Feb 20, 2018

Trump dismisses alleged 2006 sexual misconduct incident

President Trump addressed one of the sexual misconduct allegations against him in a tweet Tuesday, responding to a Washington Post feature on Rachel Crooks, who claims that Trump forcibly kissed her in Trump Tower in 2006, and her place in the wider #MeToo movement.

Crooks claims that Trump kissed her outside of the elevators on the 24th floor — not in the building's main lobby. From WaPo: "During one news conference, [Crooks] had asked Trump to release the security videotapes from the 24th floor that day, but he never responded. She had not heard from him, or anyone representing him, since she came home from New York."

Trump is referencing a story originally reported by The Hill, which claims that lawyer Lisa Bloom arranged financial payments from donors for two Trump accusers. (Crooks was not one of them.) And Bloom defended those accusations in a statement to Snopes:

"Most people do not get paid for interviews.... When my client is a single mother, unemployed, in dire need of therapy, on the verge of bankruptcy or all of the above, she may choose to do an interview with the outlet that will compensate her. A few thousand dollars hardly levels the playing field against a billionaire like Donald Trump, but it helps a little, and I leave that decision to my client, after she’s been fully vetted for veracity."

One more thing: Contrary to the claims in Trump's tweet, mainstream outlets have reported on the fact that partisans might seek to exploit the career-ending potential of the #MeToo movement, like this deep-dive New York Times report from late last year.

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South Korea and Italy see spikes in coronavirus cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations, and the U.S. reports a doubling of its confirmed cases to 34 — while noting these are mostly due to repatriated citizens, emphasizing there's no "community spread" yet in the United States.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed at least 2,362 people and infected more than 77,000 others, mostly in mainland China. New countries to announce infections recently include Israel and Lebanon, while Iran reported its sixth death from the virus. South Korea's confirmed cases jumped from 204 Friday to 433 on Saturday and Italy's case count rose from 3 to 62 by Saturday.

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America's rundown roads add to farmers' struggles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American farmers are struggling to safely use the roads that cut through their fields; decades of neglect and lack of funding have made the routes dangerous.

The big picture: President Trump has long promised to invest billions in rural infrastructure, and his latest proposal would allocate $1 trillion for such projects. Rural America, where many of Trump's supporters live, would see a large chunk of that money.

Centrist Democrats beseech 2020 candidates: "Stand up to Bernie" or Trump wins

Bernie Sanders rallies in Las Vegas, Nevada on Feb. 21. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Center-left think tank Third Way urgently called on the Democratic front-runners of the 2020 presidential election to challenge Sen. Bernie Sanders on the South Carolina debate stage on Feb. 25, in a memo provided to Axios' Mike Allen on Saturday.

What they're saying: "At the Las Vegas debate ... you declined to really challenge Senator Sanders. If you repeat this strategy at the South Carolina debate this week, you could hand the nomination to Sanders, likely dooming the Democratic Party — and the nation — to Trump and sweeping down-ballot Republican victories in November."