Lawmakers and aides are consumed by one question: Who's next?
The details change almost daily, but the rumor won’t die: A credible news organization is preparing to unmask at least 20 lawmakers in both parties for sexual misconduct.
Speculation about this theoretical megastory is spreading like wildfire across Congress and beyond, a lurking bad-press boogeyman that’s always described as on the verge of going public. And it’s far from the only worry that’s seeped into the collective psyche of Capitol Hill, where members and aides are now perpetually bracing for the next allegation to drop.
Washington is also gripped by uncertainty over whether the nationwide awakening to workplace misconduct might be manipulated into a political weapon. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) went to law enforcement after being targeted last week by a forged harassment complaint against him, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) last month parried a false accusation of misconduct posted on Twitter.
Lawmakers and aides are consumed by one simple question: Who’s next? That and, in this turbocharged news cycle of the Trump presidency, can actual misdeeds be distinguished from false smears?
“You want to have a welcome environment to report abuse — you don’t want to deter victims,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview. “But you’ve got to have enough due process and scrutiny to make sure it’s accurate.”