Joe Biden scrambles to tamp down Anita Hill controversy

Collage photograph shows Joe Biden and Anita HillThe law professor says Biden needs to apologise to other women and the public

Top White House candidate Joe Biden has denied treating a woman badly when she accused a Supreme Court nominee of harassment before Congress in 1991.

Anita Hill had testified against Clarence Thomas to a committee chaired by Mr Biden. His handling of her evidence has long been criticised.

Speaking on ABC’s the View on Friday, Mr Biden also said that he was “sorry for the way she got treated”.

Ms Hill on Thursday told the New York Times she would not endorse Mr Biden.

The former US vice-president under Barack Obama tried to tamp down the controversy a day after formally launching his White House bid.

Mr Biden has shot to the tip of a crowded field of 20 contenders who are vying to become the Democratic standard-bearer in next year’s election against Republican President Donald Trump.

What’s the Anita Hill row?

Ms Hill said that Mr Biden had called her before announcing his presidential bid and expressed his “regret for what she endured” during the hearing.

But she said that apology was not enough without “real change”.

“I cannot be satisfied by simply saying, ‘I’m sorry for what happened to you,'” Ms Hill, a law professor, told the newspaper.

She added that she could not support Mr Biden unless he showed “real accountability” for his handling of her testimony before Congress in 1991.

During his Friday appearance on The View, Mr Biden – who raised a whopping $6.3m (£4.8m) on the first day of his campaign – was asked about offering a personal apology to Ms Hill.

“I’m sorry for the way she got treated,” Mr Biden responded.

“If you go back and look at what I said or didn’t say, I don’t think I treated her badly.”

In 1991, Ms Hill was called to testify at Mr Thomas’ confirmation hearing after an FBI interview with her was leaked to the press.

The hearing was conducted by an all-white, all-male panel, and several women apparently willing to corroborate Ms Hill’s account were not called to testify by Mr Biden.

Both Ms Hill and Justice Thomas are African-American.

Mr Biden voted to send Justice Thomas’ nomination out of the committee to the Senate floor, then voted against him in the full confirmation vote.

Decades on, the event is considered a political embarrassment for Mr Biden, who remains a favourite to secure the Democratic nomination.

Earlier this month, the former vice-president pledged to be “more mindful” about physical contact with women after seven women accused him of unwelcome physical contact.

Anita Hill testifying in 1991Clarence Thomas was Anita Hill’s supervisor

What about Charlottesville?

Mr Biden has also been reproached by the mother of an anti-racism protester who was killed during a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.

Susan Bro told the Daily Beast the presidential hopeful had not notified her that he planned to invoke Heather Heyer’s death during his campaign launch video on Thursday.

“Most people do that sort of thing,” she told the Daily Beast. “They capitalise on whatever situation is handy.

“He didn’t reach out to me, and didn’t mention her by name specifically, and he probably knew we don’t endorse candidates.”

In a later interview with CNN, Ms Bro softened her tone, saying she was not particularly upset because “the issue is about the hate, it’s not about Heather”.

Ms Bro added that she had told Mr Biden his video could have traumatised for some Charlottesville survivors.

Bill Weld challenges Trump in 2020 Republican presidential race

Weld enters as a long-shot candidate against an incumbent president who has remained popular within his party.

 Weld's challenge marks the first against Trump by a member of his own party [File: Charles Krupa/AP Photo]
Weld’s challenge marks the first against Trump by a member of his own party 

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld announced his candidacy on Monday to challenge US President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.

Weld, 73, who served two terms as governor, from 1991-1997, enters as a long-shot candidate against an incumbent president who has remained popular within his party. Weld in February had said that he planned to challenge Trump.

“I really think if we have six more years of the same stuff we’ve had out of the White House the last two years that would be a political tragedy,” he said on CNN. “So, I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t raise my hand and run.”

Weld has accused Trump of leaving the nation in “grave peril” and has said his “priorities are skewed towards promotion of himself rather than for the good of the country”.

Weld’s challenge marks the first against Trump by a member of his own party. Other Republicans have publicly flirted with their own challenges, including former Ohio Governor John Kasich, one of the many Republican candidates whom Trump defeated for the party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

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Bernie’s healthcare policies already won the 2020 election

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by Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez

But Republican leaders have signalled little tolerance for intra-party fights as Trump gears up for a potentially challenging bid for a second term. Trump’s campaign has taken extraordinary steps in cementing control over the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the broader nomination process as it seeks to minimise the risk of any potential challenger doing the same to the president. His campaign recently reported raising $30m in the first quarter of this year, while Democrats are raising less money than in previous cycles.

