Roberts: Judicial branch ‘not immune’ from sexual harassment issues

MIAMI - NOVEMBER 13: United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. speaks at the University of Miami as part of the University Lecture Series at the BankUnited Center on the University's Coral Gables campus November 13, 2006 in Miami, Florida. Chief Justice Roberts became the court's leader last year. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Chief Justice John Roberts said he had “asked the Director of the Administrative Office to assemble a working group to examine our practices and address these issues.

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Chief Justice John Roberts, in his annual State of the Judiciary report, said Sunday his branch of government will examine the issue of sexual harassment within the judicial system.

“The judiciary will begin 2018,” wrote Roberts, “by undertaking a careful evaluation of whether its standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee.”

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Roberts discussed the issue in the context of a year that has seen sexual harassment allegations in many different areas of American life, including the judiciary. In California, for instance, Judge Alex Kozinski resigned from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Dec. 18 amid extensive allegations of sexual misconduct.

“Events in recent months have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, and events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune,” Roberts wrote.

The chief justice said he had “asked the Director of the Administrative Office to assemble a working group to examine our practices and address these issues. ” He added: “These concerns warrant serious attention from all quarters of the judicial branch.”

The largest part of this year’s report dealt with efforts to maintain the judicial system in times of natural disaster, referring to 2017’s series of brutal hurricanes in the South and wildfires in California — and allow for confidence that the rule of law is not interrupted by these emergencies.

“Court emergency preparedness is not headline news, even on a slow day,” Roberts wrote. “But it is important to assure the public that the courts are doing their part to anticipate and prepare for emergency response to people in need.”

The report also stated that the “number of cases filed in the Supreme Court decreased,” citing a drop from 6,475 filings to 6,305 within the 12-month period ending Sept. 30.

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NFL national anthem protests continue during final week of regular season

More than a dozen NFL players protested during or right after the national anthem on Sunday, the final weekend of the league’s regular season.

Nine Seattle Seahawks players sat or knelt during the anthem prior to the teams’ game, as they have throughout the season. Michael Bennett, Marcus Smith, Frank Clark, Dion Jordan and others were among those demonstrating, The Associated Press reported.

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Rishard Matthews remained off the field during the national anthem before his team’s game, while his teammates, Brian Orakpo and Jurrell Casey, raised their fists once the anthem ended.

Kenny Stills of the Miami Dolphins also knelt prior to his team’s game while the anthem played.

San Francisco 49ers players Reuben Foster, Marquise Goodwin, Louis Murphy and Eric Reid all knelt during the anthem before their team’s game, according to The AP.

Reid, who has protested prior to each 49ers game this season, said in a recent interview that he understands teams might not sign him in the coming offseason because of his decision to kneel during the anthem.

“The things that I’ve done, I stand by, and I’ve done that for my own personal beliefs. Like I said, I’m fine with whatever outcome happens because of that,” Reid told ESPN.

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the first player to kneel during the 2016 season, has not been signed by a team this season.

NFL players have protested social justice issues, such as police brutality, since the 2016 season, either kneeling or raising a fist during the national anthem. The issue was brought into the spotlight again at the beginning of the season, when President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE suggested those taking a knee should be fired.

Players have been spotted protesting each week since Trump’s remarks, and the president has continued his criticism of the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell for allowing the protests to continue without punishment.

–This report was updated on Jan. 1 at 6:24 a.m.

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Trump earns praise for support of Iranian protesters

President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE on Sunday earned praise from lawmakers and former government officials for his approach to the protests taking place in Iran. 

The Trump administration has taken a strong stance supporting peaceful demonstrators protesting against the government in Tehran, with Trump tweeting about it multiple times and Vice President Pence and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyHaley: ‘Open question’ if US athletes will attend Olympics amid North Korea tensions Haley: Trump isn’t deciding who controls east Jerusalem Emergency UN Security Council meeting called after Trump’s Jerusalem announcement: report MORE also voicing support.

His position has bipartisan appeal, with Democrats including Trump’s former presidential opponent Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassley blasts Democrats over unwillingness to probe Clinton GOP lawmakers cite new allegations of political bias in FBI Top intel Dem: Trump Jr. refused to answer questions about Trump Tower discussions with father MORE making similar statements over the last few days in support of the protesters. 

“The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism,” Trump said early Sunday. “Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

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The president’s supporters are marketing Trump’s approach to Iran as a stark contrast from the Obama administration, which Trump has repeatedly criticized for being too soft on Tehran.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration We are running out of time to protect Dreamers US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-S.C.), who is considered a prominent voice within the GOP on national security and foreign policy, pointed to Trump’s support of Iranian protesters as evidence that Trump has “made good foreign policy choices.”

