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National Govt & Politics

    A rancorous dispute over rules marked the first full day of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial. Highlights of Tuesday's session and what's ahead as senators conduct just the third impeachment trial of a president: RULES REVERSAL A proposal by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would have imposed a tight two-day schedule for opening arguments by each side. The plan, an apparent bid by McConnell to get the trial moving quickly, also would have forced senators to vote affirmatively to consider evidence compiled by the House during its impeachment proceedings. The proposal drew immediate protests from Democrats, and some Republicans made their concerns known in private during a GOP lunch. The initial plan, they argued, would have helped Democrats cast Republicans as squeezing testimony through in the dead of night. McConnell quickly added an extra day for opening arguments and stipulated that evidence from the House proceedings be included in the record. FROM EUROPE, A PRESIDENTIAL TWEET Trump, attending a global leaders conference in Davos, Switzerland, made his feelings about impeachment clear. “READ THE TRANSCRIPTS!” he tweeted from overseas. The tweet referred to a rough transcript of Trump's phone call in which he asked new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for “a favor.” The call sparked a whistleblower's complaint that led to an investigation culminating in a House vote to impeach Trump on a charge of abuse of power for pushing Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden while withholding military aid from Ukraine. The House also voted to impeach Trump on a charge of obstruction of Congress. REJECTED RULES AMENDMENT Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York offered the first amendment to the rules — a proposal to issue a subpoena to the White House for “all documents, communications and other records” relating to the Ukraine matter. In a likely prelude to other Democratic requests, Republicans promptly rejected Schumer's amendment on a 53-47, party-line vote. CHARGES OF COVER-UP Amid the partisan back and forth, House prosecutors and White House lawyers offered initial arguments. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and lead prosecutor, said the rules package proposed by McConnell was “a process for a rigged trial” and a ”cover-up.” Schiff and other Democrats cite the White House transcript as evidence of Trump's political pressure campaign on Ukraine, although the president repeatedly describes the call as “perfect.” NO CRIME, NO IMPEACHABLE OFFENSE Trump's legal team does not dispute his actions in the July 25 call. But White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, the president's lead lawyer, said the charges against the president don't amount to impeachable offenses and that Trump committed no crime. They also say there's no evidence that aid to Ukraine was tied to a request for an investigation of Biden and his son Hunter, a former board member of a Ukrainian gas company. AVOIDING A SENATE CIRCUS 'Just because the House proceedings were a circus that doesn’t mean the Senate’s trial needs to be,” tweeted Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. He supports holding a vote after hearing arguments on both sides to determine whether additional witnesses or documents should be considered by the Senate. WHAT'S NEXT? More legal skirmishes are expected Wednesday, and White House lawyers may move to call for the case to be dismissed, although it was not clear if they planned to pursue that option. Some Republicans have said they would oppose a dismissal vote. Absent another unexpected delay, opening arguments by both sides are likely to resume.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg launched a new impeachment-focused television ad Tuesday urging the Senate to remove President Donald Trump from office. The ad will run in 27 states, including states represented by vulnerable Republican senators, and be Bloomberg's only ad on television in the next few days. It comes as the Senate begins its impeachment trial against Trump based on charges he abused his power and obstructed Congress. “It's time for the Senate to act and remove Trump from office, and if they won't do their jobs this November, you and I will,” Bloomberg says in the ad, which appears to use footage from a recent campaign stop. Bloomberg has focused his campaign more on Trump than his Democratic primary rivals have. The billionaire businessman and former New York City mayor has promised to continue spending his own money to defeat Trump even if he loses the Democratic nomination. Forbes on Tuesday increased Bloomberg's estimated net worth to $60 billion, up from $50 billion previously and making him the nation's eighth richest person. He's already spent more than $200 million of his own money on his primary campaign, by hiring staff and running television ads in several dozen states. Bloomberg's impeachment-focused ad will run in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas, as well as 19 other states. It's designed to reach voters in states with Republican senators who could be defeated in November. Five of those key states also vote on March 3, known as Super Tuesday, where Bloomberg is focusing his attention in the primary contest. The ad also highlights Bloomberg's spending to boost Democratic candidates in key U.S. House races in 2018, when the party took back control of the lower chamber. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • Additional U.S. troops have been flown out of Iraq for closer evaluation of potential concussion injuries from the Iranian missile attack of Jan. 8, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday. The exact number of troops flown to Germany was not immediately clear, but officials said it was a small number. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because some details were still being sorted out. Last week, 11 U.S. service members were flown from Iraq to U.S. medical facilities in Germany and Kuwait for further evaluation of concussion-like symptoms. Navy Capt. Bill Urban, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations across the Middle East, confirmed the additional evacuations but did not say how many were included. “As medical treatment and evaluations in theater continue, additional service members have been identified as having potential injuries,” Urban said Tuesday evening. “These service members — out of an abundance of caution — have been transported to Landstuhl, Germany, for further evaluations and necessary treatment on an outpatient basis. Given the nature of injuries already noted, it is possible additional injuries may be identified in the future.” As recently as last Tuesday night, President Donald Trump said he had been told no American had been harmed in the Iranian missile strike. The question of American casualties was especially significant at the time because the missile attack's results were seen as influencing a U.S. decision on whether to retaliate and risk a broader war with Iran. Trump chose not to retaliate, and the tensions with Iran have eased somewhat. In the days following the Iranian attack, medical screening determined that some who took cover during the attack were suffering from concussion-like symptoms. No one was killed in the attack on Ain al-Asad air base in western Iraq. The strike was launched in retaliation for a U.S. drone missile strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, the most powerful military general in Iran, on Jan. 3 at Baghdad International Airport.
  • Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden continued to run up his advantage among black political leaders Tuesday, with four Congressional Black Caucus members announcing their support, including three who previously backed Sens. Kamala Harris or Cory Booker. Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop was making his first public declaration of support in the Democratic primary. New Jersey Rep. Donald Payne previously backed Booker. Florida Reps. Alcee Hastings and Frederica Wilson previously backed Harris. Payne, Hastings and Wilson are the first Black Caucus members to pick new candidates after Booker and Harris ended their campaigns. The Biden campaign confirmed the endorsements Tuesday, bringing the 77-year-old candidate's roster of Black Caucus supporters to 15. That far outpaces any of his Democratic rivals and underscores his advantage with and dependence on a key Democratic constituency. Harris had peaked at 11 Black Caucus endorsements. “He will be the kind of president who will be able to relate to every demographic in the country, north, south, middle America,” Bishop told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of his public announcement. “He’ll be able to empathize and be taken seriously by every demographic. He’s not so far to the left that he would put off anyone.” Bishop’s colleagues offered similar sentiments via written statements, echoing the candidate’s contention that he’s the Democrat best-positioned to win in November and handle the aftermath. “Our candidate needs to have the strength to beat Donald Trump and the heart to bring this country together, for the sake of our children,” Wilson said. Florida, with 219 pledged delegates at stake March 17, and Georgia, with 105 pledged delegates at stake on March 24, will hold two of the most significant primaries after the March 3 Super Tuesday slate when Democrats will scramble for more than a third of the total 3,979 pledged delegates. New Jersey, meanwhile, is among the last contests. But its 126 pledged delegates on June 2 could prove crucial if Democrats' historically large field results in a drawn-out fight that requires every primary and caucus to determine a nominee. Black voters hold significant sway in choosing the Democratic nominee. Biden has maintained a lead in most national polls of Democratic voters because he’s the clear favorite of African American voters, especially older ones. Consequently, he appears to hold a wide advantage, for now, in South Carolina, the South’s first primary and the first state contest with a large contingent of black voters. Yet in the overwhelmingly white early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden is clustered with other top contenders: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg.
  • The Pentagon has given the Navy and other military services conditional approval to resume training of Saudi Arabian nationals in the U.S. Operational training, such as flying and other non-classroom work, for the approximately 850 Saudis at multiple U.S bases was suspended on Dec. 10. That was four days after one Saudi trainee shot and killed three U.S. Navy service members at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist said in a memo dated Jan. 17 and released Tuesday that non-classroom training can resume once the military services have met certain conditions, including implementing a prohibition on the possession — on or off U.S. military property — of privately owned firearms and ammunition by international military students and their families. The military services must also ensure that all international military students are under continuous monitoring for potentially disqualifying behavior. The continuous monitoring, which was ordered last week by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, is intended to allow U.S. officials to pick up on signs of radicalization or other problematic behavior that might not have been apparent when the student entered the training program. The military services must also take steps to transition most international military students to credentials that limit physical access to those Defense Department facilities for which they have a bona fide requirement to access. Norquist set no firm date for resumption of the training. It is up to the military services to meet the conditions first, and then notify the Pentagon agency that is responsible for overseeing international training programs. Last week, the Justice Department announced that 21 Saudi military students were sent home after a review of all Saudi trainees. The 21, including an undisclosed number at Pensacola, had jihadist or anti-American sentiments on social media pages or had “contact with child pornography,” including in internet chat rooms, officials said. None is accused of having had advance knowledge of the Dec. 6 shooting or helped the gunman carry it out. The shooting at Pensacola in which Saudi Air Force officer Mohammed Alshamrani killed three U.S. sailors and injured eight other people focused public attention on the presence of foreign students in American military training programs and exposed shortcomings in the screening of cadets.
