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D.C. Memo: Referring all inquiries to our political consultant

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The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, Jay Inslee talked about Minnesota, Al Franken returned to the public eye, and Dean Phillips’ challenger declined to comment.

One issue. Two candidates. Line 3.

Minnesota politics entered the national political scene as presidential hopeful Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took a clear against stance on Enbridge’s Line 3. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took a stance on the pipeline months ago.

Two non-Minnesotan candidates weighing in left a question that we struggled to answer: Where does Minnesota’s own Sen. Amy Klobuchar stand on the pipeline? Read more at MinnPost.

Minnesotans center stage at Muslim Caucus

A good portion of Minnesota’s political scene was in Washington on Tuesday. Why? They were attending the innagural conference of the Muslim Caucus Education Collective.

Zarina Baber, vice president of the group (and a Minnesotan) said that there were a large number of Minnesotans at the event not because it was Minnesota focused, but because Minnesota has set an example of what is possible nationally. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison was in attendance, as was Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, who replaced Ellison in Congress in 2018.

Ken Martin, the DFL Chair who spoke throughout the day, is on the advisory comittee of the Muslim Caucus. And St. Paul Rep. Betty McCollum received the inaugural Human Rights Champion Award. Read more at MinnPost.

Al Franken returns

In The New Yorker, award winning journalist Jane Mayer makes the case that we should reevaluate how the allegations that prompted the resignation of Sen. Al Franken were handled. Some things she points out: There are some inaccuracies with the initial story that prompted the whirlwind of Franken criticism. And several senators admitted to regretting their role in pushing for his resignation without a hearing.

But a good number of senators do not.

“With the first accuser, we didn’t call for his resignation from the get-go. It was a difficult decision,” Sen. Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, told the New York Times. “But when the eighth person comes forward, there’s a pattern. Women have been putting up with this B.S. from time immemorial. And we’re sick of it.”

Other than Hirono, officials who said they stood by their decision to call on Franken’s resignation: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Franken is admittedly clumsy and comes from a different world: entertainment. And that might be what many people are missing, says Dianna E. Anderson, the Minneapolis-based author of “Problematic: How Toxic Callout Culture Is Destroying Feminism.”

“I think his position as a comedian makes this transition different from that of a regular politician, especially since the entertainment world as a whole is much more likely to be forgiving, particularly with events viewed as small slights rather than horrendously violent acts,” says Anderson.

“I think part of what people are conveniently ignoring is right there in Mayer’s article: his political team basically had to retrain him out of his entertainment behavior, which was described as handsy and clumsy and with a tendency to greet women with kisses, which speaks to how entertainment and politics views interactions like this differently. Most regular politicians know they have to go into private life after something like this.”

The Huffington Post’s Zachary Roth, who wrote about two women who accused Franken of sexual harassment, goes further to point out that Mayer’s story, while incredibly detailed on one account, doesn’t quite hone in one several others:

Neither woman has backed away from her allegation. Franken hasn’t denied touching either woman’s butt (though he told HuffPost at the time that he’d never asked anyone to visit the bathroom with him). And the women’s decision not to speak to The New Yorker about claims made previously to a different news outlet shouldn’t cast doubt on their stories.

‘Racist policies’

As President Trump continues to invoke Omar’s name to rile up his supporters, the Fifth District Democrat responded with an op-ed in the New York Times. She criticizes Trump not just for racist words, but for racist policy:

The only way to push back is to be unequivocal about our values. It is not enough to condemn Mr. Trump’s racism. We must affirmatively confront racist policies — whether the caging of immigrant children at the border or the banning of Muslim immigrants or the allowing of segregation in public housing. It is not enough to condemn the corruption and self-dealing of this administration. We must support policies that unmistakably improve working people’s lives, including by strengthening collective bargaining, raising the minimum wage and pursuing a universal jobs guarantee.

A challenger appears

The Third District’s Rep. Dean Phillips finally has a Republican challenger. Kendall Qualls has filed as Republican to challenge Rep. Dean Phillips, something National Republican Campaign Committee Chair and 5th District Rep. Tom Emmer hinted at last week.

Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index placed Phillip’s district as D+1 in 2017, noting a slight Democratic advantage, prior to Phillip’s win against Erik Paulsen. But also notably, Cook currently places CD3 in its safest category: a likely Democratic District.

When the Star Tribune asked Qualls, a Black health care executive and veteran for comment, this is what happened:

Qualls declined to comment when reached by phone by the Star Tribune, saying he is referring all inquiries to his political consultant. The consultant did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president next door

Who will Klobuchar be debating on July 30th? CNN conducted a prime time event to draw candidates in a bingo-like game. Here is what they came up with:

  • Author Marianne Williamson
  • Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
  • Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
  • Rep. John Delaney
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

What will I be watching for? During the first debate, Klobuchar spent much of her time attacking someone not on the stage: President Donald Trump. This time, will she contrast her policies, and the steps she will take to enact them, with some of the others on stage with her?

Klobuchar has leaned heavily on Minnesota donors to maintain enough momentum to continue and has even adopted some accounting tricks in order to inflate her cash on hand.

In other news

  • Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló announced his planned resignation on Wednesday, after citizens took to the streets for a week of protests and it became clear that impeachment proceedings would take place. The protests began after nonprofit news site Centro de Periodismo Investigativo exposed hundreds of pages of transcripts, in which Rosselló disparaged his colleagues with sexist and misogynistic jokes. Rosselló will step down on August 2nd.
  • Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified on Wednesday, relaying many of the facts already available in report he released in April. Instead of the hearing itself, the news story quickly became how pundits and outlets characterized his performance, rather than what Mueller confirmed. When asked by Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler if he totally exonerate the president, Mueller replied, “No.”
  • A U.S. citizen was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for 23 days. Francisco Erwin Galicia told Dallas Morning News that he was not able to shower for the entire time he was in custody and lost a total of 26 pounds.

Quote of the week

“The problem: The presidential seal was not, in fact, the presidential seal at all… Instead of arrows, the eagle clutched a set of golf clubs in a talon. It appeared as the president emerged onstage.” ⁠— Sarah Mervosh and Niraj Chokshi in the New York Times, describing the scene at a speech by given President Trump this week.

What I’m reading

Elisa von Joeden-Forgey in the Inquirer: My friends were detained by ICE in Philly. Here’s what happened when I tried to help them.

In a perspective piece, Professor Joeden-Forgey goes over her experience trying to assist her friends, Elly and Fnu, two asylum seekers from Indonesia, and described how difficult it was to provide them legal assistance. It’s worth reading if you want to understand just how difficult it can be to formally deal with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Molly Langmuir in Elle: Jia Tolentino Makes Sense Out of This Nonsense Moment

Jia Tolentino is without a doubt one of the most talented writers of my generation. In Elle, Molly Langmuir talks about Tolentino’s new book, Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, and tries to get to the heart of what exactly Tolentino wants you to understand about her (and in turn, yourself).

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.