“Any effort to challenge the president’s nomination is bound to go absolutely nowhere,” the RNC said in a statement responding to Weld’s announcement, noting that its operation and the Republican Party are firmly behind Trump.

Unconventional

Weld, a former prosecutor and the vice presidential candidate in 2016 on the Libertarian ticket, has been a consistent critic of Trump. He told CNN that he does not plan to mount an independent bid if unsuccessful.

Fiscally conservative but socially liberal, Weld is known for an unconventional, at times quirky, political style and a long history of friction with the party he now seeks to lead.

Weld endorsed Democrat Barack Obama over Republican nominee John McCain in 2008, later saying it was a mistake to do so, and has enjoyed a decades-long friendship with the Clintons, which began early in his career when he served alongside Hillary Clinton as a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate proceedings.

Hillary Clinton rules out 2020 US presidential run

Weld’s nomination by former President Bill Clinton to be US ambassador to Mexico touched off a bitter public spat with then-Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican from South Carolina who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Years earlier, Weld was among a handful of top Justice Department officials to resign in protest over alleged ethical violations by then-Attorney General Ed Meese, long a favourite of conservatives.

With little in the way of organisation or outside money, and at odds with a majority of Republican voters who solidly support Trump, Weld’s longshot campaign will target disaffected Republicans and independents who share his disdain for the president and embrace libertarian values of small government, free trade and free markets, and personal freedom.

Weld has not won a political race since being re-elected governor by a landslide in his heavily Democratic state in 1994. He was first elected to the office in 1990, defeating a conservative Democratic candidate, and quickly became one of Massachusetts’ most popular governors in recent history.

While holding the line on spending and taxes, Weld as governor embraced liberal positions at odds with national Republicans on abortion and gay rights. His low-key style and sharp wit also seemed to play well with voters as did his penchant for the unexpected: He once ended a news conference touting progress in cleaning up Boston’s polluted Charles River by diving fully clothed into the waterway.

A politician, federal prosecutor, investment banker, lobbyist and even novelist, Weld was a lifelong Republican before bolting the GOP to run on the Libertarian Party ticket with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson in 2016.

Trump rouses US conservatives with prediction of ‘a big 2020 win’

Johnson and Weld received about 4.5 million votes, a little more than three percent of the national popular vote.

Despite a pledge to libertarians that he would remain loyal to the party going forward, Weld on January 17 walked into the clerk’s office of the Massachusetts town where he lives and re-registered as a Republican, adding to speculation that he would challenge Trump in the primaries.

Weld planned to kick off his campaign in New Hampshire, which holds an influential early nominating contest. He said the state’s voters would be receptive to his message and familiar with his record in neighbouring Massachusetts.

“Right now, all there really is coming out of Washington is divisiveness,” he said on CNN, calling both parties responsible but pointedly adding, “the grand master of that is the president himself.”

Bernie Sanders to run for US president in 2020!

US Senator Bernie Sanders has announced he is running for the presidency, launching a second bid for the White House after a surprisingly strong run for the Democratic nomination in 2016.

Sanders, 77, made the announcement in a radio interview in his home state of Vermont on Tuesday.

“We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign, and now it’s time to move that revolution forward,” the self-described Democratic socialist told Vermont Public Radio.

Sanders said he would enact many of the ideas he championed during his bid for the presidency in 2016, including universal healthcare access and the minimum hourly wage of $15, if elected to the White House this time around.

A frequent critic of current US President Donald Trump, Sanders went on to describe the Republican leader as “an embrassasment”.

“I think he is a pathological liar… I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants.”

In an email to supporters early on Tuesday, Sanders pledged to build a vast grassroots movement to confront the special interests he said dominate government and politics.

“Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice,” he said.

Sanders raised more than $1m within hours of launching his 2020 presidential bid.

Crowded field

Sanders had launched his 2016 candidacy against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a long shot, but ended up capturing 23 state-nominating contests and pushing the party to the left, generating tension between its establishment and liberal wings that has not entirely abated.

Like Trump, Sanders was an outsider when the 2016 presidential primaries began, but he came close to pulling off an upset over Clinton.

