Democratic debate night: Fact checking the candidates on the issues

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Ten 2020 contenders are on the stage Wednesday night for the first of two Democratic presidential debates in Miami. Our team of journalists from ABC News reviewed some of the candidates’ statements in an effort to provide additional context, details and information.

Here’s ABC News’ fact check of the debate between Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Rep. John Delaney, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan and Mayor Bill de Blasio:

FACT CHECK: Booker says Haliburton and Amazon ‘pay nothing in taxes’

Sen. Cory Booker: “I will single out companies like Halliburton or Amazon that pay nothing in taxes and need to change that. When it comes to antitrust law, what I will do is, number one, appoint judges that will enforce it.”

Amazon paid no federal taxes in 2017 and 2018 despite record U.S. profits, according to a report from the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy. In previous years, the company has paid federal income taxes but at a much lower rate. President Donald Trump, in 2018, even tweeted that companies like Amazon do indeed pay “little or no taxes to state and local governments.” The report also found that Halliburton managed to pay little in federal taxes, due to large corporate tax breaks.

FACT CHECK: Klobuchar says big pharma doesn’t “own” her

Sen. Amy Klobuchar: “And so my proposal is to do something about pharma, to take them on, to allow negotiation under Medicare, to bring in less expensive drugs from other countries and pharma thinks they own Washington, well they don’t own me.”

Klobuchar has accepted over $400,000 from the pharmaceutical industry over the course of her career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. By comparison, pharmaceutical companies are not in the list of top donors for other candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The Minnesota Democrat has also received at least $22,025 from individuals associated with the Minnesota-based medical and pharmaceutical company named Medtronic, including $5,600 from the company’s executive committee member Brad Lerman, $5,400 from board member Kendall Powell and $2,800 from executive VP and CFO Karen Parkhill. (View itemized FEC data here)

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Now that Robert Mueller has agreed to testify, what do Democrats and Republicans hope to accomplish?

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Next month, lawmakers will get the chance to question one of Washington’s most elusive figures after House Democrats triumphed in setting a date to have former special counsel Robert Mueller testify in public before two congressional committees.

But after landing the notoriously reserved former FBI director — whose only public comments since launching the probe lasted just nine minutes — what do lawmakers hope to accomplish?

Democrats want Americans — many of whom have not read his report — to hear Mueller describe his investigation, including the evidence he gathered regarding possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump. Specifically, did Mueller punt to Congress because Justice Department policy precludes prosecuting a president in office?

How he answers could prove key to their making the case that impeachment is justified, if Democrats chose to pursue that route. Republicans, on the other hand, hope to undermine Mueller’s probe in defense of the president.

For his part, Mueller has signaled his intention to “not go beyond our report” in any remarks before Congress, fearing he could get dragged into a political slugfest. But on CNN Tuesday night, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said that while Mueller remains “deeply reluctant” to testify, “Congress has questions that go beyond the report.”

“We have questions about the counterintelligence investigation and the role of the agents within his team, to questions about some of the prosecutorial decisions that were made. We have fact questions about some of the statements that were made in the report,” Schiff said. “So there are any number of issues that we wish to cover with him.”

Beyond trying to get him to clarify key passages in his 448-page report, Democrats hope that seeing and hearing the strait-laced Mueller on live television may draw the public’s attention back to the Russia investigation, which plagued the White House for more than two years.

“If [Mueller] says what was in the report — and says it to the American people so they hear it — that will be very, very important,” Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. “That will be important itself. Whether he goes farther than that, we’ll see.”

Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, put a finer point on Democrats’ intentions.

“You can’t expect the American people to want to read 400 pages of that document,” Speier said on CNN Wednesday. “They are more likely to listen to Bob Mueller, who has shown he has powerful gravitas.”

That powerful image Democrats hope to conjure could help hammer home the special counsel’s findings, bring to life a report that most Americans haven’t read and bolster public support for a possible impeachment inquiry.

At least 80 House Democrats — roughly one-third of their caucus — now support pursuing impeachment proceedings, even as the public’s desire lags behind. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken after the Mueller report was released, 56% of Americans opposed impeachment.

Democrats have thus far struggled to bring witnesses to Capitol Hill, having to rely on court battles for victories against a White House whose penchant to keep current and foreign administration officials from testifying has stalled Democrats’ probes. Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal attorney, said Wednesday on CNN that “there are no legal moves that are being made” by the White House to block Mueller’s testimony.

Regardless of Democrats’ intentions, Mueller’s testimony is expected to be must-watch television not just in Washington but nationwide, dwarfing previous day-long hearings featuring the likes of Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal attorney, and Attorney General William Barr in the days after he released the special counsel’s report.

But staking so much on Mueller’s appearance, Democrats risk falling flat — and Republicans hope to capitalize on the opportunity.

“It is going to backfire on the Democrats,” Rep. Mark Meadows, a top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said on Fox News late Tuesday. “Bob Mueller better be prepared, because I can tell you — he will be cross-examined for the first time, and the American people will start see the flaws in his performance.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill, predicted late Tuesday on Fox News that Mueller’s testimony “will blow up in their face,” referring to Democrats, adding that “the conclusions can’t change.”

One potential subject for Republicans’ questions could be Mueller’s team of prosecutors – long a subject of President Trump’s ire and whom he frequently to as “angry Democrats.”

Nadler said Wednesday the committees “may be” planning to hear from members of Mueller’s team, and Republicans are poised to follow the president’s lead. On Fox News Tuesday night, Rep. Meadows said inquiries about the political backgrounds of special counsel prosecutors “a legitimate question.”

With three weeks until Mueller’s July 17 hearing, the president remains an important variable. On Wednesday, Trump lashed out at news of the special counsel’s testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

“The Mueller thing never stops,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I heard about it last night and I just said, ‘Does it ever end? At what point does it end?’ It’s a disgrace.” “

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Ahead of Democratic debates, 2020 candidates visit shelter for unaccompanied migrant children

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MIAMI) — Two presidential candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, visited a temporary holding facility for unaccompanied migrant children in Homestead, Florida, on Wednesday, hours before they were due to hit the Democratic debate stage.

While neither Warren, of Massachusetts, or Klobuchar, of Minnesota, were allowed into the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, Warren spoke outside of the facility and called the separation of families at the border a “stain on our country.”

“What is happening at Homestead to children, what is happening as the direct result of the activities of the United States government, is wrong,” Warren said. She said the Trump administration’s policy was to maximize “the pain inflicted on families who flee to the United States to try to build some security and safety in their lives,” and called it “fundamentally and morally wrong.”

Their visit comes amidst renewed criticism over the Trump administration’s treatment of children crossing into the country along the southern border. The outcry has has taken on fresh urgency in recent days, as a harrowing image circulated that showed a man and his 23-month-old child lying lifeless and face down in the mud, with the girl’s arm draped over her father’s body. Authorities say that the two drowned as the attempted to cross from Mexico into the United States.

Ahead of the debate on Thursday, which will feature the second half of presidential candidates, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke Of Texas, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio say they will all visit Homestead.

Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of HUD Julian Castro, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Marianne Williamson, a spiritual guru, and author, are scheduled to be there Friday.

Another candidate, Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, visited the facility Monday.

Both Warren and Klobuchar missed the Senate’s vote on a $4.6 billion border security bill Wednesday that passed overwhelmingly in the Republican-controlled body, and would send emergency humanitarian relief to the southern border, but is markedly different from a bill passed by the Democrat-controlled House. Klobuchar told ABC News that she wants to work with both the House and the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. The White House has vowed to veto the House version.

As of June 16, some 2,450 unaccompanied children between the ages of 13 and 17 were being held at the Homestead facility, according to a fact sheet by the Department of Health and Human Services.

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Still no sign of Oregon Republicans who walked out amid climate change vote

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ZWEID/iStock(PORTLAND, Ore.) — There are more than 100 bills that still need to be voted on before Oregon’s legislative session ends this week, but it’s not clear that any of the Senate’s Republicans are going to show up.

The Oregon Senate Republicans walked out last week over a scheduled vote on a bill relating to climate change regulations, and they haven’t come back since.

The Senate’s 11 Republicans went into hiding — with rampant speculation about their whereabouts – in and effort to bust the state-mandated quorum that is required to hold votes. Of the Senate’s current 29 members, 20 have to be present to vote. When the 11 Republicans left, that left only 18 senators dealing with the pending votes, and therefore, not enough to move forward.

“We’ve heard rumors all over the place,” Rick Osborn, the communications director for the Oregon Senate Majority office, said of the Republicans whereabouts. “We’ve heard Idaho. We’ve heard Montana. We’ve heard Washington. I think I heard about somebody in California. I don’t know if they’re together or separate but they appear to be out of the state.”

The idea of simply walking out of the job in order to prevent a vote is not actually new to these senators, as they pulled a similar stunt in April.

Osborn said that the Republicans walked out over an education bill in April, but there were enough Democratic votes to pass the measure without bipartisan support. But in order to avoid a similar incident unfolding, Osborn said that both sides struck a deal not to flee the state.

“They gave us their word at that point that they would not do this again and in exchange we lost a piece of legislation that had to do with gun safety and a piece of legislation that had to do with vaccines,” Osborn said.

That deal apparently fell apart, and now Osborn said that there are more than 100 bills that still need to be voted on before the legislative session ends at midnight on Sunday.

Among the outstanding bills are budgets for the education and forestry departments, which Osborn warned is particularly troubling ahead of the summer and forest fire season.

The bill that allegedly prompted the most recent walkout – H.B. 2020 – is essentially done, with the Senate president saying this week “that particular bill does not have a path forward” because there were not enough votes among Democrats to have it pass without other support.

Osborn said that he assumes that negotiations between Senate Republicans and Democratic leadership is continuing — including the state’s Democratic Gov. Kate Brown who issued a stern statement on the issue Tuesday.

“This is not the Oregon Way and cannot be rewarded,” Brown said in her statement. “The Republicans are driving us away from the values that Oregonians hold dear, and are moving us dangerously close to the self-serving stalemate in Washington, D.C.”

The Oregon Senate Republican caucus did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for a comment about the walkout.

For Osborn, the issue is not only one mired in frustration over elected officials “running from a vote you don’t like,” but also the fact that they tried to avoid this.

“When they came back [in April] we gave up a couple of bills and they gave their word they wouldn’t do this again, and they did this again,” he said.

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Senate overwhelmingly agrees to send emergency humanitarian relief to southern border

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate overwhelmingly cleared a measure Wednesday that would send emergency humanitarian relief to the southern border but is markedly different from a bill passed by the House — leaving lawmakers little time to reconcile their bills before they leave town on Thursday for the July Fourth recess.

The final vote in the Senate was 84-8.

Late Tuesday night, the House voted mostly along party lines to approve a $4.5 billion measure that addresses conditions of detention centers where migrant children are being held. The White House has vowed to veto this version.

“They had to drag their bill way to the left to earn the support of most Democrats. As a result the House has not made much progress toward actually making a law. Just more ‘Resistance theater.’ The Senate has a better and more bipartisan way forward,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

The Senate’s version doesn’t go as far in laying out clear standards on detention centers and how children must be treated. It also calls for $145 million to go to the Pentagon to aid with border control, which House Democrats are not likely to support.

“This is a solid bill. It provides the resources needed to address the crisis we face. It contains no poison pills, and it is poised to pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support, unlike the version that came out of the House last night,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement.

Identical legislation must pass both chambers before the president can sign a bill into law.

But on Wednesday, there was a glimmer of hope. The president, speaking on the South Lawn, told reporters that he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the border bill and acknowledged that “we are moving along very well with a bipartisan bill in the Senate.”

“It’s very far along and I believe the House is going to also be getting together with the Senate,” Trump said. “Hopefully they can get something done.”

He added: “I think that a lot of people are starting to realize that I was right when I said we have a crisis of the border.”

Several lawmakers on Wednesday expressed their frustrations regarding the treatment of children at the southern border after a photo of a deceased father and daughter drowned while crossing the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, Texas, was published. Authorities said they drowned on Monday trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S.

“It’s terrible. We need to stop people from taking this journey and try to make life better in their home countries. We need to turn off the flow and turn on the aid to Central America,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters on Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called out Trump for failing to address the crisis at the border.

“The president’s actions at the border are a whirlwind of incompetence leading to pictures like this,” he said.

“So President Trump, if you want to know the real reason there’s chaos at the border, look in the mirror,” Schumer said. “The president continues to blame Democrats, but the real problem is the president.”

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Senate voting on sending emergency humanitarian relief to southern border

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The Senate was voting Wednesday on a measure that would send emergency humanitarian relief to the southern border but is markedly different from a bill passed by the House — leaving lawmakers with little time to reconcile their bills before they leave town on Thursday for the July Fourth recess.

Late Tuesday night, the House voted mostly along party lines to approve a $4.5 billion measure that addresses conditions of detention centers where migrant children are being held. The White House has vowed to veto this version.

“They had to drag their bill way to the left to earn the support of most Democrats. As a result the House has not made much progress toward actually making a law. Just more ‘Resistance theater.’ The Senate has a better and more bipartisan way forward,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

The Senate’s version doesn’t go as far in laying out clear standards on detention centers and how children must be treated. It also calls for $145 million to go to the Pentagon to aid with border control, which House Democrats are not likely to support.

“This is a solid bill. It provides the resources needed to address the crisis we face. It contains no poison pills, and it is poised to pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support, unlike the version that came out of the House last night,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement.

Identical legislation must pass both chambers before the president can sign a bill into law.

But on Wednesday, there was a glimmer of hope. The president, speaking on the South Lawn, told reporters that he spoke with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the border bill and acknowledged that “we are moving along very well with a bipartisan bill in the Senate.”

“It’s very far along and I believe the House is going to also be getting together with the Senate,” Trump said. “Hopefully they can get something done.”

He added: “I think that a lot of people are starting to realize that I was right when I said we have a crisis of the border.”

Several lawmakers on Wednesday expressed their frustrations regarding the treatment of children at the southern border after a photo of a deceased father and daughter drowned while crossing the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, Texas, was published. Authorities said they drowned on Monday trying to cross from Mexico to the U.S.

“It’s terrible. We need to stop people from taking this journey and try to make life better in their home countries. We need to turn off the flow and turn on the aid to Central America,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters Wednesday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York called out Trump for failing to address the crisis at the border.

“The president’s actions at the border are a whirlwind of incompetence leading to pictures like this,” Schumer said.

“So President Trump, if you want to know the real reason there’s chaos at the border, look in the mirror,” Schumer said. “The president continues to blame Democrats, but the real problem is the president.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Photo of drowned father and daughter sparks new calls to deal with immigration crisis

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

iStock(NEW YORK) — It’s a single, haunting photograph that tells a horrible story, and almost 2,000 miles away, and may have a critical impact on the deadlocked immigration debate in Washington.

The father is seen lying face down in Rio Grande river near Brownsville, Texas — his 23-month old daughter’s arm around his neck — both dead after authorities said they drowned on Monday trying to cross from Mexico into the U.S.

Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramirez had reportedly ferried his daughter, Valeria, to the U.S. side of the river first before returning for her mother, Tania Vanessa Avalos. But Valeria apparently jumped in after him, and when he tried to rescue her, both were swept away by the current.

The New York Times put the photo on its front page, one of many newspapers around the nation to do so.

The top Senate Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday morning next to a poster-sized version of the photo, saying migrants such as the father and daughter were trying to escape brutality, starvation and threats of rape and murder in their home countries.

“Any normal person would flee,” he said.

“We all — Democrats, Republicans, Americans — have a responsibility to act here,” Schumer said, as the Senate was expected to vote on Wednesday on emergency border funding, including money at detention centers where reports say children have been mistreated.

Across the Capitol, a similar sentiment came from the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, at a hearing on what to do about the immigration crisis.

“I realize tragedies occur in this country — all over the world. I don’t want to see another picture like that on the U.S. border,” said Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. “I hope that picture alone with catalyze this Congress, this Senate, this committee to do something.”

The photos also show the child’s mother pointing out to Mexican authorities where she said her husband and daughter were swept away by the current hundreds of yards from where they had tried to cross.

The image of the dead father and daughter, and other photos, were captured by journalist Julia Le Duc.

The photograph has drawn swift and impassioned attention around the world to the desperate conditions that migrants can face both in their home countries and during their efforts to reach the U.S.

“The deaths of Oscar and Valeria represent a failure to address the violence and desperation pushing people to take journeys of danger for the prospect of a life in safety and dignity,” the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement on Wednesday. “This is compounded by the absence of safe pathways for people to seek protection, leaving people with no other choice than to risk their lives.”

In a tweet, Mexico’s former ambassador the U.S., Arturo Sarukhan, said, “This tragedy is what happens when you try to enforce your way out of a #migration crisis. And in the end, the only winners will be the human smugglers and traffickers.”

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Trump attacks Mueller after he agrees to testify to Congress

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday attacked Robert Mueller hours after word came that the former special counsel had agreed to testify before Congress in open session on July 17.

Trump once again labeled Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” and a “hoax” and accused him of illegally handling the derogatory text messages exchanged between former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, saying Mueller had “terminated” them, calling it “illegal.”

“That’s a crime,” Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo.

Trump has argued the point before in attacking Mueller, including in a tweet dating back to December 2018.

Mueller was “obviously not a Trump fan,” the president said.

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Democratic debates 2020: 10 presidential candidates set to square off on night one

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

liveslow/iStock(MIAMI) — The first Democratic debates are here, and the 2020 contenders are converging on two stages in Miami — the site of the first debates on Wednesday and Thursday — in the crucial battleground state of Florida.

In the initial months of the campaign season, the presidential hopefuls have been looking to break out from the sprawling field. Now, 20 Democrats are seeking to use the early introduction to Democratic primary voters, beyond the coffee shops and house parties in the early nominating states, to reset the playing field.

The debates will take place over two nights and air on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo beginning at 9 EDT.

The first debates might usher in a breakout performance or a disappointing one, but it will also give candidates their first opportunity to show their differences and pitch their wide array of policy prescriptions to the major issues like climate change, gun control, health care, foreign policy, immigration and criminal justice reform, that have been percolating in the Democratic primary so far.

The first 10 candidates set to square off on Wednesday are:

  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke
  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
  • Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio

On Wednesday night, standing at the center podiums will be Warren and O’Rourke. The Massachusetts senator, currently a top-tier candidate after narrowing the gap between former Vice President Joe Biden in recent polls, will have the chance to set the tone against some of the more moderate candidates — Klobuchar, Delaney and Ryan — with her progressive agenda stacked with detailed policy proposals.

For O’Rourke, the debate is an opportunity to recapture the prominence and spectacle that surrounded his entry into the contest back in March — and amass enough traction to put him among the higher polling candidates before the second debate in July.

For Booker, who arrives in Miami after last week’s clash with Biden over his rival repeating a refrain of praise for segregationist senators at a fundraiser, the pressure is on to overcome lagging poll numbers that put him in the middle of the field. He has spent the early days of the week doing push-ups, drinking “lots” of LaCroix, and eating some popcorn to prepare for the big night.

“Debate prep is serious and one should take it seriously, but you also have to have moments where you can take a break, reset, get back in it,” a campaign aide told ABC News.

For Delaney, who has been prepping in part by watching the crowded Republican debates in 2016, his campaign team said the goal is to “make a little bit of a splash and see what happens.”

“Wednesday night is going to be a dog fight, let’s not kid ourselves,” said national press secretary Michael Hopkins. “We’re going to try to be the adults in the room and be more about substance than about flash.”

Inslee arrived in Miami early to meet with and learn from folks on the ground and on the front lines of climate change.

“Our focus is largely on the governor presenting his message, and I think there are two things that set him apart — he’s the only candidate who’s saying climate change needs to be the No. 1 priority,” Inslee’s communications director Jared Leopold told ABC News.

On night two, although it won’t be Biden clashing with Booker, he will be standing alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., as they are expected to bump elbows to woo the Democratic base and establish their front-runner status.

A day before the first debate, NBC announced that each night will be split into five segments with four commercial breaks over the two hours. Throughout each segment, candidates will have 60 seconds to answer questions and 30 seconds to respond to follow-ups, according to NBC.

In order to qualify for the debates in June and July, candidates must earn at least 1 percent support in three separate national or early-state polls conducted from Jan. 1 to two weeks before the given debate, or receive donations from at least 65,000 people across 20 different states, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state. The number of debate participants has been capped at 20 by the Democratic National Committee.

There are three declared candidates who will not appear on either stage, after failing to meet the DNC’s qualification standards for the first debate: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam.

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Pence rolls out ‘Latinos for Trump,’ slams Democrats ahead of debate

Posted on: June 26th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(MIAMI) — Vice President Mike Pence helped roll out the Trump campaign’s first 2020 coalition in Miami on Tuesday, less than 10 miles away from where Democrats are set to take the stage for their first primary debate a day later.

During the around 45-minute speech kicking off the new effort aimed at turning out Latino voters, the vice president was clearly in campaign mode, often making the event feel like a mini Trump rally — “lock her up” and “build the wall” chants and all. The event took place at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Miami Airport & Convention Center, with a few hundred people in attendance.

According to campaign aides, the “Latinos for Trump” roll out in Miami is part of the reelection campaign’s counter programming strategy ahead of the this week’s first Democratic debates with a goal of getting the vice president on the ground early in the Sunshine State to paint the Democrats as far-left radicals.

During his speech, Pence offered an early rebuttal to the 20 Democrats who will have two nights all to themselves starting Wednesday night, often pegging the entire group as radicals who want to bring socialism to the country, while shying away from naming or singling out any individual candidate by name.

“Democrats are going to gather here in Miami tomorrow night to begin to make their case to the American people. I mean they’re gonna take they’re going to take the stage,” Pence said.

“They’re actually going to take the stage and advocate more taxes, more regulation — something called Medicare for All,” Pence told the receptive crowd. “I think you all know what Medicare for All really means is quality health care for none. … Latino Americans know better than most about the cost of socialism.”

While Pence didn’t name any 2020 Democrat directly, taking a page out of the president’s reelection speech, he did make a passing reference to former Vice President Joe Biden’s reversal on the Hyde Amendment.

“It’s amazing to think we live in a time when Democrats running for president are out there advocating late term abortion and defending and now probably tomorrow night you’re gonna see there’s now seems to be even a litmus test in the democratic campaign for president, that the taxpayer funding of abortion I guess is now required for all of their candidates to be supported throughout pregnancy,” the vice president said, seemingly alluding to 2020 Democratic front-runner Biden’s recent reversal on the Hyde Amendment.

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Mueller agrees to testify before two House committees in July

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have subpoenaed former special counsel Robert Mueller for his testimony before Congress, according to a press release issued Tuesday evening.

“Pursuant to subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence tonight, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has agreed to testify before both committees on July 17 in open session,” according to the release.

Mueller is expected to sit before both committees in two separate open hearings on July 17, according to congressional aides, with the possibility that some testimony will occur in closed session.

“We are pleased that the American people will hear directly from Special Counsel Mueller,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “The Mueller Report revealed that the Russians waged a ‘sweeping and systematic’ attack on our elections, and America’s top intelligence and law enforcement officials have warned that the Russians will attack our elections again.”

She added that members of Congress must honor their oath and follow the facts to “protect our democracy.”

Mueller broke a nearly two-year silence when he made a brief public statement at the Department of Justice in late May.

During his comments, Mueller said he had no further plans to speak publicly on matters that were addressed in his over 400-page report.

“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said.

In response to the news of Mueller’s upcoming testimony before Congress, President Donald Trump’s lead attorney Jay Sekulow told ABC News, “Bob Mueller agreed to testify. He already said his testimony will be his report. We expect his testimony will be the report.”

He added that he also expects Mueller to have to respond to any irregularities that occurred during his investigation.

Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report on April 2018. The report found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but declined to make a prosecutorial decision on whether the president obstructed justice during the course of the 22-month-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The release of the redacted report elicited near-immediate calls from Democrats, who called for a release of the unredacted documents. Members of the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have called for the full report to be shared with Congress.

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House approves humanitarian relief bill for detention centers on Southern border

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The House voted 230 to 195, mostly down party lines, late Tuesday night to approve a $4.5 billion measure to send humanitarian relief to the southern border, addressing concerns about conditions of detention centers where migrant children are being held.

But before any migrants realize the benefits of the package, Republicans and President Donald Trump must also act — and so far the road ahead seems bumpy.

The White House has vowed to veto this version, and the Senate must pass a bill next — whether it’s their version or the House’s — before the president can sign anything into law.

Three Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and just four Democrats opposed the vote — they were all freshmen Democrats, and arguably the highest profile freshmen from the 116th Congress: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. All four said earlier in the week they would vote against the bill due to its funding of Immigration and Customs (ICE), which they have called for to be abolished.

Crossing the aisle to vote in favor were Republican moderate Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick, of Pennsylvania, Will Hurd, of Texas, and Chris Smith, of New Jersey.

The House goes on recess for 11 days on Thursday afternoon, so time is running short on lawmakers hoping for a bipartisan compromise.

The Senate could vote as soon as Wednesday on its own version, but identical legislation must pass both chambers before the president can sign a bill into law.

The House vote comes as the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has told employees he is resigning from the agency and CBP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Tuesday denied the allegations of mistreatment of children at the centers but said an internal investigation was underway.

“When we go to the floor, you will see our bill,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told ABC News. “It’s for the children, the children, the children. It’s about lifting them up in a way that takes them beyond what we do today. This is a very strong step for us, a very strong first step for us for the children. It’s very exciting.”

Trump expressed optimism that lawmakers would meet his $4.5 billion request for humanitarian assistance, even though the White House has signaled he would veto the House Democrats’ version.

“Hopefully we’re getting funding today. It’s a humane bill. It’s about humanity, helping children,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office Tuesday afternoon. “Mexico is doing much more for us than the Democrats and Congress. So it’s a real simple thing to do. They just refuse to do it. I think we should probably be successful with humanitarian aid. It’s going to have a big impact.”

Pelosi has had to deal with Ocasio-Cortez and some other Democrats who were opposing the bill, wanting more specific language mandating how children should be treated and more restrictions on how the Trump administration can use the money to implement its immigration policies.

The bill addresses the immediate controversy by appropriating $934.5 million for processing facilities, food, water, sanitary items, blankets, medical services, and safe transportation.

Early Tuesday morning, the White House issued a veto threat asserting the House legislation “contains a number of problematic policy provisions that would hinder the Administration’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws and protect children.”

“The House majority has put forward a partisan bill that underfunds necessary accounts and seeks to take advantage of the current crisis by inserting policy provisions that would make our country less safe,” a White House statement noted. “By opposing detention beds—where illegal migrants are placed pending their removal—Democrat lawmakers are declaring their belief that illegal immigrants, including those who skip court hearings or commit additional crimes, should be allowed to remain in our country indefinitely.”

The Senate could vote on its own version of a border supplemental Tuesday, increasing pressure on Democrats to successfully clear their version, which has created some divisions within the Democratic Caucus, putting its passage in jeopardy.

“The Senate has a good bill. Our bill is much better. But if we are going to prevail we have to have a good, strong vote. You can find fault with any bill that comes down the pike, but we must respect the bill for what is does rather criticize it for what it does not,” Pelosi told her caucus during a meeting Tuesday morning, according to a senior aide in the room. “A vote against this bill is a vote for Donald Trump and his inhumane, outside-the-circle of civilized attitude toward the children.”

Monday night, Ocasio-Cortez, the New York freshman, and other Democrats dissatisfied with the bill huddled in Pelosi’s office, deliberating over plans to put their version of the $4.5 billion border aid package on the floor Tuesday.

Ocasio-Cortez expressed frustration that Republicans aren’t facing greater pressure and criticism over conditions at the detention centers, vowing to oppose the measure brought forward by party leaders.

“I will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics,” she said.

On Monday night, Pelosi expressed a desire to further enhance protections for children in the bill, leaving Democrats scrambling to incorporate the proposals in an amendment ahead of a vote Tuesday.

After speaking to Pelosi on Friday night, Trump delayed mass deportation raids for two weeks, pressuring Congress to pass an immigration bill.

Democrats concede a comprehensive immigration bill is not possible to craft before Trump’s deadline, and Pelosi said the bill that came to a vote on Tuesday “isn’t an immigration bill.”

“It’s not an immigration bill. It’s an appropriations bill to meet the needs of our children so we can remove the needs that they have but also the shame that we should have that they don’t have diapers and toothbrushes and the care,” she said. “I said to the members, we have to have a country where every child knows that they are in their parents’ arms. Literally or figuratively. We are the arms of these children in terms of this appropriation is concerned. We want them to feel that comfort.”

“I’m very proud of our members,” Pelosi said. “So much work has gone into it to have a back and forth so we have the strongest possible bill. But again, it’s not an immigration bill. It is an appropriations bill to meet the needs of the children.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mueller agrees to testify before 2 House committees in July

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have subpoenaed former special counsel Robert Mueller for his testimony before Congress, according to a press release issued Tuesday evening.

“Pursuant to subpoenas issued by the House Judiciary and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence tonight, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has agreed to testify before both committees on July 17 in open session,” according to the release.

Mueller is expected to sit before both committees in two separate open hearings on July 17, according to congressional aides, with the possibility that some testimony will occur in closed session.

Mueller broke a nearly two-year silence when he made a brief public statement at the Department of Justice in late May.

During his comments, Mueller said he had no further plans to speak publicly on mattersthat were addressed in his over 400-page report.

“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said.

Attorney General William Barr released a redacted version of the Mueller report on April 2018. The report found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but declined to make a prosecutorial decision on whether the president obstructed justice during the course of the 22-month-long investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The release of the redacted report elicited near-immediate calls from Democrats, who called for a release of the unredacted documents. Members of the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees have called for the full report to be shared with Congress.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

McConnell vows vote on 9/11 victim compensation fund after Jon Stewart criticism

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tom Brenner/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Ground Zero recovery workers and activists had a “great” meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell late Tuesday afternoon, following a public feud over the 9/11 victim compensation fund.

“It was productive,” longtime activist John Feal told reporters outside the Capitol, following the meeting with McConnell.

“For now, we’re going to put down our swords and pick up our rakes,” Feal said.

After the meeting, McConnell told ABC News that he had a “good” meeting with the activists.

Earlier this month, comedian Jon Stewart made an emotional appeal to Congress to make the victim compensation fund permanent. With first responders and their advocates behind him, Stewart ripped Congress for failing to fully fund the program.

“They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!” he shouted.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which Stewart and others have battled to protect for years, is set to run out of money in December 2020.

Two weeks ago, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in support of refunding the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, which was created to provide compensation to anyone who suffered physical harm or was killed as a result of the terrorist-related aircraft crashes or the debris removal efforts that took place in the immediate aftermath of those crashes.

Stewart has called out McConnell on several occasions for his inaction in the past regarding the bill.

Stewart promised in his testimony before Congress that he and other advocates wouldn’t allow a “certain someone” in the Senate to use the program as a “political football” in spending negotiations, referring to McConnell.

McConnell retaliated on “Fox and Friends” saying he didn’t know why Stewart was “bent out of shape,” and denied that he was moving slowly on the issue. He also said the extension would pass when it came up for renewal.

Feal says the meeting with McConnell Tuesday was “laid back” and relaxed — adding that in previous years — meetings with McConnell and his staff were “heated” and “emotional.”

“We covered every issue that we thought we could cover,” Feal said. “He actually sat for this one. The other ones he was quick to get up and leave his staff with us.”

Feal told reporters that they secured a commitment from McConnell to bring the bill to the floor for a vote in the Senate sometime in August, which is sooner than they expected. It is expected to clear the House in July, Feal said.

“Today Mitch McConnell promised to work for us. I’m going to take him for his word,” Feal said Tuesday.

Feal said they left McConnell with a badge belonging to retired New York Police detective Luis Alvarez as a reminder of the losses they have suffered. Alvarez, who testified with Stewart earlier this month, is not expected to live long after a battle with Stage 4 cancer. He was diagnosed 16 years after he rushed to Ground Zero after the twin towers collapsed.

“We wanted the Senate majority leader to be reminded of people like Detective Luis Alvarez,” Feal said.

“So he’s got his badge now. If he strays from his commitment, then we’ll go back into attack mode.”

Asked about the badge he received, McConnell told ABC News, “It was a great gift, and I really appreciated it.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Rep. Duncan Hunter accused of using campaign funds to lead ‘series of intimate relationships’ outside his marriage

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter, who is accused of allegedly using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, allegedly tapped into some of that money to also finance romantic trysts with multiple congressional aides and lobbyists, according to federal prosecutors in new court filings.

In documents filed Monday, federal prosecutors detailed allegations against Hunter, saying that he used thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for alcohol, romantic getaways to Lake Tahoe, golf outings and Uber rides to carry out “a series of intimate relationships” with individuals identified as numbers 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

In one instance, prosecutors said Hunter and “Individual 14” spent a January 2010 weekend together at a ski resort near Lake Tahoe, skiing and ordering room service. When the weekend ended, court documents allege, Hunter paid the $1,008 hotel tab using campaign funds from his campaign credit card.

Prosecutors said that at that time, Hunter’s personal bank accounts “had a negative balance,” suggesting that “he could not have paid for the weekend without dipping into campaign funds.”

“Hunter’s intimate relationships furnished part of his motive to embezzle from the campaign,” court documents said. “Carrying out all these affairs did not come cheap…Given the pronounced financial difficulties the Hunters were facing, his use of campaign funds to pursue these relationships was necessary for Hunter to satisfy his desire for intimacy.”

In an August 2018 letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, a lawyer for Hunter accused the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California of political bias against the representative, writing: “While there may be evidence of infidelity, irresponsibility or alcohol dependence, once properly understood, the underlying facts do not equate to criminal activity; these allegations are, however, intended to embarrass and humiliate the congressman shortly before a crucial election and also alienate him from his wife.”

The accusations revealed Monday came just days after the Rep. Hunter’s wife, who also faces charges that she used hundreds of thousands of dollars of campaign donations along with Duncan Hunter to pay for personal expenses, changed her plea with the court.

On Thursday, Margaret Hunter, who worked as her husband’s campaign manager, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. in exchange for her testimony and cooperation with prosecutors — possibly setting the stage for her testify against her spouse.

Margaret Hunter had initially pleaded not guilty to all charges.

In a statement to the Associated Press on Thursday, Duncan Hunter said the indictment was meant to inflict “as much political damage as possible.”

“It was politically motivated at the beginning, it remains politically motivated now,” he told the AP.

In August 2018, both Duncan Hunter and Margaret Hunter were indicted by a federal grand jury in San Diego on charges that they converted more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, and filed false campaign finance records with the Federal Election Commission.

The 48-page indictment alleges that the Hunters illegally used campaign money to pay for expenses that they could not otherwise afford from 2009 through 2016. The purchases allegedly included family vacations to Italy, Hawaii, Phoenix and Boise, Idaho; school tuition; dental work; theater tickets; and domestic and international travel for almost a dozen relatives.

The Hunters also allegedly spent tens of thousands of dollars on smaller purchases, including fast food, movie tickets, golf outings, video games, coffee, groceries, home utilities and expensive meals, according to the indictment.

To allegedly conceal their personal spending, the Hunters mischaracterized the purchases in FEC filings as “campaign travel,” “dinner with volunteers/contributors,” “toy drives,” “teacher/parent and supporter events,” and other false descriptions, according to the indictment.

The House Ethics Committee was investigating allegations of Hunter’s improper use of campaign funds, but announced in March 2018 that it would continue to defer to the Department of Justice investigation.

Duncan Hunter has maintained in the past that he was not aware of the improper spending, and that he’d repaid his campaign committee roughly $60,000 to cover the expenses.

A plainspoken former Marine, Duncan Hunter has served in Congress since 2009, after replacing his father who was retiring, former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter. He was one of the first lawmakers to endorse President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

His trial is scheduled for Sept. 10.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Rep. Duncan Hunter accused of using campaign funds to lead ‘series of intimate relationships’ outside his marriage

‘Decade of negligence’: Feds fail to protect Americans’ info, report says

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

TriggerPhoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Several major federal agencies, which collect vast amounts of personal data about American citizens, as part of their work have routinely failed to adequately protect that information for years, according to a congressional report.

“After a decade of negligence, our federal agencies have failed at implementing basic cybersecurity practices, leaving classified, personal and sensitive information unsafe and vulnerable to theft,” Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Investigations, said in a statement. “The federal government can and must do a better job of shoring up our defenses against the rising cybersecurity threats.”

The report, published Tuesday, is based on a review of past inspector general reports at eight major U.S. federal departments: Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education and the Social Security Administration.

It said that the number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies have grown substantially over the last decade to more then 35,000 reported incidents in 2017 — including the massive breach of personal information of federal workers in 2015 from the Office of Personnel Management.

But based on the IG reports, congressional researchers found the agencies still “currently fail to comply with basic cybersecurity standards,” including leaving systems unpatched and relying far too much on “legacy” systems — both of which create potential openings for hackers to slip in and steal Americans’ data.

In the case of the Department of Education, which the report says collects financial data on students and parents applying for college loans, an inspector general report said that the agency has been unable, since 2011, to “prevent unauthorized outside devices from easily connecting to the agency’s network.”

The Department of Housing and Urban Development keeps prospective homeowners’ financial records for loan considerations, but it “does not have a mature process for monitoring network and web application data exfiltration,” the report said, which could compromise access to personal information.

The Department of Homeland Security, which maintains travel records for U.S. citizens traveling to and from abroad and whose mission includes protecting the U.S. from cyberattacks, “[f]or the last ten fiscal years […] failed to appropriately remediate cyber vulnerabilities by ensuring security patches were properly applied,” the report said.

Representatives for the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report. In response to a 2018 DHS inspector general report that also criticized the DHS’s cybersecurity practices, DHS management said “corrective actions” were underway.

“While some federal agencies appear to have made progress in recent years, this report makes it clear that there is still much work to be done,” subcommittee Ranking Member Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., said. “But we know that the threats posed by cyber-attacks continue to evolve and grow every day, so it is crucial that agencies across our government prioritize efforts to better protect their networks from hackers.”

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Pelosi says Democrats to vote on emergency funding to help children at border detention centers

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

uschools/iStock(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday the House would vote later in the day on emergency funding to address growing humanitarian concerns at immigration detention centers, stressing that the $4.5 billion bill is “for the children” after outrage over reports of how they were being treated.

The House vote comes as the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has told employees he is resigning from the agency and CBP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Tuesday denied the allegations of mistreatment of children at the centers but said an internal investigation was underway.

“When we go to the floor, you will see our bill,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told ABC News. “It’s for the children, the children, the children. It’s about lifting them up in a way that takes them beyond what we do today. This is a very strong step for us, a very strong first step for us for the children. It’s very exciting.”

Pelosi has had to deal with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and some other Democrats who were opposing the bill, wanting more specific language mandating how children should be treated and more restrictions on how the Trump administration can use the money to implement its immigration policies.

The bill addresses the immediate controversy by appropriating $934.5 million for processing facilities, food, water, sanitary items, blankets, medical services, and safe transportation.

The White House issued a veto threat Tuesday morning, asserting the legislation “contains a number of problematic policy provisions that would hinder the Administration’s efforts to enforce our immigration laws and protect children.”

“The House majority has put forward a partisan bill that underfunds necessary accounts and seeks to take advantage of the current crisis by inserting policy provisions that would make our country less safe,” a White House statement noted. “By opposing detention beds—where illegal migrants are placed pending their removal—Democrat lawmakers are declaring their belief that illegal immigrants, including those who skip court hearings or commit additional crimes, should be allowed to remain in our country indefinitely.”

The Senate could vote on its own version of a border supplemental Tuesday, increasing pressure on Democrats to successfully clear their version, which has created some divisions within the Democratic Caucus, putting its passage in jeopardy.

“The Senate has a good bill. Our bill is much better. But if we are going to prevail we have to have a good, strong vote. You can find fault with any bill that comes down the pike, but we must respect the bill for what is does rather criticize it for what it does not,” Pelosi told her caucus during a meeting Tuesday morning, according to a senior aide in the room. “A vote against this bill is a vote for Donald Trump and his inhumane, outside-the-circle of civilized attitude toward the children.”

Monday night, Ocasio-Cortez, the New York freshman, and other Democrats dissatisfied with the bill huddled in Pelosi’s office, deliberating over plans to put their version of the $4.5 billion border aid package on the floor Tuesday.

Ocasio-Cortez expressed frustration that Republicans aren’t facing greater pressure and criticism over conditions at the detention centers, vowing to oppose the measure brought forward by party leaders.

“I will not fund another dime to allow ICE to continue its manipulative tactics,” she said.

Monday night, Pelosi expressed a desire to further enhance protections for children in the bill, leaving Democrats scrambling to incorporate the proposals in an amendment ahead of a vote Tuesday.

After speaking to Pelosi on Friday night, Trump delayed mass deportation raids for two weeks, pressuring Congress to pass an immigration bill.

Democrats concede a comprehensive immigration bill is not possible to craft before Trump’s deadline, and Pelosi said the bill that will come to a vote Tuesday “isn’t an immigration bill.”

“It’s not an immigration bill. It’s an appropriations bill to meet the needs of our children so we can remove the needs that they have but also the shame that we should have that they don’t have diapers and toothbrushes and the care,” she said. “I said to the members, we have to have a country where every child knows that they are in their parents’ arms. Literally or figuratively. We are the arms of these children in terms of this appropriation is concerned. We want them to feel that comfort.”

Lawmakers plan to leave Washington on Thursday afternoon, kicking off a 11-day recess to celebrate Independence Day.

“I’m very proud of our members,” Pelosi said. “So much work has gone into it to have a back and forth so we have the strongest possible bill. But again, it’s not an immigration bill. It is an appropriations bill to meet the needs of the children.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Acting head of US Customs and Border Protection tells employees he’s resigning

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

wingedwolf/iStock(WASHINGTON) — John Sanders, the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has told employees he is resigning from the agency.

His announcement was emailed in a message to CBP employees that was obtained by ABC News. It follows allegations by independent inspectors of deplorable conditions for migrant children being held at border stations.

CBP officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, on Tuesday denied the allegations of mistreatment but said an internal investigation was underway. Another administration official said Sanders’ resignation was not tied to the recent allegations of neglect at a Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas.

Sanders has served as acting commissioner since April and is the chief operating officer of the agency. Sanders previously worked as the chief technology officer for the Transportation Security Administration, according to CBP, and has “more than 30 years of national security experience.”

When he was tapped to serve as acting commissioner, McAleenan called Sanders “instrumental” to the agency.

“In addition to bringing greater focus on the agency’s operational requirements, he has provided strategic direction and oversight to critical enterprise services and operations support functions across the agency. With John Sanders’ leadership, CBP will continue to excel, remain ever vigilant, and accomplish the mission with steadfast resolve,” McAleenan said at the time.

In his message, Sanders said he told acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan his resignation was effective July 5.

“In that letter, I quoted a wise man who said to me, ‘each man will judge their success by their own metrics,'” he wrote to employees. “Although I will leave it to you to determine whether I was successful, I can unequivocally say that helping support the amazing men and women of CBP has been the most fulfilling and satisfying opportunity of my career.”

He later added: “Don’t underestimate the power of momentum as you continue to tackle some of this country’s most difficult challenges.”

CBP officials told reporters on Tuesday that they had not seen evidence of neglect or abuse at the Clint facility and had returned 100 kids to that center. Independent inspectors, allowed access to the center under a court-ordered agreement, said the children weren’t being properly cared for and denied basic sanitary conditions.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, CBP officials told reporters that they were not short on items such as toothbrushes and that children were given snacks and juice on demand. They have refused news organizations access to the facilities, however, saying the officials there are too busy trying to process the children and find places for them at more long-term shelters.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Stephanie Grisham tapped to replace Sarah Sanders as White House press secretary

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Bet_Noire/iStock(WASHINGTON) — First lady Melania Trump announced on Twitter on Tuesday that outgoing press secretary Sarah Sanders will be replaced by her communications director, Stephanie Grisham.

Grisham will serve as both press secretary and Communications Director.

@FLOTUS: I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director! She has been with us since 2015 – @POTUS & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse. #BeBest

 

I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director! She has been with us since 2015 – @potus & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse. #BeBest

— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) June 25, 2019

 

Grisham is President Trump’s third press secretary after Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders, who announced last week she would be departing at the end of the month to spend more time with her young family in Arkansas.

In a tweet, Sanders said Grisham “will be an incredible asset to the President and the country.

“I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy to leave our team in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job. Proud to have another mom and a great friend in this role.”

Grisham, a single mother of two boys, is one of the longest-serving members of the Trump administration, and began as a campaign aide in 2015. As communications director and deputy chief of staff for the first lady, Grisham developed a reputation for making statements with statements.

After President Trump tweeted MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski was “bleeding badly” from a face-lift, Grisham responded on behalf of the first lady by stating, “When her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder.”

In an unusual move, after then-deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel tangled with the East Wing ahead of the first lady’s solo trip to Africa, Grisham issued a statement calling for her to be removed from her role. “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”

And of course, there was the jacket that read “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?” the first lady wore on a trip to visit migrant children held in detention centers. When asked by ABC News about why she wore the jacket, Grisham replied, “It’s just a jacket.There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.” The president later tweeted the jacket’s message was aimed at the press.

Grisham, who travels almost everywhere the first lady goes, will continue to serve the East Wing as she transitions into her new roles.

She will travel as press secretary on the president’s trip to the G-20 in Osaka, Japan, this week.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon announces run for Susan Collins’ Senate seat

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the lone Republican in Congress who represents a New England state, is gearing up for what might be her toughest Senate race since being elected in 1996.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon announced her candidacy for the 2020 Senate Democratic primary Monday. She will be up against state House lobbyist Betsey Sweet and lawyer Bre Kidman for the Democratic nomination.

“Susan Collins has been in the Senate for 22 years,” Gideon says in a video announcement. “At one point, maybe she was different than some of the other folks in Washington, but she doesn’t seem that way anymore.”

I’m running against Susan Collins for U.S. Senate because Mainers deserve a senator who will always put our state first. Let's build this campaign together. Will you join us? ➡️ https://t.co/mcihP9UtNE #MESen #MEpolitics pic.twitter.com/1SbV0MbMKM

— Sara Gideon (@SaraGideonME) June 24, 2019

This is a key Senate seat Democrats are hoping to flip within a swing state that has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in the last three races. Hilary Clinton carried the state in 2018 with 48 percent of the vote to President Donald Trump’s 45 percent.

Ever since Collins, who has been considered a more moderate Republican due to her stance on abortion rights, cast a pivotal vote that helped send Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, her moderate stance has been under question and Democrats have vowed to defeat her.

Gideon in her announcement video highlighted Collins’ voting record to attack her reputation as a moderate Republican, citing her vote in favor of Trump’s $1.5 million tax cut and her Kavanaugh vote.

“Susan Collins’ vote to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court may be paying off for her, but it’s put women’s control over their own health care decisions in extreme jeopardy,” Gideon said.

This 2020 Senate race is set to see big money from both in-state and out-of-state donations; even the announcement video features a clip of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell saying Collins will be “well-funded” in her race.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination to challenge Collins will be starting off with millions of dollars in the bank.

Prior to Collins announcing her support for the nomination of Kavanaugh, three organizations — the Maine People’s Alliance, Mainers for Accountable Leadership and Ady Barkan’s Be a Hero PAC — started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money towards a future potential opponent if she were to vote in favor of Kavanaugh, which she eventually did. The campaign raised over $4 million for her eventual opponent, the fundraising site shows.

But Collins raised her highest amount of quarterly donations in her career — $1.8 million — following her Kavanaugh vote in the last quarter of 2018. She saw another $1.5 million in contributions in the first quarter of 2019, federal campaign financing forms show.

This will also be the first time Collins is facing a primary challenger since first being elected 22 years ago. Derek Lavasseur, a pro-Trump Republican, is challenging her for the party’s nomination.

The primary vote will be held next June, with the nominees facing each other in the general election in November.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump responds to Iranian insults with threat of ‘obliteration’

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened Iran with “great and overwhelming force” and potential “obliteration” in some areas if it attacks “anything American” after Iranian leaders said the White House “is afflicted by mental retardation” and they are permanently closing doors to diplomacy in the wake of U.S. sanctions.

Trump called statements made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and a spokesperson for Iran’s foreign minister “ignorant and insulting,” and then — after brandishing U.S. military power — issued a stark threat: “Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration.”

Iran leadership doesn’t understand the words “nice” or “compassion,” they never have. Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world, with 1.5 Trillion Dollars invested over the last two years alone..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2019

The president said Iranian leadership doesn’t “understand the words “nice” or “compassion.” “Sadly, the thing they do understand is Strength and Power, and the USA is by far the most powerful Military Force in the world,” he added.

Last week, Trump pulled back on a military strike against Iran for shooting down an American surveillance drone, saying he would impose more sanctions, which he announced on Monday, including ones targeting Iran’s supreme leader and other top officials in the the Iranian regime.

The president’s tweets came hours after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at a medical conference that the United States’ sanctions against Iran are a “failure,” and said “the White House is afflicted by mental retardation and does not know what to do.”

🇮🇷 تحریم بی حاصل #رهبری_ایران و نیز فرمانده #دیپلماسی کشور یعنی بسته شدن همیشگی راه دیپلماسی با دولت مستاصل آمریکا. دولت #ترامپ در حال نابودی همه سازوکارهای جا افتاده بین المللی برای حفظ صلح و امنیت جهانی است.#تیم_بی

— S.A MOUSAVI (@SAMOUSAVI9) June 25, 2019

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi tweeted that the sanctions against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif means a “permanent closure of diplomacy.” The president signed sanctions against Iranian leaders on Monday in the Oval Office, and the president said he planned to sanction Zarif by the end of the week. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the sanctions target Khamenei and Iranian military leaders who were connected to the downing of a U.S. military drone over the Strait of Hormuz last week and people connected to the recent attack on oil tankers in the region.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said at a news conference in Israel on Tuesday that despite the sanctions, the United States still welcomes negotiations with Iran if they plan to “completely and verifiably” eliminate its nuclear weapons program, ballistic missile systems and support for terror networks.

“All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door,” Bolton said.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during an unannounced visit to Kabul, Afghanistan called the comments from President Rouhani “immature and childlike.”

“But know that the United States will remain steadfast in undertaking the actions that the president laid out in his strategy to create stability throughout the Middle East, which includes the campaign we have, the economic campaign, the pressure campaign that we have on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.

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Illinois set to become the 11th state to legalize marijuana

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Yarygin/iStock(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) — Illinois is expected to become the latest state to legalize marijuana.

The state’s new Democratic governor is expected to sign a bill Tuesday legalizing the use of the drug.

Gov. JB Pritzker campaigned on the issue and the Illinois General Assembly passed a law legalizing and regulating production on May 31.

Illinois will join 10 states and the District of Columbia in allowing the legal use of marijuana. Legalization will reportedly go into effect in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports there are 13 other states where marijuana has been decriminalized. Small amounts intended for personal consumption can lead to a civil or local infraction in these states.

That was the tact used in New York, where the state legislature recently opted to decriminalize the drug and view possession of up to 2 ounces as a violation instead of a crime.

The legalization of marijuana in Illinois is seen by some as the latest in a string of progressive or left-leaning policies implemented by Pritzker.

He signed the state’s Reproductive Health Act earlier this month, getting rid of criminal penalties for doctors performing some abortions as well as restrictions on some later-term abortions.

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Trump accuser E. Jean Carroll laughs off his assertion ‘she’s not my type’

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump fired back at a woman who accused him of sexual assault saying “she’s not my type” and insisting the incident “never happened.”

The accusation is the latest in a string of allegations against the president dating back decades, all of which he has denied.

In response, E. Jean Carroll, who made the latest accusation, could only laugh.

The writer, who said Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s, told Anderson Cooper in an interview Monday night: “I love that. I am so glad I’m not his type. I’m so glad.”

Earlier in the day, the president, who also said Carroll was “totally lying” that he sexually assaulted her, told The Hill during an interview in the Oval Office: “I’ll say it with great respect: No. 1, she’s not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?”

Carroll had repeated the accusation a few hours earlier during a TV interview.

In the later interview with Cooper, in addition to laughing off Trump’s denial, Carroll said the president’s response felt quite similar to others when confronted by other women.

“He’s denied all 15 women who have come forward. He denies. He turns it around. He threatens, and he attacks,” Carroll said on CNN.

Trump on Monday repeated the claim he’d never met Carroll, whose account of the alleged incident was published on Friday by New York Magazine in an excerpt of her forthcoming book. That excerpt included a photograph from 1987 showing Trump, his then-wife Ivanka, Carroll and Carroll’s then-husband, John Johnson, at a party.

“Totally lying. I don’t know anything about her,” Trump had said. “I know nothing about this woman. I know nothing about her. She is — it’s just a terrible thing that people can make statements like that.”

Trump told reporters the photo didn’t prove anything.

“Standing with a coat in a line — give me a break — with my back to the camera,” he added. “I have no idea who she is.”

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Trump signs executive order tackling health care cost transparency

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday aimed at curbing health care costs by requiring health insurers and providers to reveal pricing for care to patients.

He said it would “blow everything away” in the health care industry.

“This is bigger than anything we’ve done in this particular realm,” Trump said at a signing ceremony at the White House. “It’s pretty much going to blow everything away.”

“Often, prices differ drastically between providers and hospitals for the exact same services. And there is no consistency. There is no predictability. And there’s frankly no rhyme or reason to what’s been happening for so many years,” Trump said.

The order, “Improving Price and Quality Transparency in Healthcare,” does not immediately make changes to America’s health care system, but creates rules that will require hospitals to disclose the prices patients and insurers actually pay and require the Department of Health and Human Services to put forward a proposal to provide patients with information about potential out-of-pocket costs they will face before they receive services. It also calls for dramatic expansion of access to claims data and directs the Treasury Department to expand the range of services for which patient Health Savings Account dollars can be used.

On a call with reporters, HHS Secretary Alex Azar touted the executive order as “one of the most significant steps in the long history of American health care reform.”

Azar talked about his own experience with trying to figure out the cost of a routine echo-cardiogram procedure that he was going to have back in his home state of Indiana.

“So there I was, the former deputy of Heath and Human Services, and that was the kind of effort it took to find out the cost of a very standardized or routine procedure. What if I had been a grandmother or a 20-something with a high-deductible health plan? This is the kind of experience that no American should ever have, and it’s the kind of thing President Trump is intent on making as rare as possible in American healthcare?” Azar said.

Advocates for the executive order say that it will help patients understand potential costs for procedures so that they can make better decisions about their heath care, but critics say that that it will only create more red tape and may even end up driving up heath care costs as competition prices are revealed.

“Everyone deserves affordable coverage, and we share the Administration’s commitment to making health care more affordable for every American,” said Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, in a statement. “We also agree that patients should have accurate, real-time information about costs so they can make the best, most informed decisions about their care. But publicly disclosing competitively negotiated, proprietary rates will reduce competition and push prices higher — not lower — for consumers, patients, and taxpayers.”

“It sounds simple to reveal prices to a government agency that then would make them available to the public. But the infrastructure and paperwork to implement this will become a new Washington swamp,” former Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., and president of Americans for Less Regulation wrote in an op-ed.

With health care a top issue for 2020 candidates, the president has said he plans to roll out a brand new health care plan and his administration has issued incremental federal fixes.

“Obamacare has been a disaster,” Trump said in an interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos. “We’re going to have a plan. That’s subject to winning the House, Senate and presidency, which hopefully we’ll win all three. We’ll have phenomenal health care.”

Lowering costs for care has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill but is seen as a weak spot for Republicans in the next election. As a result of Trump’s poor polling on health care, Politico reported that the Democratic group American Bridge is reportedly spending $50 million to target potential 2020 voters.

Still, the president took a jab at Democrats in Congress and singled out 2020 contender Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Democrats’ support for single-payer health care calling it “very dangerous.”

Trump, who has long been teasing a major executive order on health care, said he thinks this will “be one of the biggest things ever done in this world, in this industry and in this profession.”

It’s unclear if this is the executive order that he has been teasing for months.

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Trump to award Iraq War’s first living Medal of Honor recipient

Posted on: June 25th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

U.S. Army(WASHINGTON) — Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia will become the first living Medal of Honor recipient for the Iraq War when President Donald Trump presents the award at a White House ceremony on Tuesday, fifteen years after his acts of heroism in the city of Fallujah in 2004.

The five previous Medals of Honor for the Iraq War were handed out posthumously.

Bellavia, now 45, is being honored for his heroism on Nov. 10, 2004 when he was a squad leader in Operation Phantom Fury, an American offensive on the western Iraqi city of Fallujah, an Iraqi insurgent stronghold. The operation is also known as the Second Battle of Fallujah.

The Army veteran, then a member of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, is credited with saving his entire squad that day after being pinned down by enemy fire coming from a block of houses.

“He quickly exchanged an M16 rifle for an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, entered the house where his squad was trapped, and engaged insurgents, providing cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely,” according to a White House statement announcing his award earlier this month.

One of those soldiers pinned down by the enemy was Sgt. 1st Class Colin Fitts — now retired — who briefed reporters beside Bellavia at the Pentagon on Monday.

“Were it not for David Bellavia, I wouldn’t be sitting here today. So I’m extremely humbled and very appreciative for him,” Fitts said. “[Bellavia] put himself in the line of that fire and laid down a base of fire — overwhelmed the enemy long enough for me to get myself and the members of my squad out.”

When an armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle could not fire directly into the house, Bellavia re-entered the house — armed only with an M16 — and attacked the insurgents who had been firing rocket-propelled grenades.

“He proceeded to kill one insurgent and wound another, who then ran to another part of the house,” the statement said. “Then-Staff Sergeant Bellavia was soon engaged by another insurgent rushing down the stairs when the previously wounded insurgent reemerged to engage him as well.”

Bellavia was able to return fire and killed both of those attackers. When he took fire from an insurgent who appeared from a closet across the room, he pursued that individual up the stairs and killed him.

His award is an upgrade from the Silver Star he had previously received for these same actions. A few years ago, the Pentagon began a blanket review of all valor awards to see if they should be upgraded. Bellavia was unaware that his Silver Star had been chosen for the Medal of Honor until he received a phone call from the president, he said.

“The Iraq War veteran has served and surpassed, at times, the highest standards of American warrior tradition among any generation,” Bellavia told reporters on Monday. “We have nothing to apologize for. We serve our country. We do what our leaders tell us to do.”

“The narrative on the Iraq War has long been written,” he continued. “I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. I’m here to tell you that there are men and women who served our country in Iraq, and it has made me — it is one of the honors of my life.”

 He now wants to encourage others to serve.

“There’s a million and five reasons why we’re divided in this country. I never cared what your skin color was, who you worshiped or who you loved. If you are willing to get shot at for me, for my buddies, I will follow you. I will lead you anywhere,” Bellavia said, adding, “I want to be of service to that Army.”

He said that after reuniting with his battle buddies after 15 years there was “so much love.”

“I never thought I’d see love on a battlefield. It’s horrible, it’s ghastly, it’s ghoulish,” Bellavia said. “But you see people doing things for each other that you’d never see in any other circumstance and it is a sight to see. It will change your life forever. I think we’re all better for seeing that love displayed in combat.”

Bellavia grew up as the youngest of four boys in Lyndonville, New York. He enlisted in the Army as an infantryman in 1999 and would deploy to Kosovo and then Iraq just four years later in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Between February 2004 and February 2005, his task force participated in battles in Najaf, Mosul, Baqubah, Muqdadiyah and Fallujah.

After leaving the Army in 2005, Bellavia co-founded Vets for Freedom, a veteran advocacy organization with tens of thousands of members who were veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He returned to Iraq in 2006 and 2008 as an embedded reporter, covering the fighting in Ramadi, Fallujah and Diyala Province. His 2007 book, House to House, detailed his experiences in Fallujah.

Bellavia is a business owner in western New York. He has three children.

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McConnell to meet with 9/11 first responders amid public tensions with Jon Stewart

Posted on: June 24th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Mitch McConnell is scheduled to meet with 9/11 first responders this week to discuss the renewal of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act, following a public feud with comedian Jon Stewart.

McConnell’s office has not confirmed the meeting, but a Ground Zero recovery worker and longtime activist, John Feal, confirmed the meeting to ABC News. Feal added that he requested the meeting, which will be held Tuesday.

“I don’t think he would have just openly invited me,” he told ABC News.

Earlier this month, Stewart made an emotional appeal to Congress to make the victim compensation fund permanent. With first responders and their advocates behind him, Stewart ripped Congress for failing to fully fund the program.

“They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!” he shouted.

 The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which Stewart and others have battled to protect for years, is set to run out of money in December 2020.

“These cuts are real,” Feal said Monday. “Tomorrow will be my 270th trip to Washington in 15 years. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I’m seeing people get sick, friends die. Their families are going to be left in financial ruin.”

Stewart has called out McConnell on several occasions for his inaction in the past regarding the bill. Stewart promised in his testimony before Congress that he and other advocates won’t allow a “certain someone” in the Senate to use the program as a “political football” in spending negotiations, referring to McConnell.

McConnell retaliated on “Fox and Friends” saying he didn’t know why Stewart was “bent out of shape,” and denied that he was moving slowly on the issue. He also said the extension would pass when it came up for renewal.

Stewart fired back on the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” arguing that he was “not bent out of shape.” He said he was upset that heroes were getting sick or dying and desperately needed Congress’ help.

“These are the first heroes and veterans and victims of the great trillions of dollars War on Terror. And they are currently dying, suffering and in terrible need,” he said. “You know you would think that would be enough for Congress to pay attention, but apparently, it’s not.”

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Pelosi to Trump: Planned deportation raids ‘scaring’ children

Posted on: June 24th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday said she told President Trump he was “scaring the children” with his administration’s planned deportation raids across the country.

“When I spoke to the president, ‘I said look, I’m a mom, I have five kids, seven, nine grandchildren and children are scared, you’re scaring the children of America, not just in those families but their neighbors and their communities,” Pelosi said at an event in Queens, New York, about her Friday evening phone call with the president.

A source familiar with the phone call between Pelosi and Trump said the call took place at 7:20 p.m. Friday evening and lasted for about 12 minutes.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he would delay the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids for two weeks to give Congress time to “work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border.”

 ICE planned to target more than 2,040 undocumented immigrant family members who had received deportation orders but were still living across the United States, an unprecedented show of force in 10 cities to deter families from attempting to enter the United States illegally.

“This is not about fear,” ICE Acting Director Mark Morgan told ABC News Live in an interview on Friday. “No one is instilling fear in anyone. This is about the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of the system.”

Morgan said the goal was to deter more people from coming illegally to the United States. Of the roughly 144,000 migrants stopped by U.S. authorities in May, more than 105,000 came as families. The numbers represent the largest North American land migration trend in more than a decade.

This week, the House and Senate will vote on emergency spending proposals that would provide the Trump administration with $4.5 billion in border security and humanitarian aid.

But with each chamber voting on a different package – neither of which addresses asylum laws – it’s unclear if lawmakers can reconcile the proposals and send a compromise to the White House before next week’s July Fourth recess – and the president’s July 6 deadline.

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Biden says ‘Dreamers’ should immediately be made citizens in immigration plan

Posted on: June 24th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Sean Rayford/Getty Images(MIAMI) — Ahead of the debates in Miami this week, former vice present Joe Biden released his immigration policy plan in a Miami Herald op-ed.

In the op-ed, Biden lays out in broad strokes his immigration priorities — starting with granting immediate citizenship to undocumented immigrants brought by their parents to the U.S. when they were children.

“DREAMers are Americans, and Congress needs to make it official. The millions of undocumented people in the United States can only be brought out of the shadows through fair treatment, not ugly threats,” Biden writes.

Biden’s op-ed does not speak specifically about citizenship for others illegally in the U.S., but does calls for improvements to the asylum process, as the U.S. has seen a surge in asylum-seekers at the border.

He also cites recent news reports prompting widespread outrage.

“Under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages, tear gassing asylum seekers, ripping children from their mothers’ arms—actions that subvert our American values and erode our ability to lead on the global stage,” he writes.

Biden also hits the current administration’s attempts to do away with Temporary Protected Status for some, which protects individuals who cannot return to their home country due to temporary dangerous conditions, and prevents them form detained by Department of Homeland Security on the basis of their immigration status.

“Trump’s efforts to repeal Temporary Protected Status (TPS) across the board have injected unnecessary uncertainty into the lives of thousands of families. Our asylum system needs to be improved, but the answer is to streamline and strengthen it so that it benefits legitimate claims of those fleeing persecution, while reducing potential for abuse,” Biden writes.

Biden’s plan also calls for “improving screening procedures at our legal ports of entry and make smart investments in border technology,” and “addressing the root cause of immigration by improving security, reducing inequality, and expanding economic opportunity in Central America.”

Biden’s plan would take on the U.S. approach to foreign policy in the region, calling the Trump administration’s Latin America policies at beast “a Cold War-era retread and, at worst, an ineffective mess.”

“Rather than standing with our partners in the region to take on corruption, transnational criminal groups, climate change and threats to democracy and the rule of law, Trump’s wrong-headed policies are leading us astray at every turn,” Biden writes.

Biden’s op-ed lays out the larger points in the former vice president’s immigration plans, it does not speak to the specifics of he proposes to do so. The Biden campaign told ABC News more details on the full policy would be forthcoming.

Biden also takes direct aim at the Trump administration’s handling of immigration — continuing to pit himself against President Trump rather than his 2020 competitors.

“It’s clear Donald Trump is only interested in using his policies to assault the dignity of the Latinx community and scare voters to turn out on election day, not addressing the real challenges facing our hemisphere,” Biden says, in the first paragraph of the piece.

Biden has spoken about the president’s previous family separation policy often while on the trail, saying “This is not who we are…this is not America.”

“Under Trump, there have been horrifying scenes at the border of kids being kept in cages, tear gassing asylum seekers, ripping children from their mothers’ arms—actions that subvert our American values and erode our ability to lead on the global stage,” Biden writes.

Biden also released a version of the piece in Spanish as well in El Nuevo Herald Monday.

Biden has hinted that he may be making a trip to a detention facility while in Florida this week. During an event earlier this month in Concord, New Hampshire, Biden was asked by an audience member if he would bring the press to visit a facility in Homestead, Florida while in the state for the debate. Biden said his campaign was already working on setting that up. The campaign declined to comment about such a visit when asked by ABC News.

Former congressman Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, has already announced plans to visit the Homestead facility on Thursday.

Some of Biden’s fellow 2020 candidates, including former Obama cabinet Secretary Julian Castro, Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Washington and O’Rourke have also released their immigration plans. All call for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the United States.

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Bernie Sanders details plan to cancel $1.6 trillion in student loan debt for everyone

Posted on: June 24th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his most sweeping plan yet to tackle the increasing cost of a higher education, introducing a bill Monday that would make public colleges and trade schools tuition free and cancel outstanding student loan debt for everyone, a proposal that goes beyond one introduced earlier this year by one of his chief presidential campaign rivals, Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

At a Capitol Hill news conference, Sanders unveiled the plan to eliminate all of the $1.6 trillion of student loan debt in the U.S. held by 45 million Americans. The plan would include all private and graduate school loan debt and would apply to all persons regardless of income. The cost, he said, would be paid for by taxing Wall Street speculation.

“If the American people bailed out Wall Street, now it is Wall Street to come to the aid of the middle class of this country,” Sanders said, referencing efforts by the federal government banks and lenders deemed “too big to fail” during the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

“The millennial generation was told that the only way they would get the good jobs available is if they received a college education,” he continued. “Unfortunately, that turned out to be bad advice.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduces a "revolutionary" plan to cancel $1.6 trillion in student debt for everyone: "This proposal will make it possible for every person in America to get all of the education they need, regardless of their financial status" https://t.co/ERXmslESrN pic.twitter.com/NEKUceMdS2

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 24, 2019

Student-loan forgiveness and tuition-free colleges have been a main component of Sanders’ rise as a presidential hopeful, garnering sharp criticism from both the left and the right for his ambitious, and expensive, proposals. Critics argue that the revenue generated by Sanders’ proposed Wall Street taxes would not fully cover the costs of the plan, or that the money would be better spent directly assisting those in poverty, rather than persons whose education and degrees have already left them with increased upward mobility.

This student loan forgiveness component of the plan is coupled with a larger initiative to make all public universities, community colleges, and trade schools tuition-free, which would also be paid for by the new set of taxes on Wall Street, including a 0.5 percent tax on stock trades and a 0.1 percent tax on bonds.

Sen. Bernie Sanders says his plan to cancel $1.6 trillion in student debt will be "fully paid for by a tax on Wall Street."

"The American people bailed out Wall Street. Now it is time for Wall Street to come to the aid of the middle class of this country" https://t.co/ERXmslESrN pic.twitter.com/BAYEKLYvah

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) June 24, 2019

At the news conference, Sanders was flanked by Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who are introducing the House version of the bill, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., an additional supporter of the legislation. Sanders argued pursuing a higher education should not economically punish young Americans.

“The result is that many millions of young people today are forced to work at low wage jobs,” Sanders said. “Bottom line is we should not be punishing people for getting a higher education, it is time to hit the reset button under the proposal that we introduced today, all student debt would be cancelled in six months by taking this action.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who at age 29 last year became the youngest woman ever to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, claimed that her election victory was “easier” than paying off the student loans she continues to carry.

“That should tell you everything about the state of our economy and the state of quality of life for working people, because in order for me to get a chance to have health care, in order for me to get a chance to pay off my student loans, I had to do something that was nearly impossible,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And I don’t think that that is the bar for which a person should be able to access education, health care, and a bevy of other things that should be considered human rights.”

Monday’s proposal is not be the first time Sanders and Jayapal have teamed up to propose legislation to tackle tuition, although their previous proposals pale in comparison to this most recent bill.

In 2017, they introduced the “College For All Act” which would make public colleges tuition-free for families making up to $125,000 and expand loans for lower-income students looking to attend private universities.

With just two days before the first Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday, Sanders’ proposal may be another way to further distinguish himself from his fellow presidential contenders, even as some of them, longtime friend Warren included, have proposed their own plans to tackle this issue.

Warren’s plan would cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for people with a household income under $100,000. Those who make more, up to $250,000 would also get some debt cancellation. But the Massachusetts senator’s plan stops short of relieving debts for those who make more than $250,000.

The Vermont senator spoke to the rationale Monday for not setting income limits for either proposal, comparing the plan to others that are provided to all Americans, such as Social Security, and arguing that wealthier people would pay their share in other ways.

“I happen to … believe in universality, and that if Donald Trump wants to send his grandchildren to a public school, he has the right to do that,” Sanders said, adding, “Now, our response to making sure that this does not benefit the wealthy is in other areas, we are going to demand that the wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.”

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Kellyanne Conway defends herself against alleged Hatch Act violations

Posted on: June 24th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — One of President Donald Trump’s senior advisers, Kellyanne Conway, personally defended herself on Monday against the recent accusation from a federal watchdog agency that she violated the Hatch Act and should be “removed from service.”

“They want to silence me now,” Conway, whose formal title is Counselor to the President, said in an appearance on Fox and Friends.

“This is my First Amendment right. They want to chill free speech because they don’t know how to beat him at the ballot box,” she said.

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that investigates wrongdoing by government employees, said on June 13 that Conway “violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media.”

The report cites comments Conway made during the Alabama Senate special election in December 2017, which the office found violated the Hatch Act in another report released last year.

The report also mentions recent statements to White House reporters in which Conway criticized former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, both of whom are seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

“If I’m quoting what some of the other candidates say about the other candidates, I’m just repeating the news as I read it that day,” Conway said.

President Trump, despite a federal watchdog agency’s call the day before that she should be “removed from service” for using her office for political activity, said that he will not fire Conway.

“No, I’m not going to fire her, I think she’s a tremendous person, tremendous spokesperson, she’s loyal, she’s a great person,” Trump said in an interview on Fox and Friends.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee said in a memo to lawmakers that they will vote Wednesday to authorize a subpoena Conway if she does not appear before the panel for a Wednesday hearing on her alleged violations of the Hatch Act.

“It’s not even clear to us in the White House, according to the White House Counsel, that the Hatch Act applies to assistants to the president,” Conway said.

She added, “Even if the Hatch Act applies, our position is that I haven’t violated it.”

In an interview on May 29, Conway reportedly downplayed the law, according to a OSC press release, saying she wouldn’t stop making political statements.

“If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” and “Let me know when the jail sentence starts,” she said, according to the OSC press release.

A spokesman for the office said it’s the first time the office has recommended the removal of a White House official. In the report, sent to President Donald Trump on Thursday, the office said that Conway has not faced consequences for her repeated violations of ethics rules on government employees.

The office recommended Conway be removed from her position because she has “shown disregard” for the law that prohibits federal government employees from engaging in political activities.

“Ms. Conway’s disregard for the restrictions the Hatch Act places on on executive branch employees in unacceptable,” Special Counsel Henry Kerner wrote in the report. “If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her position by the Merit Systems Protection Board.”

“As a highly visible member of the administration, Ms. Conway’s violations, if left unpunished, send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions. Her actions erode the principal foundation of our democratic system — the rule of law

White House deputy press secretary Steven Groves said in a statement that the OSC’s actions are “deeply flawed.”

“The Office of Special Counsel’s (OSC) unprecedented actions against Kellyanne Conway are deeply flawed and violate her constitutional rights to free speech and due process. Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees. Its decisions seem to be influenced by media pressure and liberal organizations – and perhaps OSC should be mindful of its own mandate to act in a fair, impartial, non-political manner, and not misinterpret or weaponize the Hatch Act,” Groves said.

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