Review Category : Poltics

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Building Policies for Working Families

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — In his weekly address, President Obama previews Monday’s first-ever White House Summit on Working Families and discusses the daily challenges faced by America’s parents.

The meeting is set to bring together business leaders and workers in order to address issues such as paid family leave, childcare, and workplace flexibility.

“These aren’t frills – they’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line,” Obama says.

The President talks about bringing such policies into the 21st century, calling them “outdated” for mothers and fathers and citing changes that can be made to improve economic conditions.

Read the full transcript of the president’s address:

Hi, everybody. As President, my top priority is rebuilding an economy where everybody who works hard has the chance to get ahead.

That’s what I’ll spend some time talking about on Monday, at the White House Summit on Working Families. We’re bringing together business leaders and workers to talk about the challenges that working parents face every day, and how we can address them together.

Take paid family leave. Many jobs don’t offer adequate leave to care for a new baby or an ailing parent, so workers can’t afford to be there when their family needs them the most. That’s wrong. And it puts us way behind the times. Only three countries in the world report that they don’t offer paid maternity leave. Three. And the United States is one of them. It’s time to change that. A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need.

Childcare is another challenge. Most working families I know can’t afford thousands a year for childcare, but often that’s what it costs. That leaves parents scrambling just to make sure their kids are safe while they’re at work – forget about giving them the high-quality early childhood education that helps kids succeed in life.

Then there’s the issue of flexibility – the ability to take a few hours off for a parent-teacher conference or to work from home when your kid is sick. Most workers want it, but not enough of them have it. What’s more, it not only makes workers happier – studies show that flexibility can make workers more productive and reduce worker turnover and absenteeism. That’s good for business.

At a time when women make up about half of America’s workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for mothers to work hold our entire economy back. But these aren’t just problems for women. Men also care about who’s watching their kids. They’re rearranging their schedules to make it to soccer games and school plays. Lots of sons help care for aging parents. And plenty of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.

In fact, in a new study, nearly half of all parents – women and men – report that they’ve said no to a job, not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families. When that many talented, hard-working people are forced to choose between work and family, something’s wrong. Other countries are making it easier for people to have both. We should too, if we want American businesses to compete and win in the global economy.

Family leave. Childcare. Flexibility. These aren’t frills – they’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.

The good news is, some businesses are embracing family-friendly policies, because they know it’s key to attracting and retaining talented employees. And I’m going to keep highlighting the businesses that do. Because I take this personally. I take it personally as the son and grandson of some strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me. As the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our young ladies when my job often kept me away. And as the father of two beautiful girls, whom I want to be there for as much as I possibly can – and whom I hope will be able to have families and careers of their own one day.

We know from our history that our economy grows best from the middle-out; that our country does better when everybody participates; when everyone’s talents are put to use; when we all have a fair shot. That’s the America I believe in. That’s the America I’ll keep fighting for every day. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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GOP Weekly Address: Making American Energy ‘More Affordable, Reliable, Beneficial’

Tom Williams/Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In this week’s Republican address, Michigan Rep. Fred Upton discusses legislation regarding America’s energy supplies and the possible impact on the nation’s economy and job sector.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman says bills up for debate “could help save money for American families, create the new jobs and industries that we want, and strengthen our position across the globe.”

Upton emphasizes regulations and building of pipelines while hinting at struggles overseas in relation to oil and energy.

The proposed legislation differs from President Obama’s vision, he adds, saying that America can “do better.”

Read the full transcript of the Republican address:

So let’s talk about energy – how it affects our daily lives, and how Republicans are working to make it more affordable, reliable, and beneficial.

Not too long ago, we thought America’s energy needs could only be met through increasing foreign dependence. It’s a scary thought, particularly as we watch the chaos unfold overseas and gasoline prices closing in on four bucks a gallon here at home. I hear constantly from working families struggling with the cost of filling the tank just to drive to and from work.

Energy is at the core of American life. It supports jobs and our economy, and it affects everything from the price at the pump and the monthly electric bill to the cost of groceries – all of the things that Americans need to make ends meet. Schools, churches, hospitals, and manufacturing plants in my home state of Michigan and around the country … they all depend on affordable energy.

That’s why, this coming week, the House is going to vote on bills designed to make the most of America’s abundant energy supplies by building pipelines and transmission lines to connect our energy abundance to consumers, and by using our energy strength to fight back against hostile nations who use their resources to hold the rest of the world hostage.

We have already taken steps to modernize permitting, approve major energy projects, cut red tape for hydropower plants, and keep American coal in our energy mix.

But we’re not going to stop there.

