Category Archives: US & Canada

TOP STORIES, US & Canada

Fox host says he ‘hasn’t washed hands in 10 years’:


Pete Hegseth said not washing hands helps him to inoculate himself

Fox News host Pete Hegseth has confessed on air that he has not washed his hands for 10 years because “germs are not a real thing”.

Speaking on Fox and Friends, Hegseth said the infectious micro-organisms did not exist because they could not be seen with the naked eye.

“I inoculate myself,” added the Harvard and Princeton graduate.

His confession came after co-hosts Ed Henry and Jedediah Bila made fun of him for eating left-over pizza.

“My 2019 resolution is to say things on air that I say off air,” Hegseth added.

His comments were met with both support and concern on social media.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says regular hand washing “is one of the best ways to remove germs , avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others”.

According to a scientific study published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, one gram (0.03oz) of human faeces – about the weight of a paper clip – can contain one trillion germs.

Bacteria that can be spread by unwashed hands include salmonella and E coli.

US President Donald Trump – who has given more interviews to Fox than any other major network – has admitted on several occasions to being a germophobe.

In his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, Mr Trump wrote: “One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get.

“I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.”

One BBC reader, Steve M, said: “I didn’t think I would ever say this – I agree with Donald Trump on this!”

“It would seem that attending Harvard and Princeton might provide knowledge, but obviously not any sense.”

Most reactions echoed the same mix of disgust and confusion regarding the Fox host’s behaviour.

Another reader, Jean Di Francis, noted how selfish Mr Hegseth’s lack of sanitation is: “As a person taking prescribed immune suppressing drugs, I deplore Mr Hegseth’s lack of hand washing because I’m very susceptible to the germs he carries and leaves wherever he touches.”

Some noted that being too obsessed with hygiene could also be a bad thing, by possibly lowering one’s natural resistance to germs.

But, as reader Kevin Cook put it: “Not washing your hands at all for 10 years strikes me as reckless disregard for other people’s health.”

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

Democrat Amy Klobuchar announces presidential bid”:


Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has announced she is running for president in the 2020 election.

Ms Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, said she was running for “everyone who wanted their work recognised”.

She won praise for grilling Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and attorney general nominee William Barr during recent confirmation hearings.

The 58-year-old enters an increasingly crowded field of Democrats competing to challenge President Donald Trump.

Ms Klobuchar called on people to join her “homegrown” campaign, saying, “I don’t have a political machine. I don’t come from money. But what I do have is this: I have grit.”

A record total of five women have so far entered the race for the presidency – these also include Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

On her first full day of presidential campaigning, Ms Warren – a senator from Massachusetts – told supporters: “By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.”

Who is Amy Klobuchar?

After working as a lawyer in a private firm, she became chief prosecutor for Hennepin, Minnesota’s most populous county, in 1998.

Eight years later, she was elected to the Senate to represent Minnesota – the first woman to get the job.

Democratic Senator of Minnesota Amy Klobuchar (L) shakes hands with supporters with her husband John Bessler (R) after she announced that she is running for President
Ms Klobuchar is the fifth woman to run for the Democratic nomination

Ms Klobuchar has long prided herself in her bipartisanship; on being able to, as she wrote in her 2015 memoir, “disagree without being disagreeable”.

“Courage is about whether or not you’re willing to stand next to someone you don’t always agree with for the betterment of this country,” she wrote.

It is this approach that has given her a reputation for being “Minnesota nice” – but it also, in her early years, reportedly earned her the unflattering nickname “Cotton Candy Amy” in some circles.

Presentational grey line

The dark horse candidate

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher

Her kick-off rally looked like a scene out of the Disney film Frozen, with a snow-covered crowd gathered near the banks of an icy river. Amy Klobuchar’s newly announced presidential campaign, however, could generate some heat in 2020.

She may not have the same level of name recognition as recent and future entrants into the race, but the three-term Minnesota senator has shown the ability to win votes in the kind of Midwestern battleground state that Donald Trump appealed to in 2016.

She offers a steady, sensible political outlook that could attract the majority of Democratic voters who are more interested in electability than ideological purity.

Her buzz has been dampened a bit by recent allegations that she has been abusive toward her staff, but she may try to turn the criticism into a strength.

“I have high expectations for the people that work for me,” she told NBC News after her speech, “but I have high expectations for this country.”

Ms Klobuchar has become a fashionable pick as a “dark horse” candidate. It wouldn’t be a shock if she has a good showing in the neighbouring-state Iowa caucuses and rides that momentum deep into the primary season.

Presentational grey line

After years under the radar, the former prosecutor went viral last September for her tense exchange with Justice Brett Kavanaughover his history of drinking.

In January this year, she proved that this frank interrogation style was not a one-off when she grilled President Trump’s attorney general nominee Mr Barr about obstruction of justice allegations.

Meanwhile, former employees of Ms Klobuchar have disputed her “Minnesota nice” image too, telling the Huffington Post that at least three potential campaign managers have withdrawnover her treatment of staff.

Klobuchar asks Barr about obstruction

What are her views?

In an age when political views are condensed into 280 characters and measured in retweets, Ms Klobuchar’s reputation for working away in the background could help her stand out.

She was able to turn 43 Trump-voting Minnesota counties over to her side in last year’s mid-term elections.

But her bipartisan approach may not stand her in such good stead in a party now dominated by the progressive left.

For example, while she has publicly spoken out against President Trump’s immigration and border policies, she has not voiced her support for the movement to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Two of her opponents, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ms Warren, have openly called for the agency to be dismantled, while Ms Harris has said it needs to be “critically re-examined”.

She has also avoided supporting Bernie Sanders’ single-payer healthcare bill, known commonly as Medicare for All, preferring to back a “sensible transition” instead.

Many on the left also feel that her education reforms, which push for universities in the US to be more affordable, do not go far enough.

Ms Harris, and likely opponent Mr Sanders, both support making college tuition almost entirely free.

