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Elizabeth Warren continues calls for impeachment proceedings on campaign trail

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Scott Eisen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren repeated her calls for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump on Saturday, saying “this isn’t about politics.”

“For me this isn’t about politics, this is about principle and that’s why I asked the House to start impeachment proceedings.” Warren said Saturday to loud applause from a crowd at a meet and greet at the Weare Town Hall in New Hampshire. “This is about accountability.”

Warren is the first 2020 Democratic candidate to call for impeachment proceedings to begin in such outright terms. In doing so, she distinguished herself from other leaders in her party.

 The former Harvard Law School professor and senator from Massachusetts initially announced her conclusions about the 448-page report in a series of tweets Friday afternoon.

Under the U.S. Constitution, impeachment proceedings must begin in the House of Representatives, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,’s office responded to Warren’s comments on Saturday by urging caution.

“As the Speaker has said repeatedly, one step at a time. We’re focused on getting the full unredacted version of the report and its underlying documents — as well as hearing from Mueller,” ” Pelosi’s spokesperson told ABC News on Saturday. “The report raises more questions and concerns that we believe the American people deserve answers to.”

The Speaker is holding a conference call with House Democrats on Monday to discuss the Mueller report and next steps.

Just before releasing a redacted version of the Mueller report on Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr announced that neither collusion nor obstruction of justice took place under the Trump campaign or by the Trump administration.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, however, “established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” the report said.

The report also documented instances in which the president acted to impede the investigation but concluded that Trump’s efforts were mostly unsuccessful, “largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

The report, Warren said, “lays out facts showing that a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help Donald Trump, and Donald Trump welcomed that help. Once elected, Donald Trump obstructed the investigation into that attack.”

“The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty,” Warren continued. “That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.”

Warren finished reading the report late into the night on Thursday after campaign events in Denver and Salt Lake City and decided she wanted to say something, sources familiar with her process said. So, she turned to Twitter.

The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 19, 2019

If members of the House do vote to impeach, the Senate is the body that would vote to remove the President from office.

In a later interview on MSNBC, Warren said she thought the evidence for impeachable offenses in the report was “overwhelming.”

“It is a point of principle and every member of the House and every member of the Senate should be called on to vote: ‘Do you believe that that constitutes an impeachable offense?’ I do believe that the evidence is just overwhelming that Donald Trump has committed these offenses,” Warren said. “And that means we should open proceedings in the House and then the House can take a vote.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mike Huckabee slams Mitt Romney: ‘You got GOP nomination and could have been POTUS’

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee slammed Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney on Friday for describing being “sickened” after reading the report on Russian election interference from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor now serving as the junior U.S. Senator from Utah, tweeted on Friday afternoon that he was “sickened” by the Trump administration’s “dishonesty and misdirection.”

Neither of the two prominent Republican Party elders immediately responded to requests from ABC News for further comment. Huckabee and Romney were former rivals when they ran against each other for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Romney ran for the 2012 presidential campaign, where former President Obama won re-election.

I have now read the redacted Mueller report and offer my personal reaction: pic.twitter.com/ACnExskqXJ

— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) April 19, 2019

Just 90 minutes after Romney’s tweet, Huckabee criticized Romney’s response on Twitter saying, “Know what makes me sick, Mitt? Not how disingenuous you were to take @realDonaldTrump $$ and then 4 yrs later jealously trash him & then love him again when you begged to be Sec of State, but makes me sick that you got GOP nomination and could have been @POTUS”

Know what makes me sick, Mitt? Not how disingenuous you were to take @realDonaldTrump $$ and then 4 yrs later jealously trash him & then love him again when you begged to be Sec of State, but makes me sick that you got GOP nomination and could have been @POTUS https://t.co/dmidOraRGQ

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 19, 2019

Romney’s response comes after the Department of Justice publicly released a redacted version of the Mueller investigation report on Thursday. The 448-page report outlined details about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.

“No obstruction, no collusion,” said President Donald Trump, speaking at an event at the White House close to the time when the report was released.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mike Huckabee slams Mitt Romney: ‘You got GOP nomination and could have been POTUS’

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee slammed Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney on Friday for describing being “sickened” after reading the report on Russian election interference from special counsel Robert Mueller.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor now serving as the junior U.S. Senator from Utah, tweeted on Friday afternoon that he was “sickened” by the Trump administration’s “dishonesty and misdirection.”

Neither of the two prominent Republican Party elders immediately responded to requests from ABC News for further comment. Huckabee and Romney were former rivals when they ran against each other for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination. Romney ran for the 2012 presidential campaign, where former President Obama won re-election.

I have now read the redacted Mueller report and offer my personal reaction: pic.twitter.com/ACnExskqXJ

— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) April 19, 2019

Just 90 minutes after Romney’s tweet, Huckabee criticized Romney’s response on Twitter saying, “Know what makes me sick, Mitt? Not how disingenuous you were to take @realDonaldTrump $$ and then 4 yrs later jealously trash him & then love him again when you begged to be Sec of State, but makes me sick that you got GOP nomination and could have been @POTUS”

Know what makes me sick, Mitt? Not how disingenuous you were to take @realDonaldTrump $$ and then 4 yrs later jealously trash him & then love him again when you begged to be Sec of State, but makes me sick that you got GOP nomination and could have been @POTUS https://t.co/dmidOraRGQ

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 19, 2019

Romney’s response comes after the Department of Justice publicly released a redacted version of the Mueller investigation report on Thursday. The 448-page report outlined details about Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.

“No obstruction, no collusion,” said President Donald Trump, speaking at an event at the White House close to the time when the report was released.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Many House Democrats wary of trying to impeach Trump after Mueller report

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Democrats renewed consideration of impeaching President Donald Trump after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, with leading progressives and some presidential candidates calling for swift action — as Democratic leaders cautioned restraint.

In interviews with ABC News, a half dozen House Democrats remained wary of immediately launching impeachment proceedings against Trump, even as they highlighted the report’s unflattering depiction of the Trump White House and the president’s actions.

Moving forward on impeachment, they argued, could alienate voters and help Trump ahead of the 2020 election, jeopardizing the party’s chances of retaking the White House and Congress by overshadowing Democrats’ messaging on healthcare and kitchen-table issues.

“Congress has a responsibility for oversight,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, told ABC News. “But we’ve also got a job to deliver for the people.”

But some of the party’s rising stars and presidential candidates said Mueller’s findings called for a quick response.

“This isn’t about politics,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, the first presidential candidate to voice support for impeachment proceedings, said on MSNBC Friday. “This isn’t even specifically about Donald Trump himself. It is about what a president of the United States should be able to do and what the role of Congress is in saying, no, a president does not get to come in and stop an investigation about a foreign power that attacked this country.”

The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 19, 2019

In an interview with CNN on Friday, former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro said it would be “perfectly reasonable” for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings.

The rest of the Democratic presidential hopefuls remained uncommitted to pursuing impeachment, with some suggesting that it may be best at this point to leave it to voters at the ballot box in 2020.

Mueller determined that the Trump campaign did not conspire or coordinate with Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election, but stopped short of clearing the president of obstruction of justice — outlining 11 instances of possible obstruction and suggesting it would be up to Congress to make that judgment.

Mueller wrote that “[w]ith respect to whether the President can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under Article II of the Constitution, we concluded that Congress has the authority to prohibit a President’s corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice.”

Democratic leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, are wary of rushing to action, but have not definitively ruled out impeachment. Seizing on Mueller’s own words, they have said Congress must first review the un-redacted report and hear testimony from Attorney General William Barr and the special counsel about the report’s findings.

“As the Speaker has said repeatedly, one step at a time,” Ashley Etienne, Pelosi’s communications director, told ABC News in response to Warren’s comments. “We’re focused on getting the full un-redacted version of the report and its underlying documents – as well as hearing from Mueller. The report raises more questions and concerns that we believe the American people deserve answers to.”

Nadler has issued a subpoena to the Justice Department for the full report and requested Mueller’s testimony. Barr is scheduled to testify before the House and Senate in early May.

“Once I hear the testimony from Mueller, then I’ll be able to make a decision,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-New York, told ABC News.

Pelosi has scheduled a Monday conference call with the House Democratic caucus – now scattered around the world during a two-week congressional recess –- to discuss the report and the House’s next steps.

Many Democrats bluntly acknowledged the political reality surrounding impeaching the president: As Nadler and Pelosi have argued, the effort would fizzle without Republican buy-in.

In the Senate, 20 Republicans would have to join with all Democrats to convict Trump, who remains exceedingly popular among Republican voters and lawmakers.

“If, for instance, you end up in like in previous situations where the House does one thing and the Senate does something else – then the president could proclaim his innocence even more than he’s doing now,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, a member of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees, told ABC News.

After the release of the report, the majority of Republicans claimed vindication, celebrating the fact that Mueller did not bring charges against the president and found no evidence on coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“Feels good to be right,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, told ABC News.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-New York, a moderate who frequently votes with Democrats, said Mueller’s conclusions “should be celebrated.”

“Now it is time for our country to heal because all politics all the time is tearing our country apart and hurting real people,” he said.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, appeared to be one of the only Republicans to express some concern with Mueller’s findings, but did not suggest any course of action in Congress.

I have now read the redacted Mueller report and offer my personal reaction: pic.twitter.com/ACnExskqXJ

— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) April 19, 2019

Privately, some undecided House Democrats said the president’s actions outlined in the Mueller report constituted impeachable offenses, but worried about the political costs of a failed impeachment push.

For now, only the party’s most progressive voices, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, joined activists and a handful of Democrats in support of impeachment proceedings without additional committee actions in the House.

“People in my view are genuinely conflicted about the need to hold the president accountable and some sense of how we bring this country together, and how we move on from this chapter in this country’s history,” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-California, told ABC News.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump tweets frustration with details of Mueller report, following public release

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump, who is spending the long Easter weekend in Mar-a-Lago has taken to Twitter to share his frustration with details included in a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report released to the public, calling the special counsel ‘highly conflicted.’

In the two days following the release of the redacted report, the president sent a series of agitated tweets lashing out against aides who gave statements to Mueller’s team, using an expletive to describe portions of the report and adding that the investigation itself should have never been authorized.

“Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bull[—-] & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad),” the president tweeted on Friday.

After firing off his thoughts on social media, the president spent part of Good Friday at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. He was joined by radio host Rush Limbaugh and a couple friends, according to the White House.

On Saturday, the president took a milder tone on Twitter, backing away from his profane rhetoric and choosing instead to criticize the news media.

 “The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to stir up and anger the pols and as many people as possible seldom mentioning the fact that the Mueller Report had as its principle conclusion the fact that there was NO COLLUSION WITH RUSSIA,” the president said in a tweet.

The president also tweeted out a video detailing the numbers he says are behind the Mueller investigation — including the number of days and amount of subpoenas. It ends with the words ‘0 collusion’ and ‘0 obstruction.’

While the special counsel’s report documents Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, Mueller’s office ” ultimately concluded that, even if the principal legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law.”

The special counsel’s report did show 11 instances of possible obstruction of justice, leaving lawmakers to parse over the findings. In the aftermath, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for impeachment proceedings becoming the first 2020 democratic presidential candidate to do so.

Trump campaign’s national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Warren is “so desperate to save her failing campaign that she’s willing to destabilize and divide the country to do it,” in a statement to ABC News.

The Justice Department’s release of the redacted report on Thursday comes after Attorney General William Barr’s four-page letter sharing what he said were the special counsel’s “principal conclusions.”

As the lawmakers and the country began digging through the findings of the report on Thursday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said the date “really is the best day” since Trump was elected.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump tweets frustration with details of Mueller report, following public release

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump, who is spending the long Easter weekend in Mar-a-Lago has taken to Twitter to share his frustration with details included in a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report released to the public, calling the special counsel ‘highly conflicted.’

In the two days following the release of the redacted report, the president sent a series of agitated tweets lashing out against aides who gave statements to Mueller’s team, using an expletive to describe portions of the report and adding that the investigation itself should have never been authorized.

“Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the “Report” about me, some of which are total bull[—-] & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad),” the president tweeted on Friday.

After firing off his thoughts on social media, the president spent part of Good Friday at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. He was joined by radio host Rush Limbaugh and a couple friends, according to the White House.

On Saturday, the president took a milder tone on Twitter, backing away from his profane rhetoric and choosing instead to criticize the news media.

 “The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to stir up and anger the pols and as many people as possible seldom mentioning the fact that the Mueller Report had as its principle conclusion the fact that there was NO COLLUSION WITH RUSSIA,” the president said in a tweet.

The president also tweeted out a video detailing the numbers he says are behind the Mueller investigation — including the number of days and amount of subpoenas. It ends with the words ‘0 collusion’ and ‘0 obstruction.’

While the special counsel’s report documents Russia’s efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, Mueller’s office ” ultimately concluded that, even if the principal legal questions were resolved favorably to the government, a prosecution would encounter difficulties proving that Campaign officials or individuals connected to the Campaign willfully violated the law.”

The special counsel’s report did show 11 instances of possible obstruction of justice, leaving lawmakers to parse over the findings. In the aftermath, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for impeachment proceedings becoming the first 2020 democratic presidential candidate to do so.

Trump campaign’s national press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that Warren is “so desperate to save her failing campaign that she’s willing to destabilize and divide the country to do it,” in a statement to ABC News.

The Justice Department’s release of the redacted report on Thursday comes after Attorney General William Barr’s four-page letter sharing what he said were the special counsel’s “principal conclusions.”

As the lawmakers and the country began digging through the findings of the report on Thursday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said the date “really is the best day” since Trump was elected.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Presidential candidate Wayne Messam’s lawyers reviewing allegations campaign team didn’t get paid

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Getty Images/Joe Raedle(NEW YORK) — Presidential hopeful Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida, said a lawyer is reviewing allegations that his campaign staff isn’t getting paid.

The allegations, published in a report by the Miami New Times, come from a former staffer of the campaign. The New Times report says a campaign team member sent an email to staff with the subject line “Notification of hold on paychecks,” which blamed the failure to disburse checks on Messam’s wife, Angela.

Messam told ABC News on Friday night that “an unnamed staffer making a claim like that can’t be validated.”

“I have legal counsel that’s looking into those allegations,” he added. “All of that will be investigated, and in terms of any legitimate claims, [we plan] to have those resolved.”

The New Times report claimed that several of Messam’s staff members had left the campaign this week. Charly Norton, who as recently as last weekend served as the campaign’s senior communications advisor, could not be reached by ABC News via calls or texts.

Messam said he is unaware of any written resignations for campaign staff members. He touted that nearly three-quarters of his staff are women and said his staff will “look like America.”

The report comes after the Federal Election Commission released fundraising filings for each candidate. According to the FEC, Messam’s campaign had about $42,000 of cash on hand. To qualify for primary debates, Messam needs 65,000 individual donors in at least 20 states.

The reason for the campaign’s low fundraising totals, Messam said, was because he announced his 2020 bid on March 28, just a few days before FEC mandatory filings.

Messam said his campaign has raised money in 43 states and is working to meet the requirements necessary to secure a spot on the debate stage.

“We are working very aggressively to obtain that goal,” Messam said, “and the Messam campaign is looking forward to qualifying for the debates.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Which presidential candidate gets Secret Service protection comes down to a few factors: ANALYSIS

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Then-Sen. Barack Obama announced his intention to run for the Democratic nomination for president in February 2007 on the grounds of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois where Abraham Lincoln delivered his “house divided” speech in 1858.

In addition to the rallies, media appearances and normal campaign events, Obama experienced what every presidential candidate should expect: threats. For Sen. Obama, the historic nature of his campaign had an increased effect on those threats, so much so that in early April of 2007, Sen. Dick Durbin undertook the cause to ensure his fellow junior senator received protection.

By May 2007, Sen. Obama was approved for Secret Service protection by the secretary of Homeland Security, marking the first time in history a presidential candidate received Secret Service protection almost two years prior to the presidential election.

At the same time, his presumptive opponent, Sen. John McCain declined Secret Service protection until almost a year later.

It raised important points in the question of who gets Secret Service protection, which is relevant again as the next presidential election cycle ramps up.

 After Democratic nominee Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles following his winning the California primary in 1968, Congress changed the law to authorize Secret Service protection for major presidential and vice presidential candidates and their spouses within 120 days of the general presidential election.

The term “major presidential and vice presidential candidates” means those identified as such by the secretary of Homeland Security after consultation with an advisory committee consisting of the speaker of the House of Representatives, the minority leader of the House of Representatives, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate and one additional member selected by the other members of the committee.

A candidate has to hit several markers to show they are a “major presidential candidate.” According to the Congressional Research Service, that includes:

  •     They are a publicly declared candidates.
  •     They are actively campaigning nationally and are contesting at least 10 state primaries.
  •     Are pursuing the nomination of a qualified party, one whose presidential candidate received at least 10% of the popular vote in the prior election.
  •     Are qualified for public matching funds of at least $100,000, and have raised at least $10 million in additional contributions.
  •     Have received by April 1 of the election year an average of 5 percent in individual candidate preferences in the most recent national opinion polls by ABC, CBS, NBC, and CNN, or have received at least 10 percent of the votes cast for all candidates in two same-day or consecutive primaries or caucuses.

Additionally, like with Obama, threats can play a determining factor as to whether a candidate should be eligible for protection. While the threat dynamic is not a stipulated point, it is reviewed and weighed as a supporting factor.

Typically, though, the threat dynamic follows candidates who are “out there” the most — and the candidates “out there” the most are usually major candidates.

Once they hit those markers, the secretary of Homeland Security consults with the advisory committee and one additional member selected by the other members of the committee (usually from the Secret Service) and determines if a candidate is eligible for Secret Service protection.

If the candidate is eligible, they are notified of the committee’s decision and asked if they would like protection.

For most candidates, the combination of enhanced safety and being able to look “more presidential” are powerful reasons to accept Secret Service protection as soon as they are eligible. While others, like Sen McCain and Rand Paul, viewed the additional security as a burden and didn’t like the thought of a “wall” being placed between them and the voters.

In the 2016 presidential election, out of the over 20 candidates in the primaries, only Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Bernie Sanders received Secret Service protection. Hillary Clinton maintained a Secret Service protective detail as a former first lady, which was increased for the campaign. Only one candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, was eligible for Secret Service protection but declined it due to not wanting that “wall” between him and the voters.

By law, candidates don’t have to accept Secret Service protection. Only the sitting presidents and vice presidents can’t decline Secret Service protection.

But that protection comes at a cost — about $38,000 per day per candidate. The cost of providing Secret Service protection to presidential candidates exceeds $200 million.

Over the years, with the dynamic natures of modern presidential campaigns, the costs have naturally increased. In the 2000 election, it cost around $54 million. In 2004 around $74 million, 2008 to $112 million, $125 million in 2012 and about $204 million in 2016.

As the 2020 presidential election is shaping up, we are seeing another vast field of candidates, many of whom may at some point be eligible for Secret Service protection.

Despite the costs, the American people and Congress have determined that ensuring our presidential election process and those involved in it are safe is well worth it. Our nation maintains peaceful and lawful transitions of power, and the protection of future presidential candidates by the Secret Service will ensure our election process remains so.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren promises to roll back Trump energy policies on 1st day in office

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Twitter/@ewarren(NEW YORK) — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren thrust herself into the climate change debate this week, promising that if elected president, she’d sign an executive order on her first day in office to end drilling offshore and on public lands, a move that would reverse President Donald Trump’s most notable energy policies and halt the soaring rate of drilling permits granted on federal lands.

The proposal, her ninth since announcing her run for office, would also require 10% of all U.S. electricity generation to come from renewable resources offshore or on public lands.

The 2020 presidential contender unveiled the plan in a Medium blog post on April 15 before kicking off her three-state tour through South Carolina, Colorado and Utah, where she tailored her campaign message around clean energy, climate change and environmental justice.

“America’s public lands are one of our greatest treasures,” Warren wrote. “But today, those lands are under threat. The Trump administration is busy selling off our public lands to the oil, gas and coal industries for pennies on the dollar  —  expanding fossil fuel extraction that destroys pristine sites across the country while pouring an accelerant on our climate crisis.”