We are offering more predictable regulations that encourage investment, lower prices, and create jobs here at home. We’re making targeted energy efficiency reforms, which will also help reduce costs and eliminate waste. And we’re focusing on the safety and reliability of the electrical grid to protect against everything from security threats to brownouts and blackouts. We’re working to keep nuclear power safe and sustainable for the long-term.

That’s what we mean by an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. Fossil and renewable fuels, expanded production and conservation … together, these steps could help save money for American families, create the new jobs and industries that we want, and strengthen our position across the globe.

It’s very different than President Obama’s vision. His recently announced EPA rules for power plants is going to make it harder to use all of our American resources, and could well force states to ration energy, which certainly is going to make it more expensive to power our homes and factories. His record of energy development on federal lands remains dismal. And we all may rue the day that his president decided he could not say yes to the job-creating Keystone XL pipeline, which is going to displace energy from hostile parts of the world like Venezuela and the Middle East and replace it with supplies from our ally, our friend, Canada; instead, the project is in regulatory purgatory, and America waits and waits.

We can do better, yes we can. The U.S. has entered an era of energy abundance, and now we need the architecture – the infrastructure and policies – to support it. That’s exactly what Republicans are working to deliver.

Thanks for listening, have a great weekend.

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Will 2016 Presidential Run Hurt Wisconsin Governor’s Bid for Reelection?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(MADISON, Wis.) — Of all the names on the 2016 GOP presidential shortlist, only Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker must win a tough re-election fight in his home state before setting his sights on the White House.

Even as Walker fights backlash from new revelations surrounding allegations of illegal campaign coordination, his path to the White House raises a new question: Will the talk of 2016 hurt his re-election chances this November?

Walker became a national Republican star after eliminating collective bargaining for public unions in 2011 and weathering a recall attempt in 2012 — an impressive feat in a state that has sided with Democrats in the last seven presidential contests.

He has said his focus remains on 2014, but told ABC News in November he would not commit to serving out a full second term as governor.

The governor also doesn’t shy away from discussing national politics. In 2012, he sent a letter to Mitt Romney with suggestions for his presidential campaign. (Romney never responded.)

There are also the out-of-state trips. Walker has visited Republicans in Iowa and attended fundraisers with deep-pocketed donors in New York and Texas.

To Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who said the presidential speculation could help Walker “raise his profile,” Walker’s out-of-state fundraising is nothing to hold against him.

“Unfortunately, politics is getting pretty expensive,” Johnson said.

In the governor’s race, Walker’s Democratic challenger, former state Commerce Secretary Mary Burke, has never been elected to statewide office. But a recent poll from Marquette University Law School shows the two in a dead heat.

The polling “doesn’t mean he’s not the favorite, but it doesn’t mean he can take his election for granted,” said Craig Gilbert, the Washington bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, who has written extensively about Wisconsin’s polarized electorate and Walker’s path to the presidency.

The poll also found that just 27 percent of respondents want Walker to run for president in 2016, and that 31 percent believe a governor could run for president and “still handle their duties as governor.”

More crucial for Walker’s re-election prospects, according to the Marquette University Law School pollster Charles Franklin, are the responses to questions about perceptions of Walker and Wisconsin’s economy, which both parties have called the most important issue of the upcoming election.

According to the poll, roughly 53 percent of voters believe Wisconsin is “going in the right direction,” while 44 percent believe Walker “cares about people like me.”

Tying perception of a sluggish economy to Walker’s national profile and presidential ambitions could be “poison” for the governor in November, said Franklin.

“This would be something that the Burke campaign would have to develop into an issue … that the state is not doing as great as he said, and he’s not in it for the voters of Wisconsin,” he added.

The Walker campaign did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

But long before he contends with his presidential aspirations, Walker has more pressing challenges.

On Thursday, a federal appeals judge unsealed court documents that allege a “criminal scheme” between Walker and advisers to bypass federal election laws meant to prevent illegal campaign coordination.

The documents detail the prosecutors’ argument, and reference an email Walker sent to Republican strategist Karl Rove about the workings of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group managed by longtime Walker adviser R.J. Johnson.

State prosecutors have been investigating Walker’s 2011 recall campaign for illegal coordination in what is known as a John Doe probe in Wisconsin, a secret investigation supervised by a judge.

Last month, a judge ruled to stop the investigation, which was appealed and brought before an appeals court. The federal judge reviewing the lawsuit released the documents Thursday.

Walker wasted little time in responding, appearing this morning on Fox and Friends to call the claims “politically motivated.”

He also published an editorial in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the topic, titled “I will not back down.”

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Kerry Faces Steep Challenges in Middle East Visit

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As the security crisis in Iraq worsens, Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to the Middle East and Europe to consult with partners and allies on the security and stability of the region, and is also likely to go to Iraq soon.