Contact Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

Who controls Canada’s indigenous lands?


The courts in Canada are grappling with a decision central to the relationship between Canadian and traditional indigenous laws.

The dispute involves the construction of a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline in the province of British Columbia.

It’s a project which has exposed a rift between elected and hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en people, who disagree about whether to allow the pipeline to be built through traditional lands.

The elected councils have jurisdiction within the boundaries of the reservations to administer federal government legislation, but not the wider traditional territory which the pipeline would pass through.

The hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en nation are stewards and protecters of 22,000 square km (13,670 square miles) of traditional territory, outside the reservations.

They are concerned about the impact of the project on their land and natural resources.

Hereditary Chief Na’Moks of the Tsayu clan, which is part of the Wet’suwet’en people, told the BBC: “You always have to put the environment first.”

So what’s behind the dispute, and who have the courts favoured?

Map of the territory and pipeline dispute

The pipeline

The proposed pipeline would carry gas to the port of Kitimat from the interior of British Columbia, a journey of 670 km (420 miles), passing partly through indigenous lands.

The construction company Coastal GasLink has reached deals with elected indigenous councils along the route.

Alex Spence beats a drum and sings during a march in support of pipeline protesters in Vancouver
Protesters in Vancouver have been trying to get the project stopped

This involved permission to build the pipeline in return for local jobs and investment in the area.

Coastal GasLink says it also consulted the hereditary leaders.

But the chiefs say that did not happen, and that they did not give their approval because of environmental concerns.

Suzanne Wilton, a communications adviser for the company, told the BBC: “Coastal GasLink initiated consultation with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs in June 2012 by providing formal notification of the proposed project.

“Since then, Coastal GasLink has engaged in a wide range of consultation activities with Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.”

Chief Na’Moks responded: “That is their statement…we ensured that we stated at any meetings that these meetings cannot be misconstrued as ‘consultation’.”

Protests by groups supporting the hereditary leaders’ decision have followed near the proposed construction site, and across Canada.

In December, the Supreme Court in British Columbia issued an injunction so that construction could go ahead, and protesters were ordered to remove barriers from access roads.

Police arrived to break up the barriers and remove the protesters, 14 of whom were arrested.

But this provincial Supreme Court ruling was only temporary, and it will shortly make a final decision on the case.

Who speaks for indigenous peoples?

At its heart, this is a dispute about who represents and speaks for Canada’s indigenous communities.

Responding to a question at a recent town hall meeting , Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau highlighted the problem of dealing with two distinct groups of indigenous representatives.

“It is not for the federal government to decide who speaks for you. That’s not my job,” he said.

Hereditary chiefs are chosen by elders and clan members.

The elected indigenous councils were set up by the federal government under the Indian Act of 1876, which defined “Indian” status in Canada, and were designed as a means to assimilate indigenous people.

As such, the elected councils remain a controversial legacy of the past.

A checkpoint is seen at a bridge leading to the Unist"ot"en camp on a remote logging road.
A protest camp on a road near the pipeline construction project

“Canada has a long and terrible history in regards to indigenous people,” said Justin Trudeau at the same town hall meeting.

“We have not treated indigenous peoples as partners and stewards of this land.”

The Indian Act does not recognise hereditary indigenous chiefs, although they do often serve on elected councils, and the two groups work together on community-wide projects.

” We are hereditary chiefs ,” Chief Na’Moks told local media recently in British Columbia, and, referring to the route through which the pipeline would pass, he said “we have control of this land.”

“What’s called the hereditary system is the historic legal and political and economic system of the Wet’suwet’ens, which was in place for thousands and thousands of years before Europeans came to what became Canada,” says Val Napoleon at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.

The decision

A federal Supreme Court ruling in 1997 gave indigenous people title over their own traditional lands which had not been ceded to the government.

This gave hope to First Nation communities across Canada which had been campaigning to protect their lands from developers.

Tensions have remained in some areas over precisely which indigenous representatives have these rights in Canada.

It’s a complex issue as indigenous leadership structures vary across the country.

But the forthcoming ruling by the Supreme Court of British Columbia will have important implications for the future of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory.

Presentational grey line
Reality Check branding

How school yearbooks have the power to destroy lives


There are many ways to bring down an opponent, but up until a few months ago, who would have thought a school yearbook would be quite such an effective tool?

But time and time again, old school yearbooks are being dug up and thrown open – revealing treasure troves of comments and pictures the implicated would have preferred remained buried.

Just look at the way the words of Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s entry in his 1983 high school yearbook was poured over. Proof, his detractors argued, he was a liar. Proof, therefore, he should not be confirmed to the highest court in the US.

Then there is the picture on Ralph Northam’s page in his Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook. The photo – a man in blackface, and another dressed as the Ku Klux Klan – is proof he is a racist, his detractors argue. Proof he should no longer be governor of Virginia.

In both cases, the men argue, they were misrepresented. Mr Kavanuagh said the words in his yearbook were being misinterpreted while Gov Northam said it was not him in the offending picture.

Either way, it didn’t really matter. School yearbooks, it seemed, are no longer just a fun way of finding out what a film star looked like before they were famous. School yearbooks, it turns out, can destroy lives.

Extracts of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh"s high school yearbook are displayed as he testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC
Brett Kavanaugh’s yearbook entry was held up during his confirmation hearing

It didn’t take long for newspapers and political opponents to start flicking through old yearbooks in search of more scandal after Gov Northam’s blackface photograph emerged.

The tradition is more than 200 years old, although the first “official” one – snappily called “Profiles of Part of the Class Graduated at Yale College, September, 1806” – had silhouettes rather than pictures.

According to a 2010 NPR report, by 1995 US colleges were producing some 2,400 yearbooks annually. Add to that the high schools, and the sheer potential for scandalous entries becomes all too clear.

