NEW YORK — Lindsey Boylan’s accusation that Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed her appears to have had an unintended consequence. Her communications consultant has left Boylan’s campaign for Manhattan borough president, and, according to a source, Boylan’s handling of the accusations against Cuomo was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Boylan took to Twitter last week to blast the governor, tweeting last Sunday that Cuomo “sexually harassed me for years.” “Many saw it, and watched,” she wrote at the time. “I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was...
In the wake of an ABC News interview with Christopher Steele, Michael Cohen released a special episode of his podcast, "Mea Culpa," where he addressed some of the allegations against him and some claims made against Trump. He was joined on the podcast with Daily Beast editor Molly Jong Fast.
Cohen recalled that last week, Trump told major political donors, unprompted, that he doesn't like to be urinated on. The former lawyer wondered why Trump is so obsessed with this story, that even years later he can't stop talking about it.
"She knows, I don't like to be peed on," Trump told the crowd, pointing to his wife.
"If that in itself doesn't prove that something is psychologically wrong with him, I don't know what does," Cohen said on the podcast. In previous comments, Cohen said that he looked extensively for the tape and he doesn't believe it actually exists. Steele told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos that he believes it does. In fact, Steele said that he stood by his dossier, despite the fact that he doesn't think his entire work is accurate.
"Do you think it hurts your credibility at all that you won't accept the findings of the FBI in this particular case?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"I'm prepared to accept that not everything in the dossier is 100 percent accurate," Steele said. "I have yet to be convinced that that is one of them."
Cohen released a statement responding to Steele, claiming that some claims about him are absurd, as did Barry Meier, author of Spooked: The Trump Dossier, Black Cube, and the Rise of Private Spies.
"Christopher Steele is free to believe whatever he wants, but if Christopher Steele wants other people to believe that he's believable, he needs to show us what evidence he has to support his beliefs," said Meier.
Cohen said that he can't understand why his former boss would walk back into a scandal that bothers him so much. Daily Beast editor Molly Jong Fast, who was also on Cohen's podcast, passed off Trump's obsession as a kind of compulsion, which Cohen questioned.
"What compulsion?" asked Cohen. "What could possibly be the underlying motive? And you're right, I know him better than anybody — I, myself, cannot understand what the f*ck this idiot was thinking when he decided in the middle of a donor meeting to turn around and stay to people, 'By the way, I want you all to know, I'm not into golden showers. I'm not into being peed on.' What point are you trying to make here?"
Jong Fast changed the subject, recalling that the next comments out of Trump's mouth were what she found interesting, that he "saved the Republican Party." She noted that she doesn't think the donors believe he saved the GOP, "I think they're hostages to him. So, the idea that he thinks that these people are going to applaud him, while he's taken them hostage?"
Jong Fast asked who cares what Steele says, and that Cohen and those around him know the truth and that what others think doesn't matter. Cohen, who continues to fight to correct the record on many of the accusations against him and make amends, explained that it matters to him. He's willing to confess to any wrongdoing, but won't admit to anything that he says isn't real.
Democrats won't be rallying voters with claims they can flip control of the Texas Legislature in the general election a year from now.
The redistricting maps nearing approval in the current special legislative session make that a near impossibility.
Missing their last chance to win a majority in the Texas House in 2020 — remember that "Turn Texas Blue" battle cry? — was politically expensive for the state's Democrats. It meant the new political maps drawn to fit the new 2020 census would be tailored by Republicans, for Republicans, and that Democrats' wishes would end up in the dustbin or, at best, in the courts.
That's what's happening, and those are the maps that will be used in the 2022 elections. They're not quite law yet but will be soon, and they are markedly more Republican than this conservative state's recent voting history.
Because those maps almost guarantee Republican majorities in the state's congressional delegation, in the Texas House and Senate, and in the State Board of Education, the 2022 elections will really be about the executive branch. The odds there aren't great for the Democrats, either.
In the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump got 52.1% in Texas and Joe Biden got 46.5%. With that baseline, Republicans should have 78 seats in the House, 16 in the Senate, 20 in the congressional delegation and eight on the SBOE. In the new maps, voters in 85 of the House districts favored Trump, along with 19 Senate districts, 25 congressional districts and nine SBOE districts.
The proposed maps favor Republicans more than the state's voters do. But even if they were precisely representative of how Texans voted in the last statewide elections, the GOP would have an edge: They won all of those contests.
