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  • US Senate Photographic Studio(WASHINGTON) -- Top leaders in the Senate are calling for a Senate Ethics Committee review of Senator Al Franken, D-Minn., who was recently accused of forcibly kissing a woman and appearing to grope her while she slept.The committee has not announced whether it will pursue a preliminary inquiry into the alleged incidents, which took place before he joined the Senate when he was on an overseas USO tour, but Franken has welcomed an investigation, saying he’d “gladly cooperate.” Franken has also apologized to his accuser, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that experience for you."On Thursday, the committee announced it would resume its preliminary inquiry into misconduct by Senator Bob Menendez, D-N.J., whose federal bribery trial ended in a mistrial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has also said if Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore is elected in December to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' empty seat, he would likely face an ethics review given the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Moore has denied all the allegations. Here’s a look at how a Senate Ethics Committee review would unfold, if and when one occurs:Who serves on the committee?There are six members on the committee -- Chair Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.; Vice Chair Chris Coons, D-Del.; Sen. Jim Risch, R-Ind.; Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.Launching a preliminary inquiryUpon the receipt of a complaint or allegation of misconduct, the committee would first decide whether to conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a violation occurred.A preliminary inquiry is similar to grand jury proceedings and could include interviews, subpoenas and depositions. It could last as long or short as the committee needs to conduct its fact-finding.After receiving a final confidential report with the findings and recommendations, the committee would then vote to either dismiss the matter, issue a public or private letter of admonition, or to begin an adjudicatory review.Conducting an adjudicatory reviewAccording to the committee's Rules of Procedure, an adjudicatory review is conducted after finding “there is substantial cause for the committee to conclude that a violation within the jurisdiction of the committee has occurred.”An adjudicatory review can be performed by outside counsel or by the committee staff. It would consist of interviews and sworn statements and could include a public hearing.Upon completion of the review and following a final report, the committee would prepare a report for the Senate, which would include a recommendation if disciplinary action should be pursued. The final report and recommendation of the committee would then be made public, unless the committee votes to keep it confidential.Potential disciplinary actionPotential disciplinary action recommendations could include expulsion, censure and/or payment of restitution. Expulsion would require a two-thirds vote in the Senate.Does the committee have jurisdiction to look into pre-Senate allegations?The allegations against Franken occurred prior to his becoming a U.S. senator. Would the committee still have jurisdiction in a case predating someone's time in the Senate?The answer is yes - but it hasn’t happened in modern times, according to Robert Walker, who previously served as chief counsel and staff director on the Senate Ethics Committee from 2003 to 2008.Walker said he’s unaware of any modern ethics inquiry that stemmed from allegations predating a senator’s time in office but says the committee has left open its ability to consider cases prior to one’s service.“The committee has specifically left this an open issue such that in any given case it's up to the committee whether they want to look into pre-Senate conduct,” he said.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio.
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  • Wilmot Collins/Facebook(HELENA, Mont.) -- When he arrived in Helena, Montana in February 1994, Wilmot Collins was wearing layer upon layer of clothing, anticipating the freezing cold temperatures.What he was a little less prepared for was being the only black man in a majority white community. A Liberian refugee, Collins noticed no one else in this rocky city looked like him.On Tuesday, Collins, 54, was elected to lead the community he’s called home for over 20 years.A man who hails from a nation founded by freed slaves from America, Collins beat the four-term incumbent Jim Smith to be elected Helena's first black mayor. African Americans make up less than 1 percent of the population in Helena, according to a U.S. census from 2010. Collins grew up on the tire company Firestone’s natural rubber plantation in Liberia, one of the world’s largest. He attended the University of Liberia and met his future wife, Maddie.The young couple soon found themselves in danger as a brutal civil war broke out. They fled the country when Liberia’s ceasefire collapsed in 1990 and after Collins’ two brothers were killed by rebels and government soldiers.“When my wife and I finally fled the country, I was 90 pounds. She was 87. We were dying of starvation,” he said in a TEDx talk he gave back in February.They escaped to Ghana, and the couple set their sights on coming to America. Maddie suggested Helena - she had spent a year there as a high school exchange student with a kind host family which, in turn, expedited her vetting process.Two weeks before she was set to leave, Maddie found out she was pregnant.Together, they made the hard decision for Maddie to go to America first.“That would be best for our kid and that would be best for you,” Collins said he told his wife.Left behind in Ghana, Collins continued through the “grueling” vetting process for U.S. entry, with no idea how soon he would be reunited with his pregnant wife or if that would even happen.“I was getting frustrated. It’s not an easy thing to not be able to see your family. It was really hard,” Collins recalled.Two years and seven months later, Collins finally came to the United States. It was then that he had an “emotional” first meeting with his daughter Jaymie, already two years old.Collins settled in Helena, later joining the U.S. Navy Reserve and traveled to Fort Carson in Colorado and South Carolina But he always felt that Montana was home.A child protection specialist with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services at the time of his campaign kickoff, Collins has always been civically involved and giving back to his community.In 2015, Collins and his wife helped another couple like themselves, Cuban refugees Adonis Antolin and Maie Lee Jones, stay on their feet and convinced them to stay in Helenaaccording to Public Radio International.“He told us to be patient because here, it’s different. There aren’t that many Latino people or black people. He told me not to feel scared because people here are very nice,” Antolin told PRI.Collins is also a delegate for the advocacy organization Refugee Congress and is an adjunct professor at University of Montana-Helena.With his kids grown up and a bit more downtime as he wraps up his dissertation for a Ph.D. in forensic psychology, Collins felt it was an opportunity to run for public office.Campaigning was an “uphill battle,” Collins told ABC News. During fundraising events, Collins was told he was wasting his time. The incumbent Smith was known to the community and a popular mayor.“When I started knocking on doors, constituents didn’t even know there was an alternative, didn’t even know that there was someone [else] running,” Collins said.But he didn’t shy away.His campaign registered in May for the race and in June, Collins and his team began knocking on doors, distribu