“He is now on the side of the Iranian people,” Graham told CBS’s “Face the Nation,” but went on to urge Trump to do more.

“But he has to do more than watch. He actually has to act. And if I were him I would withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran next year if it’s not made better by the Congress and our European allies,” he said.

Graham said Trump’s approach to Iran should be “the exact opposite” of former President Obama’s, arguing the Obama administration incorrectly prioritized reaching the nuclear agreement with Iran. 

“Obama said, ‘I don’t want to get involved, I don’t want to mess up the chance of getting a deal with Iran,’ ” Graham said. “Well, the deal with Iran hasn’t worked. The money didn’t go to benefit the people, it went to benefit [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] and his henchmen.”

Rep. John GaramendiJohn Raymond GaramendiDem rep. slams Trump’s LaVar Ball attacks as racially motivated Armed Services Dem: Pentagon not forthcoming about Niger attack Rivalry on right emerges between ‘the two Marks’ MORE (D-Calif.) on Sunday also defended Obama’s administration for not being as vocal in its support for Iranian protesters in 2009, saying on CNN that the situation had to be handled differently since Iran was “quickly developing a nuclear weapon.”

Trump has frequently slammed the nuclear agreement, which was reached in 2015 between the United States, Iran and international powers in order to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

The president took the extra step earlier this year to decertify the accord, a move which did not kill the deal entirely, but provided Congress with a 60-day window to reimpose sanctions. Trump did not call for Congress to reinstate nuclear sanctions on Tehran.

Republican lawmakers and foreign policy hawks have long warned that the Iranian government is a threat to regional security, and to the United States.

“Iran is a real threat to the rest of the world,” Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdSeven Texas lawmakers leaving Congress means a younger, more diverse delegation Overnight Cybersecurity: Uber under scrutiny over 2016 breach | Chinese nationals indicted on federal hacking charges | Supreme Court to weigh cellphone privacy GOP rep: We need a ‘counter’ to Russian disinformation MORE (R-Texas), a former CIA officer, told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“This is something that we can get together as Republicans and Democrats, you know, and support, and work together on,” he continued. “We need to make sure that our European allies in Germany and France and England are following President Trump’s lead and showing that they support the Iranian people.”

Some Democrats have also voiced similar support for the protesters in Iran. Trump’s former opponent, Clinton, said Saturday that she hopes the Iranian government “responds peacefully and supports their hopes,” referring to the protesters.

“The Iranian people, especially the young, are protesting for the freedom and future they deserve,” said Clinton.

Several House Democrats have also implied support for the demonstrators. Both Reps. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanThe nearly 60 Dems who voted for impeachment Richard Gere welcomes lawmakers’ words of support for Tibet House rejects Democrat’s resolution to impeach Trump MORE (D-Calif.) and Joaquin CastroJoaquin CastroThe nearly 60 Dems who voted for impeachment House rejects Democrat’s resolution to impeach Trump Latino Dems grow frustrated with Kelly amid ‘Dreamers’ debate: report MORE (D-Texas) described the Iranian government as “oppressive” in statements.

“I am encouraged by the #Iranprotests and hope we could support those advocating for greater freedoms in Iran without our support proving counterproductive,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.).

Trump on Sunday also earned approval from former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, who in the same interview was critical of the “uncertainty” caused by the rest of Trump’s foreign policy. 

Mullen said Sunday that the president’s emphasis on human rights is important. 

“Well, I think the focus there is incredibly important. Many of us have spoken for years about the oppression that occurs in the Middle East by many, many governments, and certainly, we have great disagreements with Iran who still supports terrorism, obviously oppresses their own people,” Mullen told ABC’s “This Week.”

“We certainly should be on guard for human rights violations. And I think we should be supportive of more freedoms in that country.”

Trump’s more staunch defenders are portraying Trump’s position as a clear case of right over wrong.  

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, a fierce opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, commended Trump for siding with protesters.

“I think the most dramatic change has already occurred,” Bolton told Fox News’s “America’s News Headquarters.”

“You have President Trump, members of his administration, taking the side of the demonstrators,” he added. “180 degrees the opposite of what Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPatagonia files suit against Trump cuts to Utah monuments Former Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Eighth Franken accuser comes forward as Dems call for resignation MORE did in 2009.”

The protests that have flared in Iran within recent days have been reminiscent of demonstrations in 2009, when former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the victor over his opponent in the presidential election.

According to a CNN fact check of Obama’s remarks from 2009, the former president made a statement about the protests within several days and eventually issued a more robust statement condemning the Iranian government’s response after appeals for him to take a harder line.