Whatever else you might say about that situation — whether it's "to the majority go the spoils" or "gerrymandering is undemocratic" — those are the maps that will be used in the 2022 elections. And if they aren't given wholesale makeovers, they strongly favor Republican candidates and are designed to keep Republican majorities in all four places.
Democratic candidates haven't won a statewide election in Texas since 1994. Midterm elections — those that fall between presidential elections — are typically hard on the party of whoever is in the White House. That's a Democrat right now, and Republicans running for office in Texas (and everywhere else in the country) will be campaigning against whichever Biden administration policy happens to be most unpopular with voters at the time.
To top it off, the Democrats do not yet have a standard-bearer, though it would be a surprise at this point if former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke of El Paso did not enter the governor's race before the start of the holiday season. While there has been a lot of conversation about who else might run for this or that, that late-forming Democratic ticket shortens the time available to raise the money and build the public reputation and recognition needed to win a statewide election. It takes time to become a household name, even if only the political households in the state are in the audience.
Having missed their shot at real influence on the maps, Texas Democrats start the next decade trying to find ways to win on Republican turf. At the end of the last decade, their biggest advances came in legislative races, particularly in the Texas House.
The new maps will make that difficult, particularly in the next couple of election cycles. The current maps were drawn in 2010 by Republicans trying to bolster their majorities, then tinkered with by federal judges who found intentional racial discrimination by lawmakers and other problems in the designs of some districts. Over the next 10 years, the state's growth and changing politics eroded that advantage. That might happen again between now and 2030, but that won't help the Democrats in 2022.
Their best chances are at the top of the ballot, where Republican incumbents are known to voters and have money, organization and an undefeated winning record that stretches back more than a quarter of a century. Those chances aren't all that great; they're just better than the chances Democrats have for legislative majorities.
Judging by their governing record this year, the Republicans — starting with Gov. Greg Abbott — are most worried about competition from members of their own party in next year's primaries. They're defending their right flanks from conservatives, not their left flanks from liberals.
It's not hard to see why.
The night before he was evicted, Jared Brown was frustrated, sad and anxious. That last one was a new feeling for him.
"Usually, I'm the one with the answers, with the plans. Well, I don't have an answer. I don't know. This whole situation is just really screwed up," the 36-year-old Brown said.
He was scheduled to be evicted, even though the state had paid out almost $9,000 on his behalf to help his family keep their home. It felt "surreal," he said.
What he didn't know at the time was that the $1.9 billion Texas Rent Relief program had made an error, and his landlord was unaware he'd even applied for assistance.
So Brown was working at a furious pace, trying to sell some belongings online and pack up the rest of his stuff before the constables came in the morning to kick him out.
"It sucks, but there's nothing I can do but pack it up and move along," he said. "There's nothing I can do, no amount of yelling or screaming or anything I can do to make it stop."
Brown lived in a one-bedroom apartment at the Aspire Independence apartments in Plano for five years with his wife and their dog. A few years ago, his uncle moved in with them, along with his dog. The 63-year-old has severe disabilities that have rendered him unable to work.
The pandemic has been especially difficult.
Brown lost his job managing a restaurant early in the pandemic. His wife, Kayla, also lost her restaurant job.
A couple of months later, Brown's father died unexpectedly from chronic health issues. Brown became the primary caretaker for his mother, who also has disabilities and is largely homebound.
Brown has made some extra cash selling thrift store and garage sale finds on eBay, and there was unemployment insurance before it ran out. But that was only enough to cover food, gas, medicine and other basics, he said. The $845 monthly rent went unpaid for over a year.
"I tried saving for rent, but I just couldn't. There was no way," he said.
Kayla Brown has been looking for work as the economy recovers but hasn't found a job yet. Even though the unemployment rate has fallen significantly in Texas, it's still nearly 60% higher than it was pre-pandemic.
Jared Brown has been too busy with caretaking responsibilities for his mother and uncle to look for a job. He's had to navigate the legal and financial questions left after his father's death and help his mother sell her house, which she could no longer afford.
From breathing easier to "a nightmare"
When the Texas Rent Relief program opened in February, Brown applied quickly. A few months later, in June, the state told him it would send his landlord nearly $9,000 to pay his back rent.
He'd finally caught a break.
