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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

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Senate Democrats Demand Explanation Of Dropped Redlining Probes

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica

Eighteen Senate Democrats on Monday asked a leading U.S. bank regulator to explain how his agency handled investigations into discrimination and “redlining" in the banking industry.

The letter, signed by Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, ranking Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, and the other lawmakers, comes after a story by ProPublica and The Capitol Forum recounting how six lending discrimination probes were dropped under President Donald Trump.

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…And His Activist Wife

At one point during Donald Trump’s impeachment trial last month, I ended up sitting in the family gallery next to Jane Sullivan Roberts, wife of Chief Justice Roberts.

Her husband was presiding over the trial. My husband, Sherrod Brown, was one of the 100 senators who would cast a vote in the final verdict.

Follow me, please, down the rabbit hole: This is not the first time I’ve disclosed my marriage of 16 years. Whenever my role as a columnist intersects with Sherrod’s job as a senator, I disclose our relationship. In 2007, Random House published my memoir …and His Lovely Wife. A whole book about my marriage!

Nevertheless, my marital status was a complete surprise to Donald Trump. Makes sense. I’m a woman, and I’m over 30.

Anyway.

In mid-February Paul Sperry, a conservative author and defender of all things Trump, tweeted:

“FYI: syndicated columnist Connie Schultz, who’s slammed Trump as ‘a chronic and unapologetic liar,’ is married to — surprise! — liberal Democrat and rabid Trump-hater Sen. Sherrod Brown.”

Who knew!

Four days later, at 1:21 a.m., the president of the United States tweeted:

“Nice conflict. Brown dropped out of presidential race FAST. Polled at ZERO!”

Sherrod never entered the presidential race, and both our doctor and pastor have confirmed my suspicion that he is not rabid. And he wouldn’t waste his time hating Trump. However, the Yankees?

Let’s move along.

Yes, I’ve said Trump is a chronic liar. As of last December, The Washington Post reported that Trump had made 15,413 false or misleading claims over 1,055 days. If this isn’t a chronic condition, then my asthma of 46 years is just a head cold.

I didn’t see Trump’s tweet about my marriage until I awakened from a night’s rest to alerts from fellow journalists tagging me like tattlers. I love my people.

I thanked Trump on Twitter for proving my point and pivoted to raising money for baby diapers for families living in poverty. In a single day on Twitter, we raised more than $10,000 for the National Diaper Bank Network.

The need is endless. You can donate here: https://nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org/ 

Where was I?

Oh, right: The Senate gallery, sitting next to Jane Sullivan Roberts during part of the impeachment trial.

On a brief break, we introduced ourselves to each other and I asked, “What do you think of all this?” I was referring to our witnessing history. She said it would be inappropriate to offer her opinion. I pressed; she demurred.

What a contrast to Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and longtime right-wing activist. You may remember her for calling up Anita Hill in 2010 to extract an apology from Hill for accusing Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991.

These days, according to multiple news reports, Ginni Thomas is fueling an effort to help the Trump White House ferret out people in the federal government who don’t like Trump. Good thing I don’t like cliches or we’d be talking about those fish in that barrel.

Thomas has a list of replacement employees, too. For example, The New York Times reported that, in 2019, two of Thomas’s preferred peeps were David A. Clarke, the former sheriff of Milwaukee County, whom she wanted to be in a homeland security role, and frequent Fox News guest Dan Bongino, for a counterterrorism post.

To refresh your memory about Clarke, here’s an excerpt from a 2019 Daily Beast story:

“While Clarke sought a White House position in 2017, he was sued by the family of an inmate who died of dehydration in his jail cell after being deprived of water for a week. The sheriff allegedly approved denying water to the man. He was also slapped with a lawsuit from a woman whose unborn child died while she was in his custody.

“And in June 2017, a jury awarded $6.7 million to a woman who alleged being raped multiple times by a guard in Sheriff Clarke’s Milwaukee County jail.

“That same year, Clarke was investigated by the FBI for allegedly abusing his authority when he ordered a subordinate to intimidate a fellow airline passenger who personally insulted the sheriff.”

Bongino is a former Secret Service agent and author, most recently of Exonerated: The Failed Takedown of President Donald Trump by the Swamp. A year earlier, he was the co-author of Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump. Ho-kay. Bye, Dan.

So, Mrs. Roberts, I barely knew ye, and for that I am truly grateful.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including ...and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Why Won’t McConnell Let You Watch The Senators At Trial?

Even if you’ve been watching gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the Senate’s impeachment trial, there’s little you’ve been able to see beyond Chief Justice John Roberts and individuals talking at a lectern in front of a slab of busy marble.

There’s no sight of the senators on the floor.

This is unusual, as there are usually multiple cameras in the chamber during Senate proceedings. Normally, you’d see democracy in action, but not this time, when democracy is at stake.

This is the Republican strategy, which is clear every time Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fails to explain why he thinks you, the American public, should not be able to see your senators during this historical moment.

If you could watch the senators’ conduct during these hours upon hours of testimony, you could decide for yourself which senators are taking seriously their oath to conduct themselves as close-mouthed, open-minded jurists and which ones made up their minds before they walked through the chamber doors.

As an example of the latter, we need look no further than McConnell. Two weeks before Christmas, he made his intentions clear:

“We have no choice but to take it up, but we’ll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with White House counsel’s office and the people who are representing the president in the well of the Senate.”

I’ll give McConnell this: He’s never pretended to want a fair trial. That’s how sure he is that you don’t care about our democracy.