  • Democratic presidential candidates have spent weeks reassuring voters they can unify the party, avoid the divisions that plagued the 2016 primary and defeat President Donald Trump in the fall. Instead, the scars of that battle are being ripped open less than two weeks before the Iowa caucuses. With tensions already escalating between leading Democratic contenders, the party's last presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, reignited a years-old feud with Bernie Sanders on Tuesday by refusing to say whether she would support her former rival should he win the nomination this year. Clinton also said in an upcoming documentary that “nobody likes” Sanders, adding in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that he has permitted a culture of “relentless attacks' on his competitors, 'particularly the women.” Clinton's criticism is the latest — and perhaps, the loudest — flash point in the Democratic Party's high-stakes nomination fight that has exposed divisions based on gender, race, age and ideology. Democratic officials fear that such divisions could ultimately make it harder to beat Trump, pointing to lingering bad blood between Clinton and Sanders four years ago that may have helped him eke out a victory. “My No. 1 goal is to win,' Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez told The Associated Press. “The only way this is possible is if we're united around our eventual nominee, and I have no doubt that every candidate in this race will do that, no matter who she or he is.” “The stakes get higher on an almost daily basis,' he added, “making it all the more imperative we come together.' Sensing an opportunity to weaken his opponent, Trump and his Republican allies have poked at the Democratic infighting from afar in recent days. In particular, the president publicly sided with Sanders in a dispute with Elizabeth Warren and blamed Democrats for treating Sanders unfairly because the Senate impeachment trial prevents him — and three other Democrats seeking the presidency — from campaigning in Iowa. Trump's concern, of course, isn't about the party's treatment of Sanders. He hopes that continued discord among Democrats might push some disaffected supporters of the Vermont senator in Trump's direction come November, or at least persuade them to stay home on Election Day. That's in part what happened after the party's long and bitter nomination fight between Sanders and Clinton. “At the end of the day, no one wants history to repeat itself,' said Democratic strategist Sabrina Singh. Yet healing old resentments — and some new ones — that threaten to divide core factions of the Democratic Party may be easier said than done, especially as the 2020 field jockeys for position in the sprint to the Iowa caucuses. Tensions remain high between Sanders and progressive ally Warren just a week after the Massachusetts senator disclosed the contents of a 2018 private conversation with Sanders in which he allegedly said a woman could not defeat Trump. Warren refused to shake Sanders' hand after last week's presidential debate, and microphones captured a fiery confrontation in which Warren accused Sanders of calling her a liar. Warren refused to address the explosive feud as she campaigned in recent days. At the same time, she stepped deeper into the ideological fight between the progressive and moderate wings of the party, raising questions about former Vice President Joe Biden's commitment to Social Security. Biden, who has been at the center of heated attacks related to race, gender and ideology for much of the last year, is trying to finish the run-up to Iowa highlighting unity as a core element in his closing message, according to senior adviser Anita Dunn. Biden has said repeatedly that should he not become his party's nominee, he would endorse the person who is and work to help him or her in whatever way he could. “He believes the risk is too high for Democrats to form a circular firing squad,” Dunn said. Pete Buttigieg, the 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, also embraced an optimistic tone as he courted Iowa voters in recent days, casting himself as best positioned to take down Trump and to unify the nation afterward. “In this most divided moment, there is more unity than you would think,' Buttigieg declared Sunday in Pella, Iowa. 'Not that any two people would agree on everything. But we can agree on where we need to head in this country. We can agree on the problems that need to be solved. We can agree to come together to solve them.” Sanders did not face voters on Tuesday, forced instead to join Warren and the rest of his Senate colleagues on Capitol Hill for the first day of Trump's Senate impeachment trial. Sanders' chief strategist Jeff Weaver said that unity would also serve as a core plank in his message heading into Iowa, although with 13 days to go before voting begins, he warned that it was too soon to declare a definitive closing message. Sanders has not shied away from attacking his Democratic rivals, particularly Biden, on issues like trade, health care and foreign policy. “In terms of the caucus, we’re still a long ways away,” Weaver said. “Things can change even in the final days.” Indeed, Sanders is trudging toward caucus day through conflicts with several Democratic critics. He has long insisted that he does not engage in personal attacks, but Sanders was forced to apologize Monday for an opinion article penned by a key supporter and promoted by his campaign that described Biden as corrupt. “It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I'm sorry that that op-ed appeared,” Sanders told CBS. Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson, a former Clinton campaign aide, described “vigorous debate over the issues” as a healthy and helpful part of the primary process that can be used to energize the Democratic Party's diverse coalition. “What can do damage,” Ferguson said, “is when you’re making real character attacks rather than policy attacks — things that will linger into the general election and play into Trump’s message.” Ferguson's fears were playing out at a Biden campaign event Tuesday in Ames, Iowa, where 70-year-old Democrat Linda Lettow said she was worried about her party's unity heading into November. Yet she agreed with Clinton's criticism of Sanders, calling the Vermont senator the biggest threat to party cohesion and blaming him for not working hard enough to help Clinton in 2016. 'Why would she like him?' Lettow said of the independent senator. “He's not even an actual Democrat.' ___ Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and Bill Barrow in Ames, Iowa, contributed to this report. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • CBS was the first major network to break away from President Donald Trump's impeachment trial in the Senate on Tuesday, allowing its viewers to watch their regular afternoon fare instead of a debate over a proposed amendment to subpoena White House documents. The decision illustrated the on-the-fly judgments television executives will face every day of the trial, juggling concerns over millions of dollars in advertising revenue, news purists cognizant of the weight of history and angry soap opera fans. Uncertainty over the Senate's schedule from hour to hour, much less day to day, complicates things even further. The decisions were easier when ABC, CBS and NBC dominated the landscape and were very cognizant of their public service responsibility. Now viewers have options — cable networks from CNN to C-SPAN and streaming services — if they want to follow the trial. While Tuesday's session was historic, opening the third impeachment trial ever in the United States, it will still a while before the meat of the case was examined. Yet it was noticed when CBS cut off the trial around 3:15 p.m. ET, while rivals ABC and NBC stuck with it. “Uncle Walter is crying,” tweeted New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg, referencing the late, legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. Tweets of incredulity at CBS for abandoning history mixed with those from angry daytime TV fans. “Why do you have impeachment on all platforms?” tweeted one viewer, who was more interested in watching “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold & The Beautiful.” A CBS representative noted that the network's news streaming service was continuing to carry the trial, and that network affiliates were given the choice to continue to show the Senate if that's what their executives preferred. Rivals at ABC and NBC privately noted that the fact that it was the trial's opening day played into decisions to stick with it longer. Fox's broadcast network, which doesn't have its own news division, infrequently breaks away from traditional programming. All of the the broadcast networks had contingency plans in place depending on what was being shown and the time of day. There was little interest in making public pronouncements of their plans given the fluidity of the situation. “These decisions are difficult and they're not always solely in the hands of the news divisions,” said Mark Lukasiewicz, a former NBC News executive and now dean of Hofstra University's School of Communication. Network entertainment and corporate executives also weigh in. Sticking with news coverage becomes more difficult for the networks in the prime-time hours of 8 to 11 p.m., because that means a more significant loss of advertising revenue, Lukasiewicz said. That's why network executives were keenly interested in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision Tuesday that impeachment managers for the House and president would have three days instead of two to make their cases. It means fewer hours in prime time are likely to be chewed up. There were no such tough decisions at the cable networks CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. Each carried virtually every minute of House hearings and votes on impeachment, and are expected to do the same with the trial. It's a winner for them financially; all cable news ratings soared during the House proceedings. On Tuesday, CNN was already using its programming choice in advertising. “Don't miss a moment,” CNN promised in a network ad. “Complete coverage.”
  • After some last-minute tweaks on Tuesday, the proposed rules for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial now largely mirror the ones used for the trial of former President Bill Clinton. Though there are some minor differences, the basic structure of Trump’s trial will be similar to Clinton’s in 1999. After approving the rules, the Senate will hear arguments from lawyers on both sides before debating whether to seek witness testimony and documents. Ultimately they will reach a final vote on the two charges against Trump. Still, there could be some major differences with Clinton's trial. Clinton's Republican prosecutors already had evidence that was compiled by then-Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. House Democrats who are charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over his dealings in Ukraine have had to compile their own evidence and are trying to prod witnesses who refused to testify. If there are witnesses in Trump’s trial, their testimony will be new, unlike the witnesses deposed in Clinton’s trial. A look at the rules for Trump’s trial vs. the rules for Clinton’s trial: FROM BIPARTISAN TO PARTISAN The Senate adopted the rules for Clinton’s trial 100-0 after the two leaders at the time, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., came to an agreement. There was no such agreement in Trump’s trial and few negotiations between the two parties, as partisanship has hardened in the intervening years. Democrats have almost uniformly opposed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's resolution for the trial, saying there should be an agreement at the beginning to call in witnesses. They argue that is necessary because many of the people they want to testify defied House subpoenas. But as in Clinton’s trial, McConnell’s rules push off that question, dictating that the Senate won’t consider whether to call witnesses until after the House impeachment managers and the president’s lawyers make their opening arguments. DOCUMENTS AND EVIDENCE The original version of McConnell’s rules released on Monday said that the House couldn’t submit its evidence until the question of witnesses was resolved. But after moderates like Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, voiced concerns, McConnell changed the resolution on Tuesday to ensure the evidence will be admitted after opening arguments. In Clinton’s proceedings, the evidence was automatically admitted at the beginning of the trial. NUMBER OF HOURS, NUMBER OF DAYS The other tweak made by McConnell on Tuesday covers the timing of the trial, which had been one of the Democrats’ biggest complaints. The House prosecutors and White House defense now have 24 hours over three days to present their case – up from the original resolution, which allowed 24 hours of arguments over only two days. Democrats complained that that would push the trial into “the dead of night,” and McConnell expanded the timeline after the GOP moderates voiced similar concerns. The rules for Clinton’s trial give the two sides 24 hours each for arguments but don’t specify how many days. They each took three. SENATORS' QUESTIONS The rules for senators’ questions are identical for the two trials: “Upon the conclusion of the president’s presentation, senators may question the parties for a period of time not to exceed 16 hours.' Per underlying Senate rules, upon which both resolutions were based, the senators have to submit those questions in writing. WITNESS TESTIMONY After the senators' question period, Trump’s trial will follow Clinton’s format with debate over witnesses. In the Trump trial, the House prosecutors and White House defense will have four hours of debate over the question of whether to subpoena witnesses or documents. The Clinton resolution is similar, but it gave the two sides six hours of debate. Both sets of rules also require witnesses to be deposed before they testify publicly. In Clinton’s trial, the Senate eventually decided to depose three witnesses and allow video excerpts to be played on the Senate floor. But the public had already heard from all three of those witnesses, as they had been interviewed by Starr’s team. It’s unclear what will happen with witnesses in Trump’s trial. Some Republican senators — including Collins, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah — pushed McConnell to include a vote on witnesses and have signaled they will vote to hear at least some testimony. And at least one high-profile witness, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, has said he would be open to testify in the Senate. Bolton, who was present for many of the episodes detailed by the House as Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate Democrats, refused to testify in the House. MOTION TO DISMISS The Clinton rules resolution provided that there would be a vote on a motion to dismiss the charges, an apparent concession by Lott to Democrats. McConnell’s resolution does not mention a motion to dismiss, but does not rule it out. Trump has tweeted that he would like such a motion, but Senate Republicans have indicated that they don’t have the votes to pass it and that they would prefer for the president to be acquitted, as he is expected to be. Still, any senator could offer a motion to dismiss the two articles. FINAL VOTE The two resolutions end with almost identical language: “At the conclusion of the deliberations by the Senate, the Senate shall vote on each article of impeachment.”