If and when he does go to Baghdad, experts said he’ll have a lot of convincing to do: first, in assuring the Iraqis that the United States isn’t favoring one religious sect over another as it calls for a political transition; and second, to underscore the threat the Islamist extremist group ISIS poses not just to the United States, but also to Iraq itself.

The first charge is a particularly tough needle to thread, as Washington has long been urging Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, to become more inclusive towards Sunnis and Kurds, even as administration officials stop just short of saying he needs to resign.

And on the other side of the sectarian spectrum, the United States has been talking to Shiite-majority Iran about cooperating in the fight against ISIS, a common foe – which has upset Iraqi Sunnis.

But even as both sides are skeptical of the United States’ loyalties, it’s Maliki who is still in charge – and he hasn’t yet demonstrated much interest in heeding the United States’ requests for inclusivity.

“This will be Kerry’s first experience in playing the Iraqi gamesmanship of government formation. He’s in for a rude awakening if he thinks putting an Iraqi government together can be done with a visit here and there,” Ramzy Mardini, an Iraq expert with the Atlantic Council based in Amman, Jordan, said.

In fact, the last time Kerry tried to persuade Maliki to do something failed, as the politically unpopular Prime Minister last year refused to prohibit Iran from flying over Iraq’s airspace to make arms deliveries to Syria, because Maliki decided he had more of a stake in preventing the Shiite Assad regime from being toppled by Sunni militants than in stopping Iran, Mardini noted.

“Kerry has a tendency of overvaluing not just his influence, but U.S. influence in general,” Mardini said. “He failed because he didn’t understand that it was in Maliki’s interests for those arms to keep flowing to Syria.”

Kerry will have to explain why the U.S. supports political change without being construed as being anti-Maliki, and also why the U.S. talking to Iran is in the long run a net benefit for all Iraqis, including Sunnis.

While the US wants to encourage the building of political bonds, it simultaneously needs convince the Iraqi military that it is in their interest, as well as the United States’, to defend Iraq against ISIS, said James F. Jeffrey, a deputy National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush who has also held top diplomatic positions in Iraq.

“The problem they have is to convince these guys that ISIS isn’t only a threat to America – they don’t care – but it’s a threat to them,” Jeffrey said.

Iraq’s security forces folded when ISIS made its first incursion into the large northern city of Mosul, but Maliki insisted a week later that his troops were “on the rebound.”

But it’s clear the Iraqis need military help, and Jeffrey praised President Obama for sending hundreds of advisers to work with forces throughout the country.

Jeffrey also said it was wise for Obama to make further military support contingent on political change – even as it remains a very open question whether or not the Iraqis will listen.

At the very least, he said, the U.S. must ensure that Iraq does no harm to the United States’ goal of neutralizing ISIS.

“The main thing is to basically get them to be part of the solution.”

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Underwhelming Support for Eric Cantor to Dance with the Stars

United States House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) — Republicans may have to come to terms with never seeing Eric Cantor as speaker of the House, but the public will likely have to deal with the fact that Cantor will not be dancing the samba dressed in sequins.

According to what is described as “the most important petition of all in the history of petitions” on Change.org, a free online petition website, Cantor is failing to garner enough support to be included on next season’s cast of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, despite sound arguments in his favor by main petitioner Sara Benincasa.

“If Tom DeLay can do it, Eric Cantor can freaking rock this show,” Benincasa wrote. “Eric Cantor is a total babe who probably has sweet moves on the dance floor. He is a dreamboat and even if you don’t like his politics, you need to admit that the man’s got swag.”

Unfortunately for Benincasa and Cantor’s 89 supporters, the Internet isn’t a big fan of the congressman’s potential samba swag. Four days after being published, the petition is still 99,911 shy of the necessary 100,000 for the 51-year-old Republican “babe” to be the second House Majority Leader to shimmy into the spotlight.

If Benincasa’s petition reached the specified signature benchmark, it could then be followed by “offline action” and presented to the appropriate decision makers at Dancing with the Stars who would then determine his fate on the small screen.

In 2010, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, also channeled negative energy into interpretive dance when he competed with stress fractures in both feet before finally choosing to bow out.

“If you can’t practice you’ll make a fool of yourself out here,” DeLay said at the time of his concession.

Cantor has yet to respond to whether he would entertain the prospect of toppling DeLay as the best congressional dancer and seems to be sticking to the more traditional avenues of employment.

“I believe after almost 23 years in public service, 23 plus years in public service, that I can play a role and not just in elected office obviously but in the private sector,” Cantor told ABC’s Jon Karl on Sunday.