In the last week alone, the Daily Mail has uncovered pictures of people wearing KKK costumes “lynching” a man in blackface in the North Carolina governor’s 1979 yearbook – although there is “no suggestion” Roy Cooper appeared in any of the tome’s offending images.

The New York Times trawled through more of Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbooks to find a catalogue of sexist and racist incidents. A Guardian report notes editions of Corks and Curls, the University of Virginia’s yearbook, at least before the 1970s, were full of more of the same.

But you don’t have to be famous to be caught up in the furore over their contents. Those who are identifiable in the various controversial images have found themselves named and shamed in local media.

The lasting impact on their careers, and their reputations, is as yet unclear.

In fact, you don’t even have to have even left high school to find yourself in serious trouble over your yearbook photograph: look at the case of Hunter Osborn, an Arizona senior who ended up facing 69 counts of indecent exposure back in 2016 .

Why? Because he had exposed himself during a team photo for a dare – the same photo which was later included in the high school yearbook.

So, the day the teenager should have been at the prom, he found himself under arrest, wearing an ankle monitor, facing the possibility of a long sentence and having to sign onto the sex offenders register.

The enormity was not lost on his fellow students.

“It’s something that’s going to be on his record for the rest of his life,” Brooke Bodrero told local television. “The consequences are a little harsh.”

Thousands of people agreed: a petition to “free Hunter Osborn” – got almost 7,000 signatures. The petition writer, Alex Labban, put it simply: “Hunter needs to be held accountable for his actions but that doesn’t mean ruining his life!”

Prosecutors eventually decided to drop the charges – helped by the fact not one of the 69 “victims” of the alleged crime were actually prepared to press charges.

But could this all soon be a thing of the past? As demand grows for yearbooks in countries like the UK and India, the popularity of school yearbooks declines in the US. According to NPR, only 1,000 yearbooks were published by colleges in 2010. The advent of the internet and social media have no doubt harmed their popularity.

The aforementioned Corks and Curls closed in 2009 because there was “not enough funding or student interest”, The Guardian reported.

But then there is also potentially the creeping realisation that much of what has been included over the years is, frankly, concerning.

Five years before Gov Northam’s yearbook came to light, his alma Mata’s current head, Dr Richard Homan ended the practice. He was, he said, concerned about how the 2013 edition – complete with Confederate flags and outfits – would be perceived.

Protestors rally against Virginia Governor Ralph Northam outside of the governors mansion in downtown Richmond, Virginia on February 4, 2019.
Protesters demand Ralph Northam stand down

But then again, students today don’t need to wait for their school yearbook to be uncovered for their careers and reputations to be damaged. The internet may have removed the need for yearbooks, but it means many of the photographs you may later regret can go viral – instantly.

Take the boys from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin who were pictured apparently making the “Sieg Heil” gesture , The school district later said it could not establish what the boys were truly intending to do, CNN reported.

All the same, people remember that picture – and it could well follow them around, as Stefanie Niles, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, noted last year.

“Everything has a reverberating effect,” she said. “I think a lot of those young men will have a variety of responses from the institutions that were considering them.”

Elizabeth Warren formally launches 2020 White House bid”:


US Senator Elizabeth Warren has formally launched her bid to stand for the White House in 2020 with a speech in which she promised to tackle economic inequality.

She is the latest Democrat to launch a campaign to become the party’s presidential candidate.

Even before she had taken to the stage, President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign team had responded calling her a fraud.

It is the first such intervention to target a possible Trump contender.

“The American people will reject her dishonest campaign and socialist ideas like the Green New Deal, that will raise taxes, kill jobs and crush America’s middle-class,” Mr Trump’s campaign manager Brad Pascale wrote.

He also accused her of “impersonating and disrespecting” Native Americans “to advance her professional career,” referring to a DNA test she took to prove her Cherokee ancestry. Mr Trump had long been calling her “fake Pocahontas”.

Ms Warren has apologised for taking the test.

In her speech on Saturday in Lawrence, in her home state of Massachusetts, Ms Warren called Mr Trump “the latest and most extreme symptom of what’s gone wrong in America, a product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else”.

She added: “This is the fight of our lives, the fight to build an America where dreams are possible, an America that works for everyone.”

A star in the progressive left

In the shadow of long-unused smoke stacks, at the site of a famous factory strike more than a century ago, Elizabeth Warren formally launched her presidential bid.

She used the backdrop to highlight what she sees as the plight of an American working class that has been left behind by rapacious big business and indifferent government.

Despite sub-zero temperatures and a blustery wind, an estimated crowd of several thousand turned out to hear the Massachusetts senator pledge to fight corruption in Washington, level the economic playing field and reform the US democratic process.

Warren enters a crowded presidential field, as Democrats tell pollsters they want to find the candidate most able to beat Donald Trump.

There were some in Ms Warren’s campaign kick-off crowd who expressed concern that her struggles to explain her past claims of Native American heritage could make her vulnerable to attack.

Ms Warren has long been a star in the progressive left, however, and she has already built a formidable nationwide campaign. She has just under a year to make her case, before voters start rendering their judgement.

Who is Elizabeth Warren?

  • Senator for Massachusetts since 2012
  • Born in Oklahoma, she now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Former Harvard law professor
  • Co-author, with her daughter, of two books about household economics
  • On the left of the Democratic party
  • She switched from the Republican party to the Democrats in the 1990s
  • Proposed a 2% wealth tax on those with $50m or more
  • The phrase “Nevertheless, she persisted”, used about her after a debate in 2017, was picked up as a feminist slogan

Recent Posts

Bill Clinton acquittal: Echoes of a sex scandal 20 years on,”


The paradox of the Bill Clinton impeachment saga was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife, Hillary. Twenty years after his acquittal, it’s clearer to see how that seismic event shaped American politics and culture today.

In a quarter century of covering US politics, I only have ever got round to framing two newspaper front pages. The first was when President Bill Clinton was impeached in December 1998. The second was when he was acquitted at the conclusion of his Senate trial the following February.