The proposal also includes:

  • Fully funding public land management agencies and requiring mandatory spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Creating a “21st century Civilian Conservation Corps” by employing 10,000 young people, funded by an increased AmeriCorps budget
  • Restoring protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, two national monuments in Utah that were opened for mining and drilling in 2017 — a decision still mired in lawsuits
  • Free entrance to all national parks

“She identified two major issues facing national parks: lack of funding and climate change,” said Kristen Brengel, vice president of Government Affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association. “We need every presidential candidate to let the public know how they plan to address these issues. Previous administrations and Congresses have let these issues linger.”

Warren’s plan comes as Democratic candidates aim to make climate change a central issue ahead of the primaries. Presidential hopefuls, such as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, have already started a petition to dedicate one of 12 planned debates solely to discussing climate change. While other presidential candidates, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have pledged not to accept campaign money from oil and gas special interest groups.

“This is part of a larger proposal. Public lands are a natural birth right. They belong to all of us,” Warren said during a “coastal community forum” in Charleston, South Carolina, an area caught in the center of an offshore drilling battle. “It is urgently important that we make a change. I want to be here to focus on at least a part of what the Trump administration is doing. And that is how they are opening up for offshore drilling — the drilling, the seismic explosions and what that means for poor communities and communities of color.

Warren’s call for a ban on fossil fuel leases received an outpouring of support from environmental groups, but states that rely on drilling for the majority of income blasted the plan for being out of touch with the needs of Western communities. “Senator Warren’s so-called ‘plan’ for federal lands shows how detached she is from the actual issues facing rural America and the West,” Rep. Paul A. Gosar, Congressional Western Caucus chairman, said in a statement. “The Senator makes clear she thinks of our federal lands as a place where rich people go to hike and sightsee instead of 640 million acres where multiple-use activities like grazing, timber harvesting and responsible energy production are critical to the survival of our communities.”

Garfield County, Utah, Commission Chairperson Leland Pollock told ABC News that Warren’s plan would economically devastate his county, which relies heavily on mineral extraction.

“I don’t have anything against Sen. Warren personally, but the problem is there’s a great divide with what goes on back east and what goes here in the west. It’s a whole different world,” said Pollock. “What she needs to do, honestly, is sit down and talk to people like me.”

A committee aide for the House of Representatives on Natural Resources pointed out that parts of her plan may be unrealistic, particularly her call to fully fund public land management agencies.

“Our national parks have more needs than ever to be funded by a variety of sources. We want the park units to have all sorts of different funding sources, whether that’s entrance fees, concessions, leases, private philanthropy, giving — those are things we want to incentivize public parks to do because it helps,” the aide told ABC News.

“What happens when we run into budgetary constraints? And then we have to depend on a single source of funding,” they added. “It’s just not a good way to administer, or manage. There will be recessions, there will be budget shortfalls, and then if the parks are dependent on just one source of revenue funding by the federal government, the parks will be in deep water.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren promises to roll back Trump energy policies on 1st day in office

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Twitter/@ewarren(NEW YORK) — Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren thrust herself into the climate change debate this week, promising that if elected president, she’d sign an executive order on her first day in office to end drilling offshore and on public lands, a move that would reverse President Donald Trump’s most notable energy policies and halt the soaring rate of drilling permits granted on federal lands.

The proposal, her ninth since announcing her run for office, would also require 10% of all U.S. electricity generation to come from renewable resources offshore or on public lands.

The 2020 presidential contender unveiled the plan in a Medium blog post on April 15 before kicking off her three-state tour through South Carolina, Colorado and Utah, where she tailored her campaign message around clean energy, climate change and environmental justice.

“America’s public lands are one of our greatest treasures,” Warren wrote. “But today, those lands are under threat. The Trump administration is busy selling off our public lands to the oil, gas and coal industries for pennies on the dollar  —  expanding fossil fuel extraction that destroys pristine sites across the country while pouring an accelerant on our climate crisis.”

The proposal also includes:

  • Fully funding public land management agencies and requiring mandatory spending for the Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Creating a “21st century Civilian Conservation Corps” by employing 10,000 young people, funded by an increased AmeriCorps budget
  • Restoring protections for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante, two national monuments in Utah that were opened for mining and drilling in 2017 — a decision still mired in lawsuits
  • Free entrance to all national parks

“She identified two major issues facing national parks: lack of funding and climate change,” said Kristen Brengel, vice president of Government Affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association. “We need every presidential candidate to let the public know how they plan to address these issues. Previous administrations and Congresses have let these issues linger.”

Warren’s plan comes as Democratic candidates aim to make climate change a central issue ahead of the primaries. Presidential hopefuls, such as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, have already started a petition to dedicate one of 12 planned debates solely to discussing climate change. While other presidential candidates, like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have pledged not to accept campaign money from oil and gas special interest groups.

“This is part of a larger proposal. Public lands are a natural birth right. They belong to all of us,” Warren said during a “coastal community forum” in Charleston, South Carolina, an area caught in the center of an offshore drilling battle. “It is urgently important that we make a change. I want to be here to focus on at least a part of what the Trump administration is doing. And that is how they are opening up for offshore drilling — the drilling, the seismic explosions and what that means for poor communities and communities of color.

Warren’s call for a ban on fossil fuel leases received an outpouring of support from environmental groups, but states that rely on drilling for the majority of income blasted the plan for being out of touch with the needs of Western communities. “Senator Warren’s so-called ‘plan’ for federal lands shows how detached she is from the actual issues facing rural America and the West,” Rep. Paul A. Gosar, Congressional Western Caucus chairman, said in a statement. “The Senator makes clear she thinks of our federal lands as a place where rich people go to hike and sightsee instead of 640 million acres where multiple-use activities like grazing, timber harvesting and responsible energy production are critical to the survival of our communities.”

Garfield County, Utah, Commission Chairperson Leland Pollock told ABC News that Warren’s plan would economically devastate his county, which relies heavily on mineral extraction.

“I don’t have anything against Sen. Warren personally, but the problem is there’s a great divide with what goes on back east and what goes here in the west. It’s a whole different world,” said Pollock. “What she needs to do, honestly, is sit down and talk to people like me.”

A committee aide for the House of Representatives on Natural Resources pointed out that parts of her plan may be unrealistic, particularly her call to fully fund public land management agencies.

“Our national parks have more needs than ever to be funded by a variety of sources. We want the park units to have all sorts of different funding sources, whether that’s entrance fees, concessions, leases, private philanthropy, giving — those are things we want to incentivize public parks to do because it helps,” the aide told ABC News.

“What happens when we run into budgetary constraints? And then we have to depend on a single source of funding,” they added. “It’s just not a good way to administer, or manage. There will be recessions, there will be budget shortfalls, and then if the parks are dependent on just one source of revenue funding by the federal government, the parks will be in deep water.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Former Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper, now presidential candidate, marks somber anniversary with Columbine survivors

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(COLUMBINE, Colorado) — It was sunny and warm as students walked to class at Columbine High School earlier this week, just as it was in 1999, when two boys in trenchcoats tore through the school on a killing spree. Twenty years since the horrific massacre that took the lives of 12 classmates and a teacher, the community in Colorado looks to move on — even while looking back.

Presidential candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper met with survivors of the Columbine attack this week, along with other survivors of his home state’s mass shootings.

Sitting together in a circle in Denver’s First Baptist Church on Tuesday, the mood in the room was somber as the former governor talked with survivors about their guilt and long-term trauma.

“This is kind of the trauma that no one is prepared for,” Hickenlooper told them, expressing the need for increased attention and expanded federal funding for mental health services for those affected by mass shootings.

“We have been insufficient and derelict in providing resources. That’s something certainly I think the federal government could step in when you have these mass shootings happen so frequently — the collateral damage to families and not just them — first responders — has been immense.”

He said it was a moment for them all to reconnect and brush against an issue that he may make a focal point of his 2020 campaign: gun control.

Some of those in the meeting on Tuesday with Hickenlooper were even present when he signed landmark legislation placing new restrictions on firearms in 2013.

Tom Mauser lost his son, Daniel, in the mass shooting at the Colorado high school and was there to watch as the then-governor signed the new law. Tuesday, he shared a worry that he had with Hickenlooper, that there’s too much emphasis on “staying strong” for survivors.

“So often after these tragedies, we have this movement — with Columbine and others — stay strong, be strong, look at the positive,” Mauser said “People need to do that healing, but sometimes there’s not enough acknowledgement of the pain that still goes on.”

Hickenlooper’s state has seen its fair share of the violent trauma which swirls around the gun debate; Hickenlooper was governor when James Holmes opened fire on an Aurora movie theater in 2012, killing 12 and leaving dozens more injured.

“It changes you. It changed me,” the former governor said in an interview with ABC News. “It wasn’t an overnight transformation, but there was that period of time it felt … we just can’t stand by with the status quo — which is really what Republicans have been saying: ‘These are just some things we just can’t do anything about.’ I don’t think the country is willing to stay there anymore.”

Hickenlooper wants to enact on the federal level many of the things done in his state in the aftermath of mass shootings: universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines and raising the minimum age to buy certain firearms.

He has had a long, and at times complicated, past with the issue, and not one he came to immediately. Hickenlooper told ABC’s “This Week” — in the wake of the Aurora shootings — that even if Holmes did not have access to guns, he would have found a way to create “horror.”

“This wasn’t a Colorado problem. This is a human problem,” Hickenlooper told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in 2012. “Even if he didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical … he would have found explosives; he would have found something. … He would have done something to create this horror.”

Since then, Hickenlooper has adapted his tone, and more than once. Colorado has passed measures expanding background checks and limiting magazine sizes to 15 rounds despite furious backlash from gun rights groups. He later couched himself with Colorado sheriffs, expressing regret if he didn’t fully vet the measures that he had championed, remarks some heard as distancing himself from the divisive issue.

He’s not the only 2020 presidential candidate with a nuanced record on gun laws. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has tumbled from an “A” rating from the National Rife Association to an “F,” a point of pride, she’s said. She has also expressed remorse over her past pro-gun rights stance.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, a state friendly toward hunters and guns by rural wont, has in the past been attacked for being too moderate on gun control, especially in his early career.

