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NEW: The choas enveloping Virginia deepened early this morning when @LGJustinFairfax issued a statement at 2:55AM denying claims of sexual assault from 2004 - and threatened to sue those who spread the claims.

First take from a shell-shocked Richmond >

Updated lede-all w @alanblinder: Northam under siege, meeting w cabinet, while Fairfax vehemently denies charges of sexual assault and Speaker Kirk Cox says he’s not sure there are grounds to impeach the gov

On the mess >

....and the Post publishes the woman’s account, says they could not corroborate last year. BUT the paper denies Fairfax statement that they held off bc of “red flags”

This would have otherwise been a busy day at the cap: College students visiting, anti-gun protesters and a frantic push by the legislators to finish their bills before they have to swap them between chambers.

But this is remarkable:
NEW: An extraordinary day turns chaotic as Fairfax suggests Northam is behind "a smear" aimed at blocking his ascent to the governorship and recounts a sexual encounter with a woman he said was "very interested in me."

But she says it was assault >

“Does anybody think it’s any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that’s when this uncorroborated smear comes out?” Fairfax told reporters in the capitol upon being asked if he thought Northam, his fellow Dem, was behind the story.
Fairfax said the woman wanted him to meet her mother, but he acknowledged he did not have any documentary evidence to back up his claim that they stayed in touch after the ‘04 sexual encounter at the DNC

He was working as the body man at the time to John Edwards, then the VP nom
EVENING NEWS: Fairfax softens on claiming Northam is behind the sexual assault claims, but hints in second gaggle that Richmond mayor @LevarStoney - his would-be rival for governor in '21 - had a role.

Stoney:: "100 pct not true" and "it's offensive" >

New Mainbar, w @alanblinder:

Chaos in Richmond, where legislators, dodging national TV crews, don’t know who will be governor by the end of the week.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen”

.@AlanSuderman to @LGJustinFairfax: could @LevarStoney be behind this?

Fairfax: “you’re a great reporter”


The only way this could get any wilder, as it were, is if we find a listening device in a tree near the capitol and @harrispolitico @peterbakernyt @mikeallen show up #dougandchuck
TUESDAY AM NEWS: as part of his investigation into the yearbook, @RalphNortham is planning to hire a private eye.

which is not the sort of thing somebody does if they are about to resign
DAY 4: Cameras still perched out in front of the executive mansion
NEW: Letter from nine of @RalphNortham med school classmates:

“We fully believe Governor Ralph Northam is neither of the individuals in those repugnant costumes. We attended classes with the Governor. We socialized with him. We knew him very well.”
.@virginiadems treading carefully on @LGJustinFairfax >

"All allegations of sexual assault deserve to be taken with profound gravity. We will continue to evaluate the situation regarding Lieutenant Governor Fairfax."
NEW: The unity Dems have enjoyed in their rise to dominance here has been shattered

@LGJustinFairfax abruptly hung up on @LevarStoney last night

and w top two Ds in state wounded, Va Ds are prepping Kaine & McAuliffe to step in for crucial ‘19 election
This is a bit of a back to the future moment for Virginia Democrats: the last time they were this dominant, in the 1980s, they also were beset by a bitter feud between their top leaders: Chs S. Robb and L. Douglas Wilder, w Paul Goldman in a crucial supporting role
DAY 5: The Commonwealth of Virginia appears to be turning to a higher power
....and speaking of: just passed @LGJustinFairfax, who only says “God is good”
NEWS: AG Mark Herring had a private meeting this morning with the legislative black caucus, Del. Lamont Bagby confirms.

Asked if Herring discussed a photo of his own, Bagby said “He’ll talk about it.”

Before he could say more, the House min ldr pulled him into a private room.
Black legislators are walking in the capitol w downcast looks. declining comment on the Herring meeting, being rushed into private Caucus room by staff. Lots of “I have no comment”
FIRST WRITE-THRU: Virgina's government is in chaos, as all three top leaders are facing mortal political threats >>>

The Herring rumor has been racing thru Capitol since Tues.

Then chatter he was confessing to black caucus this am.

It became clear when the legislators trickling in were all white. By 11, grim-faced Af-A lawmakers walked in. 38 mins later Mr. Herring put out his statement
Reminder: HERRING and FAIRFAX were both planning to run for governor in 2021, when NORTHAM term is up.
Senator @ChapPetersen, a Fairfax Co Dem, tells me he wants everybody in state government to calm down and take a breath. Says he does not want to see any of the three statewide leaders resign.

“I want them all to stay put until we learn more”
.@EFillerCorn, the Dem House leader and would-be speaker, flees from questions about the stability of Va.

