofe.

No one else apologized to Esper, but other Republicans on the committee were critical of Warren, as well. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said Warren just "needed a moment" for her 2020 presidential campaign, while Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said that she was "casually" using words like corruption "to get a little stink" on Esper, who said he has never been accused of corruption. Tim O'Donnell

3:23 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has some steaming hot love for a microwaveable favorite.

In a Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, McConnell started to brief his colleagues on some international trade deal discussions slated for this week. He then zoomed in on one particular product from one particular country — Hot Pockets, a product of the Swiss company Nestle — and delivered a touching ode to the toasty treat.

"Practically every American is familiar with Hot Pockets," McConnell said, not adding how they're also familiar with how the pockets' cores remain impossibly cold while the breaded edge is scalding. "But not everyone knows that as of several years ago, every single hot pocket is cooked in Mount Sterling, Kentucky," creating about 1,000 jobs, McConnell added. That's why he's so adamant that senators vote to uphold a trade deal with Switzerland.

Now, without further ado, watch McConnell unfortunately not sing that iconic brand name on the Senate floor. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:51 p.m.

Marvel is officially doubling down on Thor in its new, post-Endgame era.

A fourth Thor movie is in the works with Thor: Ragnarok's Taika Waititi set to return as director, The Hollywood Reporter wrote on Tuesday. This will be the first time any hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe receives more than three solo movies, as Comicbook.com points out. Captain America and Iron Man previously only had trilogies dedicated to them, although their storylines continued in the crossover Avengers movies and other installments like Spider-Man: Homecoming. Avengers: Endgame was the first time the MCU released a third sequel.

The third Thor film, Ragnarok, totally reinvented the character after two installments that even star Chris Hemsworth hadn't been entirely happy with, and it was the highest-earning entry by far, grossing $853 million worldwide compared to its predecessor's $644 million. Now, Marvel is breaking from its usual trilogy pattern in order to strike while the iron's hot and continue telling stories with the new version of the hero. While Endgame wrapped up the storylines of original Marvel heroes like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, it left Thor's decidedly open, although it wasn't clear at the time whether his plot line would continue in the third Guardians of the Galaxy film, a fourth Thor film, or both. The answer, it seems, may be both.

Hemsworth had previously expressed his desire to keep making Thor movies, telling Variety in an interview earlier this year that "we've opened up such a different character" and that "I feel more energized for the possibility of where it could go." It's unclear when this fourth Thor film might be released, but an official announcement may come at Marvel's upcoming San Diego Comic-Con panel, which will take place on July 20. Brendan Morrow

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