During this trial, journalists are also more restricted, severely so. Normally, they can walk alongside your elected senators or catch them for an interview as soon as they leave the chamber. Not now. They are corralled into roped off areas and regularly warned to confine their movements, much like prisoners out on a day pass to clean up trash on the highway.

As the wife of a U.S. senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, I can sit in the family section of the senate gallery during the trial. I don’t have to stand in line with the general public, who is admitted a handful at a time but never to the point where all the seats are filled. I can also stay as long as I like, which has allowed me to watch as entire rows of Americans are summarily ordered to rise in unison and leave, even though many seats in the gallery remain empty.

I don’t blame the Capitol enforcers for this. They are some of the nicest public servants I know.

I was in the gallery for three hours last Thursday night, for another eight hours on Friday and for the morning session on Saturday. I couldn’t bring a pen and notebook, and, like everyone else, I had to surrender my cellphone and my smartwatch.

The printed back of the family pass lists behavioral rules, and sometimes we are verbally reminded of a few before we enter. No facial reactions are allowed. No hand gestures and no standing up except to leave. No leaning over the balcony edge to get a better view. No sleeping.

The testimony can be dry at times, but the view is fascinating.

Senators are supposed to remain on the floor when the trial is in session, also without phones or smartwatches. They are “commanded to keep silence, on pain of imprisonment.” Let’s just say that particular rule is not being enforced. You would know that if you were allowed to watch your senators during this trial, but you’re not.

Some moments are seared into my memory. For example, when House managers played a video clip of Trump boasting, “I am the chosen one,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham looked around and chuckled like a proud parent. You couldn’t have known that, of course, because you couldn’t see it.

This was not all that surprising for Graham. Like McConnell, he made clear his intentions before the trial began: “I am clearly made up my mind. I’m not trying to hide the fact that I have disdain for the accusations in the process.” A job is immediately easier when you decide not to do it.

From my perch of senate-gazing, it’s been interesting to watch how some members, most but not all of them Republicans, felt free to stroll off the floor when the House managers were presenting their case. Some of them made quite a show of ignoring the proceedings. One Republican senator sat for a while with an open Bible in his lap. As if that’s what Jesus would want him to do in this time of crisis.

That was my impression. I would love to know what you might have made of it, but you weren’t allowed to see that.

Wonder why.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Life Awaits Us In The New Year

On Dec. 29, I became one day older than my mother on the day she died.

I did not go to bed until I could say this out loud.

At the stroke of midnight, I turned to my husband and said, “Today—”

He finished my sentence, in the softest tone. “You have outlived your mother,” Sherrod said. “Here’s to many years to come.”

Our daughter-in-law, Stina, had stayed up with us, reading on a nearby sofa. She set down the book and walked over to me, her arms open wide. “I love you,” she said, holding me tight. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Of course, they knew. Everyone who loves me knows I’ve been anxiously counting the days, even though I’ve always known it was a deadline only in my mind, and in my heart. I’ve never heard a moment’s judgment from any of them, even though they wished I hadn’t obsessed about running out this particular clock. I can hear their silent collective sigh of relief, not for my milestone, but for my acceptance that it’s time to move on.

Life awaits.

It is New Year’s Eve as I write, and I am ready to welcome 2020 with open arms. I am leaving more than that personal milestone behind. This year started as one thing and ended as something much worse. Even as I think through this next sentence, I worry that some would like me to get over it by now and stop bringing it up, but this is as much as part of me as the creases in my face and songs spooling in my head. Twenty days before my birthday, my brother killed himself. This is who I am now, too, and pretending otherwise only delays the grief I must claw my way through.

I’m getting there. I am.

So, here’s to you, 2019: can’t wait to let you go.

On Monday, “The Hoarse Whisperer,” a popular anonymous account on Twitter, asked, “What is the one (non-political) thing you want to do or accomplish this coming year?”

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I disappoint myself on a regular basis. The last thing I need are goal posts to mark my poor finishes. And yet there I was, responding with the speed of a cook racing to the nearest counter space after scooping a hot casserole out of the oven with threadbare mitts:

I want to double down on making my home a nurturing and fun place for family and friends. More crockpot meals on weeknights, more spontaneous gatherings. I love the music of laughter and clinking dishes at our table. Vacuuming can wait. We need one another.

We do, you know.

More than ever, we need to know the comfort of normalcy in a time when virtually nothing is working the way it’s supposed to, starting with the presidency of the United States.

Lately, I am obsessed with the notion of “shrinking the change,” which I first learned about after reading former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s memoir, Education of an Idealist. We can’t fix everything that is wrong with the world, but we can improve the world in our immediate orbit.

Every time I set my table and leave the door open for invited friends or family, I feel a sense of mission. My homemade cornbread and vegetarian chili won’t stop Donald Trump from demonizing migrant children and their families, but our conversations over dinner can help us brainstorm ways to help them. As I’ve learned over hundreds of meals in our home, the most fruitful endeavors often begin with a ritual of the most reliably ordinary.

Dinner, for example.

Time with those we love, for another.

We are embarking on the 2020 campaign year, which will be the worst we’ve experienced because the man running for reelection is the most dangerous president in American history. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic because most people love this country more than Trump, including you.

None of us knows how much time we have on this earth, but each of us gets to decide how we will use what’s left of it.

I have now lived three days longer than my mother on the day she died. Every day is a gift, and just like you, I have to figure out how best to use it.

We’re alive, my friends. Happy New Year.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.