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

By Timothy M. Phelps, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The White House will announce new measures Tuesday to deal with campus sexual assault, an issue that in recent years has inflamed college campuses from Yale to the University of California, Berkeley.

The recommendations from a task force of federal officials headed by Vice President Joe Biden include publicizing enforcement data, issuing guidelines about confidentiality, and requiring colleges and universities to survey students on their experiences with sexual assault.

Three senior White House officials, who briefed the media in advance of the announcement, said that 1 in 5 women is sexually assaulted while in college, usually in the first two years and usually by someone she knows. The Obama administration, they said, is committed to ending that violence.

“Colleges and universities need to face the facts about sexual assault,” Biden said in a statement Monday night. “No more turning a blind eye or pretending it doesn’t exist. … And we need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The actions, to be officially announced Tuesday afternoon at the White House, include:

Colleges and universities will be asked to survey students next year to determine the prevalence of sexual assault on campus and may be required to conduct such a survey in 2016.

A website, NotAlone.gov, will be unveiled to make each school’s enforcement data public, and to publish information about student rights and resources.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will release recommendations on how to prevent sexual violence, particularly on how to get bystanders to step in when students are at risk of assault.

The federal government will also address the touchy issue of confidentiality. Often victims ask that their names not be revealed to their attackers or the police, putting campus authorities in a bind in conducting investigations. The government will clarify that students can talk to certain guidance counselors in confidence and will issue guidelines on how to deal with confidentiality in resolving reports of violence.

Schools will be asked to improve their investigative and adjudicative procedures under guidance from the Justice Department.

New guidance will be issued making clear that questions about a victim’s sexual history should not be permitted during school hearings and that a previous sexual relationship does not imply consent.

President Barack Obama appointed the task force in January with a mandate to report back in 90 days. The Departments of Justice, Defense, Education, and Health and Human Services participated.

Campus authorities are often the first to investigate allegations of sexual assaults between students. Federal law requires detailed reporting of campus crime statistics and security problems, and also mandates extensive prevention and awareness programs.

Three years ago, the Obama administration notified college administrators that it believed sexual assault had become “epidemic” on campus. The Department of Education, which oversees the federal regulations, told administrators that they needed to tighten their procedures and increase preventive measures.

The new attention to the issue sparked an outcry from students and former students. They recounted stories of college administrators who they said had not taken their reports of being assaulted seriously and alleged that sex crimes were not being adequately reported.

Numerous legal complaints have been filed with the Department of Education, including UC Berkeley, Yale and Columbia. In Los Angeles, students at the University of Southern California and Occidental College have filed complaints.

Administrators, for their part, have said that dealing with campus sexual assaults can be extremely complicated, often involving students who know each other and have been drinking. Sometimes, they said, there are no witnesses and the victim wants to remain anonymous.

But outraged students connected across the nation by social media and backed by women’s groups have founded a powerful movement that has had a receptive hearing by the Obama administration.

Tom Lohdan via Flickr.com

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]