“The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days,” Obama said in the later remark.

Two individuals were reportedly killed Saturday in Iran’s western city of Dorud.

Haley said in a statement on New Year’s Eve that the “long-repressed Iranian people are now finding their voice.”

“The Iranian government is being tested by its own citizens,” she said. “We pray that freedom and human rights will carry the day.”

Pence, who lambasted Obama nearly a decade ago for his initial response to those protests, said he and Trump support Iran’s “peaceful protestors.”

“The time has come for the regime in Tehran to end terrorist activities, corruption, & their disregard for human rights,” Pence said Saturday.

-Updated 3:53 p.m.

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Trump to meet with Florida governor at Mar-a-Lago

Rich Scott is pictured. | Getty Images

Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media outside the West Wing of the White House on Sept. 29, following an earlier meeting with President Donald Trump. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE — President Donald Trump invited Florida Gov. Rick Scott to join him for lunch on Sunday at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, the White House and governor’s office announced.

Scott and Trump are set to dine at the Trump-owned private club, dubbed the “Winter White House, where the president has been staying during the holiday season.

The two have remained close since the 2016 election cycle when Scott chaired Rebuilding America Now Super PAC, which was dedicated to electing Trump as president. They ate lunch in August at another Trump-owned resort in New Jersey. Scott then said he pressed the president for funding for repairs to the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee.

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“President Trump invited Governor Scott to lunch this Sunday. The governor looks forward to speaking with the president about issues that are important to Floridians like the needed repairs to the federally-operated Herbert Hoover Dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee and the recovery of Florida’s citrus industry from Hurricane Irma,” said John Tupps, Scott’s communications director. “Whenever the governor meets with federal officials, including the president, he advocates for Floridians.”

Trump and Scott have remained tethered politically. Scott now runs the New Republican PAC, which is branded as a pro-Trump super PAC. It is working to “re-brand” the Republican party in Trump’s image, including appealing to Hispanic voters.

“Donald Trump’s election was a complete shock to the system in Washington,” reads the group’s website. “This is the perfect opportunity to do things differently.”

Though the super PAC is branded as pro-Trump, the site features Scott and has become the landing spot for political contributions from Florida donors that generally give large amounts of money in state — not federal — races, a fact that has led many to speculate the group will play a large role in backing Scott’s likely 2018 Senate bid against Democrat Bill Nelson.

Among the donors since Scott took over the super PAC are Gulf Coast Health Care, a Pensacola-based company that owns 35 nursing facilities across the state that won a heated intra-party funding fight last session ($40,000); and the holding company of The Villages, a politically powerful retirement community in Central Florida ($100,000).

The committee’s treasurer is Mori Hosseini, a longtime Florida Republican rainmaker that Scott appointed to the University of Florida Board of Trustees in 2016, and one of its top advisers is Melissa Stone, a former Scott chief-of-staff and longtime political consultant.

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Graham: Iran protests show Obama failed

Lindsey Graham is pictured. | AP Photo

“If I was Trump, I would do the exact opposite of Obama,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said. | Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday the wave of protests in Iran are example of President Barack Obama’s failed policies for the country and the region.

“The people are not getting the benefit of sanctions relief,” the Republican senator told Major Garrett on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “They are more upset with their oppressors than ever, the money from sanctions relief is going to rebuilding the Iranian military and is destabilizing the Middle East.”

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Graham, who is regarded as a foreign policy hawk, said he would advise President Donald Trump to do the opposite of his predecessor in addressing protests in Iran. As a first step, the three-term senator called on Trump to give a public address on why the Iran nuclear deal has “failed” and to lay out what a better deal would look like.

In 2009, Obama condemned “unjust actions” as Iranian leaders thwarted an uprising known as “Green Revolution” after a disputed presidential election. While Obama gave increasingly harsher critiques of how protesters were treated, his administration was criticized for not being more forceful and direct.

Since Thursday, Iranians have protested throughout the country due to frustration with a sluggish economy.

“If I was Trump, I would do the exact opposite of Obama,” Graham said. “Obama said, I don’t want to get involved, I don’t want to mess up the chance of a deal with Iran. Well, the deal with Iran has not worked.”

Trump could the end U.S. involvement in the nuclear agreement as soon as next month. But before making such a move, Graham called on Trump to urge Congress and America’s European allies to renegotiate the deal. In the past, the European Union and the other major countries behind the deal have said they would not revisit the accord and that they consider it binding.

“The Iranian people are not our enemy,” Graham said. “The Ayatollah is the enemy of the world.”

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