This time around, Sanders has been among the leaders in opinion polls of prospective 2020 candidates, but he faces a field more heavily populated with other liberal progressives touting many of the same ideas he brought into the party mainstream.

The list of politicians seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination already includes his fellow Senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

A number of other high-profile Democrats are still considering presidential bids, including former Vice President Joe Biden and former Texas representative Beto O’Rourke.

The primaries and caucuses that determine the Democrat nominee for next year’s election will begin in February 2020 in Iowa.

Name recognition

Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington, said the already crowded field was down to candidates seeking to “gain some momentum” before Sanders announced his run for office.

“Sanders enters the race now as the frontrunner,” Rattansi said.

“He has the best nationwide organisation, the best name recognition and the biggest network of donors around the country – he is the now the man to beat.”

The crowded field could make it harder for Sanders to generate the same level of fervent support as four years ago, however.

The 77-year-old is also likely to face scrutiny about his age and relevance in a party that is increasingly advancing more diverse and fresh voices, including women and minorities – groups that Sanders struggled to win over in 2016.

Some Democrats have questioned whether their champion this time around should be a septuagenarian white man.

#MeToo era scrutiny

The Vermont senator, a former member of the US House of Representatives, also faces different pressures in the #MeToo era.

In the run-up to Sanders’s 2020 announcement, persistent allegations emerged of sexual harassment of women by male staffers during his 2016 campaign. Politico and The New York Times reported several allegations of unwanted sexual advances and pay inequity.

Sanders offered an unequivocal apology over the complaints on January 10, saying: “What they [women] experienced was absolutely unacceptable and certainly not what a progressive campaign – or any campaign – should be about.”

“Every woman in this country who goes to work today or tomorrow has the right to make sure that she is working in an environment which is free of harassment, which is safe and is comfortable, and I will do my best to make that happen.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren launches 2020 presidential bid

The 69-year-old from the US state of Massachusetts has already become a main target of President Donald Trump.

Senator Warren waves at the crowd at the campaign rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts [Brian Snyder/Reuters]
Senator Warren waves at the crowd at the campaign rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts [Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Senator Elizabeth Warren has said she will run for president, adding a fierce advocate of economic populism to an already crowded field of Democrats in the United States vying for the presidency in 2020.

The Massachusetts Democrat, a leader of the party’s progressive wing, made her announcement on Saturday from an historic site in Lawrence, northwest of Boston, that launched the US organised labour movement.

Warren, a Harvard Law School professor-turned-senator, may be the most well-known figure to enter the presidential race. Since being elected to the Senate in 2012, Warren has stood on the most progressive end of the Democratic Party, advocating higher taxes on the wealthy and consumer protections.

Elizabeth Warren makes big move towards 2020 presidential run

Her platform includes a tax on the richest 75,000 Americans.

“Hardworking people are up against a small group of people that holds far too much power, not just in our economy but also in our democracy,” Warren said at the rally in Lawrence. “We are here to say enough is enough.”

She called President Donald Trump a “product of a rigged system that props up the rich and powerful and kicks dirt on everyone else”.

Native American ancestry dispute

The 69-year-old from the US state of Massachusetts has already become a main target of Trump, who has dubbed Warren “Pocahontas” for previously identifying herself as a Native American, a controversy that has plagued the run-up to her candidacy.

The storm over Warren’s ancestry claim deepened when she sought to neutralise the attacks by releasing a DNA analysis in October, which said that she had a Native American ancestor “six – 10 generations ago”.

The Cherokee Nation blasted Warren for the test, which they said was a false claim to tribal membership, leading the senator to apologise.

Speaking from Washington, Al Jazeera’s correspondent Heidi Zhou-Castro said that as popular as Warren’s wealth reform proposals may be with the liberal base, “she does have quite a liability with her claims of Native American ancestry.”

“She seems to not be able to escape the controversy surrounding these claims,” Zhou-Castro said.

“Democratic voters have said in polls that their primary concern leading up to 2020 is selecting a candidate who can defeat Trump, and they’re worried that just as Trump was able to use Hilary Clinton’s emails scandals and blow that into a big thing that was very damaging to her campaign, that he may use this claim of Elizabeth Warren’s Native American ancestry as her Achilles’ heel.”

Zhou-Castro went on to say that Warren’s major opponent at this point is former Vice President Joe Biden, who despite not yet declaring his candidacy, is leading the field in polling among would-be primary Democratic voters.