Oh no, Cuomo

Letitia James, the New York State attorney general, has released sworn testimony and private messages collected as part of the sexual harassment investigation that forced out disgraced former governor Andrew Cuomo. The documents reveal behavior by Andrew’s brother, CNN primetime host Chris, that should lead to his resignation.

We already knew that Chris had been advising his brother on his response to the allegations. Now we learn that the $6-million-a-year journalist hadn’t just been spinning for an elected official, but that he had been trying to dig up dirt on one of his brother’s accusers.

In the past, Cuomo had insisted that his role in his brother’s defense had just been to “listen” and “offer my take.” The documents demonstrate that to be a lie. Texts between Cuomo and Melissa DeRosa, his brother’s secretary, show him to be at the heart of the operation. He sought “intel” on a soon-to-be-published story on the governor and, on another occasion said he had a “lead on the wedding girl.”

It’s hard to see how Cuomo can stay in his job. He is paid to report the news but instead appeared to be using his sources to help a powerful elected official smear, intimidate or silence a woman who had made an accusation of sexual harassment. But might he cling on? After all, the advisory role he had already admitted he had played in his brother’s campaign should already have been enough to have him taken off the air. And yet a quick apology was enough to save his job.

CNN spokesman Matt Dornic said that the “thousands of pages of additional transcripts and exhibits… deserve a thorough review and consideration. We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.”

On his show last night, Cuomo made no mention of the news. His CNN host Don Lemon paid a fawning tribute to Cuomo in his handover. “It’s good to see you, I know you had a great Thanksgiving… I’m grateful for your friendship and your love. I think you’re fantastic, one of the kindest people I know on the planet.”

For years, CNN banned Cuomo from interviewing his brother. In 2020, when Andrew Cuomo became a pandemic media star (whilst covering up care home deaths in his state), executives dropped the ban to cash in on a chummy Covid love-in. Then they tolerated their anchor advising his brother on his doomed bid to save a political career. That was bad enough. If they allow one of their star names to misuse their sources in this way, then they are a network without a shred of journalistic credibility left.

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Leahy’s Christmas warning

Those Washingtonians worried that the perfect storm of debt limit negotiations, a possible government shutdown and the never-ending Build Back Better wrangling could ruin Christmas won’t like what Vermont senator Patrick Leahy had to say yesterday. The Senate appropriations chair and president pro tempore told CNN’s Lauren Fox and Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman that he is so worried he will be stuck in DC for Christmas that he and his wife have bought a tree for their home in the capital.

December was always going to be an action-packed month on the Hill. But hopes of a swift resolution to 2021 business dimmed after an inauspicious start to post-Thanksgiving proceedings. Chuck Schumer’s effort to fast-forward debate on a must-pass spending legislation, the defense bill, was scuppered by Republicans. It was a reasonably arcane development, but one that suggests that long, difficult negotiations stand between senators and Christmas at home.

Adding to Democratic leadership’s headache is the new Covid variant, which Joe Manchin, not sold on the BBB package as it stands, said should give Congress “cause to pause.”

Adjust your Christmas plans — and tree strategy — accordingly.

FLOTUS decks the halls

Throughout the Trump years, Melania’s Christmas decorations were the subject of considerable criticism. New York magazine spliced spooky scenes into footage of Melania’s displays, set the video to suspenseful music and called it American Horror Story: White House.

Now it is Dr. Jill’s turn. And Cockburn is underwhelmed by the results. Confused by the sparseness of the display, he wonders if the rest of the decorations got stuck on a ship off the coast of Los Angeles.

But these decorations are sure to escape much of the overblown criticism that Melania faced. But would FLOTUS agree with her predecessor’s exasperation at having to deck the halls? “I’m working my ass off at Christmas stuff,” said Melania. “Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decorations?”

Let’s hear it for HBCUs

The Wall Street Journal reports on an interesting new study on the value of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The report by the United Negro College Fund’s Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute examines the social mobility of students from the bottom two quintiles of household income (under $46,000) and finds that “on average and across institution type, when it comes to mobility rates HBCUs outperform all other categories and are double the national rate, being the primary post-secondary driver for moving Black Americans from poverty to the middle class.”

As the Journal points out, HBCU students are disproportionately drawn from the bottom two quintiles, making their impact especially significant. HBCUs educate one in ten black college students, but HBCU grads account for 80 percent of black judges, 50 percent of black doctors and 50 percent of black lawyers.

What you should be reading today

Charles Lipson: Voters are saying no but Biden isn’t listening
Alexander Larman: Remembering the brilliant Stephen Sondheim
Charles Vavruska and Deroy Murdock: The GOP must remain the party of parents
Gerard Baker, Wall Street Journal: Jamie Dimon’s China joke is on JPMorgan’s ‘Stakeholders’
Bruno Maçães, New Statesman: Is Putin preparing for war?
Nate Hochman, National Review: Against conservative pessimism

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 41.8 percent
Disapprove: 52.5 percent
Net approval: -10.7 (RCP Average)

Does politics or the law drive supreme court decisions?
Politics: 62 percent
The law: 30 percent (Grinnell College)

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