The TAKE with Rick Klein
The presumptive Democratic nominee has to be careful about how much he can presume about his party.
Former Vice President Joe Biden faces a sensitive moment in his campaign, as scrutiny over a sexual assault allegation continues. Biden has issued a strong denial, and is calling for personnel records to be searched to see if Tara Reade’s allegation was documented.
But some progressives and women’s organizations are saying that’s not enough, and want access granted to his Senate papers and further investigation. The Biden campaign does not want to see a replay of 2016, when Hillary Clinton’s famously missing emails became a source of endless speculation and Republican mischief-making.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during his first campaign event as a candidate for President at Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh, April 29, 2019.Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during his first campaign event as a candidate for President at Teamsters Local 249 in Pittsburgh, April 29, 2019.Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE
Yet the realities of running as a Democrat in 2020 are such that Biden can’t afford to be dismissive of allegations he insists are baseless. Decades of goodwill Biden has earned in the Democratic Party hasn’t necessarily earned him the benefit of doubts, even if there are significant inconsistencies in Reade’s story — on top of the fact that Biden is running against President Donald Trump.
Biden’s campaign is clearly taking this seriously, though trying not to let it subsume the campaign in a year where voters are focused on big leadership questions surrounding a pandemic. Democratic women including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several vice-presidential short-listers are vouching for Biden’s integrity, and arguing that the Reade allegations have already been litigated.
But their words may not be enough. It’s worth remembering that Biden is still looking to unify the party, after an abrupt end to the primaries left many progressives and younger voters unsatisfied that their voices were fully heard.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
At what point does one citizen’s civil liberties infringe on their neighbor’s? It’s a central question that every city, state and community in America will grapple with for months to come.
Monday, at least seven states will continue to roll back stay-at-home and other previously imposed social-distancing measures. After allowing beauty shops and barber shops to open last week, Arkansas will allow gyms to open this week. Arizona will allow retail stores to open for delivery and curbside pickup. Florida moves to open restaurants at 25% capacity, as well as in-store retail and museums.
Asked about the persistent partisan divide — how Republicans in polling seem more likely and willing to travel and go out again — Ohio Governor Mike Dewine told ABC’s Martha Raddatz Sunday that he thought generally Republicans were “less inclined to have the government tell them what to do.”
People wait outside Penn Square Mall for the doors to open Friday, May 1, 2020, in Oklahoma City, as the mall reopens. The mall has been closed since mid-March due to coronavirus concerns.People wait outside Penn Square Mall for the doors to open Friday, May 1, 2020, in Oklahoma City, as the mall reopens. The mall has been closed since mid-March due to coronavirus concerns.Sue Ogrocki/AP
It is a flawed argument, as caution while reopening has been urged by scientists, medical professionals, economists and unions — not just “the government.”
Moreover, we know that businesses and towns can “reopen” in a variety of fashions and take a myriad of precautions, or not.
Over the weekend, indignant protesters drove the discussion and dividing line on civil liberties in an Oklahoma city. The mayor of Stillwater, Oklahoma, caved and reversed course on a proclamation that had mandated face masks inside retails store after some resident threatened physical violence in response to the order, regardless of whether it might have made others feel safer.
The TIP with Benjamin Siegel
The Senate’s return to Washington on Monday could invite new questions on whether the allegation of harassment leveled against Biden by a former aide exists in chamber’s records.
In an MSNBC appearance on Friday, Biden said that the assault alleged by Reade, who served in Biden’s office in 1993, “did not happen.”
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina Volleyball Center, Feb. 29, 2020, in Columbia, S.C.Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden celebrates with his supporters after declaring victory at an election-night rally at the University of South Carolina Volleyball Center, Feb. 29, 2020, in Columbia, S.C.Scott Olson/Getty Images, FILE
The complaint Reade says she filed with a Senate personnel office is now at the heart of the controversy. Though Reade has told some news outlets that she isn’t sure if the complaint mentions “sexual harassment,” Biden is now facing calls to release the document.
Biden on Friday said the alleged document would be held by the National Archives, but after the agency said the records would be in the Senate’s control, he called on the Secretary of the Senate to take “whatever steps are necessary” to locate the alleged complaint and any other related records, and make them all public.
It’s unclear what will come of the letter or search. But the episode could embolden Biden’s critics and rivals to more closely scrutinize his lengthy Senate records and history.