The first woman to accuse Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and harassment in a lawsuit spoke publicly on Tuesday, alleging she was terrorized by her encounter with the NFL player and that he needs to be held accountable for his actions.
During a news conference, Ashley Solis said she was assaulted and traumatized when she tried to give Watson a massage in March 2020. The Associated Press usually does not name victims of sexual assault, but Solis has chosen to publicly identify herself.
“I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman. … I am seeking justice not just on behalf of myself but for all survivors. … This is about having my voice heard,” a tearful Solis said as she read a statement, adding she was no longer afraid to speak out. Watson has been accused of sexual assault or harassment in lawsuits filed by 22 women.
Solis’ description of her encounter with Watson, in which he allegedly touched her with his penis during the massage session, mirrors the accusations made by the other women in their lawsuits. They accuse Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will while he got a massage. At least one woman has alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex during a massage in December. All of the women who have sued Watson are either licensed massage therapists or worked in a spa or similar business. The first lawsuit – from Solis – was filed on 16 March and the most recent one was filed Monday.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has called the allegations “meritless” and questioned the claims against Watson, alleging they were made following a failed attempt to blackmail his client for $30,000.
The Houston police department said last week it was investigating Watson after a complainant had filed a report with the agency about Watson. Tony Buzbee, who represents the 22 women, said it was not Solis but another of his clients who filed the first report with police.
Solis said in her statement that since the alleged assault, she suffers from panic attacks, anxiety, depression and is no longer comfortable working as a massage therapist.
“I got into massage therapy to heal people, to heal their minds and bodies, to bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that,” Solis said, adding that her lawsuit was not about seeking money.
But in a statement, Hardin, alleged that Buzbee sought “$100,000 in hush money” on behalf of Solis before she filed her lawsuit.
Hardin’s statement included copies of February emails between Buzbee’s firm and Scott Gaffield, an attorney for Watson, discussing the $100,000 settlement.
“My email exchanges … were very clear. We did not think that the facts showed that Deshaun did anything wrong with their client. We believed then – and fully believe now – that Deshaun learned a lesson about putting himself in this type of situation by interacting with people he does not know,” Gaffield said in a statement.
At Tuesday’s news conference, an attorney with Buzbee’s firm read a letter written by another of the women who has accused Watson of sexual assault and has also chosen to be publicly identified.
In the letter, Lauren Baxley called Watson “a predator with power” and alleged he touched her with his penis multiple times during a massage session. She said that after the session, she felt shame and terror that no one would believe her.
“There is trauma associated with unwanted sexual contact and assault in a place that’s meant to bring peace and therapy, but there are even deeper terrors that you have brought into my life,” Baxley said.
In a recent email to season ticket holders, Houston Texans chairman Cal McNair, whose family owns the team, said they were aware of the lawsuits against Watson and that the team takes “these allegations very seriously”.
“While we await the conclusion of these investigations, we express our strong stance against any form of sexual assault. Our family and the entire Houston Texans organization are deeply troubled by any form of abuse and we condemn this type of behavior,” McNair said.
The NFL has said it’s investigating the allegations against Watson.
Watson is one of the league’s top quarterbacks and led the NFL in yards passing last season. He signed a four-year, $156m contract extension with the Texans last offseason, but he became unhappy with the direction of the team as Houston sunk to 4-12. Watson requested a trade in January.
Talks in Washington deadlocked as Biden meets UK PM Johnson – live
Joe Biden met with Boris Johnson in Cornwall while Jill Biden wore a “love” blazer.
Meanwhile, talks deadlocked on, well, a lot of things – but mostly the bipartisan negotiations around the infrastructure plan. Lawmakers on both side were expressing frustration Thursday with the concept of bipartisanship, but Senator Mitt Romney hinted at a possible agreement.
Representative Ilhan Omar received death threats as members of her own party condemned her for saying that “we have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.”
Today in San Francisco, Rob Bonta, California’s attorney general, said that his office has filed an appeal of the recent federal court decision that struck down the state’s assault weapon restrictions.
Standing alongside Governor Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and representatives from Brady United and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Bonta said that while the opinion was of “great concern”, “we are not deterred by this ruling.”
