Democratic rep. says Conyers should resign

New York Democratic Rep. Kathleen Rice is calling on embattled Rep. John Conyers to resign from Congress after the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into allegations that the Michigan Democrat had sexually harassed members of his staff.

The allegations against Conyers, Rice said in a statement, are “as credible as they are repulsive. The women who reported this behavior suffered serious professional repercussions for doing so, which is exactly why so many victims of sexual harassment and assault decide not to step forward. If men who engage in this behavior suffered real repercussions, more victims would speak up — and maybe other men would decide to act like decent, civilized adults and not prey on women who work for and trust and admire them.”

She is the first Democratic representative to call on Conyers to leave Congress.

Conyers, who has served in the House since 1965, confirmed Monday that he had settled a wrongful termination complaint in 2015 made by a staff member who had accused him of sexual harassment, a settlement first reported by BuzzFeed News on Monday.

But Conyers said he was “expressly and vehemently” denying any wrongdoing.

In her statement, Rice said, “Whether it happened 40 years ago or last week, settlement or no settlement, Democrat or Republican — harassment is harassment, assault is assault.

“We all know credible allegations when we hear them, and the same is true of hypocrisy.”

Rice’s statement goes far further than House Democratic leaders, who have stopped short of calling on Conyers to resign.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Tuesday that “any credible allegation of sexual harassment must be investigated by the Ethics Committee.” Similarly, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, called the report “very disturbing” and said that an ethics investigation is an “appropriate next step.”

Both Pelosi and Hoyer have also called for sweeping changes to the way allegations of sexual harassment are handled on the Hill, and they support legislation sponsored by Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, targeting the issue.

In an interview with The New York Times, Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, another member of House Democratic leadership, said he wasn’t sure the claims against Conyers were substantive.

“You can’t jump to conclusions with these types of things,” he told The New York Times. “For all I know, all of this could be made up.”

Multiple requests for comment from CNN were not returned by Clyburn’s office.

Most Democrats have stopped short of calling for Conyers’ resignation, though several have called on him to abandon his position as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Wednesday that Conyers should step down from the Judiciary position.

“No one is exempt from bad behavior, and I think that he’s agreed and I clearly see where Leader Pelosi has said there will be an immediate Ethics Committee, a review,” Meeks told CNN’s John Berman and Poppy Harlow. “I really think that probably the appropriate thing right now is that he should step down as the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and be subject to this ethics investigation.”

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona also called on Conyers to step down from the Judiciary post, in an interview with C-SPAN.

“As agonizing as it might be for all of us, the ranking member needs to step down at the minimum. Our leader Pelosi asked for that ethics investigation and then the chips will fall from there.”

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Roy Moore’s communications director resigns

The communications director for controversial Senate candidate Roy Moore has resigned from his position on the campaign, senior campaign adviser Brett Doster tells CNN.

Doster said Wednesday that John Rogers didn’t have the experience to deal with the level of scrutiny brought on by the national press, and the campaign had to make a change.

He added that Rogers had not been dismissed but that he “didn’t like playing second fiddle on the communications side.”

Moore’s campaign has been embattled by scandal as numerous women have come forward and accused the candidate of inappropriate sexual behavior several years ago. Several women have accused Moore of pursuing relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, and a few others have accused him of sexual assault.

The Republican Party appeared somewhat divided over the issue, with President Donald Trump weighing in on Tuesday.

Trump avoided denouncing Moore’s behavior and would only note that the Alabama Republican had denied the allegations.

“He denies it. Look, he denies it,” Trump said. “If you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours. He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen.”

Officials at the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Wednesday that they are not reversing course on Roy Moore or restoring funding to his campaign.

The committees were reluctant to go on the record or to elaborate, but they said nothing has changed since their decision, two officials told CNN.

Additionally, more than a dozen Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have called on Moore to drop out of the race.

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Trump’s FCC moves quickly to upend internet, media rules

Ajit Pai may go down as one of President Trump’s most effective, and controversial, regulators.

Pai, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, has moved fast to eliminate regulations for large internet service providers and broadcast media conglomerates.

In the process, Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon who was appointed to the FCC job by Trump, has earned the praise of the telecommunications industry and the contempt of tech companies and consumer advocacy groups.

“Every single thing they’re doing is for incumbent telephone cable and media companies,” Gigi Sohn, a counselor to Obama administration FCC chair Tom Wheeler, told CNNMoney earlier this year. “Pai wants to make the big bigger and the rich richer.”

Concerns about Pai’s deregulatory agenda grew as the FCC unveiled significant policy proposals in the final days before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Net neutrality

On Tuesday, Pai unveiled his plan to repeal Obama-era net neutrality protections intended to ensure that all content online is treated the same.

The net neutrality rules, approved by the previous FCC administration in 2015, prevent internet providers like Comcast from deliberately speeding up or slowing down traffic from specific websites and apps.

The full proposal was published online Wednesday and is expected to pass on a party-line vote at the FCC’s meeting next month. Pai said in a statement that repealing the rules will free the internet from micromanaging by the government.

Critics say the repeal threatens to fracture the internet into fast lanes and slow lanes, and let internet providers offer preferential treatment to companies that are willing to pay more. The plan could also make it harder for upstart online services to compete against incumbents.