Now, the tide seems to be shifting notably in the Democratic Party. Candidates for 2020 are embracing more stringent gun control with hawkish gusto, perhaps fueled in part by so many recent mass shootings across the nation. Four of the top 5 and six of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have happened this decade.

Hickenlooper said he thinks the important thing is to unite in efforts to stop gun violence, no matter which side of the wedge you’re on.

“I think whoever becomes the next president should lead that effort,” he told ABC News. “I think we learn from our mistakes. … I feel there is change that is coming. I feel we are at a tipping point, and some of the obstacles are maybe not so impossible as maybe they seemed a couple years ago.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Former Colorado Gov. Hickenlooper, now presidential candidate, marks somber anniversary with Columbine survivors

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(COLUMBINE, Colorado) — It was sunny and warm as students walked to class at Columbine High School earlier this week, just as it was in 1999, when two boys in trenchcoats tore through the school on a killing spree. Twenty years since the horrific massacre that took the lives of 12 classmates and a teacher, the community in Colorado looks to move on — even while looking back.

Presidential candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper met with survivors of the Columbine attack this week, along with other survivors of his home state’s mass shootings.

Sitting together in a circle in Denver’s First Baptist Church on Tuesday, the mood in the room was somber as the former governor talked with survivors about their guilt and long-term trauma.

“This is kind of the trauma that no one is prepared for,” Hickenlooper told them, expressing the need for increased attention and expanded federal funding for mental health services for those affected by mass shootings.

“We have been insufficient and derelict in providing resources. That’s something certainly I think the federal government could step in when you have these mass shootings happen so frequently — the collateral damage to families and not just them — first responders — has been immense.”

He said it was a moment for them all to reconnect and brush against an issue that he may make a focal point of his 2020 campaign: gun control.

Some of those in the meeting on Tuesday with Hickenlooper were even present when he signed landmark legislation placing new restrictions on firearms in 2013.

Tom Mauser lost his son, Daniel, in the mass shooting at the Colorado high school and was there to watch as the then-governor signed the new law. Tuesday, he shared a worry that he had with Hickenlooper, that there’s too much emphasis on “staying strong” for survivors.

“So often after these tragedies, we have this movement — with Columbine and others — stay strong, be strong, look at the positive,” Mauser said “People need to do that healing, but sometimes there’s not enough acknowledgement of the pain that still goes on.”

Hickenlooper’s state has seen its fair share of the violent trauma which swirls around the gun debate; Hickenlooper was governor when James Holmes opened fire on an Aurora movie theater in 2012, killing 12 and leaving dozens more injured.

“It changes you. It changed me,” the former governor said in an interview with ABC News. “It wasn’t an overnight transformation, but there was that period of time it felt … we just can’t stand by with the status quo — which is really what Republicans have been saying: ‘These are just some things we just can’t do anything about.’ I don’t think the country is willing to stay there anymore.”

Hickenlooper wants to enact on the federal level many of the things done in his state in the aftermath of mass shootings: universal background checks, a ban on high-capacity magazines and raising the minimum age to buy certain firearms.

He has had a long, and at times complicated, past with the issue, and not one he came to immediately. Hickenlooper told ABC’s “This Week” — in the wake of the Aurora shootings — that even if Holmes did not have access to guns, he would have found a way to create “horror.”

“This wasn’t a Colorado problem. This is a human problem,” Hickenlooper told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in 2012. “Even if he didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical … he would have found explosives; he would have found something. … He would have done something to create this horror.”

Since then, Hickenlooper has adapted his tone, and more than once. Colorado has passed measures expanding background checks and limiting magazine sizes to 15 rounds despite furious backlash from gun rights groups. He later couched himself with Colorado sheriffs, expressing regret if he didn’t fully vet the measures that he had championed, remarks some heard as distancing himself from the divisive issue.

He’s not the only 2020 presidential candidate with a nuanced record on gun laws. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has tumbled from an “A” rating from the National Rife Association to an “F,” a point of pride, she’s said. She has also expressed remorse over her past pro-gun rights stance.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, a state friendly toward hunters and guns by rural wont, has in the past been attacked for being too moderate on gun control, especially in his early career.

Now, the tide seems to be shifting notably in the Democratic Party. Candidates for 2020 are embracing more stringent gun control with hawkish gusto, perhaps fueled in part by so many recent mass shootings across the nation. Four of the top 5 and six of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have happened this decade.

Hickenlooper said he thinks the important thing is to unite in efforts to stop gun violence, no matter which side of the wedge you’re on.

“I think whoever becomes the next president should lead that effort,” he told ABC News. “I think we learn from our mistakes. … I feel there is change that is coming. I feel we are at a tipping point, and some of the obstacles are maybe not so impossible as maybe they seemed a couple years ago.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Before he was a candidate, Pete Buttigieg was voted ‘most likely’ to be president

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(SOUTH BEND, Indiana) — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg may have a leg up on his competition in 2020.

In South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg is nearly universally known and nearly everyone seems to have a “Mayor Pete” story.

Katie Kowals, an intake nurse at the city’s Memorial Hospital, said her brother-in-law knows Buttitgieg well, but added, “He was exactly as he is now.”

“You know what else?” she asked. “Mayor Pete was also voted most likely to become president in our yearbook.”

In 2000, then a senior in high school, Buttigieg was voted “most likely to become president” at St. Joseph High School.

It also turns out Kowals brother-in-law, Peter Kowals, is in the yearbook photo with Buttigieg, with his hands wrapped around his neck.

The Catholic school’s yearbook was unearthed at a public library in South Bend, the same weekend the mayor of the 299th largest city in America announced he was taking his first swing at the White House.   Looking through the rest of his high school yearbooks, he moved from appearing in a single photo his freshman year — sporting shaggy hair and large glasses — to showing off a dizzying array of activities in the following years, including the National Honor Society, Junior Leaders and Philosophy Club. He was often pictured wearing a white shirt, tie and no jacket, which has also become his current political uniform.

His senior year, he was also voted most likely to succeed and eventually became his class valedictorian.

Another person figuring prominently in those same yearbooks is James Mueller. He’s now hoping to eventually take over for “Mayor Pete” at South Bend City Hall and Buttigieg even has a “James Mueller for mayor” sign on his front lawn.

Buttigieg, 37, a self-proclaimed “millennial mayor,” speaks six languages and claims to be the antithesis of President Donald Trump.

He recently told HBO’s Bill Maher that he is a “laid-back, intellectual, young, gay, mayor from the Midwest.”

Buttigieg’s also now openly talking about having a child with his husband, Chasten.

He’s been busy since being anointed in that high school yearbook superlatives section. He graduated from Harvard University and the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He joined the Navy Reserves and served a tour in Afghanistan. And in the weeks leading up to his official campaign kickoff, he has rocketed from near-total national obscurity to a player in the Democratic field.

When he was 18, Buttigieg won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for his research of then U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the man who stands just ahead of him in the polls among the crowded field.   “Above all, I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption. I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service, I can personally assure you this is untrue,” he told the South Bend Tribune on May 15, 2000.   At 29, Buttigieg became the youngest mayor of a city with at least 100,000 residents in 2011. If elected in 2020, he would become the youngest president in American history.   “I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor,” he said during his announcement speech.”

He later added, “Up until recently this is not exactly what I had in mind for how I would spend my eighth year as mayor and 38th year in this world, but we live in a moment that compels us each to act.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Before he was a candidate, Pete Buttigieg was voted ‘most likely’ to be president

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(SOUTH BEND, Indiana) — Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg may have a leg up on his competition in 2020.

In South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg is nearly universally known and nearly everyone seems to have a “Mayor Pete” story.

Katie Kowals, an intake nurse at the city’s Memorial Hospital, said her brother-in-law knows Buttitgieg well, but added, “He was exactly as he is now.”

“You know what else?” she asked. “Mayor Pete was also voted most likely to become president in our yearbook.”

In 2000, then a senior in high school, Buttigieg was voted “most likely to become president” at St. Joseph High School.

It also turns out Kowals brother-in-law, Peter Kowals, is in the yearbook photo with Buttigieg, with his hands wrapped around his neck.

The Catholic school’s yearbook was unearthed at a public library in South Bend, the same weekend the mayor of the 299th largest city in America announced he was taking his first swing at the White House.   Looking through the rest of his high school yearbooks, he moved from appearing in a single photo his freshman year — sporting shaggy hair and large glasses — to showing off a dizzying array of activities in the following years, including the National Honor Society, Junior Leaders and Philosophy Club. He was often pictured wearing a white shirt, tie and no jacket, which has also become his current political uniform.

His senior year, he was also voted most likely to succeed and eventually became his class valedictorian.

Another person figuring prominently in those same yearbooks is James Mueller. He’s now hoping to eventually take over for “Mayor Pete” at South Bend City Hall and Buttigieg even has a “James Mueller for mayor” sign on his front lawn.

Buttigieg, 37, a self-proclaimed “millennial mayor,” speaks six languages and claims to be the antithesis of President Donald Trump.

He recently told HBO’s Bill Maher that he is a “laid-back, intellectual, young, gay, mayor from the Midwest.”

Buttigieg’s also now openly talking about having a child with his husband, Chasten.

He’s been busy since being anointed in that high school yearbook superlatives section. He graduated from Harvard University and the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He joined the Navy Reserves and served a tour in Afghanistan. And in the weeks leading up to his official campaign kickoff, he has rocketed from near-total national obscurity to a player in the Democratic field.

When he was 18, Buttigieg won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for his research of then U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the man who stands just ahead of him in the polls among the crowded field.   “Above all, I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption. I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service, I can personally assure you this is untrue,” he told the South Bend Tribune on May 15, 2000.   At 29, Buttigieg became the youngest mayor of a city with at least 100,000 residents in 2011. If elected in 2020, he would become the youngest president in American history.   “I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor,” he said during his announcement speech.”

He later added, “Up until recently this is not exactly what I had in mind for how I would spend my eighth year as mayor and 38th year in this world, but we live in a moment that compels us each to act.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney ‘sickened’ by ‘dishonesty’ of Donald Trump after reading Mueller report

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/bywriter(SALT LAKE CITY) — Sen. Mitt Romney, a regular sparring partner of President Donald Trump, came out as strongly as any Republican against the president’s actions highlighted in the Mueller report on Friday.