This appeal comes after a 4 June ruling from Judge Roger Benitez that ruled that California’s 32 year-old restrictions were unconstitutional. The decision drew immediate criticism for Benitez’s comparison of assault weapons to “Swiss army knives” and false claim that more Californians have died from the Covid-19 vaccine than mass shootings.
Bonta is also extending the 30-day-stay, so that the current laws stay in effect throughout the appeal process.
Learn more about what Judge Benitez’s ruling mean for the state here:
Florida public schools ban teaching of critical-race theory
The Florida Board of Education has approved tougher guidelines for teaching US history in public schools that prohibits teachers from discussing critical-race theory or the 1619 Project.
The reactive push against the movement to teaching non-whitewashed versions of American history that don’t downplay the role of slavery and racism in the founding of the country has long been a conservative rallying point. Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, tweeted that critical-race theory was “state-sanctioned racism and has no place in Florida schools”.
Something may have happened. Or not. But that’s pretty much the state of it this week, isn’t it?
We’re back on the infrastructure plan, and the hopes of a bipartisan agreement. Joe Biden ended negotiations with Republicans before he left on his first overseas trip, but said he planned to stay in touch. People on both sides are saying the time for bipartisanship is done, whether related to the infrastructure plan or otherwise.
But! Possibly an agreement, per Republican Utah Senator Mitt Romney. Except someone forgot to tell Montana Senator Jon Tester.
So could there be an agreement? Unclear. We’ll see.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio set Twitter ablaze today when he decided to preview a commercial for ranked-choice voting with a giant ballot of pizza toppings.
Ranked-choice voting is when you rank a number of candidates for each race. If none wins an outright majority in the first round of counting, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and then the second-place votes are counted, and this keeps going until someone earns at least 50% of the votes plus one.
It wasn’t the type of voting that stirred controversy, but de Blasio’s ranking: 1. Green peppers 2. Green olives 3. Sausage 4. Mushrooms 5. Pepperoni
And also, there’s also the fact that pizza is not quite the right analogy for an election.
The FBI director, Christopher Wray, is testifying before the House judiciary committee on oversight of the FBI. Hate violence and white supremacist ideology were large focuses, and Wray received a number of questions about the 6 January attack on the US Capitol.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is apparently pretty done with bipartisanship too.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who thinks “the era of bipartisanship is over”, doesn’t seem particularly phased.
More Democrats are joining together to condemn Minnesota Ilhan Omar for saying that “we have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan and the Taliban.” Meanwhile, more of her allies are rallying behind her in support as well.
Here’s our first look at the meeting between Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and First Lady Jill Biden and Carrie Johnson.
A lot has been hyped about bipartisanship this week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said “the era of bipartisanship is over”, with every bill the Democrats have introduced in June including something he said Republicans could not support. Democratic West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin gave it as the reason why he wasn’t voting for the For The People bill that would voting rights, because he believed such legislation needed to be bipartisan.
Then there was the bipartisan negotiations between Joe Biden and Republicans over an infrastructure plan. On Tuesday, Biden ended negotiations. Despite his willingness to reduce his plan by more than $1 trillion, Republicans had increased their proposed new investments by only $150bn. And then there was the issue of tax increases.
Though Biden said he would stay in touch with Republicans during his trip, things aren’t looking great.
About 90 advocacy groups have since called on Biden and the Democrats to use the partisan reconciliation process instead of relying on negotiations.
Reconciliation is a rule that allows Congress to pass new budget resolutions with new spending priorities with a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate without having to worry about a filibuster.
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats are already working on a plan to pass an infrastructure measure via the reconciliation process.
Omar receives death threats as lawmakers condemn her comments
Democratic Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar is once again receiving death threats as 12 members of her own party condemn her for appearing to liken Hamas and the Taliban to Israel and the United States.
“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity,” she tweeted in a question to Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing about the International Criminal Court on Monday. “We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
The investor advisory group Glass Lewis said it was “highly concerned” at the New York-based firm’s decision last year to ditch annual stock options. Instead it will replace them with an upfront five-year grant of performance-restricted stock units worth $130m (£92m) for each of its top two executives – Leonard Schleifer, the Regeneron chief executive, and George Yancopoulos, the chief scientific officer.
While they are intended to lock down executives for the next few years, Glass Lewis questioned whether the upfront payouts were in the best interests of shareholders. It estimates that the annualised value of the grants is 51% higher than the previous year’s stock options.