"I thought, OK, I can breathe a little easier, I don't have to worry about getting evicted next month," he recalled.
Then a Collin County constable knocked on his door.
"I had an eviction notice," Brown said. "The same day the funding was dispersed [by Texas Rent Relief], I got the eviction notice."
It was baffling. When he went to court in July, he said the landlord's lawyer had no idea he'd been approved for rental assistance. The judge said his paperwork to receive rent relief was in order — it checked out.
Brown left the court feeling confident.
In August, another court hearing was scheduled, but Brown says he never received the notice to appear, so the justice of the peace evicted him by default. By the time Brown found out that he'd lost his eviction case, it was too late to appeal.
"It's like a nightmare," said Kayla Brown.
On a September morning, the Collin County constables knocked on their door again. This time, it was to evict them.
A crew from the apartment complex went to work, carrying the family's belongings down the stairs and piling them on the grass. They hauled out furniture and lamps, boxes of books and kitchen items, black trash bags full of clothes — a growing pile of a life upended.
In the middle of the Browns' nightmare was a mystery: How could this be happening?
Ally Harris started working on Jared Brown's behalf after he received his eviction notice. She manages the eviction prevention program for Texas Housers, a nonprofit focused on low-income housing policy.
"When I started pursuing this case, I was certain at the time that it was a case of landlord fraud," Harris said. "Jared's landlord kept saying that they weren't paid and [the rent relief program] kept telling me that they were paid."
Harris soon learned the cause was much more mundane.
The landlord is a California-based private equity company, Clear Capital LLC.
Jeff McMullen, a vice president for the company, was equally baffled when reached by KERA the day after Brown was evicted. The company has been trying to work with all of its tenants throughout the pandemic to apply for rental assistance and avoid evictions, he said.
"We do it really reluctantly, it's not the outcome that we want," he said.
McMullen said the company had no record that Brown had applied. The rent relief program notifies landlords when their tenants apply for rental assistance. They have to agree to the terms of the program before the money is released, including that the renter no longer owes the back rent and will not be evicted.
Clear Capital was never notified that Brown had applied, nor had the company received any money to pay Brown's past-due rent.
"If there was a mistake, we want to make it right," McMullen said, but he was confident there wasn't.
After the eviction, the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs began looking into the situation. TDHCA is the department charged with overseeing the state's rent relief program.
Eventually the department realized there'd been a mistake. The money was sent to the wrong landlord, a company based in Austin that has nothing to do with Brown's apartment complex.
"As much as we work to prevent and reduce potential mistakes, application processing has the potential for human error. In this case, incorrect information made its way into the application process," said Kristina Tirloni, a spokesperson for the department. "We wish it didn't happen."
The department is reviewing exactly how the error occurred and is working to get the $9,000 meant to help Brown returned to the program. But there is little the agency can do to help Brown and his family now.
Slipping through the cracks
The rent relief program's rules mean that Brown isn't eligible for that $9,000 anymore because he's already been evicted. Rental assistance funds can only be applied to the past-due balance of tenants who are still living in the apartment where they missed rent.
Harris, the advocate from Texas Housers, said it's impossible to know how many tenants have lost their homes because of clerical errors or even landlord fraud in the program, but she's heard of other cases.
"How do we remedy harm for tenants who have slipped through the cracks?" she said. "Right now, the policy just seems to be like, 'Well, that was an accident. That's an anomaly.' But those are still people."
Since the eviction, Brown and his family have been searching for a permanent place to live. They've been staying with his mother in the house she's sold. They're helping pack and will move soon.
"It's been an adjustment, a crazy adjustment," he said. "We're all doing as well as we can, you know?"
There was some good news recently.
After learning about the mistake at the rent relief program, Jeff McMullen from Clear Capital LLC said he wanted to help. He's working out a plan to make sure Brown and his family find a place to live. The company also has its legal team working with Brown to clear the eviction on his record.
Clear Capital has also started checking with rental assistance programs before evicting tenants in any of the six states where it owns rental properties, to avoid another situation like this.
In the meantime, Brown is trying to keep everything — and everyone — together. He said the whole process has left him feeling disheartened with a safety net that was supposed to support people like him who were struggling because of the pandemic.
"It just kind of leaves you feeling helpless, a little more untrusting of the agencies that are there [to help]," he said. "And just stressed, worrying about everything."
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