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Rep. Elizabeth Esty, under fire for her handling of accused sex harasser, won’t seek re-election

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty said Monday she won’t seek re-election amid calls for her to resign because of her handling of a sexual harassment case involving her former chief of staff.

The Democrat issued a statement saying she has determined it’s in the best interest of her constituents and her family to end her time in Congress at the end of this year “and not seek re-election.” Esty is in the middle of her third term.

Esty is again apologizing to a former female member of her staff who said she was punched in the back and received death threats in 2016. The man accused of punching her was not fired for several months, pending an internal investigation.

Esty says she’ll work to improve workplace protections during her final months in office.

Earlier Monday, Esty asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate whether she did anything wrong in her handling of the firing of her former chief of staff accused of harassment, threats and violence against female staffers in her congressional office.

She is as outspoken #MeToo advocate who has been accused of not protecting female staffers from the ex-chief of staff.

Esty has said she regrets not moving along an internal investigation into the allegations, which revealed more widespread alleged abuse, and regrets providing “even the slightest assistance to this individual as he sought a new job.”

“Although we worked with the House Employment Counsel to investigate and ultimately dismiss this employee for his outrageous behavior with a former staffer, I believe it is important for the House Ethics Committee to conduct its own inquiry into this matter,” Esty said in a written statement, acknowledging “it certainly was far from a perfect process.”

Esty said she wants the committee to “clarify whether there was any wrongdoing” on her part.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement issued before Esty announced she would not seek another term, “As Congresswoman Esty has acknowledged, her actions did not protect Ms. Kain and should have. Congresswoman Esty has now appropriately requested an expedited review by the Ethics Committee.”

Esty’s announcement that she won’t seek another term comes amid calls for her resignation from a growing number of state politicians in Connecticut, including fellow Democrats. Bob Duff, the Democratic state Senate’s majority leader, was among the latest to urge Esty to step down in the midst of her third-term.

Duff said Monday that he has spoken with Esty about his concerns, acknowledging it was a difficult decision to call for her resignation given her record in Congress.

“However, no matter the hard work Elizabeth has exhibited and my admiration for her bipartisan accomplishments, the news of the last few days is certainly disheartening,” Duff said.

He said several points led him to call for Esty’s resignation, including her reluctance to speak out publicly about the situation and using taxpayer money to pay her former chief of staff, Tony Baker, about $5,000 in severance. Staffers said Esty repaid the federal government last week with her personal funds.

A spokesman for Baker told Hearst Connecticut Media and the Washington Post that he denies some of the allegations. A phone number listed for a Tony Baker in Columbus, Ohio, where the spokesman said the former chief of staff was living, was disconnected.

In her letter to committee members, Esty said she learned through a third party in 2016 about possible misconduct by Baker involving a former staffer, who worked in her office from January 2013 to March 2015. Esty has said she fired Baker three months later after receiving an internal investigation report that revealed improper behavior by Baker that affected multiple female staffers.

Before news of the controversy broke, Esty had issued press releases calling for tougher harassment protections for congressional staffers and was among those demanding that then-U.S. Rep. John Conyers, of Michigan, resign amid allegations of misconduct.

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Northern Ireland Protocol 'dead in the water' claims Boris ally as Brexit fears reemerge

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THE NORTHERN IRELAND Protocol is “dead in the water”, according to a senior ally of the Prime Minister.

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Matt Gaetz equates sex trafficking investigation with earmarks in Ohio speech

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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican mired in controversy, told a crowd of Republican activists Saturday that sexual misconduct allegations involving him are as benign as legislative earmarks.

“I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors,” Gaetz said at the Ohio Political Summit, a gathering sponsored by the Strongsville GOP in suburban Cleveland. “Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption.”

Gaetz’s keynote speech came a day after Joel Greenberg, a former Florida tax official and associate of the congressman, pleaded guilty to six charges and is cooperating in a federal sex trafficking investigation. Federal officials are looking into whether Gaetz and Greenberg used the internet to find women they could pay for sex and whether Gaetz had a sexual relationship with a minor he paid to travel with him, the New York Times reported.

Documents filed in connection the Greenberg’s plea agreement do not mention Gaetz. He has not been charged with a crime and has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.

An audience of at least 400 in person and others online turned out for the event, billed as a major forum ahead of the 2022 midterm election. A dozen or so guests trickled out after hearing from conservative commentator Candace Owens, who spoke before Gaetz, who delivered the final speech of the afternoon. But Gaetz received a standing ovation from those who stayed, and a dozen or so others lingered afterward for autographs and selfies.

Several Republican candidates for governor and U.S. House and Senate, had planned to address the crowd but backed out in recent days. Representatives from their campaigns declined to say why on the record, but all of them had committed before Gaetz was added to the program. Another scheduled keynote speaker, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., didn’t show.

To fill the time, organizers used everything from video footage from Trump rallies to a local conservative radio host and others who acknowledged on stage that they had been pressed into speaking duty at the last minute.

The scene at a suburban banquet hall offered a preview of how GOP campaigns, particularly in messy primaries, will proceed over the next 18 months. Strongsville is the center of Ohio’s 16th congressional district, represented by Anthony Gonzalez, one of the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. The Ohio Republican Party, nudged along by the Strongsville GOP, has called on Gonzalez to resign. Here, many people believe the lie that the last election was stolen. (“Trump Won,” read a bumper sticker in the parking lot.)

Attendees booed whenever someone mentioned Gonzalez or Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican who has become a villain to many in the party base for his acceptance of the 2020 election results and his cautious approach to the coronavirus pandemic. Far-right activists have taken to calling DeWine a RINO, or Republican In Name Only. If DeWine is renominated next year — and this week former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale got behind former Rep. Jim Renacci as a potential primary challenger — some are considering protest votes.

“I’ll vote for Nan Whaley before I vote for Mike DeWine,” said Dave Desser, a Toledo businessman who is pushing a No More DeWine effort online. Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, is a Democratic candidate for governor whose team relishes such intramural GOP squabbling.

Aware they’d be on hostile ground, DeWine and Gonzalez had never planned to attend Saturday’s summit. Renacci bailed after Gaetz was added to the program. Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who is challenging Gonzalez with the former-president’s endorsement, appeared via a pre-taped video. That left Joe Blystone and Jonah Schulz, lesser-known candidates for governor and the Ohio 16th, respectively, with the audience to themselves.

“We’re going to Trump this state,” said Blystone, a farmer who campaigns in a cowboy hat.

The most prominent 2022 candidate to speak was Josh Mandel, a former state treasurer who has aggressively positioned himself as the most pro-Trump candidate in the Senate race. At one point Mandel, who is seeking retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s seat, went on an extended attack against a reporter, making sure attendees knew she was in the room as he read her tweets aloud. Mandel also revved up the crowd by lying about the 2020 election.

“Let me be very clear, this election was stolen from Donald Trump,” Mandel said. “My squishy establishment opponents in this race won’t say those words. But I will.”

Gaetz spent much of his speech railing against establishment Republicans such as Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, and Paul Ryan, the former House speaker from Wisconsin. He praised one Ohio congressman, Rep. Jim Jordan, saying he aspired to be “the Robin to his Batman,” while castigating another, Gonzalez, a former first-round NFL draft pick who played in parts of five seasons.

“Is it likely that the Anthony Gonzalez congressional career might mirror the Anthony Gonzalez NFL career?” Gaetz wondered. “Whole lot of hype, first round draft pick, out in four years.”

The absent Gonzalez appeared to issue a subtle rebuke of Gaetz and the Strongsville GOP from afar.

“Ending child exploitation remains one of my top policy initiatives in Congress,” Gonzalez, alluding to the controversy surrounding Gaetz, tweeted during the event. “Anyone engaged in these heinous acts needs to be held accountable and taken off the streets.”



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Confusing pension statements to be banned in huge retirement shake-up

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PENSION providers are to be forced to give much clearer information to people saving for retirement under new regulations being introduced by the government.

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