Institutional Shareholder Services, another advisory group, also expressed concern: “The awards are excessive in value, replace annual grants for a relatively long period of time, and provide multiple opportunities for the same shares to be earned.”
At last year’s advisory vote on executive pay, which is held every three years, Regeneron’s plans received support from 70.1% of votes cast. At the time of the meeting, Schleifer owned 16.6% of the company while the French drugmaker Sanofi had a 20.6% holding, which it has since sold. When these stakes are excluded, less than 33% of votes were cast in favour of the company’s pay plans.
Regeneron is supplying the US government with millions of doses of its Covid antibody cocktail REGEN-COV, after receiving emergency authorisation for the treatment in November. It is a combination of two monoclonal antibodies designed to prevent the coronavirus spike protein attaching to receptors in the body, to prevent Sars-CoV-2 infection and to treat people who have contracted the virus.
The share price of the Nasdaq- and London-listed company soared in early October 2020, from $564 to over $600 a share, after then-president Trump touted the treatment in a video, claiming that it had cured his Covid. The shares have risen 41% since the start of 2020.
Manchin unmoved on voting rights despite meeting Black civil rights leaders – live
A reporter asked about some progressives referring to Joe Manchin as the “new Mitch McConnell”.
Jen Psaki responded: “We’ll leave the name-calling to others.”
In today’s White House press briefing, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about voting rights legislation, in light of senator Joe Manchin and his weekend oped about his decision not to vote for the For The People Act.
In response to a question about whether Joe Biden would push for pursuing the John Lewis Act before the For The People Act, she responded, “I think he is quite open to what Democratic leadership feels is the viable path forward.”
She followed up by saying it was “encouraging” to see Manchin meet with civil rights leaders this morning, and reiterated the administration’s support for voting rights legislation.
“We will continue to press for federal action to move forward on a bill that the president would love to sign into law,” Psaki said. “We certainly know we cannot do that with a magic wand, that is not how democracy works, for good reason. But the president also signed this executive action early on, a very expansive and powerful executive action, because he didn’t want to delay a moment in ensuring that we were taking more steps to assist states to modernize vote.gov, to increase federal employees’ access to voting, to analyze barriers to voting for people.”
Manchin: ‘I don’t think anybody changed positions’ on voting rights legislation
West Virginia senator Joe Manchin left his meeting with civil rights leaders unmoved on his decision to oppose the sweeping For the People Act, but called the conversation constructive.
“We had a constructive conversation. I think everybody pretty much knows the importance of what we’re doing,” Manchin said. “And I think I’m very much concerned about our democracy, protecting people’s voting rights.”
Civil rights leaders that met with Manchin – NAACP President Derrick Johnson, the Rev Al Sharpton, National Urban League President Marc Morial, National Council of Negro Women President Johnnetta Cole, Lawyers’ Committee President Damon Hewitt, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights interim President Wade Henderson and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation President Melanie Campbell – were measured in their response. The readout from the meeting read:
In a very constructive meeting today, national civil rights leaders met with Senator Manchin to share our policy priorities and concerns related to voting rights and police reform. Specifically, the groups expressed their collective views on the need for Congress to pass both the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The two voting rights bills are a top priority and essential to protect the freedom to vote. There continues to be an unprecedented partisan wave of state legislative proposals that are aimed at denying the right to vote — particularly for Black and Brown people. The leaders also conveyed to Senator Manchin that a minority of senators must not be able to abuse the filibuster to impede much needed progress. Congress must act so all Americans have meaningful access to the ballot.
Vice-President Kamala Harris, who has been taking some criticism for her blunt speech in Guatemala to Central American migrants to “do not come” to US, is now getting some backlash from Republicans for an NBC interview she did on this same trip.
Reminder: Joe Biden tasked Harris in March with efforts to stem migration at the US-Mexican border. On her first foreign trip, NBC’s Lester Holt asked if she had any plans to visit the border.
“At some point, you know, we are going to the border,” Harris said. “We’ve been to the border. So this whole, this whole, this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.”
“You haven’t been to the border,” Holt responded.
“I, and I haven’t been to Europe. And I mean, I don’t – I don’t understand the point that you’re making,” Harris said with a laugh.
Harris has maintained that her focus is on “the root causes of migration.”