As if the actual repeal weren’t enough of a lightning rod, there’s also controversy around the process itself. The FCC received 22 million comments from the public during a review period, but millions of those comments turned out to be fake.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday that his office has spent six months investigating “a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process,” but he said the FCC has so far refused to provide a “substantive response.”

Schneiderman didn’t say which side the fraudulent comments favored, but cited studies showing that the “overwhelming majority” of authentic comments were in favor of the net neutrality rules.

The FCC pushed back in a statement Wednesday. “This so-called investigation is nothing more than a transparent attempt by a partisan supporter of the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed Internet regulations to gain publicity for himself,” the statement said.

Media consolidation

The outcry over net neutrality overshadowed another major FCC proposal on Tuesday.

Pai announced plans to review existing rules that prevent broadcast companies from owning TV stations that reach more than 39% of all TV households in the United States. The vote will take place at the same monthly meeting, on Dec. 14.

It’s just the latest proposal from the FCC that paves the way for greater media consolidation.

Earlier this year, the FCC voted to reinstate the “UHF discount,” which allows broadcasters to understate the reach of their stations. Shortly after, the conservative-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group announced plans to acquire Tribune Media in a deal that would push the total TV stations it owns above 200 nationwide. Without the discount, Sinclair’s reach would easily exceed the 39% cap.

Nearly two dozen Senate Democrats sent a letter to Pai in late September expressing “grave concerns” with his move to upend the media landscape.

“Moves to repeal the media ownership rules threatens to create a world of corporatized, nationalized content being force fed to consumers under the guise of local news and public affairs programming,” the senators wrote.

The outcry did not slow Pai. Earlier this month, the FCC voted to eliminate a longstanding rule that prevented entities from owning a radio or TV station and a newspaper in the same market. The FCC also loosened restrictions to make it easier for a company to own more than one TV station in one market.

These moves allowing for more media consolidation come at the same time that Trump’s Justice Department is trying to prevent greater media consolidation by suing to stop AT&T from buying Time Warner, CNN’s parent company.

Internet access for low-income homes

This month, the FCC also voted to begin scaling back a federal program intended to help low-income U.S. households get access to the internet.

The decades-old program, called Lifeline, offers discounted phone and internet service in poorer communities.

Now the commission is about to limit the recipients who can receive a $25 subsidy intended for homes on tribal lands by restricting it to rural areas only.

The FCC is also considering a spending cap for the program’s budget as well as preventing certain internet providers from offering Lifeline support, which might mean some in the program can’t stay with their current providers.

–CNNMoney’s Selena Larson contributed to this report.

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Sen. Murkowski supports Obamacare mandate repeal

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday she supports the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

The Obamacare individual mandate requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Republican Senators have considered adding a repeal to this mandate in their tax reform bill.

“Repealing the individual mandate simply restores to people the freedom to choose. Nothing else about the structure of the ACA would be changed,” Murkowski said in an op-ed to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “The only difference would be is (sic) if you choose to not buy health insurance, the government would not levy a tax on you.”

A repeal of that penalty would give GOP lawmakers an additional $338 billion over 10 years to help pay for their proposed tax cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But the CBO also estimated some 4 million fewer people would be covered by insurance in 2019, the first year the change would take effect. That number would rise to 13 million by 2027, as compared to current law. Meanwhile, insurance premiums would rise by about 10% in most years of the decade.

Murkowski was a key swing vote in the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, ultimately voting against repeal, and she is a key vote for the party’s efforts to pass tax reform later this year.

“While I support repealing the individual mandate, I strongly support enacting the bipartisan compromise Alexander/Murray legislation into law as fast as possible to stabilize our markets, provide more control to states and more choices to individuals,” she wrote in the op-ed, signaling support for the health care measure.

While Murkowski has now said she supports the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate, it isn’t clear if she will support the tax reform bill as a whole.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving forward with a Senate process that only allows him to lose two votes and still pass his bill.

Already Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has announced he’s opposed to the bill in its current form.

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Sen. Murkowski supports Obamacare mandate repeal

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday she supports the repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate.

The Obamacare individual mandate requires nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Republican Senators have considered adding a repeal to this mandate in their tax reform bill.

“Repealing the individual mandate simply restores to people the freedom to choose. Nothing else about the structure of the ACA would be changed,” Murkowski said in an op-ed to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “The only difference would be is (sic) if you choose to not buy health insurance, the government would not levy a tax on you.”

A repeal of that penalty would give GOP lawmakers an additional $338 billion over 10 years to help pay for their proposed tax cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But the CBO also estimated some 4 million fewer people would be covered by insurance in 2019, the first year the change would take effect. That number would rise to 13 million by 2027, as compared to current law. Meanwhile, insurance premiums would rise by about 10% in most years of the decade.

Murkowski was a key swing vote in the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare earlier this year, ultimately voting against repeal, and she is a key vote for the party’s efforts to pass tax reform later this year.

“While I support repealing the individual mandate, I strongly support enacting the bipartisan compromise Alexander/Murray legislation into law as fast as possible to stabilize our markets, provide more control to states and more choices to individuals,” she wrote in the op-ed, signaling support for the health care measure.

While Murkowski has now said she supports the repeal of the Obamacare individual mandate, it isn’t clear if she will support the tax reform bill as a whole.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving forward with a Senate process that only allows him to lose two votes and still pass his bill.

Already Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin has announced he’s opposed to the bill in its current form.

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