Washington in the late-1990s was my first foreign posting. The Monica Lewinsky scandal, as we inaccurately labelled it, was my first big American story. The picture framing was partly a vanity project to mark this personal milestone. But this also felt like a once-in-a-lifetime story.

Clinton was the first US president to be impeached since 1868, when Andrew Johnson also managed to avoid conviction in the Senate after being indicted by the House. Evidently, more seasoned Washington colleagues shared this view. As I came to discover over the following months, the same framed black and white newsprint, with the same banner headlines “Clinton Impeached” followed by “Clinton Acquitted”, also adorned their study and toilet walls.

New York Times headline on the day President Clinton was acquitted in impeachment trial at US Senate

Veterans of the impeachment saga soon found themselves reporting on an epic tumble of events. The 2000 presidential election, with its disputed Florida recount. The attacks of September 11th. The Iraq war and its troubled aftermath. The financial crash, and the Great Recession that followed. The election of America’s first black president, who handed over power to the country’s first reality TV star president. Once-in-a-lifetime stories seemed to come along every few years.

Two decades on, the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton nonetheless feels like a big bang moment in the American story.

Quadriga: Cryptocurrency exchange founder’s death locks $140m,:

Post-truth politics. The poisoning of the Washington hothouse. The delegitimisation of modern-day presidents. The corrosive impact of the internet. The rise of polarised news. The Jerry Springerisation of national life.

All were evident in that Clinton melodrama, which saw the Washington Post and New York Times ploughing the same furrows as the National Enquirer, and genre-busting news stories in which quotes from constitutional law experts interpreting what the Founding Fathers meant by high crimes and misdemeanours were interspersed with the most salacious and suggestive snippets of the sex scandal – the snap of Monica Lewinsky’s thong, the soiled blue dress, the gift from the president to his intern of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, the same anthology of poetry he had once given to Hillary Clinton.

As well as being a constitutional showdown, this was a tabloid scandal for what Vanity Fair had aptly labelled the tabloid decade.

It provided a fitting coda to an era of sensationalism that had already brought us the OJ Simpson trial, Tonya Harding, the William Kennedy Smith trial, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tapes, the arrest of Pee-Wee Herman, the first accusations against Michael Jackson, the Mike Tyson rape conviction, John Wayne Bobbitt and his penis-severing wife Lorena, and the divorce of Donald and Ivana Trump.

Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky brought this luridness to the nation’s capital, where scandal has always been the highest – and often the basest – form of entertainment.

End of shutdown: White House denies Donald Trump ‘caved’ to Democrats

Washington was at fever pitch. So much so that whenever I am asked today whether Donald Trump will survive until the end of his term in office, I find myself recalling the early days of the Bill Clinton scandal when it was by no means certain the president would last until the end of the week.

Events moved at such a hurtling pace, and information came at you with such dizzying speed, it was hard back then to step back and take in the panoramic picture. Hindsight offers some clarity.

The culture wars unleashed

Even before Bill Clinton had laid eyes on the 22-year-old White House intern, his Republican opponents questioned his legitimacy as president and looked for ways to drive him from office.

Not since Woodrow Wilson in 1912 had a candidate reached the White House with such a small share of the national vote, a measly 43%. Republicans also felt aggrieved that the eccentric third party candidacy of Ross Perot had stolen the election from President George Herbert Walker Bush, even though polling data suggests the Texan billionaire syphoned off just as many votes from the Democrats as the GOP.

For conservative cultural warriors, the Clintons personified the worst excesses of the Sixties. In Bill Clinton, they saw a philandering draft dodger. In Hillary Rodham Clinton, they saw a sneering feminist who looked down upon women who had not pursued careers of their own.

Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich share a toast in 1997, the year before the president's impeachment
Hillary Clinton and Newt Gingrich share a toast in 1997, the year before the president’s impeachment

Political fear also stoked their antipathy. Before 1992, the Republicans had held the presidency for 20 of the previous 24 years. William Jefferson Clinton threatened to end that hegemony.

Here, after all, was an articulate young politician from the south, the region that had produced the last two Democratic presidents, who promised to fuse Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal with Ronald Reagan’s free market ideology.

US Supreme Court allows Trump military transgender ban

Clinton sought to shatter the Nixon and Reagan coalitions that had enabled the Republicans to dominate presidential elections and was well placed to forge a new winning Democratic coalition, incorporating white working class voters who had become “Reagan Democrats”. Their fears were well placed. Since 1992, Democrats have won the popular vote in five out of six presidential elections.

So after the Whitewater investigation, the Troopergate affair and Travelgate scandal failed to produce evidence of potentially impeachable offences, Clinton’s enemies, abetted by the independent counsel Kenneth Starr, seized upon the affair with Monica Lewinsky as their gotcha moment.

Clinton’s recklessness, and his mendacious efforts to cover it up, handed his opponents a pretext to demonstrate his unworthiness to occupy the White House. Not even Richard Nixon, whose crimes and abuses of power were far more egregious, had been stalked so aggressively.

Monica Lewinsky after her relationship with President Clinton became public
White House intern Monica Lewinsky was thrust into the spotlight when the affair became public

The pursuit of Bill Clinton marked a paradigm shift in presidential politics. Since then, it has become routine for every occupant of the White House to be assailed as illegitimate by zealous adversaries.

George W. Bush for the assist he received from the conservative-leaning US Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 in his favour to end the Florida recount. Barack Obama, for the untruthful claim he was born in Kenya, which, if factual, would have disqualified him from the presidency. Donald Trump for losing the popular vote by more than three million votes.

US politics has reached such a nadir that many Americans no longer accept the outcome of presidential elections, and thus deny the winners any electoral mandate. Not since the election of George Herbert Walker Bush thirty years ago has a president entered the Oval Office without his right of occupancy being brought into question.