“I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President,” Romney, Utah’s junior senator, said in a release. “I am also appalled that, among other things, fellow citizens working in a campaign for president welcomed help from Russia — including information that had been illegally obtained; that none of them acted to inform American law enforcement; and that the campaign chairman was actively promoting Russian interests in Ukraine.”

A redacted version of the special counsel’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and any involvement by the Trump campaign, was released on Thursday morning.

The report highlighted instances in which Trump tried to fire Mueller, including asking White House counsel Don McGahn to do so. He did not, and the report states the administration then tried to cover the request up.

Romney’s statement referred to Trump’s infamous July 2016 press conference inviting the Russians to find Hillary Clinton’s emails, after which future National Security Adviser Michael Flynn contacted multiple people about finding the “missing” Clinton emails from her personal server, according to the report. Romney also referred to campaign chairman Paul Manafort in his statement, who met with representatives from Ukraine and has since been sentenced to four years jail time.

Very few Republicans have spoken out against the revelations in the Mueller report. Trump himself repeatedly declared he was absolved of all accusations in the “witch hunt,” even though the report did not exonerate him of obstruction. Attorney General William Barr instead declared the information in the report did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution.

“I think he has every right to feel good about what we’ve heard today,” McConnell told reporters Thursday, referring to Trump.

Romney’s relationship with the president has see-sawed between open criticism and reluctant support.

Trump supported Romney during his midterm election bid for senator. But the former presidential candidate, who Trump has called a “stiff” and “choke artist” in the past, followed his election victory with a scathing column in The Washington Post in January.

Romney wrote, “His conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office. A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect.”

Trump responded on Twitter, at the time, saying, “Would much prefer that Mitt focus on Border Security and so many other things where he can be helpful. I won big, and he didn’t.”

Romney finished his statement Friday with a call to return to principles the country was built on.

“Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders,” he said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump challenger Bill Weld ‘horrified’ by Mueller report, but impeachment not on the table

Posted on: April 20th, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/craigpickup(WASHINGTON) — The only Republican currently running against President Donald Trump said Friday he was “horrified” by special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, but he can’t back impeachment for “political reasons.”

“When we finally got to read the report I was horrified by it,” former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld said told ABC News’ Devin Dwyer on The Briefing Room on Friday. “Despite the conclusions of no conspiracy with the Russians, there’s a whole lot in there about obstruction of justice … it’s rough stuff.” Weld said.

When asked if impeachment should be on the table given the contents of the Mueller report, Weld said he didn’t think it was the right move politically.

“I really don’t think so,” he said. “I’ll tell you why, it’s not for legal reasons it’s for political reasons. The House could easily — there’s more than enough evidence, more than there was against President Nixon, and I worked on that case.”

“But the Republicans control the Senate so it’s very unlikely that he would ever be convicted in the Senate where you need a two thirds vote,” the former governor added. “So I can understand why Steny Hoyer said impeachment is not a good idea, for political reasons.”

Weld launched his long shot challenge against Trump for the Republican nomination on Monday, telling ABC News just after he made his campaign official: “I’d be ashamed of myself if hadn’t raised my hand and said count me in.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Mueller investigated whether Russians used chess to build a bridge to Trump

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

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) —  Of all the topics special counsel Robert Mueller put before President Donald Trump during his sweeping 22-month investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, chess was perhaps the most surprising.

But buried among the myriad of revelations contained in Mueller’s 448-page report, released on Thursday with limited redactions by Attorney General William Barr, was the fact that Trump disclosed to investigators that sanctioned Russian powerbroker Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, then the president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), invited the Trump Organization to host the 2016 World Chess Championship at Trump Tower.

“During the course of preparing to respond to these questions,” wrote Trump on November 20, 2018, in response to a chess-focused inquiry from Mueller, “I have become aware of documents indicating that in March of 2016, the president of the World Chess Federation invited the Trump Organization to host, at Trump Tower, the 2016 World Chess Championship Match to be held in New York in November 2016.”

That invitation, from a Russian sports chief with ties to the Kremlin, appears to represent both another Russian outreach to Trump and his associates in the height of a political campaign, and another example of the ways in which critics say Russia has used sport in general, and chess in particular, as statecraft.

In the days following Trump’s shocking electoral victory, Russia’s business and political elite, headlined by Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, gathered in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport to watch Russian grandmaster Sergey Karjakin challenge Norwegian world champion Magnus Carlsen at the biennial World Chess Championship.

Mueller, it seems, suspected that someone – perhaps one of the powerful Russians in attendance – may have invited the president-elect to attend the pre-tournament gala.

In response to questions from Mueller, Trump said he did not attend the event and “[does] not remember” being invited. But according to Mueller’s report, the World Chess Championship indeed appears to have been an unlikely nexus of characters central to the Trump-Russia drama.

Mueller reported that Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian sovereign wealth fund, flew to New York for the event and invited George Nader, a mysterious Middle Eastern businessman who was later questioned by Mueller about his meetings with Trump allies, to join him for the opening of the tournament. He asked Nader if there was “a chance to see anyone key from Trump camp,” Mueller found, because he “would love to start building for the future,” and urged him to invite Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Nader did not pass along the invitation, the report said, and investigators “did not establish that Trump or any Campaign or Transition Team official attended the event.”

But the invitation to host, which the match’s organizer Ilya Merenzon confirmed to ABC News that Ilyumzhinov extended to Trump, not through official FIDE channels but rather “via his personal connections,” could have established another business relationship between the Trump Organization and an institution with close ties to the Russian government.

As described in a recent joint investigation undertaken by ABC News and FiveThirtyEight, Ilyumzhinov, the wealthy former governor of the Russian state of Kalmykia, has repeatedly been alleged to have acted as an informal envoy for the Russian government.

The Kremlin denies this characterization, but over the years, Ilyumzhinov maintained a packed travel schedule that saw him unexpectedly appear beside some of the world’s best-known strongmen leaders, typically under the auspices of promoting chess.

In 2003, Ilyumzhinov flew to Iraq, less than two days before the start of the U.S. invasion, where he reportedly met with Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday. In 2011, he flew to Libya, amid an ongoing NATO bombing campaign, where he played a chess match against Moammar Gadhafi. And in 2012, he flew to Syria, shortly after the outbreak of civil war, where he met with Bashar Assad to, in Ilyumzhinov’s telling, deliver chess textbooks to Syrian schoolchildren.

Indeed, Ilyumzhinov’s son David confirmed that his father served a unique role. “It’s not a secret,” David said. “He can go like he is just there for chess, for the chess tournament, but he can deliver a message. And the message won’t get screwed up.”

He was recently forced to step aside as FIDE president — following a scandal-plagued reign that included allegations of corruption – after struggling for legitimacy in the wake of the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioning him in 2015 “for materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria.”

It was that sanction, in fact, that prevented him from attending the 2016 World Chess Championship, the very event that had drawn Mueller’s attention.

But even without Ilyumzhinov, FIDE and chess remain firmly in the Kremlin orbit, with former Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who led Russia’s successful staging of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, succeeding Ilyumzhinov as president. And with 188 national chess federations scattered across the globe, the opportunities for chess diplomacy are all but endless.

With Ilyumzhinov’s outreach to Trump, those opportunities appeared to reach new heights.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

After Mueller report exposed Russian interference ‘roadmap,’ is US ready for 2020?

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

iStock/mashabuba(WASHINGTON) —  Now that special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report has revealed the purported “sweeping and systematic” effort by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. government is left with a pressing challenge looking forward: how to prevent or defend against a similar attack in 2020.

“It’s sobering to see all in one place the various attacks on the election in 2016,” Lawrence Norden, deputy director at the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, told ABC News. “We’re much more aware of this problem than we were in 2016, and we’ve taken some steps, but [the report] also highlights in some respects how inadequate our response has been.”

The U.S. intelligence community and previous Mueller indictments had already accused Russia of three interference efforts: a hack-and-leak operation that targeted democratic figures, a widespread online influence campaign designed to sow social and political discord in the U.S. and cyber attacks targeting election infrastructure itself, such as voter databases. But on Thursday, the Mueller report laid out, in narrative detail, the push by the Kremlin to weaken American democracy – a strategy that officials and experts say continues today.

 The 2018 midterm elections did not see the hack-and-leak strategy, or any especially-significant attacks on voting infrastructure, but foreign online influence operations continued unabated, an intelligence community assessment said. Top U.S. security officials have been vocal in their warnings that Russia, potentially along with China, Iran and others who learned dark lessons from 2016, are likely to take aim at the 2020 race.

“The risk of election interference by a foreign government is an existential national security threat,” said John Cohen, a former senior Department of Homeland Security official and current ABC News contributor. “While some agencies like the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Cyber Command are working to mitigate this threat, the U.S. government can and must do more to address the threat to our election process, but that requires visible leadership from the White House and the president himself.”

Former Donald Trump campaign adviser and ABC News contributor Chris Christie told the ABC News podcast “The Investigation” Thursday that if he were speaking to the president, who’s been publicly reticent to accept the intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the election to his benefit, he would tell him to “shift focus” now to the 2020 threat.

“You know, bring in [CIA Director] Gina Haspel and [FBI Director] Chris Wray, bring in the DNI [Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats] and say, ‘Listen, we now have a roadmap for what the Russians did, what are we doing to prepare for the 2020 election? I authorize you to do everything it is you need to do to protect the integrity of that election and we’ll work with Congress to make sure… if you need additional funding that you’ll get it in order to protect the integrity of our elections.’

“I have often thought that that would be a really productive thing for him to do, and a smart thing for him to do politically,” Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, said.

 A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council declined to comment for this report but pointed to moves by the administration to counter foreign election interference, from loosening offensive cyber rules to paving a pathway for sanctions for those “determined to have interfered in a United States election,” to the Department of Justice indictments against suspected Russian operatives.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that he would warn his Russian counterparts about the “steadfast requirement that Russia not engage in activity that impacts the capacity of our democracy to be successful.”

“And we will make very clear to them that this is unacceptable behavior and as you’ve seen from this administration, we will take tough actions which raise the cost for Russian malign activity,” he said. “And we’ll continue to do that.”

In the wake of the 2016 elections where, according to the Department of Homeland Security, at least 21 states were targeted by foreign hackers, Congress appropriated $380 million in grants made available to states to help upgrade their election infrastructure ahead of the 2018 midterms, the first such money since 2010.

