As the corruption trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez got underway in Newark on Wednesday, the Republican National Committee launched a digital ad campaign pressuring his fellow Democrats to call for his resignation if he’s convicted.
The GOP is targeting senators running for re-election in states that President Donald Trump won last year, such as Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow, who is seeking a fourth term.
In ads on Facebook and Twitter, the RNC notes that Democrats in 2008 called on Alaska’s Sen. Ted Stevens, a Republican, to resign after his corruption conviction. (Stevens’ conviction was later overturned).
GOP Senate hopeful Lena Epstein on Wednesday called on Stabenow to donate to charity the $10,000 that she received from Menendez’s New Millennium PAC for her reelection campaign in March.
The Stabenow campaign declined to comment.
Menendez has denied the allegations, which include charges that he lobbied for a friend’s business interests in exchange for political donations and gifts, according to the Associated Press.
Senate: Hate groups are terrorists
“Radical hate groups” are domestic terrorist organizations, according to a resolution adopted Wednesday by the Michigan Senate.
The Democrat-sponsored resolution, taken up by the Republican-led Senate on the first day of fall session, specifically denounces white nationalists and neo-Nazis following a deadly clash last month in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The non-binding resolution does not carry the weight of law, but it will be sent to President Donald Trump, Gov. Rick Snyder and members of Michigan’s congressional delegation.
“Today, we’ve shown there are not two sides,” said sponsoring Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, alluding to Trump’s assertion that “both sides” deserved some blame for the violence in Charlottesville. “There is just one side -- that Nazism, racism, fascism are all evil. Period.”
The resolution also takes aim at the “Alt-Right,” asserting that white nationalists have tried to reinvent themselves under a new banner but continue to conjure “painful memories of our nation’s past.”
Separately, the Senate also adopted a bipartisan compact to unite against “hate, bigotry and all forms of extremism.” It was developed by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, and Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who is expected to introduce a House version next week.
“As leaders of our communities we must stand together to make it known that hate has no place in our state,” O’Brien said on the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, said he does not view the Hertel and O’Brien resolutions as direct messages to Trump. Instead, they both emphasize the importance of civility, he said.
“In our discourse, if we disagree, it doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable,” Meekhof told reporters. “I think they’re both trying to reach for that in different ways.”
Chants offensive, but legal, civil rights chief says
Michigan Civil Rights Department Director Agustin Arbulu says that while he was “offended personally” by anti-Semitic chants from marchers at the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he will “defend their right to say it.”
But he would not comment Wednesday on Michigan State University’s decision to reject a group headed by neo-Nazi Richard Spencer from renting an event space on campus.
“I’m not gonna delve into whether they did the right thing or not because that decision is for them,” Arbulu told The Detroit News, noting he is both Jewish and Latino.
“If the decision was made to allow them to present, I would just be cautious that their speech does not … aim to incite violence,” he said. “And so when you look at MSU administration, they’re looking at it very much in a similar matter – safety. Their concern was security.”
Arbulu defended the right of neo-Nazis to rally peacefully.
“I felt that I was back in Nazi Germany in one of their marches with the lights and everything,” he said. “I was offended personally. And then I thought of my children. I thought, ‘Is this what this country’s becoming?’”
Anti-Trump protest hits Capitol
For many legislators, Wednesday was the first day back at the Capitol since June. And while they immediately focused on a pressing local election issue, national debates echoed through the hallways.
Anti-Trump protesters gathered outside and inside the Capitol for a demonstration organized by 10 liberal activist groups, including multiple chapters of the Michigan for Revolution group inspired by independent Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the socialist who ran last year for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“We’re all coming together to demand that the Michigan Legislature resist the Trump agenda by any means necessary, to use the full extent of the state power to represent human rights,” said Robert Fidler, media director for the Metro Detroit Political Action Network.
Fidler erected a large inflatable chicken on the Capitol lawn. It had a swooping haircut much like that of the president. He called it “Donnie Nuggets.”
Two districts shifted to less likely for GOP candidates
The nonpartisan newsletter Inside Elections last week shifted the election forecasts for several U.S. House districts, including two in Michigan.
The seat held by U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, in the 8th District was downgraded from “Likely Republican” to “Leans Republican.”
Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of Inside Elections, said Democrats “landed a credible challenger in former Assistant Secretary of Defense and CIA analyst Elissa Slotkin, who should post solid fundraising numbers.”
He noted that Bishop had $394,000 on hand as of June 30. Bishop defeated political newcomer Suzanna Shkreli last fall by 17 percentage points.
Inside Elections also shifted the southwestern 6th District, held by GOP Rep. Fred Upton for 30 years, from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.”
“Democrats are excited about physician/former YMCA National Health Director Matt Longjohn, but others are running as well, including professor Paul Clements, who has lost to Upton in the last two cycles,” Gonzales wrote.
“The congressman, who had $772,000 in the bank on June 30, always manages to have a competitive race by the end of the cycle.”
UM Washington office moves to House
The Washington Office of the University of Michigan has moved to a new building on the Senate side of the U.S. Capitol after 27 years at an office on the House side.
The new address for the university will be 444 N. Capitol St., NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20001.
“Numerous other universities have offices in that building, including half of the Big Ten schools,” Washington Office Director Mike Waring said in a statement.
“In addition, the state of Michigan’s office is located there. The new space will make our work more efficient and enhance the collaborations we have with other universities and coalitions.”
Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke, Jonathan Oosting and Michael Gerstein