A corollary of the delegitimisation of modern-day presidents has been the legitimisation of the politics of no, an oppositional approach whereby constitutional checks and balances have come to be used as vetoes and blockades.

This again can be traced back to the Clinton years. Bob Dole, the Republican’s leader in the Senate, deployed the filibuster more frequently than his predecessors to stymie Bill Clinton’s legislative agenda. Newt Gingrich, the first Republican House speaker since the early-1950s, used government shutdowns as a political weapon.

Bill Clinton might never have spent time alone with Monica Lewinsky had it not been for the 1995 government shutdown, which meant this inexperienced intern was granted more West Wing access because of the absence of furloughed staff.

The Clinton scandal heightened political tensions by unleashing a cultural war in the heart of Washington. Here was another opportunity to litigate the Sixties, one that pitted the modern-day puritans of the right against the permissive peaceniks of the left.

Anti-abortion activists protest outside the US Supreme Court in 1993, the first year of Clinton's presidency
Anti-abortion activists protest outside the US Supreme Court in 1993, the first year of Clinton’s presidency

For the religious right especially, whose grip on the Republican Party tightened under Ronald Reagan, here was the chance to mount a moral crusade and increase its hold on the GOP. More moderate Republicans, the sort of business-oriented pragmatists who had once dominated the party, were already becoming an endangered breed.

Certainly, the partisan mood in Washington in the late-Nineties was wholly different from the early-Seventies, when Congress started impeachment proceedings against Richard Nixon, albeit for more serious felonies.

Back then some of Nixon’s most dogged tormentors came from within his own party. It was Howard Baker, a Republican Senator from Tennessee, who posed that legendary Watergate question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”

It was Republican elders, such as the party’s former presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, who journeyed from Capitol Hill to the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House to urge Nixon to resign. When the House decided to start an impeachment inquiry against the president, the vote in February 1974 received near unanimous bipartisan vote, with 410 in favour and just four against.

‘The lie saved me’

Post-truth politics also received a boost from the Clinton scandal. His early lies, including his finger-jabbing falsehood “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” worked to his advantage.

In the explosive first days of the scandal, when senior White House correspondents such as ABC’s legendary Sam Donaldson predicted he might be forced to resign “perhaps this week”, the lies bought Clinton time. They helped him weather the initial squall, shore up Democratic support and push back against his accusers.

Bill Clinton wags his finger as he denies having "sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky" in a January 1998 press conference
President Clinton responds to the allegations in January 1998

“The lie saved me”, the president confided to a close friend, according to the journalist John Harris’s book The Survivor, the finest book on the Clinton presidency.

The Clintons also sought to alter the question at the heart of the national debate from “Who do you believe?” to “Whose side are you on?” Was that not the rationale behind Hillary Clinton’s famed interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show, in which she accused investigators of being part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy”?

From early on, the White House framed this as a partisan battle rather than a moment of personal reckoning. “We just have to win,” Clinton told his political strategist Dick Morris, who cynically had conducted secret polling to test whether Clinton should lie or tell the truth.

As the journalist Susan Glasser told a Politico roundtable marking the 20th anniversary of the scandal: “It was political genius how he handled it by lying. Lying was proven to work in some way that has enabled further the cynical and divisive political culture of Washington.”

The Clintons, with daughter Chelsea, take a walk in the White House grounds in 1999
The Clintons, with daughter Chelsea, take a walk in the White House grounds

Not until the summer of 1998, when we learnt Monica Lewinsky had preserved the famed blue dress, did he grudgingly concede the truth.

After his lies were exposed, Clinton requested airtime from the networks for a televised confessional. “Indeed I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate”, he admitted. But then he carpet-bombed his accusers for mounting a “politically-inspired” investigation led by Kenneth Starr: “This has gone on too long, cost too much, and hurt too many innocent people.”

This time, the strategy backfired, with senior Democrats such as Senator Dianne Feinstein expressing dismay. Senator Joe Lieberman, an orthodox Jew who had long seen himself as a moral elder, condemned him on the floor of the Senate. Many were appalled by Clinton’s behaviour.

In the House, 31 Democrats voted to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. Yet no senior Democrat publicly called for the president to resign, partly because they did not want to hand victory to the Republicans. Even Lieberman, Clinton’s most prominent Democratic critic, said impeachment would be “unjust and unwise”.

So strong was party loyalty that in the immediate aftermath of being impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Bill Clinton even held a pep rally on the South Lawn of the White House, with Democratic lawmakers ranked behind him. That partisan tableau featured on the front page of the Washington Post hanging on my wall.

Hillary, the long-term loser

Partly because Clinton was so adept at portraying his Republican opponents as over-reaching zealots, and partly because they did not regard his sins as impeachable, Democratic voters also remained loyal. After his acquittal in 1999, his approval rating amongst Democrats hit 92 per cent. When he left office, he enjoyed the highest approval among all voters of any departing president.

Clinton had outsmarted his opponents, and the only politicians to lose their jobs during the impeachment crisis were Republicans.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich was the first casualty. Clinton’s Baby Boomer nemesis resigned after the GOP lost seats in the 1998 congressional mid-terms, which Gingrich had turned into a national referendum on the president’s behaviour.

His successor Bob Livingstone also had to fall on his sword. On the very morning of Clinton’s impeachment, the Louisianan was forced to resign after Larry Flynt’s Hustler magazine exposed his own extramarital affair. (A ghastly irony is that the Speakership passed to Dennis Hastert, a former teacher and wrestling coach, who was then seen as an irreproachable figure. In 2016, Hastert was sentenced to 15 months in prison following a hush money case that revealed he had been accused of abusing young boys during his years as a teacher).

Former president Bill Clinton speaks at the Democratic national convention in 2016
The former president speaks at the Democratic national convention in 2016

Though Clinton suffered the ignominy of becoming only the second president to be impeached, by far the biggest Democratic casualty was his wife, Hillary, because of its collateral impact on her presidential run in 2016.