But despite mounting threats from increasingly sophisticated bad actors, Congress has been deadlocked on additional legislation ever since and failed to approve any additional funding.

One bill, the Secure Elections Act that sought to shield voting systems from cyberattacks, seemed to be on a glide-path to passage last year with bipartisan support from lawmakers as well as a powerful group of former national security professionals.

But the legislation, authored by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who is now running to unseat President Trump in 2020, was scuttled by White House objections of federal overreach. Its House counterpart bill, while not garnering a single Republican signature, suffered a similar fate.

State officials also decried the lack of funding attached to mandates in the measures, though many supported the granting of security clearances for states’ top election officers to receive real-time briefings on threats. (Ahead of the 2018 election the federal government worked to approve state officials for at least temporary security clearances for the purpose.

 Another bill that was introduced in June 2018 would mandate disclosures on political ads – like the ones Mueller said Russia bought on social media – has yet to receive a vote.

Scores of lawmakers have thrown out other ideas — from a cybersecurity inspector general to conduct spot audits of voting systems, to a new standing cybersecurity committee in Congress, but none of those ideas have stood a chance in the current partisan environment ahead, and the prospects are likely only to get worse ahead of the already highly-divisive 2020 presidential race.

“Election security is national security, and we know that adversaries are likely to continue to evolve their tactics and attempt to influence future elections,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Friday.

But a recent report from the Brennan Center said the election infrastructure still has concerning weaknesses, from out-of-date voting machines to states and counties still using voting systems that don’t have a paper trail, which can be critical to identifying irregularities.

The DHS official also said the department has begun reaching out to announced presidential campaigns, “trying to get an early start” on advising them on how to secure their campaign infrastructure in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the purported Russian hack of Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails in 2016, as detailed in the Mueller report. The outreach follows a September 2018 FBI initiative designed to encourage campaigns to up their “cyber hygiene.”

On the online influence front, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the RSA cybersecurity conference in March that there’s a “lot more engagement” with the social media companies so that the FBI can warn them about abuse of their platforms, and the social media companies, in turn, can provide information to the FBI for potential investigative leads.

Over the past two years, major social media firms like Facebook and Twitter made public commitments to combat “inauthentic behavior,” periodically announced major takedowns of fake accounts and updated their transparency policies.

Still, Wray said the online “malign influence campaigns” ramp up as elections approach, and the FBI is “gearing up for it to continue and grow again in 2020.”

So with the presidential primary season around the corner, the question remains: has enough been done?

“There’s a lot of things that keep me up at night,” A DHS official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. “What could our adversaries do? What could they do to undermine our democratic system?… I’ll certainly be nervous but confident in the lines of communication we have and the steps that we’ve taken.”

Norden, the election security expert, said he’s concerned that the ongoing work isn’t moving fast enough.

“I don’t want to make it sound like we haven’t made progress, but when you read the Mueller report, it’s hard not to say, ‘Why is this taking so long and why is this so difficult, when there’s such a consensus in the national security community?’” he said.

The Russian government has long denied the hacking and online influence campaign allegations, calling it a symptom of anti-Russian hysteria in the U.S.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

What did the Mueller report reveal about Trump’s overtures to the Russians?

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

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s sprawling, 22-month long investigation culminated Thursday in the release of a meticulous examination of Russia’s efforts to sow discord in the 2016 presidential election and the Trump administration’s actions to block investigators.

But at its core, the Mueller probe sought to settle one question: Did then-candidate Donald Trump seek assistance from Russians to tip the balance of the 2016 election?

Setting aside the scintillating details about Russia’s social media campaign or descriptions of a toxic West Wing, what was the evidence of possible collusion between candidate Trump, personally, and any overtures for assistance from Russia?

In December 2017, the special counsel informed the president’s lawyers that Trump was, indeed, a “subject” of their investigation — a formal designation that meant his conduct fell under the scope of their probe. But there was little known publicly about what actions he took, personally, that most interested the investigators.

Two episodes unearthed by Mueller reveal how deeply interested and personally involved Trump was in his campaign’s efforts to find and disclose emails belonging to Hillary Clinton and her campaign — particularly when examined alongside his public remarks on the campaign trail.

In July 2016, around the time Trump encouraged Russians “to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Mueller found that “the Trump Campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks.”

 In explaining how the campaign came to adopt this “press strategy,” Mueller described — with interspersed redactions — a time in late summer of 2016 during which “Trump and Gates were driving to LaGuardia Airport.”

The beginning of the next sentence is redacted, but the end of that sentence suggests Trump took a phone call from an unidentified person, and “shortly after the call,” Mueller wrote, “candidate Trump told [former Trump campaign deputy director Rick] Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming.”

While redactions, codified as being due to an ongoing investigation, obscure the full story, it is clear that Trump welcomed updates about WikiLeaks’ activities. By July 2016, news reports had tied WikiLeaks’ document dumps back to the Russian government.

By late July 2016, Trump was “repeatedly” asking Michael Flynn, a senior campaign adviser and short-lived national security adviser, to “find the deleted Clinton emails,” according to Mueller’s report.

Flynn eventually contacted multiple individuals to look into the matter, Mueller wrote, even as WikiLeaks continued weekly dispatches of the Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee emails and internal documents.

For his part, the president has insisted from the outset that he had no role in alleged collusion with Russians.

In fact, in his first public comments about Mueller’s appointment as special counsel in May 2017, Trump told reporters, “there is no collusion between — certainly myself and my campaign — but I can always speak for myself and the Russians. Zero.”

In his 448-page report, the special counsel unequivocally affirmed Trump’s stance in the eyes of the law. “Collusion,” itself, does not appear in the federal code, but corresponds loosely to a crime of conspiracy.

“Although the investigation established … that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” Mueller wrote, “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

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Before he was a candidate, Pete Buttigieg was voted ‘most likely’ to be president

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

Scott Eisen/Getty Images(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) —  Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg may have a leg-up on his competition in 2020.

In 2000, then a senior in high school, Buttigieg was voted “most likely to become president” at St. Joseph High School.

 The Catholic school’s yearbook was unearthed at a public library in South Bend, the same weekend the mayor of the 299th largest city in America announced he was taking his first swing at the White House.   Looking through the rest of his high school yearbooks, he moved from appearing in a single photo his freshman year — sporting shaggy hair and large glasses — to showing off a dizzying array of activities in the following years, including the National Honor Society, Junior Leaders and Philosophy Club. He was often pictured wearing a white shirt, tie and no jacket, which has also become his current political uniform.

His senior year, he was also voted most likely to succeed and eventually became his class valedictorian.

Another person figuring prominently in those same yearbooks is James Mueller. He’s now hoping to eventually take over for “Mayor Pete” at South Bend City Hall and Buttigieg even has a “James Mueller for mayor” sign on his front lawn.

Buttigieg, 37, a self-proclaimed “millennial mayor,” speaks six languages and claims to be the antithesis of President Donald Trump.

He recently told HBO’s Bill Maher that he is a “laid-back, intellectual, young, gay, mayor from the Midwest.”

Buttigieg’s also now openly talking about having a child with his husband, Chasten.

He’s been busy since being anointed in that high school yearbook superlatives section. He graduated from Harvard University and the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He joined the Navy Reserves and served a tour in Afghanistan. And in the weeks leading up to his official campaign kickoff, he has rocketed from near-total national obscurity to a player in the Democratic field.

When he was 18, Buttigieg won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for his research of then U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the man who stands just ahead of him in the polls among the crowded field.   “Above all, I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption. I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service, I can personally assure you this is untrue,” he told the South Bend Tribune on May 15, 2000.   At 29, Buttigieg became the youngest mayor of a city with at least 100,000 residents in 2011. If elected in 2020, he would become the youngest president in American history.   “I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor,” he said during his announcement speech.”

He later added, “Up until recently this is not exactly what I had in mind for how I would spend my eighth year as mayor and 38th year in this world, but we live in a moment that compels us each to act.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Before he was a candidate, Pete Buttigieg was voted ‘most likely’ to be president

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

Scott Eisen/Getty Images(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) —  Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg may have a leg-up on his competition in 2020.

In 2000, then a senior in high school, Buttigieg was voted “most likely to become president” at St. Joseph High School.

 The Catholic school’s yearbook was unearthed at a public library in South Bend, the same weekend the mayor of the 299th largest city in America announced he was taking his first swing at the White House.   Looking through the rest of his high school yearbooks, he moved from appearing in a single photo his freshman year — sporting shaggy hair and large glasses — to showing off a dizzying array of activities in the following years, including the National Honor Society, Junior Leaders and Philosophy Club. He was often pictured wearing a white shirt, tie and no jacket, which has also become his current political uniform.

His senior year, he was also voted most likely to succeed and eventually became his class valedictorian.

Another person figuring prominently in those same yearbooks is James Mueller. He’s now hoping to eventually take over for “Mayor Pete” at South Bend City Hall and Buttigieg even has a “James Mueller for mayor” sign on his front lawn.

Buttigieg, 37, a self-proclaimed “millennial mayor,” speaks six languages and claims to be the antithesis of President Donald Trump.

He recently told HBO’s Bill Maher that he is a “laid-back, intellectual, young, gay, mayor from the Midwest.”

Buttigieg’s also now openly talking about having a child with his husband, Chasten.

He’s been busy since being anointed in that high school yearbook superlatives section. He graduated from Harvard University and the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He joined the Navy Reserves and served a tour in Afghanistan. And in the weeks leading up to his official campaign kickoff, he has rocketed from near-total national obscurity to a player in the Democratic field.

When he was 18, Buttigieg won the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest for his research of then U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the man who stands just ahead of him in the polls among the crowded field.   “Above all, I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption. I have heard that no sensible young person today would want to give his or her life to public service, I can personally assure you this is untrue,” he told the South Bend Tribune on May 15, 2000.   At 29, Buttigieg became the youngest mayor of a city with at least 100,000 residents in 2011. If elected in 2020, he would become the youngest president in American history.   “I recognize the audacity of doing this as a Midwestern millennial mayor,” he said during his announcement speech.”

He later added, “Up until recently this is not exactly what I had in mind for how I would spend my eighth year as mayor and 38th year in this world, but we live in a moment that compels us each to act.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

House Judiciary Committee issues subpoena for ‘unredacted’ Mueller report

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for the full, unredacted Mueller report, setting up a potential legal battle with the Justice Department for the special counsel’s full findings and underlying materials.

Chairman Jerry Nadler, the Democrat from New York, asked for the department to comply by May 1, the day U.S. Attorney General William Barr is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and one day before he is scheduled to appear before the House.

“I am open to working with the Department to reach a reasonable accommodation for access to these materials, however I cannot accept any proposal which leaves most of Congress in the dark, as they grapple with their duties of legislation, oversight and constitutional accountability,” Nadler said in a statement.

Nadler teased the subpoena action to get the full report from special counsel Robert Mueller’s 22-month investigation on ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday.

“That subpoena will come in the next couple of hours,” Nadler said. “We need the entire report unredacted, and the underlying documents, in order to make informed decisions.”

Barr released the report with redacted sections to the public on Thursday around 11 a.m. EDT. The report, which is 448 pages, does not conclude the president or his campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russians and does not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice.

However, the report does document “numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign” and 11 possible instances of obstruction of justice.

Nadler’s calls for the full report echo demands from Democrats on the Hill, including most 2020 presidential candidates.

The subpoena is also for the “underlying evidence” of the report, despite a federal procedural rule that requires information from a grand jury to remain secret.

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr has stood behind this rule, noting in his four-page summary of the Mueller report that the “restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.”

During his confirmation hearing, Barr was asked by Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat from Hawaii, whether he would ask the court to release grand jury material under certain exceptions. Barr turned the tables, saying, “The chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable.”

While the shroud of grand jury secrecy has been lifted in some notable cases, including Watergate and the investigation that led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, Congress will be up against a challenge in persuading a court for disclosure of grand jury material from the Mueller probe.

Some legal experts believe the case for getting grand jury material would be stronger if the House opened an official impeachment proceeding, but Nadler, who can open the proceedings as chairman of the judiciary committee, rejected that option on GMA Friday.

“Yes, some people believe that,” Nadler said. “I believe that one of the things that we need that evidence for is to determine whether to do that or not.”

On impeachment proceedings, Nadler said, “We’re not there.” He added that Congress first has to hear from Barr and Mueller.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sarah Sanders defends herself against Mueller report on her past Comey claims

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Despite her acknowledgement in interviews with the special counsel’s office that certain comments she made to the press were a “slip of the tongue,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to double down on past statements she made that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team said were “not founded on anything.”

Those specific claims were that “countless members of the FBI” had lost confidence in former FBI Director James Comey. Sanders defended her specific wording detailed in the Mueller report in an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday.

“Actually, if you look at what I said, I said the ‘slip of the tongue’ was in using the word ‘countless,’ but there were a number of FBI, both former current, that agreed with the president’s decision, and they’ve continued to speak out and say that and send notice to the White House of that agreement with the president’s decision,” Sanders told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“James Comey was a disgraced leaker and used authorization to spy on the Trump campaign despite no evidence of collusion,” she said. “I stand by the fact, George–”

“Sarah, hold on a sec,” Stephanopoulos said, pushing back on Sanders’ claims that contradict what’s in Mueller’s report. “The special counsel writes that those comments were ‘not founded on anything.’ That’s what you talked to the special counsel about when you were facing criminal penalties if you didn’t tell the truth but now you’re trying to walk away from it. Why can’t you acknowledge that what you said then was not true?”

Another portion of the report detailed an instance when Sanders minimized President Donald Trump’s role in responding to reports of a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer who said in an email she had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” While Sanders told the press the president didn’t dictate a statement about the meeting after it was revealed, the president’s lawyers later said otherwise in interviews with the special counsel.

“After consulting with the President on the issue,” the report said, “White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the media that the President ‘certainly didn’t dictate’ the statement, but that ‘he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.'”

But Trump’s lawyers later told the special counsel “the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.”

“So why did you tell the press that the president did not dictate that statement, when he did?” Stephanopoulos asked Sanders.

“I’m not denying that he had involvement in what the statement said. That was the information I was given at the time and I stated it to the public,” Sanders said.

“Sarah, that’s just not what happened,” Stephanopoulos said. “You said the president didn’t dictate the statement. The president’s lawyer said that he did dictate the statement. That’s what they wrote.”

“My understanding at the time was that he hadn’t dictated but that he weighed in, George,” Sanders responded.
 
Sanders also argued that the “big question here was whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia — and they didn’t,” she said.

But the investigation did, according to the report, identify “numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,” though Mueller did not find enough evidence to support criminal charges.

Among those “numerous links” was a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer, who said in an email that she had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary,” as well as a meeting between then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his long-time business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, “who the FBI asseses to have ties to Russian intelligence,” according to the report.

The investigation also found that “several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters,” and that those lies “materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.”

Despite those portions of the report, however, Mueller found “the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election,” according to the report.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sarah Sanders defends herself against Mueller report on her past Comey claims

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Despite her acknowledgement in interviews with the special counsel’s office that certain comments she made to the press were a “slip of the tongue,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to double down on past statements she made that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team said were “not founded on anything.”

Those specific claims were that “countless members of the FBI” had lost confidence in former FBI Director James Comey. Sanders defended her specific wording detailed in the Mueller report in an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday.

“Actually, if you look at what I said, I said the ‘slip of the tongue’ was in using the word ‘countless,’ but there were a number of FBI, both former current, that agreed with the president’s decision, and they’ve continued to speak out and say that and send notice to the White House of that agreement with the president’s decision,” Sanders told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

“James Comey was a disgraced leaker and used authorization to spy on the Trump campaign despite no evidence of collusion,” she said. “I stand by the fact, George–”

“Sarah, hold on a sec,” Stephanopoulos said, pushing back on Sanders’ claims that contradict what’s in Mueller’s report. “The special counsel writes that those comments were ‘not founded on anything.’ That’s what you talked to the special counsel about when you were facing criminal penalties if you didn’t tell the truth but now you’re trying to walk away from it. Why can’t you acknowledge that what you said then was not true?”

Another portion of the report detailed an instance when Sanders minimized President Donald Trump’s role in responding to reports of a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer who said in an email she had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.” While Sanders told the press the president didn’t dictate a statement about the meeting after it was revealed, the president’s lawyers later said otherwise in interviews with the special counsel.

“After consulting with the President on the issue,” the report said, “White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the media that the President ‘certainly didn’t dictate’ the statement, but that ‘he weighed in, offered suggestions like any father would do.'”

But Trump’s lawyers later told the special counsel “the President dictated a short but accurate response to the New York Times article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump, Jr.”

“So why did you tell the press that the president did not dictate that statement, when he did?” Stephanopoulos asked Sanders.

“I’m not denying that he had involvement in what the statement said. That was the information I was given at the time and I stated it to the public,” Sanders said.

“Sarah, that’s just not what happened,” Stephanopoulos said. “You said the president didn’t dictate the statement. The president’s lawyer said that he did dictate the statement. That’s what they wrote.”

“My understanding at the time was that he hadn’t dictated but that he weighed in, George,” Sanders responded.
 
Sanders also argued that the “big question here was whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia — and they didn’t,” she said.

But the investigation did, according to the report, identify “numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,” though Mueller did not find enough evidence to support criminal charges.

Among those “numerous links” was a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and a Russian lawyer, who said in an email that she had “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary,” as well as a meeting between then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his long-time business partner Konstantin Kilimnik, “who the FBI asseses to have ties to Russian intelligence,” according to the report.

The investigation also found that “several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Office, and to Congress, about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters,” and that those lies “materially impaired the investigation of Russian election interference.”

Despite those portions of the report, however, Mueller found “the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election,” according to the report.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sarah Sanders defends past claims Mueller report said were ‘not founded on anything’

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to double down on statements she’d previously made that she later acknowledged to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators were “not founded on anything,” according to the report.

Those specific claims were that “countless members of the FBI” had lost confidence in former FBI Director James Comey. Despite claiming to the special counsel’s office that it was a “slip of the tongue,” Sanders defended her specific wording in an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday.

“Actually, if you look at what I said, I said the ‘slip of the tongue’ was in using the word ‘countless,’ but there were a number of FBI, both former current, that agreed with the president’s decision, and they’ve continued to speak out and say that and send notice to the White House of that agreement with the president’s decision,” Sanders told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos Friday.

“James Comey was a disgraced leaker and used authorization to spy on the Trump campaign despite no evidence of collusion,” she said. “I stand by the fact, George–“

“Sarah, hold on a sec,” Stephanopoulos said. “The special counsel writes that those comments were not founded on anything. That’s what you talked to the special counsel about when you were facing criminal penalties if you didn’t tell the truth but now you’re trying to walk away from it. Why can’t you acknowledge that what you said then was not true?”

Story developing…

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sarah Sanders defends past claims Mueller report said were ‘not founded on anything’

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

ABC News(NEW YORK) — White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to double down on statements she’d previously made that she later acknowledged to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators were “not founded on anything,” according to the report.

Those specific claims were that “countless members of the FBI” had lost confidence in former FBI Director James Comey. Despite claiming to the special counsel’s office that it was a “slip of the tongue,” Sanders defended her specific wording in an interview on ABC News’ Good Morning America Friday.

“Actually, if you look at what I said, I said the ‘slip of the tongue’ was in using the word ‘countless,’ but there were a number of FBI, both former current, that agreed with the president’s decision, and they’ve continued to speak out and say that and send notice to the White House of that agreement with the president’s decision,” Sanders told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos Friday.

“James Comey was a disgraced leaker and used authorization to spy on the Trump campaign despite no evidence of collusion,” she said. “I stand by the fact, George–“

“Sarah, hold on a sec,” Stephanopoulos said. “The special counsel writes that those comments were not founded on anything. That’s what you talked to the special counsel about when you were facing criminal penalties if you didn’t tell the truth but now you’re trying to walk away from it. Why can’t you acknowledge that what you said then was not true?”

Story developing…

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Five key takeaways from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report

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

Pages from special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report. (ABC News) (WASHINGTON) — While there will be no legal case brought against President Donald Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the much-anticipated redacted report made public Thursday documented, in vivid detail, actions by members of the then-candidate’s campaign and later his administration that raised a host of political questions.