Repeats “i’m headed to committee” three times
URGENT: Vanessa Tyson, @LGJustinFairfax accuser, goes on the record w long statement:

"What began as consensual kissing quickly turned into a sexual assault," Ms. Tyson said, adding: "Mr. Fairfax forced me to perform oral sex on him."
Larry Roberts, @LGJustinFairfax chief of staff, confirms to us that Fairfax did say "fuck" in anger at Senate caucus meeting Monday but emphatically denies NBC report he called his accuser "a fucking bitch."
Asked who is in charge of Va, @AdamEbbin says: NORTHAM.

“The governor of Virginia — for now,”
NEW: Herring stepped aside this morning as co-chair of DAGA, the national Democratic AG's group
LATEST: The legislative black caucus is meeting again, this time without Herring, to decide what to do about the three Va Dems now in grave political peril.
I feel like I have walked onto the set of a 21st century sequel to @Profepps Va political classic: The Shad Treatment
The scene in Richmond tonight: a table of Dem legislators at a Shockoe Slip restaurant are all staring at their phones while dinner sits
NEW: “I feel like I’m living in an episode of a Nathaniel Hawthorne novel where people are..”

Va tries to catch its breath after a stunning day, which began w Herring wiping tears from his face as he spoke to the black caucus

w @alanblinder, our wrap>

Some Virginia Democrats, after hearing of Dr. Tyson’s account, declined to say if they believed the lieutenant governor should resign.

“Everybody is entitled to have their voices heard,” is all Senator Barbara Favola, an Arlington Democrat, said when asked about the allegations.
National Dems who were quick to call for Mr. Northam’s resignation last weekend and have adopted a zero-tolerance approach to transgressions on race and gender, were mostly silent after Mr. Herring’s disclosure and the extraordinary first-person account from Mr. Fairfax’s accuser
NEW: @RalphNortham was planning to telephone @LGJustinFairfax @MarkHerringVA this am, just a courtesy, “thinking of ya” touch.

And as of now, the gov isn’t quitting, per adviser.
FIRST WRITE-THRU w @alanblinder: Northam puts in calls to Fairfax & Herring, Northam advisers trying to get the wives of the three Dems talking to ease tensions & the gov summons an African-American-led PR team from DC, whose principal is gonna try to meet w SHARPTON today in RVA
The scene up the hill from MAIN STREET:
Senate majority leader Tommy Norment, the most powerful Republican in the Senate, emerges from caucus and dodges a phalanx of cameras on way to chamber.

Says not a word about the @virginianpilot report that the VMI yearbook he edited was filled w racist images.
TV crews set up on the lawn of the Capitol for evening news
News here — the @VaBlackCaucus is NOT calling on either Fairfax or Herring to quit

The Va Dem cong delegation issues statement echoing @VaBlackCaucus

Herring “must continue those conversations, and stand ready to answer questions from the public if he is to regain” voter trust


“deeply disturbed by” Fairfax claims, which should be “taken very seriously”
The upshot here: the black caucus, with an assist from the Va congressional delegation, has bought Herring some time and perhaps saved his job.

Fairfax still in peril w Dems just buying time to see what more, if any, details/corroboration emerge
NEW: The Va cong delegation meet w/o staff today about the state’s crisis. Some of the women lawmakers are angry about Fairfax but black Dems don’t want him railroaded

Meanwhile, Northam & Fairfax told one another they’re praying for the other >

Fairfax’s standing is “deteriorating” per one top Va Dem, as they absorb details of the accusation.

And it’s creating tensions within the congressional delegation around issues of race & gender that are hard enough to discuss outside of a Cat 5 storm >

Meanwhile, Republicans are suspicious that the forbearance offered Herring has as much to do with the fact that the GOP-controlled legislature would pick his replacement (as long as they’re in session) as the depth of his contrition.
Enjoyed chatting w @mikiebarb and the Daily crew about Virginia and the Dems’ zero tolerance approach being put to the test

First public appearance (i’ve seen) of @MarkHerringVA, Thursday night rushing into car in this @edokeefe report

DAY 7:
A stepback on Virginia’s present and past on this 400th anniversary of Jamestown and 30th anniversary of @GovernorWilder election

Cameos from V.O. Key, J. Harvie Wilkinson, A.L. Philpott, L. Louise Lucas and the squire: John Warner

w @alexburnsNYT >

Northam starting to emerge a little....

Boyd is a farmer in Southside Va, who has been a leader in the black ag community >
NEW: Another woman comes forward to accuse Fairfax of sexual assault, this time in 2000 >
UPDATING: Fairfax is denying this claim, his aides say statement to come.
MORE: Karen Kessler, a spokesperson for the new Fairfax accuser, tells me that Watson is not planning on litigation and does not seek any form of compensation.

“ she has been concerned and angered by what she’s been reading about another victim so she decided to tell her story”
Watson was a year below Fairfax at Duke. She has worked as a fund-raising consultant.

Kessler, her spokesperson, has done a good bit of work with Watson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, on sexual misconduct cases.
The question now: will national Democrats stick with their calls for an investigation or demand Fairfax resign ?
NEW: Fairfax issue statement denying this latest allegation, calls for a full investigation and notes he has passed FBI background checks.

Says there is a “smear campaign” being run against him.

And concludes: “I will not resign”
The first major Virginia Democrat to call on Fairfax to resign >

.@RepMcEachin, one of two African-Americans from Virginia in Congress >

ALSO: @RalphNortham, wanting to offer clarity after days of uncertainty, told his cabinet today he will NOT resign, per an adviser.

(first reported by @AlanSuderman )
NEW: the Va House/Senate Dem caucuses say Fairfax must go >

"Due to the serious nature of these allegations, we believe Lt Gov Fairfax can no longer fulfill his duties to the Commonwealth. He needs to address this as a private citizen. The time has come for him to step down."
Va Dems are buzzing about two Jennifers as potential ‘21 candidates
@JennMcClellanVA and @JCarrollFoy

Sen. McClellan was already widely thought to have statewide aspirations.

We made her a “rising star” in ‘09 - along w a Californian name of Kamala

UPDATE: some Va Dems don’t want to wait till ‘21, would prefer @JennMcClellanVA is appointed LG and party backs for what would be a special for LG this fall.
McClellan is well-regraded in the capitol and close to @timkaine. her husband @davemillsVA is an operative, was once exec dir of @vademocrats
Simpler times in the Commonwealth...

a few weeks ago.

when the controversy was about the origins of Brunswick Stew (Va)

.@timkaine >

"Lieutenant Governor Fairfax should resign. The allegations against him detail atrocious crimes, and he can no longer effectively serve the Commonwealth. We cannot ever ignore or tolerate sexual assault.”
A Va Dem points out that @JennMcClellanVA is also the chair of Va's MLK Commission
DAY 8: The Rematch
And as thoughts turn to Charlottesville today, it is sad to think of what could’ve been with Emily Couric - who was going to run for LG (and eventually gov) when she got her cancer diagnosis

Took some time to sketch the historical context for this implausible political novel we’ve been living

With @alexburnsNYT, whose formative years were in Rosslyn, a look at part of the reason why this story stings so badly in a self-obsessed state >

“Virginia will survive this,” said Mr. Warner, the nealrly-92-year-old former Republican senator. "But it has been a tragic few days.”
.@RTDSchapiro >

"There is one figure who, were he to pick up the phone, could immediately get through to any of the Democratic Wee Three. He has enduring standing in Va and has already invested his own political capital in each of them - and to beneficial effect: Barack Obama"
In first comments since press conf, @RalphNortham tells @SchneiderG he wants to use the rest of his term to pursue racial reconciliation and consider “white privilege “

“at the end of the day, the white person - just as I was the white person that dressed up as an African American dancer - at the end of the day we can take that makeup off and go back to being white,” but a black person continues to live in that skin and all that it represents.”
NEW: Our Sunday story on the Va vise

-Fairfax is NOT quitting as of now, we’re told. Wants an independent inquiry

-He flubbed earlier damage control by not calling McEachin *or* the 3 women in delegation

-CBC wants equal treatment of Northam&Fairfax


-Post-Fairfax CW solidifies around @JennMcClellanVA, who Dickie Cranwell says would be “exceptionally good”

-Still real anger among black legislators toward Northam, who @C_Herring says tried to “moonwalk” back from his admission

-And the word from Jackson Ward
Fun to be in the saddle w @alanblinder and @campbellnyt , who are well-trained about all manner of political transgressions from their time in Ala
Always fun to see the Oracle of C’ville, but particularly after this week
An outside-the-box answer to the Commonwealth’s political debacle ?

Reston’s own @realgranthill33

(just got to work on that sweatshirt)
Just a rotten week in Va
NEWS: In another sign, @LGJustinFairfax is planning to resist calls that he resign, he has added an African-American woman from the Va’s most connected law firm, @McGuireWoodsLLP, to his legal team.

Oh, and Ava Lias-Booker is also a Duke grad.

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