  • Facing opposition from within Republican ranks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented an amended rules proposal on Tuesday to govern the start of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, most significantly giving more time for House prosecutors and the President's lawyers to make their opening arguments. The changes came after a lunch meeting of GOP Senators, where Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and others expressed reservations about the idea of forcing each side to cram 24 hours of opening arguments into just two days. 'She and others raised concerns about the 24 hrs of opening statements in 2 days,' a spokeswoman for Collins told reporters. Along with that change, McConnell backed off a provision which would not allow evidence from the House impeachment investigation to be put in the record without a vote of the Senate. The changes were made as House prosecutors and the President's legal team made their first extended statements of the Trump impeachment trial. 'Why should this trial be any different than any other trial? The short answer is, it shouldn't,' said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as he made the case that the Senate rules would not pass muster in a regular courtroom. 'This idea that we should ignore what has taken place over the last three years is outrageous,' said Jay Sekulow, the President's personal attorney, who joined White House Counsel Pat Cipollone in arguing against the impeachment charges. 'It's very difficult to sit there and listen to Mr. Schiff tell the tale that he just told,' Cipollone said, in one of the first direct jabs of the impeachment trial. “A partisan impeachment is like stealing an election,” Cipollone added. While there were GOP differences on the rules package offered by Republican leaders, GOP Senators stuck together on the first substantive vote of the impeachment trial, defeating an effort by Democrats to subpoena certain materials from the White House. The first vote was 53-47 to block an amendment offered by the Democratic Leader, Sen. Schumer.  It was straight along party lines. A second vote along party lines blocked a call by Democrats to subpoena documents from the State Department. Opening arguments are expected to begin on Wednesday.
  • A Michigan lawmaker alleged Tuesday that a fellow legislator sexually harassed her during a Capitol orientation 14 months ago, coming forward a week after a young female reporter said the same senator made a sexist comment to her before a group of high school boys. Sen. Mallory McMorrow, a Royal Oak Democrat, filed a complaint against Republican Sen. Peter Lucido. She said she introduced herself to him at a training session two days after she defeated an incumbent in the November 2018 election. “He reached out to shake my hand, and with the other hand, held very low on my back, with fingers grazing my hip and upper rear,” she wrote in a statement that was included with her complaint. “He asked what my name was and where I was from. After a bit of back and forth, he asked, ‘Who’d you run against?’ I responded, ‘I beat Marty Knollenberg.’ At that moment, still holding his hand on my low back, he looked me up and down, raised his eyebrows, and said, ‘I can see why.’” McMorrow, whose allegation was first reported by Crain's Detroit Business, told reporters the incident was “deflating” and that she felt like “a piece of meat. ... It implied, ‘You won because of what you look like.’' She said that during the sexual harassment training portion of the orientation for newly elected senators, Lucido posited different scenarios in which potential sexual harassment encounters could occur, saying: “The culture is what it (is) around here. We can’t change that.” Lucido, 59, denied McMorrow's sexual harassment allegation. “I categorically deny this allegation, which I believe is completely untrue and politically motivated,' he said in a statement. Last week, the Senate Business Office opened a probe into Lucido after a journalist reported that he told her that students from an all-boys Catholic school visiting the Capitol could “have a lot of fun” with her. The investigation was requested by the Senate's Republican and Democratic leaders. Lucido issued a brief apology for the “misunderstanding” with Michigan Advance's Allison Donahue but later said he was misquoted. McMorrow said she did not report Lucido 14 months ago because she had just been elected for the first time — to a district she had flipped — and had to make friends and build legislative relationships to do her job. After reading Donahue's story, however, she decided to come forward. “In that moment, I felt a bit of responsibility for not having said something sooner because I made the calculus for my own reasons and for my career,' McMorrow said. “It just made me think this week how many other women make the same calculus and don't say something and allow it to keep happening.” She said she also spoke out because Lucido initially apologized for offending Donahue then later said he was misquoted and accused her of interpreting the remark “how she wanted to take it.” “That's wasn't OK for me,” said McMorrow, who said she debated just filing a complaint without going public. “But I felt like it was important to talk about because it is a pattern of behavior. I wanted to help showcase that, too, to help lend credibility to her story so that this doesn't happen to anybody else.” A spokeswoman for Republican Senate Majority Mike Shirkey said he will hire outside lawyers to assist the Senate Business Office in its probe of Lucido. “Any allegation like this is taken very seriously. The majority leader wants to make sure the investigation is thorough, that multiple entities have had a chance to review (so) the nonpartisan counsel along with the outside counsel can be supported and provided additional expertise in reviewing these allegations,' said Amber McCann. “It's to the benefit of the individuals who have come forward.” Across the country, The Associated Press has tallied about 100 state lawmakers who have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct or harassment since January 2017, including 38 who have resigned or been expelled from office. ___ Follow David Eggert on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00