“I care about this and I care about what’s happening at the border. I’m in Guatemala because my focus is dealing with the root causes of migration,” Harris said. “There may be some who think that that is not important, but it is my firm belief that if we care about what’s happening at the border, we better care about the root causes and address them.”
Vice-President Kamala Harris is in Mexico now, meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Reminder that the Senate report on the Capitol attack comes just weeks after Republicans blocked efforts to establish a bipartisan, 9/11-style commission to investigate the events of 6 January.
Senate report on US Capitol attack finds broad failings
The first – and possibly the last – bipartisan reviewinto the 6 January attack on the US Capitol uncovered failings on all fronts before the attack as well as breakdowns between intelligence agencies and a lack of preparation by the Capitol police.
“This report is important in the fact that it allows us to make some immediate improvements to the security situation here in the Capitol,” said Michigan senator Gary Peters, the chairman of the homeland security and governmental affairs committee, which conducted the investigation along with the Senate rules committee. “But it does not answer some of the bigger questions that we need to face, quite frankly, as a country and as a democracy.”
Read more about the report’s findings here:
Joseph Blount Jr, president and CEO of the Colonial Pipeline Company, is testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about the ransomware attack last month that knocked out gas delivery up and down the East Coast.
The Justice Departmentannounced yesterday that it recovered $2.3m of the roughly $4.4m that the company paid in a cryptocurrency ransom to a gang of criminal hackers known as DarkSide.
It appears the meeting between Joe Manchin and civil rights leaders has come to an end.
In more voting rights news: following the Sunday oped in which Democratic senator Joe Manchin committed against voting for the For The People Act, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying the House will move on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Some recap: the For The People Act would ensure automatic and same-day registration, place limits on gerrymandering and restore voting rights for felons. The John Lewis Act, named after the late Georgia Democratic congressman, would reauthorize voting protections established in the civil rights era but eliminated by the supreme court in 2013.
Manchin said he would support the John Lewis Act. His major concern with the For The People Act is that it was not bipartisan.
Pelosi made clear that the John Lewis Act is not a substitute for the For The People Act.
Former President Barack Obamawent on CNN last night to criticize how Republicans have been “cowed into accepting” a series of positions that “would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago”.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper, Obama spoke of the 6 January attack on the US Capitol: “Suddenly you have large portions of the elected Congress going along with the falsehood that there were problems with the election.”
He expressed disappointment in Republican elected officials, saying that he understood that while it was politically difficult to go against the lies and conspiracy theories being peddled among their base, it was the right thing to do.
“I didn’t expect that there would be so few people who would say, ‘I don’t mind losing my office because this is too important. America is too important. Our democracy is too important’,” Obama said. “We didn’t see that.”
“I’m still the hope and change guy,” Obama said. “My hope is the tides will turn, but that does require each of us to understand that this experiment in democracy is not self-executing. It doesn’t happen just automatically. It happens because each successive generation says ‘these values, these truths, we hold self-evident. This is important. We’re going to invest in it and sacrifice for it, even when it’s not politically convenient’.”
Vice-President Kamala Harris travels to Mexico today to meet with the country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. But Harris is already drawing some criticism on her first official foreign trip.
In Guatemala yesterday, Harris was blunt in telling would-be migrants “do not come” to the US border.
Her spokeswoman, Symone Sanders, appeared to try to soften that statement today:
The Guardian’s Julian Borger looks into some other questions raised by the measures Harris announced in Guatemala:
Manchin to meet with Black civil rights leaders about voting rights
Hello, live blog readers. Hope you’re all doing well.
Two days after publishing an op ed on why he won’t vote for voting rights legislation for which he was a key vote, Democratic West Virginia senator Joe Manchin will meet with critics on the left today.
Black and civil rights leaders have long fought against what many Democrats have categorized as Republican efforts to restrict voter access in communities of color.
And they’re not happy.
Manchin’s decision leave Democrats scrambling on what to do next on the For the People Act, which would ensure automatic and same-day registration, place limits on gerrymandering and restore voting rights for felons.
It comes as Joe Biden said he would “fight like heck” for voting protections, putting Vice-President Kamala Harris in charge of the White House’s efforts.
Our voting rights reporter Sam Levine takes a deeper look at the impact of Manchin’s decision here: