Hope Hicks expected to testify before House panel

Posted on: June 19th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director and one of President Donald Trump’s closest aides, is expected to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary committee Wednesday as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into potential obstruction of justice by the president.

Committee lawyers and members are prepared to question Hicks about her time in the White House and instances of obstruction detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report as part of his probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The committee announced Hicks’ agreement to appear last week and has said it plans to release transcripts from the hearing shortly after its conclusion.

On Tuesday afternoon, the White House sent a letter to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., that stated that Trump has instructed Hicks not to answer questions related to her time serving as a senior adviser in the White House. A member of the White House counsel’s office is expected to attend her testimony Wednesday.

“Because of this constitutional immunity and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of President, the President has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the Committee relating to the time of her service as a senior adviser to the President,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote.

White House lawyers used the same argument to prevent former White House counsel Don McGahn from testifying on similar matters before the committee.

While the White House does not use this argument as it relates to Hicks’ time on the campaign, Cipollone addressed the committee’s expressed interest in questioning Hicks about her time during the presidential transition.

“Much of Ms. Hicks’s work during this period involved discussions with the President-elect and his staff relating to the decisions the President-elect would be making once he assumed office,” Cipollone wrote. “Accordingly, her responses to specific questions about this period would likely implicate executive branch confidentiality interests concerning that decision-making process.”

Last week, the White House directed Hicks not to comply with document requests from late May for White House records issued by the committee related to the Trump campaign and transition, though she did turn over some materials related to the campaign.

In a letter to the panel, Robert Trout, a lawyer representing Hicks, detailed some of the campaign-related materials provided to the committee. Trout noted that Hicks had previously turned over similar records on March 22.

Documents related to Hicks’ time in the White House and presidential transition were not turned over, Trout maintained, arguing the decision to release documents originating with the White House and transition “is not hers to make.”

Cipollone made a similar point in a previous letter to Nadler, writing that the documents “include White House records that remain legally protected from disclosure under longstanding constitutional principles because they implicate significant Executive Branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege. Because Ms. Talley and Ms. Hicks do not have the legal right to disclose the White House records to third parties, I would ask that the Committee direct any request for such records to the White House, the appropriate legal custodian.”

Annie Donaldson, McGahn’s former chief of staff, has also been subpoenaed to appear before the committee next Monday.

In a statement released last week, Nadler said his committee will attempt to resolve any privilege disagreements “while reserving our right to take any and all measures in response to unfounded privilege assertions.”

A House Judiciary Committee aide suggested the panel would not find it acceptable for Hicks not to answer any questions about her time in the White House.

Hicks, who served as a Trump Organization employee and the press secretary for the 2016 Trump presidential campaign before assuming her roles in the White House, was one of Trump’s closest confidantes on the campaign trail and in the early half of his presidency.

This will not be her first closed-door appearance before a House committee — she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee for an eight-hour, closed-door session in February 2018 and told the panel her work for Trump occasionally required her to tell “white lies.”

She also was asked about the controversial Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer in June 2016. She resigned from her position in the White House the following day.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at the time that Hicks’ departure had little to do with the testimony.

Hicks, who is mentioned in the special counsel’s report dozens of times, also was a witness in Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia during the 2016 election, having sat for two days of closed-door interviews with the special counsel’s team.

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Trump kicks off his re-election in Florida as Democrats aim to win the state back

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) — President Donald Trump kicks off his 2020 reelection bid in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, launching a campaign that’s never really ended.

In promoting Tuesday’s festivities at and around the Amway Center, aides indicated that the president’s campaign has never really stopped. They told ABC News that this rally in a critical swing state is meant to add to momentum.

“He can’t win the White House without Florida, and we’re going to step up big time to make sure he gets it,” Joe Gruters, chairman of the state Republican Party, said.

In his reelection address, Trump spent most of his speech looking to position himself, not as an incumbent president running on a number of accomplishments, but as an underdog who’s been the victim of a number of conspiracies designed to undercut his political movement and dating back well before he took the oath of office.

“Our patriotic movement have been under assault from the first day,” Trump told the crowd. “We’ve accomplished more than any president has in the first two and half years and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before … nobody has done what we have done.”

“We went through the greatest witch hunt in political history, the only collusion was committed by the Democrats, the fake news media and their operatives and the people who funded the phony dossier, crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC,” he said.

“It was all an illegal attempt to overturn the results of the election, spy on our campaign, which is what they did, and subvert our democracy,” Trump added.

Vice President Mike Pence took the stage prior to the president and said, “We’re here for one reason and one reason only. America needs four more years of President Donald Trump.”

The crowd began chanting, “Four more years!”

“It’s on everybody,” Pence said. “Time for round two.”

While the vice president didn’t name any of the 2020 Democrats running for president, Pence looked to define the Democratic opposition as far left radicals who want “more taxes, more regulation, and less freedom.”

“Today, Democrats openly advocate socialism. An economic system that has impoverished millions of people around the world and stole the liberty of generations,” Pence said.

“The choice in this election will not just be a choice between two candidates, but a choice between two futures,” he added.

First lady Melania Trump walked out with the president and briefly spoke to the crowd.

“It has been my honor to serve this country for the past two years. And I’m excited to do it for six more,” she said. “I’m proud of all that my husband, this administration, and our entire family have done on behalf of the American people in such a short time. He truly loves this country and will continue to work on your behalf as long as he can. All of us will.”

Starting Friday, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have been hosting a “National Week of Training” across the country for 16,325 attendees at more than 970 events, including, “Trump Victory Leadership Initiative” training sessions and “MAGA Meet-Ups,” according to numbers provided to ABC News by the campaign.

America First Policies also kicked off its voter registration drive in Orlando on Tuesday with the aim of spending more than $20 million and registering voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

“There are millions of patriotic Americans who believe in the America First movement, but aren’t registered to vote,” America First Policies President Brian O. Walsh said.

Trump flipped Florida red in 2016 with just 1.2% more votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. It was the first time the state voted Republican since President George W. Bush won it during his reelection in 2004.

While they’ve taken a beating from Republicans in the Sunshine State since 2016, Florida Democrats don’t believe the state has slipped out of their grasp in 2020.

“Democrats are still very competitive here,” Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., told ABC News.

Trump beat Clinton for Florida’s 29 electoral votes by 112,911 votes, a greater margin of victory than President Barack Obama’s 2012 win over now-Sen. Mitt Romney., R-Utah.

Last year’s hard-fought midterm election — so close that it prompted a recount — ended with Democrats losing every statewide race except agriculture commissioner: Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial race, and then-Gov. Rick Scott unseated Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the only Democrat besides Obama to win statewide since the 1990s.

Despite the recent string of defeats, state Democrats point to their success in flipping two House seats in South Florida, and the razor-thin margins in the last few statewide contests.

“At the end of the day, it will be a close race, and it will be dog-eat-dog,” said Nelson, who has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. “The state has been influenced by Trump, utilizing the powers of the president as well as Republican administrations in Florida. You combine all of that in what is effectively a 50-50 state, and you see the trends that occurred in the last two elections.”

As part of their push to take back Florida, Democrats are investing in the state earlier than ever before.

In a call with reporters on Monday, Democratic National Committee officials said the party already has 90 field organizers on the ground and has spent millions to register 200,000 voters ahead of 2020.

The party is also centering its message against Trump on health care, including the administration’s decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, a winning issue for the party in 2018 and one that wasn’t on the table in 2016.

Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, has launched a six-figure digital advertising campaign in Florida ahead of Trump’s visit on Tuesday, targeting the president on health care and the Republican tax cut that he signed into law in 2017.

For Our Future, a progressive super PAC backed, in part by billionaire Tom Steyer, is directing its $80 million budget toward organizing in Florida and other battleground states. The group, modeled on some of the conservative organizing groups funded by the Koch Brothers, has worked to keep Democratic voters engaged in between cycles and around issues.

One of the group’s focuses in Florida will be activating some of the 1.4 million ex-felons who are now eligible to vote in the state, according to CEO Justin Myers.

Multiple 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, have traveled to the state. The party plans to hold its first round of primary debates in Miami later this month.

In Orlando, only 20,000 attendees were allowed inside the Amway Center, so there were Trump supporters lined up nearly 40 hours early.

The Trump campaign was tight-lipped regarding the president’s remarks, but aides said to expect a rousing performance that only the president could deliver. First lady Melania Trump and Pence, along with Trump’s adult children, were in attendance, campaign officials told ABC News.

Amid a balloon drop, a “retrospective” video of the president’s first years in office and possible indoor pyrotechnics, the event aims to be more than just a rally. Within the campaign, aides have described it as a “mini convention” and a “huge party” scheduled to go on, rain or shine, as the area prepares for possible showers.

The festivities began well before the president even traveled to Florida, with “45 Fest,” an outdoor event at the Amway Center beginning in the morning and featuring food trucks, live music and massive TV screens for the overflow crowd that was expected to descend on downtown Orlando.

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Trump’s plan to deport ‘millions’ likely not feasible

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Marcus Moore/ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s promise on the eve of a campaign rally to deport next week “millions” of people living in the U.S. illegally is raising the issue of how the administration could feasibly launch such a massive operation because it’s out of space to hold them.

Also in question would be whether the administration would further abandon its past focus of deporting undocumented migrants convicted of crimes in order to deport families, which at least one top official said was inevitable. Another concern would be that families could be separated, possibly leaving thousands of young children in limbo without guardians, particularly those with mixed immigration status such as children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.

John Cohen, a former senior Homeland Security Department official and current ABC News contributor, said the logistics of such an operation would require diverting law enforcement from high priority criminal targets and put a significant strain on limited resources.

“There’s no way operationally they are going to be able to do it,” said John Cohen, a former senior Homeland Security Department official and current ABC News contributor.

Trump’s plan, announced via Twitter, left administration officials in charge of immigration policy and enforcement scrambling to respond to questions about what would happen next.

Law enforcement officials said they don’t discuss enforcement operations publicly in advance. One senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said mass deportations were “not imminent.”

A statement released Tuesday by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement noted that officials there would “continue” to enforce immigration law “without exemption,” adding, “This includes routine targeted enforcement operations, criminals, individuals subject to removal orders, and worksite enforcement.”

But the statement did not address whether operations would expand.

Trump has clearly favored the idea of targeting the hundreds of thousands of families arriving at the border in recent months, as well as those already settled inside the U.S. His new pick to head ICE hinted at it last month in a meeting with reporters.

“Our next challenge is going to be interior enforcement,” Morgan said. “We will be going after individuals who have gone through due process and who have received final orders of deportation.

“That will include families,” Morgan said, adding that ICE agents will deport them “with compassion and humanity.”

Among the top challenges of such a plan would be bed space, enforcement personnel and other resources to arrest, detain and deport people.

Last year, ICE deported 256,000 people, the highest level since 2014. But federal officials have said it’s unlikely that much more can be done with existing resources. During the Obama administration, ICE and DHS officials testified that the most that could be deported in any given year would be about 400,000 people.

One issue, in particular, is bed space. As of the end of May, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had nearly 52,400 people in its custody – including nearly 1,000 families at residential centers. While ICE is given some flexibility, this year’s budget provides money for less than 45,300 beds. More detention space would require Congress’ approval, which is unlikely so long as Democrats control the House.

Trump even acknowledged the lack of bed space earlier this year in remarks he made last March in Florida.

“We have run out of space, we can’t hold people anymore and Mexico can stop it so easily,” he said.

The White House has openly sparred on the issue of detention space with congressional Democrats, who support limiting the bed space as a way of forcing the federal government to focus deportations on convicted criminals. The issue was hotly debated earlier this year in negotiations over government funding which resulted in the longest federal shutdown in American history.

“A cap on ICE detention beds will force the Trump Admin to prioritize deportation for criminals and people posing real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants contributing to our country,” said Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif.

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Shanahan welcomes opportunity to be Defense secretary, ‘but not at the expense of being a good father’

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In a surprise development, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has decided not to move forward with the confirmation process to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Trump said while Shanahan “has done a wonderful job, he has decided not to go forward…so that he can devote more time to his family.”

In a second tweet, the president named Army Secretary Mark Esper as his next acting Pentagon chief — a job which has now been vacant since former Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned in December. Talking to reporters on the White House lawn on Tuesday, Trump said he was “most likely” to name Esper to the post permanently.

The decision for Shanahan to step down coincides with media reports from USA Today and the Washington Post which detail episodes of domestic violence that occurred in Shanahan’s family over a decade ago. According to a U.S. official, Shanahan’s aides were growing concerned that his nomination process could be hampered by the reporting.

Trump said that he didn’t ask for Shanahan to withdraw from the confirmation process and only learned about the issues in Shanahan’s past for the first time on Monday. A senior White House official told ABC News that the White House had been aware of the issues for months, but the official was unaware of how long the president knew.

 The Post, which interviewed Shanahan on Monday evening, detailed two incidents: one in which Shanahan’s now ex-wife was arrested for punching him in the face and another in which his son was arrested for hitting his mother with a baseball bat, which ABC News has confirmed through Sarasota County, Florida, court records.

ABC News has been unsuccessful in attempts to reach Shanahan’s ex-wife.

In a statement the Pentagon issued Tuesday afternoon, Shanahan said, “The confirmation process should focus on securing our nation against threats, readiness and the future of our military, and ensuring the highest quality care and support for service members and their families.”

“After having been confirmed for Deputy Secretary less than two years ago, it is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process,” he said. “I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.”

“I would welcome the opportunity to be Secretary of Defense, but not at the expense of being a good father,” the statement continued. “After significant reflection, I have asked to be withdrawn from consideration for Secretary of Defense and will resign my position as Deputy Secretary of Defense. I will coordinate an appropriate transition plan to ensure that the men and women in harm’s way receive all the support they need to continue protecting our great nation.”

Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, had served as deputy defense secretary and stepped into the role in an “acting” capacity on Jan. 1 after Mattis resigned over policy differences with the president. His last day is expected to be Friday, a U.S. official said. Officials have not determined who from the department will represent the U.S. at the NATO meeting of defense ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Mark Esper, who has served as Army Secretary since November 2017, will now serve as acting defense secretary. He is a former senior executive at Raytheon, who also has extensive experience working on Capitol Hill. Esper graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1986 — the same year as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and served in the Army for over a decade, including a deployment to the Gulf War.

He has traveled with Trump several times over the last six months, including a January visit to the southern border where thousands of soldiers have been deployed to support Customs and Border Protection. Esper was also with Trump when the president toured an Abrams tank facility in Lima, Ohio in March.

“Mark Esper is a highly respected gentleman with a great career. Westpoint, Harvard, a tremendous talent,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday afternoon, adding, “I think he will do very well. He was secretary of the Army. I got to know him very well. He’s an outstanding guy.”

The following Pentagon jobs are now vacant or occupied in an “acting” capacity: defense secretary, deputy defense secretary, Army secretary, Air Force secretary, and chief management officer.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says slavery reparations are not a ‘good idea’

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he opposed reparations for descendants of slaves, because no one “currently alive was responsible for that.”

“I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years — for whom none of us currently living are responsible — is a good idea,” McConnell told reporters during a press conference on Tuesday.

“We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, by passing landmark civil rights legislation, by electing an African American president,” he said.

McConnell’s remarks come just one day before a House Judiciary subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the topic of reparations — the first hearing on the issue in over a decade. The hearing will “examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice.”

Several prominent Democratic presidential candidates have also weighed in on the issue, saying the topic deserves to be studied further.

“I think we’re always a work in progress in this country but no one currently alive was responsible for that,” McConnell said.

He said that another issue is that it would be hard to “figure out” who to compensate.

“We’ve had waves of immigrants, as well, who have come to this country and experienced dramatic discrimination of one kind or another,” he said. “So no, I don’t think reparations are a good idea.”

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Katharine Gorka expected to take over as Customs and Border Protection press secretary

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

jetcityimage/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Katharine Gorka, who has been serving as an adviser for the Department of Homeland Security, is expected to take over as press secretary for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, department officials confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday.

In her new role, Gorka will work more directly with federal immigration enforcement as a liaison between border agents and the public. The news was first reported by CNN.

“We look forward to her continued service with the Department in her new position at CBP as we work to secure the border and enforce our nation’s immigration laws,” a spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security told ABC News in a statement.

Gorka’s husband is Sebastian Gorka, a controversial Trump adviser who was fired from the White House in August 2017.

The two Gorkas have contributed to Breitbart, a far-right opinion outlet, and are known for controversial remarks connecting Islamic religious beliefs to violent extremism.

“Presidents Bush and Obama both publicly declared Islam to be a religion of peace, which has struck a sour chord for many,” Katharine Gorka wrote in a 2014 post for Breitbart. “American and Western leaders have preemptively shut down any debate within Islam by declaring that Islam is the religion of peace and that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam.”

When asked about her tenure as a DHS adviser, a department spokesperson said that her work was focused on national security and counterterrorism efforts “regardless of ideology.”

In her role as an analyst for a group called the Westminster Institute, Katharine Gorka criticized the Department of Homeland Security for referring to Islam as “a religion of peace.”

“This has driven many of today’s experts underground,” she claimed. “They have had to learn to speak cautiously and in coded language.”

Katharine Gorka was the subject of a lawsuit from a liberal watch dog group earlier this year after DHS did not respond to a Freedom of Information Act request for specifics about her role.

“We’re suing to find out whether her extreme and biased views are driving Homeland Security resources away from real threats,” said Charisma Troiano, a spokesperson for Democracy Forward, in a statement at the time.

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Trump tweets Shanahan has withdrawn from consideration as defense secretary

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In a surprise development, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has decided not to move forward with the confirmation process to take the job permanently, President Donald Trump tweeted on Tuesday.

Trump said while Shanahan “has done a wonderful job, he has decided not to go forward “so that he can devote more time to his family.”

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019

….I thank Pat for his outstanding service and will be naming Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, to be the new Acting Secretary of Defense. I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019

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

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Stewart fires back at McConnell for calling him ‘bent out of shape’ over 9/11 first responders

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — On Monday’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, comedian Jon Stewart fired back at Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after McConnell said Stewart was ‘bent out of shape” over wanting Congress to move faster on taking care of 9/11 first responders with health problems.

Stewart drew national attention last week when he made an emotional appeal before the House Judiciary Committee for making the Victims Compensation Fund permanent, at one point almost shouting, “They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs, with courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!”

While the committee voted to advance the proposal to fully and permanently fund the program, its fate in the Senate is unclear. In 2015, the original funding bill was held up by McConnell, only to be passed as part of last-minute negotiations over an overall year-end spending deal.

In his testimony, Stewart took aim at McConnell, promising 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.

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

“I’m not bent out of shape, I’m fine. I’m bent out of shape for them,” Stewart responded on CBS’ The Late Show.

“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. You know you would think that would be enough for Congress to pay attention, but apparently, it’s not.” he said.

“Listen, senator. I know that your species isn’t known for moving quickly,” he said.

Colbert then asked him, “Would that be a turtle reference Jon?”

It was “a little red meat for the base,” Stewart answered.

Jon Stewart pops out from under the desk to address Mitch McConnell. #LSSC https://t.co/MEFv1okFqv pic.twitter.com/EmBYFhnS3T

— The Late Show (@colbertlateshow) June 18, 2019

“But damn, senator. You’re not good at this argument thing. Basically, we’re saying you love the 9/11 community when they serve your political purposes. But when they’re in urgent need, you slow walk. You use it as a political pawn to get other things you want,” Stewart said.

“Just understand the next time we have a war or you’re being robbed or your house is on fire and you make that desperate call for help, don’t get bent out of shape if they show up at the last minute with fewer people than you thought were going to pay attention and don’t actually pull it out. just leave it there, smoldering for another five years ’cause that’s how sh–‘s done around here mister. I’m sure they’ll put it out for good when they feel like getting around to it. No offense,” he concluded.

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Justice Department acknowledges rare intervention to prevent Rikers Island transfer for Paul Manafort

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alexandria (Va.) Sheriffs Office(NEW YORK) — President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has been spared from an expected transfer to Rikers Island prison in New York following a rare intervention by the Department of Justice, a DOJ official confirmed to ABC News.

Trump has previously complained about how Manafort was being treated and has suggested he might pardon him.

Manafort, 70, who is currently serving out a federal prison sentence in Pennsylvania, was expected to be transferred to the infamous Rikers complex as he waited to face mortgage fraud and other state charges brought by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.

But in a statement to ABC News Monday evening, a senior DOJ official acknowledged that the department stepped in to prevent the move last week after Manafort’s attorneys raised concerns “related to his health and personal safety.” During his federal trial, Manafort’s physical condition appeared to be deteriorating and at times during hearings he had to use to a wheelchair or a cane.

The New York Times reported Monday that among the DOJ officials to get directly involved was Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who was confirmed to his position as the department’s number 2-ranked official last month.

“Mr. Manafort’s attorneys proposed that he remain in federal custody and be made available to the state when necessary,” the official said. “The Department requested the views of New York prosecutors, who did not object to Mr. Manafort’s proposal. In light of New York’s position, and Mr. Manafort’s unique health and safety needs, the Department decided to err on the side of caution by keeping Mr. Manafort in federal custody during the pendency of his state proceedings.”

Manafort has since been transferred to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan ahead of his expected arraignment on the state charges.

His attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Several former Obama-era federal prosecutors raised issue with the high-level DOJ intervention, noting it ran counter to typical rules governing detention for federal inmates facing state charges in New York.

Calling this highly unusual doesn’t even begin to capture how strange it is for the no. 2 official at DOJ to intervene in a state custody issue. https://t.co/oX8gXwPVs4

— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) June 17, 2019

It is very unusual – perhaps entirely unprecedented – for such a high-ranking DOJ official to be involved in the specific prison designation for a particular inmate. Anyone else in this situation goes to Rikers and that’s that.https://t.co/wtHrP66hCp

— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) June 18, 2019

President Trump has repeatedly expressed his objections to the treatment of Manafort by federal prosecutors in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

After the Manhattan District Attorney announced separate state charges against Manafort in March of this year, Trump reacted telling reporters, “on a human basis, it’s a very sad thing.”

The White House did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment on the DOJ decision.

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Gov. Steve Bullock, after missing out on June Democratic debate, qualifies for July face-off

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Despite missing the cutoff for the first Democratic debate scheduled for later this month, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock might get a shot at the second round of debates in July, the Democratic National Committee confirmed Tuesday.

An Iowa poll conducted by CBS News and YouGov qualified the governor for the debate under the DNC’s rules, a DNC spokesperson told ABC News.

POLITICO first reported the governor’s qualification, which was immediately celebrated by Bullock’s team.

“As the only candidate who has won a Trump state, we are excited that Gov. Steve Bullock’s important voice will be on the stage for the second debate,” Bullock’s campaign manager Jenn Ridder said in a statement.

The Montana governor’s qualification for the debate does not, however, guarantee Bullock’s place on the stage — a nuance triggered by the DNC’s participant cap for the debates, which stands at only 20 candidates. Bullock is the 21st Democratic candidate to qualify for the July debate in Detroit, which means tie-breaker rules outlined by the DNC are expected to come into play to decide which of the candidates actually take the stage.

The 20 candidates who qualified for the first debates in late June in Miami will also qualify for the second debates, which fall under the same rules: a candidate must either net at least 1 percent in three national or early-state polls conducted between January 2019 and two weeks before a given debate, or receive donations from over 65,000 people across 20 states, with a minimum of 200 unique donors per state. Two other 2020 candidates, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam, also did not meet the thresholds for the June debate and have yet to qualify for July.

The DNC’s tie-breaker rules favor candidates who have higher polling averages. The deadline to qualify for the second debates is two weeks before candidates take the stage on July 30 and 31 in Detroit, meaning that more candidates have time to cross the threshold and qualify.

Based on an ABC News analysis, the tie-breaker at this time would be between California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Bullock. Both candidates have identical polling averages and have narrowly crossed the threshold in only three qualifying polls. Neither campaign has released details on their donor base, nor announced if they have met the donor threshold. As of the first debates, Swalwell did not cross the donor threshold.

It has been a rocky road for Bullock, who narrowly missed the cut-off for the first Democratic debate scheduled for June and was, at one point, considered qualified by news outlets, including ABC News. It was only after a late rule change by the DNC, which eliminated one of the polls thought to qualify Bullock for the debate, that Bullock was knocked off the list of candidates. For that debate, too, he would’ve been the 21st candidate and triggered tie-breaker rules.

Bullock’s campaign has attempted to capitalize on the exclusion from the debate by painting the governor, who was elected by the same Montanan voters who voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, as an outsider, accusing the DNC of not learning “the right lesson from the 2016 election.”

“If we’re going to take back the places we lost — and then do the hard work to get our country back on track — we can’t let the DNC’s new rules exclude the perspectives of leaders who have done this before,” Bullock said in an op-ed last week.

Bullock, who entered the race just about a month ago, has said he entered late because he “had a job to do” as Montana’s governor. The state legislature was in session until late May and one of his hallmark achievements as governor, Medicaid expansion for about 10 percent of the state’s population, was up for renewal.

The DNC’s confirmation of these polls comes a day after Bullock announced he will appear in a pair of locally televised town halls in Iowa and New Hampshire on the same days as next week’s first debates.

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Trump to kick off re-election in Florida as Democrats aim to win state back

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images(ORLANDO, Fla.) — President Donald Trump kicks off his 2020 reelection bid in Orlando, Florida, on Tuesday, launching a campaign that’s never really ended.

In promoting Tuesday’s festivities at and around the Amway Center, aides indicated that the president’s campaign has never really stopped. They told ABC News that this rally in a critical swing state is meant to add to momentum.

“He can’t win the White House without Florida, and we’re going to step up big time to make sure he gets it,” Joe Gruters, chairman of the state Republican Party, said.

Starting Friday, the Trump campaign and allies have been hosting a “National Week of Training” across the country for 16,325 attendees at more than 970 events, including, “Trump Victory Leadership Initiative” training sessions and “MAGA Meet-Ups,” according to numbers provided to ABC News by the campaign.

America First Policies will also kick off its voter registration drive in Orlando on Tuesday with the aim of spending more than $20 million and registering voters in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia.

“There are millions of patriotic Americans who believe in the America First movement, but aren’t registered to vote,” America First Policies President Brian O. Walsh said.

Trump flipped Florida red in 2016 with just 1.2 percent more votes than Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. It was the first time the state voted Republican since President George W. Bush won it during his reelection in 2004.

While they’ve taken a beating from Republicans in the Sunshine State since 2016, Florida Democrats don’t believe the state has slipped out of their grasp in 2020.

“Democrats are still very competitive here,” Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., told ABC News.

Trump beat Clinton for Florida’s 29 electoral votes by 112,911 votes, a greater margin of victory than President Barack Obama’s 2012 win over now-Sen. Mitt Romney., R-Utah.

Last year’s hard-fought midterm election — so close that it prompted a recount — ended with Democrats losing every statewide race except agriculture commissioner: Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial race, and then-Gov. Rick Scott unseated Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., the only Democrat besides Obama to win statewide since the 1990s.

Despite the recent string of defeats, state Democrats point to their success in flipping two House seats in South Florida, and the razor-thin margins in the last few statewide contests.

“At the end of the day, it will be a close race, and it will be dog-eat-dog,” said Nelson, who has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. “The state has been influenced by Trump, utilizing the powers of the president as well as Republican administrations in Florida. You combine all of that in what is effectively a 50-50 state, and you see the trends that occurred in the last two elections.”

As part of their push to take back Florida, Democrats are investing in the state earlier than ever before.

In a call with reporters on Monday, Democratic National Committee officials said the party already has 90 field organizers on the ground and has spent millions to register 200,000 voters ahead of 2020.

The party is also centering its message against Trump on health care, including the administration’s decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, a winning issue for the party in 2018 and one that wasn’t on the table in 2016.

Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, has launched a six-figure digital advertising campaign in Florida ahead of Trump’s visit on Tuesday, targeting the president on health care and the Republican tax cut that he signed into law in 2017.

For Our Future, a progressive super PAC backed in part by billionaire Tom Steyer, is directing its $80 million budget toward organizing in Florida and other battleground states. The group, modeled on some of the conservative organizing groups funded by the Koch Brothers, has worked to keep Democratic voters engaged in between cycles and around issues.

One of the group’s focuses in Florida will be activating some of the 1.4 million ex-felons who are now eligible to vote in the state, according to CEO Justin Myers.

Multiple 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including Biden, have traveled to the state. The party plans to hold its first round of primary debates in Miami later this month.

In Orlando, only 20,000 attendees are allowed inside the Amway Center, so there were Trump supporters lined up nearly 40 hours early.

The Trump campaign was tight-lipped regarding the president’s remarks, but aides said to expect a rousing performance that only the president could deliver. First lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, along with Trump’s adult children, are expected to attend, campaign officials told ABC News.

Amid a balloon drop, a “retrospective” video of the president’s first years in office and possible indoor pyrotechnics, the event aims to be more than just a rally. Within the campaign, aides have described it as a “mini convention” and a “huge party” scheduled to go on, rain or shine, as the area prepares for possible showers.

The festivities will kick off well before the president takes the stage on Tuesday night, with “45 Fest,” an outdoor event at the Amway Center beginning in the morning and featuring food trucks, live music and massive TV screens for the overflow crowd that is expected to descend on downtown Orlando.

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ICE will begin removing ‘millions of illegal aliens’ next week, Trump tweets

Posted on: June 18th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

VallarieE/iStock(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter late Monday night that Immigration and Customs Enforcement next week would begin “removing the millions of illegal aliens” from the U.S. “as fast as they come in.”

Less than two weeks after signing a deal with Mexico to avoid another trade war, Trump said America’s neighbor to the south now is “doing a very good job of stopping people long before they get to our Southern Border.”

Guatemala, Trump added, is close to signing a “Safe-Third Agreement,” which means migrants fleeing from Honduras and El Salvador would be required to seek asylum there first before in the U.S.

….long before they get to our Southern Border. Guatemala is getting ready to sign a Safe-Third Agreement. The only ones who won’t do anything are the Democrats in Congress. They must vote to get rid of the loopholes, and fix asylum! If so, Border Crisis will end quickly!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2019

Earlier on Monday, the State Department reported that it would freeze $185 million in aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala “until the department is satisfied the Northern Triangle countries are taking concrete actions to reduce the number of migrants.”

Trump’s tweets came a day before he’s expected to kick off his 2020 campaign at a major event in Orlando, Florida.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump vows ‘phenomenal’ new health care plan

Posted on: June 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — In an exclusive interview with ABC News, President Donald Trump declared he would be announcing a “phenomenal” new health care plan within the next two months, and said health care would be a priority leading up to his 2020 re-election campaign.

“We almost had health care done. Health care’s a disaster …” Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, apparently referring to the GOP effort to overturn Obamacare that failed when Sen. John McCain cast a deciding vote against it, much to Trump’s continuing annoyance.

“If we win back the House, we’re going to produce phenomenal health care. And we already have the concept of the plan, but it’ll be less expensive than Obamacare by a lot.”

The president has long promised to cut health care costs and cover more Americans, while still preserving core Obamacare expansions like guaranteeing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

When Trump was pressed for more details about his new health care plan, Trump said his administration would be announcing changes “in about two months. Maybe less.”

But senior White House officials have told ABC News that they’re far away from putting together an actual health care bill.

Instead, these officials say, the administration is crafting a set of “high-level principles” that outlines the president’s vision and could from the basis for future legislation.

The process is being headed up by the president’s Domestic Policy Council, with input from the Department of Health and Human Services among other executive offices, according to officials.

A draft of the principles is circulating within the administration, according to one official, who could not offer a timeline of when it might be made public because the process is in the early stages.

One official said the principles outlined will be similar to past proposals supported by the White House on past failed attempts to reform the healthcare system, saying it will seek to address affordability, premiums, and protections for pre-existing condition protections.

The president outlined his vision Tuesday night for Republicans to campaign on his plan in the 2020 election and then vote on it right after the election, assuming Republicans hold the White House and Senate, while also regaining the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday blasted the president for working on a new health care plan.

“The American people already know exactly what the President’s health care plans mean in their lives: higher costs, worse coverage and the end of lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“President Trump has waged an assault on health care since the start, and continues to order the Justice Department to ask the courts to destroy protections for people with pre-existing conditions and strike down every other protection and guarantee of affordable health care for America’s families. And since Day One, the Trump Administration has worked relentlessly to push families into disastrous junk plans, increase their health care costs and gut their health care protections,” she continued.

Over in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was “anxious” to see Trump’s new plan.

“We’re anxious to see what the president recommends,” the Kentucky Republican said Monday during an interview with “Fox and Friends.”

“There’s a space there for the president to advocate for something and we’re looking forward to seeing what he’s going to recommend,” he said.

“What he’s doing is through the executive branch, through regulations, expanding health care for a lot of Americans, which he can do on his own,” he said.

He added: “He has said he’s going to lay a plan out, and he has said it would be dealt with after the election when we get a Congress that’s more sympathetic to our approach to health care.”

Earlier in the year, McConnell and several Senate Republicans had signaled their unwillingness to tackle health care anytime soon, after their numerous attempts at taking down Obamacare amounted to nothing.

In April, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that he had smacked down Trump’s hopes for a renewed fight to replace Obamacare.

“We had a good conversation yesterday afternoon… I made it clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate,” McConnell said of health care reform.

The Republican Leader told reporters that he reminded the president of “Senate Republicans view on dealing with comprehensive health care reform with a Democratic House of Representatives,” and that they had been unable to achieve health care reform during the last GOP-controlled Congress.

“As he later tweeted, [the president] accepted that and that he would be developing a plan that he would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign and suggests that that’s what he would be advocating in a second term if there were a Republican Congress,” he said.

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Democrats in Virginia win at Supreme Court in racial gerrymandering case

Posted on: June 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Zolnierek/iStock(WASHINGTON) — A narrowly-divided Supreme Court on Monday dismissed an appeal from Virginia’s Republican-controlled House of Delegates which sought to reinstate the state’s legislative districts map after it was struck down for improper racial gerrymandering.

A lower court held that 11 state legislative districts represented unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The state attorney general, a Democrat, declined to challenge the lower court decision.

On Monday, in a 5-4 decision, the court said the House of Delegates lacked standing to bring the case.

“The House, as a single chamber of a bicameral legislature, has no standing to appeal the invalidation of the redistricting plan separately from the state of which it is a part,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for the majority.

“This is likely good news for the Democratic Party in Virginia – it means that the Republican-drawn map at issue in this case cannot be used in the 2019 Virginia state elections,” said ABC News legal analyst Kate Shaw.

Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam said the ruling means the state’s new electoral map, drawn by a court-appointed overseer, will stand.

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for democracy and voting rights in our Commonwealth,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “When we corrected racially gerrymandered districts earlier this year, we righted a wrong—as I have always said, voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.”

The decision also impacts the electoral landscape in Virginia, a key swing state, on the eve of the 2020 presidential election.

All seats in the Virginia legislature are on the ballot in November. The outcome will determine party control of the state chambers headed into the 2020 census and next redistricting – the chance to reshape Assembly and congressional maps for a decade.

Virginia has been ranked as one of the most gerrymandered states in the country with districts drawn in many cases specifically to minimize the electoral influence of black Democratic voters, according to the nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project.

Last year, a lower court sided with the challengers to Virginia’s map, ruling that the state assembly failed to conduct a “holistic analysis” of racial considerations unique to each district. It ordered that a new map be drawn before the 2019 elections.

Defenders of the map insist race did not predominate other race-neutral considerations.

The high court’s ruling features an atypical vote alignment, with Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch joining Ginsburg in the majority, while Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh dissent.

“The Virginia House of Delegates exists for a purpose: to represent and serve the interests of the people of the Commonwealth,” Alito wrote in the dissent. “The invalidation of the House’s redistricting plan and its replacement with a court-ordered map would cause the House to suffer a ‘concrete’ injury” and give it grounds for bringing an appeal.

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Trump and Ocasio-Cortez in Twitter battle over impeachment and what’s driving Democrats

Posted on: June 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been engaged in a Twitter battle since her appearance Sunday on ABC’s This Week, trading barbs over impeachment after her comment that Democrats have a “very real risk of losing” in 2020 without a ‘transformational candidate.”

Ocasio-Cortez cautioned against electing a president advocating for “half-measures” and again called for a progressive Democratic nominee. In an interview with ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, she said, “I think that we have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we do not have a presidential candidate that is fighting for true transformational change in the lives of working people in the United States.”

Trump responded Sunday afternoon, shifted the conversation to impeachment, tweeting, “I agree, and that is the only reason they play the impeach card, which cannot be legally used!”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “I think we have a very real risk of losing the Presidency to Donald Trump.” I agree, and that is the only reason they play the impeach card, which cannot be legally used!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 16, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez fired back about two hours later, saying the president is “bluffing” and opening an impeachment inquiry is necessary when the president “obstructs justice, advises witnesses to ignore legal subpoenas, & more.”

Mr. President, you’re from Queens.

You may fool the rest of the country, but I’ll call your bluff any day of the week.

Opening an impeachment inquiry is exactly what we must do when the President obstructs justice, advises witnesses to ignore legal subpoenas, & more.

Bye 👋🏽 https://t.co/4O9PNbYFki

— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) June 17, 2019

While she called for a transformational candidate, Ocasio-Cortez is holding off on endorsing anyone for president now, saying on ABC’s This Week that “It’s possible that I’ll endorse later on perhaps, you know, I do not see myself endorsing anytime soon.”

More broadly of the Democratic field, Ocasio-Cortez said, “I do think that the field is too large. I do believe that having a competitive primary is healthy and that it’s good, but we have so many Senate seats to take and the fact that we aren’t discussing that more — even if we win the presidency and we don’t win the Senate — we are not going to be able to get a robust agenda passed in the way that we envision it.”

Ocasio-Cortez has previously specified that the country needs a progressive president.

“I really believe the only way that we’re going to be able to beat this president is with a progressive candidate,” she said to The Young Turks show Rebel HQ earlier this month. “We need candidates that are committed to Medicare for all, to tuition-free public colleges and universities. We need a candidate that is dedicated to passing at least a $15 minimum wage, ideally one that’s pegged to inflation.”

On Sunday, Karl asked, “Could you see yourself supporting Joe Biden?”

She said that she would support the former vice president — who is seen as a moderate figure and has campaigned on his ability to work across the aisle — if he wins the Democratic nomination.

“I think that it is absolutely important that we defeat Donald Trump,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding, “I think that we need to pick a candidate that is going to be exciting to vote for, that all people, women, people of all genders, races, income levels, geographies feel excited and good about voting for.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the 2020 election: "It's possible that I'll endorse later on … I do not see myself endorsing anytime soon. We haven't even had our first debates yet. I'm very interested in seeing how things play out" https://t.co/3S3qFJFu4C pic.twitter.com/EU69fBAM71

— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) June 16, 2019

Biden claimed in March that he has “the most progressive record of anyone running.”

The progressive freshman congresswoman said that she’s “encouraged” by Biden’s reversal on the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion, calling the stance the “very base level where all candidates need to be.”

However, when asked about allegations of inappropriate touching and comments by Biden, Ocasio-Cortez said, “I do think that there may be some discomfort,” among voters, citing recent comments where Biden told a 13-year-old girl that her brothers need to watch out for her. “I think there are some things with female voters that it’s just not quite locked down.”

When it comes to a candidate who articulates her vision of what a Democratic nominee should be, she said of Sen. Bernie Sanders, “I think that [Sanders] does that excellently. I think his policies do that excellently. I believe Sen. (Elizabeth) Warren’s policies do that excellently.”

For the time being, however, Ocasio-Cortez said that she and Sanders are focused on being allies in Congress and that Sanders had not asked for her endorsement.

Focusing on her work in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted her reaching across the aisle to work with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on legislation to ban former members of Congress from lobbying and to make birth control available over the counter.

When asked about that working relationship, Ocasio-Cortez said “we haven’t met in person yet, but I do know that we have an ongoing working relationship and I’m extraordinarily excited in seeing what we can accomplish.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Supreme Court engages on same-sex marriage cake case, hands win to baker, for now

Posted on: June 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

DNY59/iStock(WASHINGTON) — For the second time in as many years, the Supreme Court on Monday engaged on a major religious liberty case involving same-sex marriage, but is sidestepping for now the substantive issue of alleged religion-based discrimination.

The court granted the petition of Christian bakers in Oregon who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of their religious beliefs and wiped away a lower court ruling against them. The justices sent the case back to the Sixth Circuit for further consideration.

Instructing the appeals court to reexamine the matter in light of a similar, narrowly-decided case last year from Colorado, the justices left open the key question of when discrimination on religious grounds can override civil rights protections written into law.

In the 2018 “Masterpiece Cakeshop” decision, the court focused solely on actions by the Colorado civil rights commission, which had penalized the baker for refusing to serve the couple. The court said the agency failed to show “religious neutrality that the Constitution requires.”

“Any decision in favor of the baker would have to be sufficiently constrained,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote at the time, “lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying ‘no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,’ something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons.”

The Oregon case involves Melissa and Aaron Klein, the owners of Sweetcakes bakery in Portland, Ore. In 2013, the bakers refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. A state administrative board said Sweetcakes violated anti-discrimination laws, awarding the couple $135,000.

The Kleins, who have since shut down their bakery, contend their First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and free speech were violated. “Any cake the complainants might have commissioned would have required them to employ their artistic skill to communicate a celebratory message about a same-sex wedding ritual that conflicts with the Kleins’ religious convictions,” they argued in court documents.

Oregon state courts have affirmed the board’s decision.

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SCOTUS says states can continue to prosecute for same crime as federal government

Posted on: June 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

dkfielding/iStock(WASHINGTON) — In a 7-2 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday has upheld an exception to the Fifth Amendment’s ban on “double jeopardy,” allowing a state and the federal government to each prosecute an individual for the same action if it violates both state and federal laws.

The case could have incidentally expanded the presidential pardon power by ending the exception, but the court did not take that step.

This is a developing story. Please check for updates.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Dems have ‘a real risk of losing’ without ‘transformational’ candidate: Ocasio-Cortez

Posted on: June 17th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t endorsing anyone for president now, saying on ABC’s This Week, “It’s possible that I’ll endorse later on perhaps, you know, I do not see myself endorsing anytime soon.”

In an interview with ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on Sunday, Ocasio-Cortez cautioned against electing a president advocating for “half-measures,” and again called for a progressive Democratic nominee.

“I think that we have a very real risk of losing the presidency to Donald Trump if we do not have a presidential candidate that is fighting for true transformational change in the lives of working people in the United States,” she said.

More broadly of the Democratic field, she said, “I do think that the field is too large. I do believe that having a competitive primary is healthy and that it’s good, but we have so many Senate seats to take and the fact that we aren’t discussing that more — even if we win the presidency and we don’t win the Senate — we are not going to be able to get a robust agenda passed in the way that we envision it.”

Ocasio-Cortez has previously specified that the country needs a progressive president.

“I really believe the only way that we’re going to be able to beat this president is with a progressive candidate,” she said to The Young Turks show “Rebel HQ” earlier this month. “We need candidates that are committed to Medicare for all, to tuition-free public colleges and universities. We need a candidate that is dedicated to passing at least a $15 minimum wage, ideally one that’s pegged to inflation.”

On Sunday, Karl asked, “Could you see yourself supporting Joe Biden?”

She said that she would support the former vice president — who is seen as a moderate figure and has campaigned on his ability to work across the aisle — if he wins the Democratic nomination.

“I think that it is absolutely important that we defeat Donald Trump,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding, “I think that we need to pick a candidate that is going to be exciting to vote for, that all people, women, people of all genders, races, income levels, geographies feel excited and good about voting for.”

Biden claimed in March that he has “the most progressive record of anyone running.”

The progressive freshman congresswoman said that she’s “encouraged” by Biden’s reversal on the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funding for abortion, calling the stance the “very base level where all candidates need to be.”

However, when asked about allegations of inappropriate touching and comments by Biden, Ocasio-Cortez said, “I do think that there may be some discomfort,” among voters, citing recent comments where Biden told a 13-year-old girl that her brothers need to watch out for her. “I think there are some things with female voters that it’s just not quite locked down.”

When it comes to a candidate who articulates her vision of what a Democratic nominee should be, she said of Sen. Bernie Sanders, “I think that [Sanders] does that excellently. I think his policies do that excellently. I believe Sen. (Elizabeth) Warren’s policies do that excellently.”

For the time being, however, Ocasio-Cortez said that she and Sanders are focused on being allies in Congress and that Sanders had not asked for her endorsement.

Focusing on her work in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted her reaching across the aisle to work with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz on legislation to ban former members of Congress from lobbying and to make birth control available over the counter.

When asked about that working relationship, Ocasio-Cortez said “we haven’t met in person yet, but I do know that we have an ongoing working relationship and I’m extraordinarily excited in seeing what we can accomplish.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

EXCLUSIVE: Top 5 takeaways of President Trump’s interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos

Posted on: June 16th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos embedded with President Donald Trump for a wide-ranging exclusive interview over the course of two days this week, generating a bevy of newsy headlines over the course of their unprecedented discussion.

Here are the top five moments from the interview.

Trump says he’d listen to foreign intelligence on political opponents

This was the biggest headline of them all. After Trump told Stephanopoulos that he may not alert the FBI if foreign governments offered damaging information against his 2020 rivals during the upcoming presidential race, the president faced a wave of criticism from Republicans and Democrats.

Despite the deluge of investigations stemming from his campaign’s interactions with Russians during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Stephanopoulos asked Trump Wednesday in the Oval Office whether his reelection campaign would accept such information from foreigners – such as China or Russia – or hand it over the FBI, Trump answered, “I think maybe you do both.”

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump continued. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ – oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

Trump disputed the idea that if a foreign government provided information on a political opponent, it would be considered interference in our election process.

“It’s not an interference, they have information – I think I’d take it,” Trump said. “If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI – if I thought there was something wrong. But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, they come up with oppo research, ‘oh let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it. When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it, they always have, and that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned on Thursday that Trump is giving Russia “the green light” to again interfere in a U.S. presidential election.

“Everybody in the country should be totally appalled by what the president said last night,” Pelosi said.

While Pelosi called Trump’s comments “cavalier” and an “assault on democracy” she indicated it’s not enough to sway her to prematurely launch an impeachment inquiry.

“What we want to do is have a methodical approach to the path that we are on, and this will be included in that, but not any one issue is going to trigger, ‘Oh, now we’ll go do [impeachment].’ Because it’s about investigating, it’s about litigating, it’s about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable and no one is above the law,” she said.

Even one of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill did not come to his defense. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said the president’s response was “not the right answer.”

“If a foreign government comes to you as a public official, and offers to help your campaign giving you anything of value, whether it be money or information on your opponent, the right answer is no,” he said.

By Friday, the president worked to walk his comments back, telling Fox News that he would notify the FBI or the attorney general if the information was “incorrect or badly stated.”

“Of course you have to look at it because if you don’t look at it you won’t know it’s bad,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends” Friday morning. “But, of course, you give it to the FBI or report it to the attorney general or somebody like that.”

Trump says internal polling shows he’s ‘winning everywhere’

Trump told Stephanopoulos that his campaign’s internal polling showed that he is “winning everywhere.”

When Stephanopoulos mentioned reports of polls commissioned by the Trump campaign that showed former Vice President Joe Biden ahead in several key states, the president said: “those polls don’t exist.”

“Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don’t exist, George. Those polls don’t exist. I’m losing in 15 out of 17 states? Those polls don’t exist,” Trump said.

“I just was given a meeting with my pollster who I frankly don’t even believe in pollsters if you want to know the truth, you just run a campaign and whatever it is, it is, but I just had a meeting with somebody that’s a pollster and I’m winning everywhere, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

But data from the first internal poll conducted by the campaign in March, obtained exclusively Friday by ABC News, showed Trump losing a matchup by wide margins to Biden in key battleground states, including double-digit leads for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41, and Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a traditionally Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.

When presented by ABC News with these numbers Friday, the Trump campaign confirmed the data saying in a statement that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor.

Trump says it ‘doesn’t matter’ what former White House Counsel Don McGahn told Mueller

Stephanopoulos quizzed Trump about the Russia investigation at length. The president directly disputed the account of a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice during the course of the Russia probe saying that it “doesn’t matter” what his former White House counsel Don McGahn testified.

Trump said McGahn “may have been confused” when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest.

“The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller,” Trump told Stephanopoulos.

At the president’s instruction, McGahn is currently fighting a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee to testify publicly about those conversations with Trump, among other things. McGahn spent nearly 30 hours with the special counsel’s investigators testifying under oath and was one of most quoted aides to the president to appear in the report.

When Stephanopoulos pushed back and referenced McGahn’s testimony, Trump was defiant.

“I don’t care what [McGahn] says, it doesn’t matter,” Trump said.

“Why would [McGahn] lie under oath?” Stephanopoulos later asked.

“Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer,” Trump said. “Or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen – including you, including the media – that Robert Mueller was conflicted. Robert Mueller had a total conflict of interest.”

“And has to go?” Stephanopoulos followed up.

“I didn’t say that,” Trump insisted.

Trump reveals historic redesign of Air Force One

Less than a year after announcing a $3.9 billion makeover for America’s most famous aircraft, Trump shared never-before-seen renderings of Air Force One’s prospective redesign.

“George, take a look at this,” Trump boasted to Stephanopoulos, flashing mock-ups of his vision for the next generation of the presidential aircraft. “Here’s your new Air Force One.”

Trump showed his plan to swap the iconic sky blue-and-white paint job for a patriotic red, white and blue.

“We had different choices, here,” Trump said, pointing to images he said he designed himself. “These are all slightly different.”

The new fleet won’t be ready for takeoff until 2024. In spite of the president’s willingness to share the preliminary sketches, Trump is still holding some details close to the vest.

“There are a couple of secrets,” Trump teased. “You know what, there are a couple of secrets I don’t think we’re supposed to be talking about.”

Trump says of Fed Reserve chairman: ‘I’ve waited long enough’

Trump slammed Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, insisting that Powell’s actions have prevented the economy from soaring even higher and declaring he’s out of patience with the person he picked to lead the nation’s central bank.

Inviting Stephanopoulos along for a trip to Council Bluffs, Iowa on Tuesday, Trump said that the financial market would be stronger “if we had a different person in the Federal Reserve who wouldn’t have raised interest rates so much.”

Trump told Stephanopoulos he believes the Dow Jones Industrial Average could be 10,000 points higher if the Federal Reserve hadn’t hiked rates last year. Stephanopoulos pointed out that Powell wouldn’t be in the job if it weren’t for Trump.

“He’s my pick,” Trump acknowledged. “And I disagree with him entirely.”

Stephanopoulos asked Trump whether he has concerns that his repeated commentary on the Federal Reserve puts Powell “in a box.”

“Yes, I do,” Trump responded. “But I’m gonna do it anyway because I’ve waited long enough.”

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Trump campaign parting ways with pollsters following internal numbers leak: Sources

Posted on: June 16th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — The Trump campaign is cutting ties with a number of its pollsters after internal figures leaked showing President Donald Trump down by wide margins in key battleground states.

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Multiple sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News that the campaign will part with some of its pollsters after the leak, which showed data that the president was losing in key must-win states based on internal polling done in late March of this year.

Veteran political pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin will remain as campaign pollsters, according to someone close to the campaign.

The news follows a report by ABC News, which revealed — for the first time — internal figures from the Trump campaign’s own polling, that had the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by double digits in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The two states were critical to Trump’s election in 2016.

The leaked data also indicated Biden was leading by seven points in Florida, where the president is set to officially kick-off his 2020 campaign Tuesday.

Trump and the campaign had repeatedly denied that such data existed, but when presented by ABC News with these numbers last week, the campaign confirmed the data saying, in a statement, that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor.

“These leaked numbers are ancient, in campaign terms, from months-old polling that began in March before two major events had occurred: the release of the summary of the Mueller report exonerating the President, and the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with their far-left policy message,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told ABC News in the statement. “Since then, we have seen huge swings in the President’s favor across the 17 states we have polled, based on the policies now espoused by the Democrats. For example, the plan to provide free health care to illegal immigrants results in an 18-point swing toward President Trump.”

Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was released on March 24. While the Trump campaign’s full poll, which canvassed 17 states, was already in the field, it was well underway for four additional days after the release of Barr’s letter to the public. The poll was conducted from March 15 through March 28.

During an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, the president denied such polling existed and said his internal numbers showed that he is “winning everywhere.”

“Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don’t exist, George. Those polls don’t exist. I’m losing in 15 out of 17 states? Those polls don’t exist,” Trump said.

“I just was given a meeting with my pollster, who — I frankly don’t even believe in pollsters if you want to know the truth, you just run a campaign and whatever it is, it is — but I just had a meeting with somebody that’s a pollster and I’m winning everywhere, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

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The Trump campaign is cutting ties with a number of its pollsters after internal figures leaked showing President Donald Trump down by wide margins in key battleground states.

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Multiple sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News that the campaign will part with some of its pollsters after the leak, which showed data that the president was losing in key must-win states based on internal polling done in late March of this year.

Veteran political pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin will remain as campaign pollsters, according to someone close to the campaign.

The news follows a report by ABC News, which revealed — for the first time — internal figures from the Trump campaign’s own polling, that had the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by double digits in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The two states were critical to Trump’s election in 2016.

The leaked data also indicated Biden was leading by seven points in Florida, where the president is set to officially kick-off his 2020 campaign Tuesday.

Trump and the campaign had repeatedly denied that such data existed, but when presented by ABC News with these numbers last week, the campaign confirmed the data saying, in a statement, that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor.

“These leaked numbers are ancient, in campaign terms, from months-old polling that began in March before two major events had occurred: the release of the summary of the Mueller report exonerating the President, and the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with their far-left policy message,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told ABC News in the statement. “Since then, we have seen huge swings in the President’s favor across the 17 states we have polled, based on the policies now espoused by the Democrats. For example, the plan to provide free health care to illegal immigrants results in an 18-point swing toward President Trump.”

Attorney General William Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was released on March 24. While the Trump campaign’s full poll, which canvassed 17 states, was already in the field, it was well underway for four additional days after the release of Barr’s letter to the public. The poll was conducted from March 15 through March 28.

During an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, the president denied such polling existed and said his internal numbers showed that he is “winning everywhere.”

“Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don’t exist, George. Those polls don’t exist. I’m losing in 15 out of 17 states? Those polls don’t exist,” Trump said.

“I just was given a meeting with my pollster, who — I frankly don’t even believe in pollsters if you want to know the truth, you just run a campaign and whatever it is, it is — but I just had a meeting with somebody that’s a pollster and I’m winning everywhere, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

‘Every day that passes, the pressure to impeach grows’: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Posted on: June 16th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Freshman Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Sunday that with every passing day “the pressure to impeach (President Donald Trump) grows.”

She added that Democrats need to start an impeachment inquiry “to look at what’s going on” and that the move should not be driven by polling or politics.

“Every day that passes, the pressure to impeach grows, and I think that it’s justifiable,” she said in an exclusive interview on “This Week” with ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl. “I think that with the president now saying that he is willing to break the law to win reelection, that — that goes — that transcends partisanship. It transcends party lines, and this is now about the rule of law in the United States of America.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she thinks “there is a growing sentiment, even among” Democratic members in swing districts that an impeachment inquiry should be launched.

“Ten counts of obstruction of justice, four with rock solid evidence. We have violations of the emoluments clause. We need to at least open an inquiry so that we can look at what is going on, and that is what opening an impeachment inquiry means,” she said. “Holding this president (to) account is holding all of government to account.”

Earlier this week, in an exclusive ABC News interview, Trump told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that if a foreign country called him saying it had information on an opponent, he said it wouldn’t be “an interference” and that he thinks he would “want to hear it.”

“If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI. If I thought there was something wrong,” he said. “But when somebody comes up with oppo research, right, that they come up with oppo research. ‘Oh, let’s call the FBI.’ The FBI doesn’t have enough agents to take care of it, but you go and talk honestly to congressmen, they all do it. They always have. And that’s the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”

After Trump’s comments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said again that not one act or statement by the president would move her closer to supporting impeachment.

“What we want to do is have a methodical approach to the path that we are on, and this will be included in that, but not any one issue is going to trigger, ‘Oh, now we’ll go do [impeachment].’ Because it’s about investigating, it’s about litigating, it’s about getting the truth to hold everyone accountable and no one is above the law,” Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters in news conference on Thursday.

Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political establishment when she unseated the longtime representative for New York’s 14th District, Rep. Joe Crowley, in the Democratic primary nearly a year ago and has since become one of the most known figures of the progressive wing of the Democratic party, describing herself as a Democratic socialist, a label also embraced by 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

Karl asked Ocasio-Cortez how Pelosi’s resistance to impeach is going over with progressives.

“I think (the frustration is) quite real. I believe that there is a very real animus and desire to make sure that we are — that — that we are holding this president to account,” she said. “Holding this president (to) account is holding all of government to account.”

Karl noted that two thirds of the Senate, which has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, would have to vote in favor of impeachment for Trump to be removed from office, and Ocasio-Cortez agreed that a vote was unlikely.

“Don’t you risk handing him a political victory here?” Karl pressed.

Ocasio-Cortez said that Congress has to do its job. “If we’re talking about what’s going to be a victory for Trump and what’s not going to be a victory for Trump then we are politicizing and we are tainting this process, which, again, should be removed from politics.”

“I think for us, what we need to really realize is, are we doing our job as a member of the House?” she added. “And the Senate has their entire responsibility. … But I think we need to be concerned with our job in the House.”

She said on “This Week” that she doesn’t “see the relevancy in calling for prosecution after he leaves office,” as Sen. Kamala Harris said she would pursue if she were elected president in 2020.

“We have the ability … to actually kind of play out our responsibilities now. We have power now,” she said. “And to bump it to when we don’t have power, I don’t think makes a whole lot of sense.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Trump cites lessons from Nixon, says he ‘was never going to fire Mueller’

Posted on: June 16th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that he did not fire special counsel Robert Mueller because “that didn’t work out too well” for former President Richard Nixon.

“I wasn’t gonna fire [Mueller],” Trump said in an exclusive interview with ABC News. “You know why? Because I watched Richard Nixon go around firing everybody, and that didn’t work out too well.”

In what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre in October 1973, Nixon ordered his attorney general to fire Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal. Rather than carry out that order, his attorney general and deputy attorney general resigned. Nixon then appointed an acting attorney general, and he fired Cox. Nixon, facing an impeachment inquiry, ultimately became the only U.S. president to resign.

Trump also told Stephanopoulos that, in his opinion, Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the executive branch and outlines the powers of the presidency, gave him the authority to fire the special counsel.

“Look, Article II. I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller,” Trump said in a portion of the interview that aired on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday. “He wasn’t fired. Okay? Number one, very importantly. But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would have allowed me to fire him.”

The president’s claim that he never tried to fire the special counsel is contradicted by the Mueller report, which outlines multiple instances reported by former White House Counsel Don McGahn when Trump instructed McGahn to have the acting attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, dismiss Mueller.

“I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller,” Trump told Stephanopoulos, adding that “it doesn’t matter” what McGahn said under oath.

In the interview, Trump asserted that “a lot of great lawyers” agree with his interpretation of Article II that it affords the president sweeping powers. But the president hedged when asked whether a president can ever obstruct justice.

“So your position is that you can hire or fire anybody, stop or start?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“That is the position of a lot of great lawyers,” Trump said. “That’s the position of some of the most talented lawyers. And you have to have a position like that because you’re the president. But without even bringing up Article II, which absolutely gives you every right.”

“So a president can’t obstruct justice?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“A president can run the country. And that’s what happened, George. I run the country, and I run it well,” he responded.

“When the president does it, it’s not illegal?” Stephanopoulos pressed.

“I’m just saying a president under Article II — it’s very strong. Read it,” Trump said.

The special counsel offered a different interpretation of Article II in his report, which states that “under applicable Supreme Court precedent, the Constitution does not categorically and permanently immunize a President for obstructing justice through the use of his Article II powers.”

The report goes on to say that under the United States’ system of checks and balances, “Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office.”

Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election did not reach a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice. However, the report, which runs more than 400 pages, outlined 11 episodes of possible obstruction, including the aforementioned attempts to remove the special counsel.

Mueller said he did not reach a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice because charging the president with a crime was “not an option we could consider” due to a Justice Department opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted.

Trump Tower Moscow

Stephanopoulos also asked Trump about his plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow that continued into the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I didn’t even do a deal in Moscow,” Trump said.

“You were pursuing it,” Stephanopoulos followed up.

“Excuse me. Pursuing, what does pursuing mean?” Trump said. “Do you know that I don’t even think they had a site? I don’t even think they knew who was gonna do the deal. It was a concept of a deal, more of a concept than anything else. It was a concept of a deal someplace in Russia, probably in Moscow, and I was looking at places all over the world.”

According to the Mueller report, the Trump Organization “explored” a Moscow real estate project that would have included commercial, hotel and residential properties.

“Between 2013 and June 2016, several employees of the Trump Organization, including then-president of the organization Donald J. Trump, pursued a Moscow deal with several Russian counterparties,” the report says.

It goes on to say that Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, “spearheaded” the efforts and reported updates to the Trump Organization, including directly to then-candidate Trump. Cohen also told lawmakers in closed and open sessions that he kept two of the president’s adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump, briefed about the Moscow project.

When pressed on whether voters had a right to know that his company was engaged in business dealings with Russia during the campaign, the president insisted to Stephanopoulos that there was nothing nefarious about the project and he “wouldn’t mind” if information about those dealings was made public.

“I wouldn’t mind telling ’em,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with it — I don’t consider that pursuing a deal when you don’t even have a site.”

Trump has previously denied that he has any business ties to Russia, even tweeting shortly before his inauguration, “I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA — NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!”

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Man arrested for trespassing into Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s New York office

Posted on: June 15th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — An unidentified man trespassed into Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s district office in Queens on Saturday, sprayed a fire extinguisher and then hid in a closet until police were able to detain him, according to New York’s ABC7.

Police were alerted to the incident by building security, and the man is in police custody, the station reported, citing the New York Police Department.

There was no one at the office at the time.

Ocasio-Cortez was in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. She is due to appear on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sunday morning.

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DACA recipients closely watching 2020 candidates for clues to their future

Posted on: June 15th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Twitter/@ewarren(LOS ANGELES) — Justino Mora was an all-star teenager: the co-captain of his track and field team, a youth altar boy at his Los Angeles church and in the top 5% of his graduating class.

But his ambitions had limitations. Mora crossed over to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 11 years old. Even though he was accepted into Cal Poly and University of California, Berkeley, because he is an undocumented immigrant, he didn’t qualify for state financial aid.

“It changed my view of the American Dream,” he said. “We’re told if we do our best, that all these doors of opportunity will open up. For me that wasn’t the case.”

He is one of more than 700,000 children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents who were given protected status under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order.

Mora, an immigrant rights activist, is now looking to see how Democratic presidential candidates will think about the future of young people in the same plight.

California Sen. Kamala Harris is the most recent candidate to release a proposal addressing the group this week detailing how she would use executive action to help Dreamers reach citizenship. Her proposal is aimed at breaking the barriers Dreamers often face when trying to apply for citizenship. The policy plan teases out whether an applicant is considered to have entered the country lawfully or unlawfully, has maintained lawful status and whether he or she accepted authorized employment.

Julia Gelatt, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute said Harris’ proposal gets at critical hurdles Dreamers face.

“Right now there are a lot of unauthorized immigrants and Dreamers who might have a family member or employer who would wish to sponsor them for a green card. But under the current law, they face barriers,” Gelatt said. “She’s trying to remove some of those barriers so they can find legal status.”

Harris held an immigration policy roundtable Friday with Dreamers, including Astrid Silva at the University of Nevada immigration clinic in Las Vegas. Nevada is home to roughly 13,000 Dreamers.

Harris said she would implement her executive order for Dreamers on her first day in office, and also said with her history of fighting against attempts to undo DACA in the past, she is prepared to fight for it again in the courtroom if her executive order was taken to court. She also made it clear that undocumented youth wouldn’t be the only people she’d be fighting for, and extending the “ceiling and floor” when it came to a path to citizenship for all ages was a priority.

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro is another 2020 candidate with a solution for Dreamers and was the first candidate with a proposal on immigration. Unlike Harris, who intends to use executive authority, he hopes to use the legislative progress to fight for DACA and Temporary Protected Status, people from select countries are offered temporary protections because their home regions are exceptionally violent or were damaged by natural disasters. His goal is to help Dreamers and those under Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure achieve citizenship through the Dream and Promise Act of 2019.

Gelatt says, “It seems like they have the same plan A but Harris is thinking ahead to what she might to if Congress doesn’t open that path.” She called Harris’ proposal a “pessimistic” because it bypasses Congress but later added, “It’s probably quite realistic for Harris to think even with a new Congress striking a deal for protections could remain very difficult.”

Former Texas Beto O’Rourke also released a proposal two weeks ago stating that as a part of his first 100 days in office, he would create an “earned pathway to citizenship” for 11 million people including Dreamers and those under Temporary Protected Status through a series of executive and legislative actions.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s immigration policy while focusing on climate migration features a sweeping overhaul of the immigration system and focuses on a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and expedited eligibility for Dreamers.

Many other candidates haven’t rolled out proposals but many have been vocal on the fate of DACA recipients.

Amy Klobuchar was one of the senators on the bipartisan group of senators who negotiated on behalf of their cause with Trump, a decision that got a lot of pushback from immigrant rights groups. She said on “This Week” she would be willing to go along with some wall funding in turn for protections for Dreamers.

Most other candidates have addressed the Dreamer issue without supporting any aspect of Trump’s long-desired border wall in exchange.

Cory Booker told NPR, “I will do everything I can to ensure that DACA children, that Dreamers, who are Americans in every way except for a piece of paper.”

In his first CNN Town Hall, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said Dreamers were “not U.S. citizens, but in many cases, this is the only country they can even remember because they came to this country through no choice of their own. And so I think it’s one of the reasons why there’s a broad U.S. consensus that we need to find a way to protect Dreamers.”

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney in the past called Trump’s decision to end DACA “cruel, heartless and mean-spirited” and as a congressman, co-sponsored the DREAM Act in 2017. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock was one of eleven governors to sign a letter urging Congress to protect Dreamers.

Mora calls a majority of these plans a bare minimum.

“My biggest concern is that a lot of concern is going to DACA recipients where there should be more focus on inhumane actions of the U.S. government,” he said. “What are we going to do about ice? Politicians should be talking about abolishing it.”

While Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders states on his website that he voted against creating the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, he says he now wants to completely reshape it and has also laid out a plan to expand DACA and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. He told Telemundo he would act on immigration in the first 100 days on his administration.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been vocal about abolishing ICE, while also calling for completely rebuilding the immigration system and supporting a pathway to citizenship and protection for DACA recipients and TPS.

Meanwhile, as Mora remains in limbo, always aware his current DACA status may not be renewed, he said he’s more curious on how many politicians feel about the current state of immigration in the country.

“My question is how do those elected officials feel that their decisions are resulting in babies not seeing their parents one more day? Do they feel ashamed? Do they feel ashamed about living in the best country in the world, but in reality, we have people in detentions, people getting killed by ICE willful negligence?”

He says their actions are more important than his feelings when it comes to this issue.

“I made the decision a long time ago to live my life to the fullest and not see the government to my pursuit of happiness.”

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New York City set to become 1st city to fund abortion services

Posted on: June 15th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

iStock Photo/deberarr(NEW YORK) — Tucked away in a $92.5 billion budget, agreed to with a handshake deal between Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Friday, was an agreement to make New York City the first city in the country to fund abortion services.

The New York Abortion Access Fund will provide $250,000 from the budget to help low-income citizens access abortion services.

The funding was championed by the council’s Women’s Caucus, led by co-chairs Margaret Chin and Carlina Rivera.

“Before Roe v Wade, NYC was a haven for women who wanted the freedom to choose,” Rivera wrote on Twitter. “It’s time for our City to be that beacon for the country once again.”

The council is required to vote on the budget before July 1, but passage is expected as a formality.

Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that protects a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, has come under assault more than ever in recent months. Multiple states have instituted severely restrictive bans on abortion, often only allowing them when the mother’s life is at risk.

Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Kentucky and Mississippi are among the states to pass some of the most restrictive bans, often labeled “heartbeat” bans, for not allowing the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

In all, 17 bans have been signed in 10 states in 2019 — but every type of ban is facing a legal challenge, and none of the laws have been enacted.

Many conservative politicians and activists hope those legal challenges will be appealed up to the Supreme Court, where recent Donald Trump appointees Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch have tipped the power, 5-4, in favor of conservative judges.

Other states, including New York, have gone in the opposite direction — passing protections for a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.

New York City is the first municipality to actually provide funding for those in need, though.

“This was an initiative coming out of the council, but I certainly support it,” De Blasio said at a press conference Friday. “We understand that there are women who need help and are having trouble getting the help they need. And the city had an opportunity here to step up.”

De Blasio is currently running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. He has been an outspoken advocate for abortion access and supports the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which doesn’t allow federal funding for abortion services.

“I am proud that we are doing this,” Johnson said Friday. “This is to help low-income women in New York City who have faced barriers to access to health care, get the care that they need and that they deserve.

“And what typically happens when abortion care is restricted across the country, wealthier women still can get abortions because they can fly to places and drive across state lines to get abortions. But what happens is low-income women, predominately women of color, are the ones that are locked out of the health care system and aren’t able to have abortion access.”

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President Trump hits Joe Biden on policy flips: ‘He has recalibrated on everything’

Posted on: June 14th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump continued his war of words with former Vice President Joe Biden in an exclusive interview with ABC News, hitting the Democratic presidential frontrunner for reversing some long-held views such as his position on a measure that bans federal funding for abortions.

“He has recalibrated on everything… Everything he’s said he’s taken back two weeks later because he’s getting slammed by the left. And he stuck with this stuff. He’s really stuck with this,” Trump told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday during an exclusive interview.

Biden recently announced he no longer supported the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding from being used to pay for abortions except for cases in which there was a threat to the patient’s life, rape or incest. The law largely affects patients who are on Medicaid, meaning low-income patients have to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket.

The former vice president reversed his stance just one day after his campaign said his position on the amendment had not changed – and after being heavily criticized by several of his 2020 opponents.

Trump’s comments came the same day Biden turned up the heat on his attacks of Trump while both were in Iowa. In his remarks throughout the state, Biden called the president an “existential threat to America,” and “a genuine threat to our core values.” Trump’s comments were on Tuesday, the same day that Biden said the president presents an “existential threat to America.”

As the 2020 race heats up, President Trump has kept his focus on Biden, whom Trump has called “the weakest mentally.”

“He wanted to be the tough guy. He’s not a tough guy, he’s a weak guy,” Trump told Stephanopoulos in their interview.

Early internal polling data from the Trump campaign conducted in March and recently obtained exclusively by ABC News shows that the president trailed Biden in three key states that he won in 2016: Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.

Trump Campaign Manager Brad Parscale said those numbers are “ancient,” saying “Since then, we have seen huge swings in the President’s favor.”

Still, Biden and Trump’s attacks show no signs of slowing down. In a video released Friday, Biden slammed Trump for his admission during his interview with Stephanopoulos that he would accept information on an opponent from a foreign entity.

“Donald Trump doesn’t think it matters if candidates for presidency accept damaging information on their opponents from foreign governments. I believe he’s dead wrong.”

Tune in Sunday at 8 p.m. for an hour-long ABC News special, only on ABC — including “ABC News Live,” the 24/7 streaming news channel available on abcnews.com, Roku, Hulu, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.

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‘Daily Show’s’ Presidential Twitter Library launches in DC in time for Trump’s 73rd birthday

Posted on: June 14th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — “Covfefe,” the word that had the country in a social media uproar when President Donald Trump tweeted it in 2017, was on display Friday along with many of his other tweets just in time for the commander in chief’s 73rd birthday.

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah presented Washington D.C. with its first “Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library” in celebration of the president’s big day.

The Twitter library launch marks the seventh one that the show has hosted in the country — making stops in Austin, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City.

Pres. Trump's "covfefe" tweet has become president's most retweeted tweet since Inauguration Day, surpassing tweet from recent foreign trip. pic.twitter.com/GF5QiPGw5K

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 31, 2017

Desi Lydic, a Daily Show correspondent, told ABC News the show team began to wonder what the president’s library would look like if he had one, and the rest was history.

“We started realizing he doesn’t have a lot of paper documents, but he does have a lot of tweets,” Lydic said. “So, we decided to come up with a presidential Twitter library with President Trump’s most poetic and important tweets.”

Lydic’s favorite Trump tweet?

“Probably covfefe,” she told ABC News. “I don’t know if it was misspelled…but it got us all talking so maybe that was its intent.”

The showroom is filled with Trump’s past tweets about the birther movement, Russia, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and nicknames for his most beloved colleagues.

“I think my favorite part is the Trump vs. Trump exhibit where we can see the president battling himself on Twitter through his own contradictory tweets,” said Ronny Chieng, a Daily Show correspondent.

In that exhibit, two digital displays show different contradictory tweets from Trump. On one screen, a tweet from April 2013 said, “The Time Magazine list of the 100 Most Influential People is a joke and stunt of a magazine that will, like Newsweek, soon be dead. Bad list!”

On the other side, a 2016 tweet about Time said, “Thank you to Time Magazine and Financial Times for naming me ‘Person of the Year’ — a great honor!

“The stats have actually showed that he’s slowed down recently — all the more reason to have a presidential Twitter library to kind of bring awareness back to his Twitter feed and make it great again,” Chieng said.

The president is still far from putting his Twitter fingers away any time soon, Chieng said, adding, “I’ll think he’ll continue using Twitter because it’s one of his most effective tools.”

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After Trump’s controversial comments, Congress fights over foreign influence measures

Posted on: June 14th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Luka Banda(WASHINGTON) — In the wake of President Donald Trump’s comments to ABC News that he would be open to foreign offers of political dirt on his 2020 rivals before maybe contacting the FBI, Democrats on Capitol Hill used the controversial remarks to renew their push for legislation targeting foreign assistance in American campaigns – a push that’s already run up against some Republican opposition.

In the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said representatives would take up legislation that would require candidates to contact the FBI if contacted by a foreign government offering political dirt during a campaign. That measure appeared to have Republican support, as Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who largely otherwise defended Trump’s remarks to ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, said Republicans would “gladly vote for this.”

But a similar measure in the Senate on Thursday hit a partisan wall after Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., attempted to have the bill passed immediately and unanimously.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., blocked the measure, saying on the Senate floor that the reporting requirements in the legislation were “over broad.” In a statement later, Blackburn went further, saying that Democrats were trying to rush the legislation through Congress “without giving it a chance for the careful consideration and debate needed to address such an important issue” and calling Warner’s unanimous consent proposal a “blatant political stunt.”

Trump Friday revised his comments about foreign assistance, telling “Fox and Friends” that he would likely look at the material offered, but also report it to the Department of Justice or the FBI.

The back-and-forth over Trump’s original comments came amid a larger campaign by House Democrats to respond to special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings about Russian influence in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s response to those efforts.

Both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees held hearings this week on elements of the Mueller report featuring legal and counterintelligence experts.

House Democratic leaders are currently reviewing other legislative proposals that could receive votes on the floor before the chamber’s August recess, potentially including pieces of HR 1, Democrats’ massive election security anti-corruption package passed earlier this year — which Republicans also have complained is also overly broad.

Another proposal would clarify election regulations surrounding foreign nationals involvement in elections. Under current rules, foreigners are prohibited from making financial contributions to American campaigns or donating any other “thing of value,” according to the Federal Election Commission.

“Whether or not you can establish monetary value, they have implied value, and those should be banned,” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., said of opposition research.

Outside the political gamesmanship on Capitol Hill, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies are racing to shore up America’s defenses ahead of a 2020 presidential race in which U.S. officials suspect Russia could make a return to attack America’s political process, potentially with other adversary actors as well.

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What you should know about the 1939 law Kellyanne Conway is accused of violating

Posted on: June 14th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump rushed to the defense of one of his top political advisers on Friday, after a federal watchdog accused White House counselor Kellyanne Conway of violating a law that bars some government employees of engaging in political activity while acting in their official capacities.

In an unprecedented move, the Office of Special Counsel described Conway as a “repeat offender” of the Hatch Act and recommended she be removed from federal service.

“It looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right of free speech,” Trump said in an interview with Fox and Friends Friday. “No, I’m not going to fire her.”

It’s not the first time a Trump Administration official has been found to have run afoul of the 1939 law, but the most recent dramatic feud has left many with questions as to what exactly the Hatch Act is, whether it conflicts with First Amendment rights to free speech, and why those close to the president are able to allegedly violate it with no apparent consequences.

What is the Hatch Act?

The Hatch Act was originally passed in 1939 following allegations that employees of a New Deal agency dubbed the Works Progress Administration had used their official positions to benefit the Democratic Party. The act sought to outlaw bribery and coercion of voters by public officials and placed restrictions on federal employees from engaging in certain political activities.

It has been significantly amended in the decades since, and has withstood several challenges in front of the Supreme Court regarding concerns it overly restricts employees’ free speech rights.

Under the current version of the law, federal employees in the executive branch are prohibited from using their official positions “for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election,” according to the OSC. In past decades, the Hatch Act has been in the headlines in cases where top officials in the Trump, Obama and Bush administrations have been found to have advocated for a particular party or candidate while acting or being identified by their official titles.

The law generally doesn’t prohibit employees from acts such as placing campaign slogans or signage on their personal property, or expressing their political opinions at work as long as that isn’t done for the express purpose of engaging in campaign-related activity on behalf of a particular candidate or cause.

Federal employees deemed “further restricted employees” are held to different standards under the act, however, and generally face more stringent conditions regarding their abilities to engage in political activity like attending campaign events or conventions, or handing out fliers at polling places, for instance.

Can you be punished for violating the Hatch Act?

Yes. According to the OSC, all civilian employees serving in the executive branch of government — with the exception of the President and Vice President, are subject to scrutiny under the Hatch Act.

Federal employees found in violation of the Hatch Act by the independent Merit Systems Protection Board can face punishment such as removal from federal service, a point reinforced in Special Counsel Henry Kerner’s letter to Trump regarding Conway’s alleged violations.

“If Ms. Conway were any other federal employee, her multiple violations of the law would almost certainly result in removal from her federal position by the Merit Systems Protection Board,” said Kerner, who previously served under former Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz on the House Oversight Committee and was appointed to the position by Trump in 2017. “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.”

However, presidential appointees who are a part of the Executive Office of the President aren’t subject to the same accountability as other executive branch employees and can’t be punished or removed in the same fashion as the rest of the executive branch workforce.

In the case of close advisers to the president, as in Conway’s case, or even Cabinet officials, the final determination on how to handle Hatch Act violations is left in the hands of the President.

President Barack Obama similarly didn’t discipline his former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in 2012 when she was found in violation of the Hatch Act, or his HUD Secretary Julian Castro, who was found in violation of the Hatch Act for a 2016 interview in which he praised Hillary Clinton.

However, both of those officials released statements apologizing following the OSC’s investigations — while Conway has remained defiant and not apologized or even acknowledged her alleged violations, according to the OSC.

What is Kellyanne Conway accused of doing?

In his 17-page report to the president, Kerner chronicles what he describes as multiple blatant violations of the Hatch Act by Conway in TV appearances and activity on her Twitter account, @KellyannePolls.

The report followed a separate determination by the OSC in March of 2018 that Conway had violated the act when she advocated against Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’ candidacy in his race against Republican Roy Moore.

But that report did not sway Conway from changing her tune in multiple TV interviews this year, in which she attacked other Democratic candidates including Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden.

One of the political tweets from Conway flagged by the OSC displayed a collection of pictures showing the faces of several female Democratic senators watching the president’s State of the Union Speech, that was captioned with “He’s got this. #2020I’mWithHim.”

He’s got this. #2020:I’mWithHim. @realDonaldTrump https://t.co/WldUQ8kvkh

— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) February 6, 2019

“By engaging in political activity while speaking in her official capacity, Ms. Conway used her official authority or influence for the purpose of affecting the result of an election in violation of the Hatch Act,” the OSC report reads. “The sheer number of occurrences underscores the egregious nature of her violations.”

Kerner notes that Conway was recently confronted by a reporter in one instance where she engaged in political speech, to which Conway shot back sarcastically, “Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

Isn’t Conway just engaging in First Amendment-protected speech?

President Trump is far from the first person to question whether the Hatch Act puts a muzzle on what most Americans would consider First Amendment-protected speech.

In his letter responding to Kerner’s report on Conway, White House counsel Pat Cipollone argued the “OSC’s overbroad and unsupported interpretation of the Hatch Act risks violating Ms. Conway’s First Amendment rights and chills the free speech of all government employees.”

But proponents of the law argue that it does a public service in separating the official functions of the U.S. government from the partisan battles seen in elections.

For instance, a majority opinion issued in a Supreme Court challenge to the Hatch Act in 1947 upheld the law on the basis that political activity could disrupt the very ability for government agencies to function, saying free speech had to be weighed against “the requirements of orderly administration of administrative personnel.”

Separately, advocates argue that allowing federal employees to mix their official duties with political advocacy risks corruption, and officials being able to wield their government titles in a way that elevates their voice over the common citizen.

That thinking appears to be reflected in Kerner’s report, in which he admonishes Conway as a “repeat offender,” and makes the case that if she isn’t subject to discipline it could diminish the OSC’s ability to enforce the act entirely.

“Ms. Conway’s conduct undermines public confidence in the Executive branch and compromises the civil service system that the Hatch Act was intended to protect,” Kerner wrote.

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President Trump’s internal polling data from March showed him far behind Joe Biden in key battleground states

Posted on: June 14th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Data from President Donald Trump’s first internal reelection campaign poll conducted in March, obtained exclusively by ABC News, showed him losing a matchup by wide margins to former Vice President Joe Biden in key battleground states.

Trump has repeatedly denied that such data exists.

The polling data, revealed for the first time by ABC News, showed a double-digit lead for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41 and had Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.

ABC News did not obtain the poll’s early matchups against other candidates.

The New York Times was first to report the existence of the internal polls.

When presented by ABC News with these numbers, the Trump campaign confirmed the data saying in a statement that the numbers were old and that they have seen huge swings in Trump’s favor.

“These leaked numbers are ancient, in campaign terms, from months-old polling that began in March before two major events had occurred: the release of the summary of the Mueller report exonerating the President, and the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with their far-left policy message,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale told ABC News in a statement. “Since then, we have seen huge swings in the President’s favor across the 17 states we have polled, based on the policies now espoused by the Democrats. For example, the plan to provide free health care to illegal immigrants results in an 18-point swing toward President Trump.”

Attorney General Bill Barr’s summary of special counsel Robert Mueller investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election was released on March 24. While the Trump campaign’s full poll, which canvassed 17 states, was already in the field, it was well underway for four additional days after the release of Barr’s letter to the public.

The poll was conducted from March 15 through March 28.

The Trump campaign did not provide the results of the full 17 state poll, matchups against other candidates nor any updated polling figures.

Mueller’s report did not find a conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. The special counsel did not reach a conclusion about whether the president obstructed justice, and specifically did not exonerate him on that front.

Earlier in the week, the Trump campaign referenced “new data” that they claimed showed the president has a “lead in every state” they polled, according to a statement provided to ABC News by Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh.

The campaign is claiming the new poll “tested the issues the Democrat field is running on” and produced a more favorable result for the president in head to head match-ups against 2020 Democrats when tied to issues like providing free healthcare to illegal immigrants.

Early polls are often subject to change, but it’s notable that the new poll the campaign is now touting tested “issues” tied to 2020 opponents— meaning the Democratic candidates were politically defined by the campaign.

“The President is correct that we have no current polls against defined Democrats – at all – that show him losing in any of the states we have tested. For example, the President leads in Florida by 8 points. He holds leads in all other states we have polled,” Parscale’s statement said. “Again, these months-old numbers are meaningless because they are pre-Mueller and pre-Democrat messaging, and should not be given any weight when discussing the current state of the race.”

In the recent days the president has continued to lash out against reports that his campaign’s internal polling showed him trailing in key battleground states, slamming the numbers as “phony polling information.” Trump has called his internal poll numbers “unbelievable” and that he was “the strongest I’ve ever been.”

Speaking with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday during an exclusive interview, the president said his internal polling showed that he is “winning everywhere.”

When Stephanopoulos mentioned reports of polls commissioned by the Trump campaign that showed Biden ahead of him in key states, the president said “those polls don’t exist.”

“Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don’t exist, George. Those polls don’t exist. I’m losing in 15 out of 17 states? Those polls don’t exist,” Trump said.

“I just was given a meeting with my pollster who I frankly don’t even believe in pollsters if you want to know the truth, you just run a campaign and whatever it is, it is, but I just had a meeting with somebody that’s a pollster and I’m winning everywhere, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

A day later, the president took to Twitter and again claimed internal polling showing him behind in battleground states didn’t exist.

“The Fake (Corrupt) News Media said they had a leak into polling done by my campaign which, by the way and despite the phony and never ending Witch Hunt, are the best numbers WE have ever had. They reported Fake numbers that they made up & don’t even exist,” the president tweeted.

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