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Rand Paul Says ‘I Don’t Blame’ Obama for Iraq Crisis

United States Senate(WASHINGTON) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky took opposite views of the crisis in Iraq on Friday, with Christie pinning it on the president’s foreign policy while Paul claimed he doesn’t put the “blame on President Obama.”

The two Republicans spoke before the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, made up of Christian conservatives, while Paul also talked about Iraq with NBC’s Meet the Press.

Both men addressed the situation in Iraq where the American trained army collapsed in the face of an offensive by ISIS, the radical offshoot of al Qaeda, and Sunni tribes angry at the government of President Nouri al-Maliki.

In his first time addressing the evangelical group, Christie said leadership abroad requires “making sure our friends know who our friends are, and that our adversaries know who they are as well.”

“Leadership is about telling who you are and what you stand for, and then speaking it directly, loudly, and understandably so that not only your supporters know who you are, but the people who are against you know who you are, too, and have respect for where you stand.”

Although the Christian conservative crowd is far from what is considered Christie’s base of support, the group greeted him warmly with many giving him a standing ovation and interrupting him at points with applause.

In his critique of Obama, the governor briefly mentioned the crisis in Iraq when he said the “pulling back of American influence…is having catastrophic affects in every corner of the world.”

“That is not anything more than the failure of the American leader to speak clearly, profoundly and inspirationally about America’s role in the world,” he said.

Paul, who spoke before Christie, criticized the president on the ongoing strife in Syria and how it may have contributed to the current crisis in Iraq, but in his interview with NBC’s Meet the Press ahead of their show on Sunday, Paul made it clear he stands in stark contrast to Christie and other more hawkish members of the GOP on whose to blame for the crisis in Iraq.

“And what’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama,” Paul said. “Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq war on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq war for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.”

In speaking before the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Paul urged members of his own party to be cautious when it comes to becoming engaged in overseas conflict.

“Reagan spoke often of peace through strength, but I fear that some in our nation and some in our party have forgotten the first part of the sentence, that peace should be our goal, even as we build our strength,” Paul said at the “Road to Majority” conference. “Some in my party have distorted this [Reagan's] belief in peace through strength into a misguided belief that we should project strength through war. Even when we’ve tried, through good intentions, to make the world a better place, our actions have often backfired.”

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Members of Congress Tackle Horse ‘Torture’

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) — It was an unusual sight — show horses parading around the Capitol. But these Tennessee Walking horses came to bring attention to what many see as horse abuse.

It’s a practice called “soring” — using pain-causing chemicals, chains and pads on a horse’s ankles to make it walk with a higher, unnatural step.

It’s called the “Big Lick” and it wins at horse shows.

“It’s cruelty, it’s intentional torture,” said Keith Dane, Vice President of Equine Protection for the Humane Society. “These horses are suffering pretty much their entire lives of their show ring careers in order to give blue ribbons and prizes to their owners and trainers.”

The Humane Society has also released undercover videos alleging abuse of horses undergoing soring.

Soring has been illegal for almost 45 years under the Federal Horse Protection Act. But the problem for many is the industry is allowed to police itself. It trains and certifies its own inspectors.

“The people that determine whether or not soring is taking place are inspectors that are hired by the shows where the owners are abusing the horse with the soring practice,” said Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-KY, who is sponsoring a bill designed to make sure the practice of soring ends.

Dane said, “The self-regulation in the industry is like the fox watching the hen house and it doesn’t work.”

Many horse owners don’t see a reason to force horses to learn to step higher.

“Walking horses have a beautiful natural gate that does not need to be enhanced by chemical or mechanical means,” said horse owner Mikal Spooner, of North Carolina, who attended a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday to draw attention to the problem.

Spooner and the other horse owners who went to the Capitol didn’t see any need to make their horse walk in what they felt was an unnatural manner.

Lauren Kovacs is one of the people who inspects show horses for signs of abuse.

“Normally chains, they’re not a good sign,” she said. “You look, make sure there’s no scarring. It’s not always obvious. People do their best to hide it, in fact.”

The bill, which has bipartisan support, would increase penalties, make items used in soring illegal, and make inspectors independent. It is stalled in Congress because some members believe it would cost jobs and hurt the industry.

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Rep. Don Young Reprimanded by House Ethics Committee

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Don Young, the longest-serving Republican currently in the House of Representatives, was reprimanded Friday by the House Ethics Committee, which ruled he violated House rules by improperly using campaign funds for personal use and accepting gifts without proper disclosure.

After a 14-month investigation, the panel issued Young a letter of reproval and ordered the Alaska Republican to repay $59,063.74 to his campaign and donors.