When the email imbroglio broke, voters questioned whether they wanted to live through another scandal-prone presidency, fuelling Clinton fatigue. The lies from that era embroidered the narrative the Clintons were evasive and untrustworthy.

Hillary Clinton’s attacks on Donald Trump’s misogyny, and her ability to capitalise on the notorious Access Hollywood tape, were also compromised by her husband’s affairs.

She was accused of enabling his behaviour and of showing little sympathy towards his female accusers. Tellingly, one of Donald Trump’s first lines of defence was to claim he had heard Bill Clinton say worse things about women on the golf course, an accusation which, even if not true, seemed plausible.

The billionaire even paraded some of Clinton’s accusers, including Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick ahead of the first presidential debate, a stunt that many commentators considered exploitative but for others raised entirely legitimate questions about her husband’s sexual history.

Hillary Clinton, in her 2017 campaign memoir What Happened?, slammed Donald Trump’s pre-debate press conference. “He was just using them,” she wrote. But those women were accusing her husband of far worse. Juanita Broaddrick claimed Clinton had raped her in 1978, an allegation he has long denied. Trump ended up winning a higher share of white female voters than Hillary Clinton, a key factor in her defeat.

In performing this act of political jujitsu, the billionaire adopted the Clinton playbook. Like Bill Clinton, he turned his grudging televised confessional after the Access Hollywood tape emerged into a partisan rallying cry: “Whose side are you on?” As with Clinton, it won him time, mobilised his base and preserved his political viability.

Here, Trump also benefited from another part of Bill Clinton’s legacy: the redefinition of what behaviour was disqualifying for presidential candidates.

In 1988, the Democratic frontrunner Gary Hart was forced from the race after the Miami Herald published details about his affair with Donna Rice. Four years later Clinton survived the Gennifer Flowers scandal, and also allegations of draft dodging – two accusations, among scores of others, that Donald Trump survived. Clinton normalised errant behaviour and helped desensitise the electorate to philandering politicians.

The paradox of the Clinton impeachment saga, then, was that it made it easier for Donald Trump to become president and harder for his wife. Hillary Clinton became a repeat victim of his infidelities.

The first internet moment

Though those framed front pages, now slightly yellowed with age, captured the historical moment, they hardly depicted the media zeitgeist.

For the Clinton scandal completely changed the metabolism of news, speeding the shift from print to digital, and fuelling the growth of talk radio and cable news channels. Public reality, which traditionally had been shaped by the major TV networks and prominent newspapers, now was also being moulded by new media start-ups. The internet started to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of information.

This was the all-caps headline in the fledgling Drudge Report on January 17th, 1998, an obscure website relatively few people had heard of in what the BBC called at the time “the wilds of cyberspace.”

Drudge Report headline from 1998 reads: Newsweek kills story on White House intern; Blockbuster report: 23-year-old, sex relationship with president

Matt Drudge, its iconoclastic founder, became the first journalist to publish the name Monica Lewinsky, after catching wind that Newsweek, which had explosive details of her affair with the president, had hesitated before publishing.

Hurrying to play catch up, respected White House reporters, such as Peter Baker who was then with the Washington Post, raced to put out the first online stories, even though many of their newsroom colleagues did not at the time have permission to access the internet. Newsweek posted a piece by its investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, the author of the suppressed scope, on its America Online site, rather than wait for its next magazine issue to hit the newsstands.

When the Starr Report was published on the fateful date of September 11th 1998, it became America’s first internet moment.

Downloads of its lurid details that day accounted for a quarter of all America’s internet traffic. With CNN getting 300,000 clicks a minute, which in those days seemed unimaginable, it became a ‘clickbait’ sensation. Not only was the digital version easier to obtain than printed copies, but the 445-page report doubled as porn. It mentioned oral sex 85 times.

The story was endlessly riveting. So perhaps we should look upon the Clinton saga as the gateway drug to our modern-day real-time information addiction, and the outbreak of the screen-time epidemic for news junkies especially. It was just that the delivery systems back then were not particularly efficient – dial-up internet, PCs and bulky laptops – and the most powerful stimulants, Twitter and Facebook, were not yet on the market.

Fox v MSNBC: How the news divides America
Fox v MSNBC: How the news divides America

Just as the early online news sites experienced a surge in traffic, cable news channels enjoyed a ratings bonanza.

Before the Clinton scandal, Fox News, which launched two years earlier, was something of a niche broadcaster available in just 10 million homes. By 2000, partly because of its blanket coverage of the impeachment saga, that figure had mushroomed to 56 million homes. MSNBC, which also launched in 1996, also became a significant player, not least as a progressive counterpoint to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News.

To sustain their 24/7 blanket coverage of the scandal, continuous news channels smudged the lines between reporting on events and commenting on them. Partisan pundits trading in shrill sound-bites helped fill airtime, and quickly realised the more outspoken their comments, the more they would be invited back. The disagreement culture of modern-day cable news, which tended to generate more heat than light, was born.

Talk radio relied on a more one-sided formula: polemical monologues delivered by presenters whose views were usually affirmed and amplified by listeners calling in.

The repeal during the Reagan years of the Fairness Doctrine, a regulation enforced by the Federal Communications Commission demanding the airing of both sides of an argument, had already fuelled the rise of right-wing talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh. The impeachment drama elevated their status as tribunes of the right, and underscored how local radio stations especially came to be a conservative echo chamber.

This had a circular effect on politics, and heightened the doctrinaire streak among Republicans especially. Polls suggested the push for impeachment was damaging the GOP. The 1998 mid-term elections offered incontrovertible proof of this self-sabotage. Yet despite various exit ramps being available to Republican leaders, they kept on pressing on down the road even though it was unlikely to end in Clinton’s dethronement.