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  • ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said the charges against Donald Trump’s former campaign adviser, George Papadopoulos, are the most significant development so far in the Russia investigation because they suggest he has "almost certainly" flipped to cooperate with investigators.Bharara told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday that the fact that Papadopoulos "almost certainly ... has flipped and [is] cooperating with the government to provide substantial assistance with respect to someone else higher up in the food chain means you're going to see more charges coming."Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements and omitting information during an interview with the FBI on Jan. 27, 2017, according to a federal statement of the offense that was unsealed Monday by special counsel Robert Mueller's team.The charges against him send a message that “the Mueller team takes very seriously being lied to ... Lying to the FBI is a form of obstruction" of justice, said Bharara, who was part of a panel discussion on This Week about the Russia probe.The special counsel's team "clearly feel very seriously about [obstruction], and some people should be worried,” said the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Also on the "This Week" panel was Ken Starr, who as a federal independent counsel in the 1990s investigated President Bill Clinton including in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.Starr agreed with Bharara that Mueller sent a message: “'Don’t lie to the FBI.'""I think that is the message that Bob Mueller chose to send on this particular day, that it’s not just about Paul Manafort, it’s about the integrity of the investigation. Just tell the truth,” Starr said.But Starr and Bharara disagreed on whether President Trump has “crossed the line" against interfering with an investigation."He's crossed the line a number of times," Bharara said. "It is a terrible thing for a president in this country to tell his Justice Department who to investigate, who to prosecute, and who to keep their hands off of."In contrast, Starr said, Trump is "just spouting off" in his comments about the Justice Department and the Russia probe."He's expressing this frustration, but it's not crossing the line into criminality," Starr said.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Virginia who briefly took over as acting U.S. attorney general, has stepped down. Earlier this year, Boente briefly replaced Sally Yates as acting attorney general after President Donald Trump fired Yates for refusing to defend his first executive order restricting entry into the U.S. of people from seven Muslim-majority countries.When Yates was removed on January 30, Boente stepped in to direct Justice Department staff "to do our sworn duty and to defend the lawful orders of our president." Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • United States Congress(WASHINGTON) -- The former whisper network of stories of sexual harassment and assault has now found its voice on Capitol Hill. Congresswomen and female staffers in the nation's capital are calling out a culture of tolerance of bad behavior, inspired by those who began this tough conversation in Hollywood.Many actresses like Rose McGowan are no longer silent. She made her first appearance Friday in Detroit at the Women's Convention since earlier this month accusing Harvey Weinstein of rape twenty years ago. ("Any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein," a rep for the movie executive said.) McGowan addressed the audience calling them “fabulous, strong, powerful ‘Me Toos.’”"I have been harassed. I’ve been maligned and you know what? I’m just like you," McGowan told attendees at the convention. "What happened to me behind the scenes happens to all of us in this society, and that cannot stand and it will not stand. I came to be a voice for all of us who have been told that we are nothing. For all of us who have been looked down on ... No more. Name it, shame it, and call it out. Join me." Now, the social media-driven #metoo movement she helped spark has been ignited on Capitol Hill."I know what it's like years later to remember that rush of humiliation and anger," Representative Jackie Speier, D-California, said in a video she tweeted Friday. "Many of us in Congress know what it's like because Congress has been a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long." Taking a cue from the #metoo campaign, Speier is launching #metoocongress, urging lawmakers and staffers to speak out by sharing their own stories."I was working as a congressional staffer," Speier recalls in the video. "The chief of staff held my face, kissed me and stuck his tongue in my mouth."She is not alone, though.Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, says as a young state legislator, she sought advice from an older male colleague on getting legislation passed. His advice?"He looked at me and paused and he said, 'Well, did you bring your knee pads?'" she said on NBC's "Meet The Press" earlier this week. "I do think he was joking, but it was shocking that he would make that joke to a colleague"A recent survey found that 40 percent of female congressional staffers cite sexual harassment as a problem on Capitol Hill. One in 6 female aides said they experienced sexual harassment in their offices. But unlike many workplaces, on the Hill, there is no mandatory sexual harassment training.To file a complaint, victims must go through counseling, mediation and a cooling-off period before filing a legal claim -- all while working in the very same environment where the alleged harassment took place.As more women speak out, some men facing allegations of workplace harassment, like political journalist and former ABC News political director Mark Halperin are apologizing. In a statement Friday, Halperin apologized "to the women [he] mistreated" admitting his behavior "caused fear and anxiety for women who were only seeking to do their jobs." Congresswoman Speier is calling for a complete overhaul to the complaint process to make it easier for victims to come forward. Next week she is expected to introduce new legislation to make sexual harassment training for all members of Congress and staff mandatory every year.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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