Young has already repaid that money, according to the committee. He must also amend several financial disclosure reports through that period.

The 21-term congressman was found to have accepted gifts and expenses related to 15 hunting trips, occurring between 2001 and 2013.

In April 2010, Young asked the committee to review certain gifts he had received after the Department of Justice launched an inquiry.

The committee’s full report can be found here.

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IRS Commissioner Unapologetic as GOP Fumes over Lerner’s Lost Emails

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Republicans unloaded on IRS Commissioner John Koskinen on Friday during a hearing examining former senior IRS official Lois Lerner’s emails. Officials assert messages may be permanently lost after the revelation that her hard drive crashed and was ultimately recycled in 2011.

“I’m advised the actual hard drive, after it was determined that it was dysfunctional and that, with experts, no emails could be retrieved, was recycled then destroyed in the normal process,” Koskinen testified, drawing groans from Republicans on the committee. “I have no idea what the recycler does with it. This was three years ago.”

A week ago, the IRS told Congress that two years of Lerner’s emails were lost when her computer’s hard drive crashed in 2011.

After Koskinen concluded his prepared testimony, Rep. Dave Camp, slammed the IRS for failing to notify congressional investigators as soon as the agency realized the emails were lost.

“What I didn’t hear in that was an apology to this committee,” Camp, R-Michigan, said.

“I don’t think an apology is owed,” Koskinen shot back. “Not a single email has been lost since the start of this investigation. Every email has been preserved that we have.”

Rep. Paul Ryan questioned the trustworthiness of Koskinen’s testimony, which was delivered under oath.

“This is unbelievable. The apology that ought to be given is to the American taxpayer, not to a government agency that is abusing its power,” Ryan, R-Wisconsin, fumed. “I am sitting here listening to this testimony. I just, I don’t believe it. That’s your problem. Nobody believes you.”

Ryan pointed to several instances where the IRS’s evolving accounts of the targeting scandal have misled congressional investigators, with the agency claiming initially that no targeting of conservative organizations occurred, but later blaming the practice on a few rouge agents, and even contending that progressives were targeted as well.

“All of those things have been proven untrue,” Ryan said. “This is being misleading again. This is a pattern of abuse, a pattern of behavior that is not giving us any confidence that this agency is being impartial.”

“I have a long career,” Koskinen said. “That’s the first time anybody has said they do not believe me.”

Lerner, the former senior IRS official at the center of the scandal, has refused to answer questions from lawmakers, instead invoking her Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

“Today, you’re telling us, out of thousands of IRS computers the one that lost the emails was the person of interest in an ongoing congressional investigation. And that is not the truth either,” Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said. “This is the most corrupt and deceitful IRS in history.”

“To say this is the most corrupt IRS in history ignores a lot of history and seems to me, again, is a classic overreaction to a serious problem, which we are dealing with seriously,” Koskinen retorted. “My experience has been we do better to have a rational discussion when you know all the facts.”

The anger was highly partisan, as several Democrats defended Koskinen and apologized to the commissioner for the tenor of Republicans during the hearing.

“I want to apologize to you for the way you’re being treated this morning,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, said. “I thought this was a hearing and not a trial.”

Friday’s hearing at the Ways and Means Committee was Part I of Koskinen’s testimony on the issue. He’ll return to the Capitol next Monday to testify at the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

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Hillary Clinton Dogged by 1975 Rape Case

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Hillary Clinton’s successful 1975 legal defense of an accused rapist has surfaced again with the victim, angered over a tape of Clinton chuckling over her courtroom tactics in the case, lashing out at the potential Democratic presidential candidate.

“Hillary Clinton took me through hell,” the victim told the Daily Beast in an emotional interview published Friday.

The woman said that if she saw Clinton today she would say, “I realize the truth now, the heart of what you’ve done to me. And you are supposed to be for women? You call that [being] for women, what you done to me? And I heard you on tape laughing.”

The name of the woman, who is now 52, was withheld for privacy reasons. She decided to speak out after hearing never-before-heard audio tapes released by the Washington Free Beacon earlier this week of Clinton talking about the trial. In the recordings, dubbed the “Hillary Tapes,” Clinton is heard laughing as she describes how she succeeded at getting her court-appointed client a lighter sentence, despite suggesting she knew he was guilty.

“He took a lie-detector test! I had him take a polygraph, which he passed, which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs,” Clinton said about her client on the tapes, which were initially recorded, but never used, in the early 1980s.

The rape case has been investigated more than once, but with Clinton considering a presidential run, it is again commanding headlines.

Clinton’s team has not said anything about the case recently. ABC News has reached out for comment.

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