Impeachment was not just a transformational moment. For contemporary politicians it has become a teachable one.

What the Senate trial of Bill Clinton underscored was the difficulty in removing a sitting president. Procedurally speaking, impeachment itself is relatively straightforward – a simple majority of the House of Representatives is required to approve an article of impeachment, which serves in effect as an indictment.

Achieving a guilty verdict in the upper chamber, by contrast, is challenging. Deliberately, the framers of the Constitution set the bar high, requiring two-thirds of the Senate to vote for removal. Today, that would require 67 Senators, a fiendishly difficult number to attain.

Back in 1998, not even all 55 Republican Senators delivered guilty verdicts at the end of the trial presided over the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court William Rehnquist. Nor did a single Democrat break ranks. In the present Senate, 22 Republican Senators would have to turn on Donald Trump to remove him from office, assuming all the Democrats voted guilty.

What does it take to impeach a president?
What does it take to impeach a president?

Aside from giving us a tutorial in constitutional mechanics, the impeachment saga offered a political lesson: that the pursuit of a president, through this seldom-used process, comes with enormous risks. Certainly it boomeranged for Newt Gingrich.

That’s why the new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing her damnedest to tamp down talk of impeachment now that the Democrats once again command a majority in the lower chamber. Understandably, she fears a voter backlash, and also handing Donald Trump the kind of martyrdom that would help him win a second term.

So here is the double paradox of the Bill Clinton scandal and the impeachment proceedings it set in motion. Not only did it end up easing Donald Trump’s path to the White House, it diminishes the chances of Congress trying to remove him from office.

Follow Nick at @NickBryantNY

Contact Email

Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

North Korea nuclear talks: Hanoi to host Trump summit with Kim,”:


US President Donald Trump says his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be held in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

The two men will meet on 27-28 February for talks expected to focus on persuading the communist state to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

Modern relations with Vietnam are seen as a model for US ties with the North.

A US envoy held “very productive” talks with the North to prepare for the new summit, Mr Trump said.

The first summit between President Trump and Mr Kim in Singapore last June generated significant coverage and optimism but delivered very few concrete developments.

Both sides said they were committed to denuclearisation but gave no details of how this would be carried out or verified.

Why Hanoi?

Mr Trump announced in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that he would meet Mr Kim in Vietnam but did not say where exactly the summit would take place.

On Friday evening Washington time, he tweeted that they would meet in Hanoi for “advancing the cause of peace”.

Hanoi was the capital of communist North Vietnam during the bloody conflict between 1965 and 1973 which Americans refer to as the “Vietnam War” and the Vietnamese call the “American War”.

Since the war, in which millions of civilians and combatants died, reunified Vietnam has rebuilt relations with America while remaining a communist state.

US envoy Stephen Biegun and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, Seoul, 9 February 2019
Stephen Biegun briefed South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on his visit to the North

North Korea isolated itself from the outside world after the Korean War ended in 1953, and only began to mend ties with US-backed South Korea in recent years.

South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said this week that Vietnam was the best choice of host for the next summit because it and America used to “point a gun and knife at each other”, Reuters news agency reports.

Vietnam is also seen as a model of economic and political reform for the North to follow.

An unnamed White House official with knowledge of the second summit’s planning told CBS News Vietnam had been chosen in part because of its good relationships with both the US and North Korea.

The post-war trajectory of relations between America and Vietnam was, the official added, a hopeful model for potential warmer relations between the US and North Korea.

What preparations are being made?

US envoy Stephen Biegun spent three days in discussions on the Korean peninsula.

In the Northern capital Pyongyang, he met his counterpart Kim Hyok-chol and discussed the “Singapore summit commitments of complete denuclearisation”, a US state department statement says.

The two envoys will meet again before the summit. Mr Biegun warned of “some hard work to do with the DPRK [North Korea] between now and then”.

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump in Singapore (12 June 2018)
The first Kim-Trump summit was big on handshakes and rhetoric but low on detail

In South Korea, the US envoy briefed Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

“I am confident that if both sides stay committed, we can make real progress,” he told reporters.

President Trump tweeted that North Korea could become an economic “rocket”.

Is optimism premature?

Experts caution that despite Mr Trump’s assertion that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat, the country has never said it would give up its nuclear weapons programme without similar concessions from the US.

The US wants North Korea to make a full declaration of all its nuclear weapons facilities and commit to destroying them, under international supervision.

In a speech at Stanford University last week Mr Biegun said the US would not agree to lift sanctions until this happens but he indicated it could provide assistance in other ways, saying: “We did not say we will not do anything until you do everything.”

He also said Kim Jong-un had previously committed to “the dismantlement and destruction” of all North Korea’s plutonium and uranium facilities, which provide the material for nuclear weapons.

North Korea’s leaders “view nuclear as key to regime survival”

The UN has warned that North Korea is continuing its nuclear programme and breaking sanctions.

A confidential report to the Security Council earlier this week said actions including the illegal transfer of banned goods at sea could make sanctions – the international community’s main way of putting pressure on North Korea – “ineffective”.

The report said there had been a “massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal”, where material is moved from non-North Korean ships out at sea to evade monitoring.

The international sanctions against North Korea are designed to severely limit its import and export abilities, with the aim of putting pressure on the country to give up its nuclear ambitions.

Contact Email 

Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

Trump physical: President ‘in very good health’:


US President Donald Trump is “in very good health”, the White House doctor said after a four-hour physical examination.

Sean Conley added: “I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency and beyond.”

Dr Conley and 11 medical specialists put the president through a series of tests in a Washington suburb.

Mr Trump, 72, had previously been asked to lose at least 10lb (4.5kg) and there is no evidence that he has done so.

According to Reuters news agency, White House aides report that the president is eating more fish than he used to.

But according to spokesman Hogan Gidley, Mr Trump “admits” he has not followed his diet and exercise plan “religiously”.

No further details on the president’s health have been released.

At the first physical of his presidency, which took place last year, he was found to weigh 239lb (108kg) and have a cholesterol level that is slightly higher than recommended.

He is known to take medication for heart health and against cholesterol and male pattern hair loss.

U.S. should counter Russia and China hacking with its own influence operations, think tank says.

Mr Trump’s body mass index (BMI) indicates he is overweight but not obese.

The president’s health has attracted attention before. During his campaign he produced a letter that said he would be the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency”. But the doctor named as its author later said, Mr Trump had written the letter himself.

And last year, Dr Ronny Jackson said the president had “incredible genes” and it was not a matter of concern that he only slept for four or five hours a night because this was “just his nature”.

Trump announces deal to lift shutdown

But he has been reported to eat large amounts of fast food and steaks, washed down by up to 12 cans of Diet Coke a day.

Fiji Water Girl: Legal battle for Golden Globes model


A model who found viral fame by arguably outshining celebrities on the Golden Globe red carpet is locked in a legal battle with the bottled water company that helped make her famous.

Kelly Steinbeich, who uses the name Kelleth Cuthbert to model, became known overnight as the Fiji Water Girl.

She had been photographed smiling as she held a tray of water bottles behind celebrities at the event in Hollywood.

She and Fiji are now feuding over the use of her image in marketing.

The Canadian model, 31, filed a lawsuit against Fiji Water and its owner, the Wonderful Company, in January after they used her likeness for a promotional cardboard cut-out.

She accused the company of unauthorised use of her photograph, likeness and identity for a worldwide advertising campaign.

In a countersuit filed on Friday, the owners of Fiji Water said Ms Steinbeich had knowingly signed an exclusive one-year deal worth $90,000 (£70,000) and accused her and her agents of “simple greed”.

Model posing behind Judy Greer
Image captionMs Steinbach posing behind actress Judy Greer

They described her lawsuit is a “blatant attempt to skirt her contractual obligations” and said she was now trying to extort them for up to $500,000 (£385,000).

“Ms. Steinbach has now bitten the hand that feeds her by suing the very company that is entirely responsible for providing her the opportunity and the means to capitalize on her fleeting 15 minutes of internet fame,” the lawsuit alleges.

Since the model’s photographs were shared widely in January, the model has amassed more than 200,000 followers on Instagram, made television appearances and scored endorsement deals of her own.

In interviews after she went viral, Ms Steinbach denied she had been asked to photobomb the images, insisting she had simply been doing her job of “hydrating the stars”.

“If you’re going to be trapped in a photo, you gotta look good,” she told local Los Angeles television channel KTLA 5.

“There is not just a camera – there are so many cameras that you are caught in the crossfire no matter where you stand. You’re just in somebody’s shot. You can’t avoid it.”

Her legal team have described the countersuit as a publicity stunt.

“Kelleth will not be bullied by Fiji Water, the Wonderful Company, or its billionaire owners,” her lawyer, Kecia Reynolds, told CBS News.

Jamal Khashoggi murder: Trump refuses Congress demand for report,”:


The Trump administration has refused to respond to a request from Congress to provide a report determining who killed the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Senators wrote in October demanding the murder be investigated and that the White House give more information.

An administration official said the president was within his rights to decline to act.

Khashoggi was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October last year.

He was a strong critic of the Saudi government. His body was reportedly dismembered and has still not been found.

US intelligence officials have reportedly said such an operation would have needed the approval of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

And on Saturday Baroness Helena Kennedy, member of a UN team of international experts who visited Turkey to investigate the murder, told the BBC the murder was planned at the highest level.

But Saudi officials insist he was murdered by a “rogue” team of Saudi agents not acting on the prince’s orders.

An administration statement said Mr Trump “maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate”.

However, Democratic senators told the New York Times the president was in breach of the so-called Magnitsky Act, which requires a response within 120 days to requests from Senate committee leaders. That deadline passed on Friday.

Timeline: Jamal Khashoggi’s death

How the story unfolded

2 October 2018
Jamal Khashoggi enters the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. His fiancée Hatice Cengiz waits outside, but Khashoggi doesn’t emerge.

4 October 2018
In its first statement, Saudi Arabia says Khashoggi disappeared after leaving the consulate, and that it is trying to establish what happened to him.

6 October 2018
Khashoggi’s employers, the Washington Post, report that Turkish intelligence believe he was killed inside the consulate by a 15-man team sent from Saudi Arabia.

10 October 2018
CCTV footage showing the alleged hit squad arriving in Turkey is aired by Turkish media.

13 October 2018
Saudi Arabia attacks “lies and baseless allegations” and repeats it did not kill Khashoggi. The BBC learns Turkey has an audio recording indicating he was killed in the consulate.

15 October 2018
Donald Trump speaks to Saudi King Salman, who denies his country killed Khashoggi. Trump suggests “rogue killers” may be responsible.

20 October 2018
For the first time, Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi is dead, claiming he died in a fight. This is met with wide scepticism. Two senior Saudi officials are fired.

22 October 2018
Saudi Arabia gives a new account, denying reports that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, saying Khashoggi was murdered in a “rogue operation”. Footage emerges of a body double leaving the Saudi consulate dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes.

16 November 2018
The Washington Post reports the CIA has concluded Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. Trump later contradicts this, saying the CIA did not conclude the crown prince was responsible.

22 November 2018
France, like Germany and the UK, bans all the Saudi suspects from its territory. Germany also stops arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has written to Senate leaders describing actions taken against individuals.

However, the documents do not indicate who was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, as demanded by the senators.

The US has imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials, including Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the crown prince who, it alleged, was “part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Khashoggi’s murder.

But Mr Trump has faced criticism from senators for failing to condemn the crown prince directly.

Contact Email

Email (BBCNEWS.CO.UK@bbcnewslight.co.uk) or (emmanueljustice@post.com)

Related Posts