Largely Democratic calls for Mueller to testify before Congress only grew louder as the day went on, all but guaranteeing that the special counsel’s work will remain a focus of Washington for some time.

And yet, there appeared to be sighs of relief at the White House.

“No obstruction, no collusion,” the president said with a smile, speaking at an event timed closely with the release of the report.

The report is a trove of information about the current presidency and many in its orbit. Here are some of the key takeaways:

On matters of obstruction and collusion

In his letter describing the Mueller report’s “principal conclusions” — transmitted more than three weeks ago to members of Congress — Attorney General William Barr made conclusive statements about obstruction of justice and Trump-Russia collusion: neither took place.

 However, in the report, the special counsel’s office weighed in on the use of the non-legal term of “collusion,” saying “this Office evaluated potentially criminal conduct that involved the collective action of multiple individuals not under the rubric of ‘collusion,’ but through the lens of conspiracy law.”

“The Office recognized that the word ‘collud[e]’ appears in the Acting Attorney General’s August 2, 2017 memorandum; it has frequently been invoked in public reporting; and it is sometimes referenced in antitrust law…But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the U.S. Code; nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law,” the office said.

On the matter of collusion, Mueller’s team listed scores of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians, including “business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations.”

On obstruction of justice, the special counsel’s office made no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice by Trump, but Barr himself determined that the evidence against Trump did not amount to a crime.

Investigators found multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, however they conclude the president’s efforts to influence the investigation were “mostly unsuccessful but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

Jay Sekulow, the president’s lawyer, defended the president in an interview with ABC News Thursday, claiming the president was totally exonerated. The bottom line, he said, was that “if they had an obstruction case, they would have made it. They did not.”

‘This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—ed.’

One of the most talked about lines in the 448-page report is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the president’s immediate reaction to the news that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate him and his campaign.

According to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, Jody Hunt, the president, upon learning that a special counsel had been appointed, reportedly slouched back in his chair and said “’Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f—–.’”

Trump was interviewing for a new FBI director with his then-lawyer Don McGahn, Sessions, who had already recused himself from the position at that point, and Hunt, who was taking notes on the meeting.

Sessions left the room to take a call and came back to deliver the news that former FBI Director Robert Mueller had been appointed as the special counsel. In the report, Mueller wrote that Trump “slumped” in his chair.

Trump immediately lambasted Sessions for recusing himself, saying he “let [him] down.”

“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Trump said, according to Mueller’s report.

Many times over, the president was saved from potential acts of obstruction by staff

Mueller’s team inspected 10 separate occasions where the president may have acted to impede the investigation, according to the report.

Multiple times, various top Trump aides sidestepped the president’s orders, including the president’s then-White House counsel Don McGahn who stopped Trump from firing the chief investigator, Mueller.

According to The New York Times, McGahn threatened to resign in June 2016 if Trump took any action to remove Mueller from his role overseeing the probe.

According to the report: “The President then directed [staff secretary Rob] Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file ‘for our records’ and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a ‘lying bastard’ and said that he wanted a record from him. Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, ‘If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him’.”

Mueller concluded that “Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President’s conduct towards the investigation.”

Mueller considered Trump’s written responses ‘inadequate’

Special counsel Muller laid out his negotiations with Trump’s attorneys regarding an interview with the president. Mueller wrote in the introductory note that they advised counsel that “a[n] interview with the President is vital to our investigation.”

Mueller said that Trump stated on more than 30 occasions that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’” of information called for by the questions.

Mueller received the president’s responses in November 2018. Beginning in December 2017, they sought to interview the president on “topics relevant to both Russian-election interference and obstruction-of-justice.”

Mueller wrote that “Other answers were ‘incomplete or imprecise.'”

“We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that [t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all the evidence we have gathered. The President declined,” the special counsel said.

In the report, Mueller said, “we considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony” given that Trump would not volunteer an interview. “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate. But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed to costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits from our investigation and report.”

What is clear? The extent to which the Russians actually engaged in interfering with the election

Not to be overlooked is the threat of Russian interference — laid out in detail in Mueller’s report with significant details about how Russians engaged directly with unknowing Americans.

The interference in 2016 was “sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mueller said, a fact that was evidenced by the indictment last year of the whole Russian troll farm behind much of the social media interference, known as the Internet Research Agency.

The group got people to take their mission beyond the feeds of social media and walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” an act that spoke to Trump’s campaign promise that Americans will be able to say “Merry Christmas” again.

In another example from the report, Mueller detailed the way a fake group called “Black Fist” popped up, advertising as a group of self-defense instructors who would teach African Americans to protect themselves around police officers. The Russians behind the group, who were working for the IRA, even hired a self-defense instructor in New York.

The Russian social media posts were cited or retweeted by multiple Trump Campaign officials and surrogates, including Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale — architect of the Trump campaign’s 2016 digital strategy — and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn engaged with the Russian accounts.

Starting in June 2016, the IRA also contacted different Americans affiliated with the Trump campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States, according to the report.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Five key takeaways from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report

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

Pages from special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report. (ABC News) (WASHINGTON) — While there will be no legal case brought against President Donald Trump by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, the much-anticipated redacted report made public Thursday documented, in vivid detail, actions by members of the then-candidate’s campaign and later his administration that raised a host of political questions.

Largely Democratic calls for Mueller to testify before Congress only grew louder as the day went on, all but guaranteeing that the special counsel’s work will remain a focus of Washington for some time.

And yet, there appeared to be sighs of relief at the White House.

“No obstruction, no collusion,” the president said with a smile, speaking at an event timed closely with the release of the report.

The report is a trove of information about the current presidency and many in its orbit. Here are some of the key takeaways:

On matters of obstruction and collusion

In his letter describing the Mueller report’s “principal conclusions” — transmitted more than three weeks ago to members of Congress — Attorney General William Barr made conclusive statements about obstruction of justice and Trump-Russia collusion: neither took place.

 However, in the report, the special counsel’s office weighed in on the use of the non-legal term of “collusion,” saying “this Office evaluated potentially criminal conduct that involved the collective action of multiple individuals not under the rubric of ‘collusion,’ but through the lens of conspiracy law.”

“The Office recognized that the word ‘collud[e]’ appears in the Acting Attorney General’s August 2, 2017 memorandum; it has frequently been invoked in public reporting; and it is sometimes referenced in antitrust law…But collusion is not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the U.S. Code; nor is it a term of art in federal criminal law,” the office said.

On the matter of collusion, Mueller’s team listed scores of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russians, including “business connections, offers of assistance to the Campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person, invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations.”

On obstruction of justice, the special counsel’s office made no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice by Trump, but Barr himself determined that the evidence against Trump did not amount to a crime.

Investigators found multiple acts by the president that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations, however they conclude the president’s efforts to influence the investigation were “mostly unsuccessful but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

Jay Sekulow, the president’s lawyer, defended the president in an interview with ABC News Thursday, claiming the president was totally exonerated. The bottom line, he said, was that “if they had an obstruction case, they would have made it. They did not.”

‘This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—ed.’

One of the most talked about lines in the 448-page report is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the president’s immediate reaction to the news that a special counsel had been appointed to investigate him and his campaign.

According to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff, Jody Hunt, the president, upon learning that a special counsel had been appointed, reportedly slouched back in his chair and said “’Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m f—–.’”

Trump was interviewing for a new FBI director with his then-lawyer Don McGahn, Sessions, who had already recused himself from the position at that point, and Hunt, who was taking notes on the meeting.

Sessions left the room to take a call and came back to deliver the news that former FBI Director Robert Mueller had been appointed as the special counsel. In the report, Mueller wrote that Trump “slumped” in his chair.

Trump immediately lambasted Sessions for recusing himself, saying he “let [him] down.”

“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Trump said, according to Mueller’s report.

Many times over, the president was saved from potential acts of obstruction by staff

Mueller’s team inspected 10 separate occasions where the president may have acted to impede the investigation, according to the report.

Multiple times, various top Trump aides sidestepped the president’s orders, including the president’s then-White House counsel Don McGahn who stopped Trump from firing the chief investigator, Mueller.

According to The New York Times, McGahn threatened to resign in June 2016 if Trump took any action to remove Mueller from his role overseeing the probe.

According to the report: “The President then directed [staff secretary Rob] Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file ‘for our records’ and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a ‘lying bastard’ and said that he wanted a record from him. Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, ‘If he doesn’t write a letter, then maybe I’ll have to get rid of him’.”

Mueller concluded that “Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the President acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the President’s conduct towards the investigation.”

Mueller considered Trump’s written responses ‘inadequate’

Special counsel Muller laid out his negotiations with Trump’s attorneys regarding an interview with the president. Mueller wrote in the introductory note that they advised counsel that “a[n] interview with the President is vital to our investigation.”

Mueller said that Trump stated on more than 30 occasions that he “does not ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’” of information called for by the questions.

Mueller received the president’s responses in November 2018. Beginning in December 2017, they sought to interview the president on “topics relevant to both Russian-election interference and obstruction-of-justice.”

Mueller wrote that “Other answers were ‘incomplete or imprecise.'”

“We again requested an in-person interview, limited to certain topics, advising the President’s counsel that [t]his is the President’s opportunity to voluntarily provide us with information for us to evaluate in the context of all the evidence we have gathered. The President declined,” the special counsel said.

In the report, Mueller said, “we considered whether to issue a subpoena for his testimony” given that Trump would not volunteer an interview. “We viewed the written answers to be inadequate. But at that point, our investigation had made significant progress and had produced substantial evidence for our report. We thus weighed to costs of potentially lengthy constitutional litigation, with resulting delay in finishing our investigation, against the anticipated benefits from our investigation and report.”

What is clear? The extent to which the Russians actually engaged in interfering with the election

Not to be overlooked is the threat of Russian interference — laid out in detail in Mueller’s report with significant details about how Russians engaged directly with unknowing Americans.

The interference in 2016 was “sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mueller said, a fact that was evidenced by the indictment last year of the whole Russian troll farm behind much of the social media interference, known as the Internet Research Agency.

The group got people to take their mission beyond the feeds of social media and walk around New York City “dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask,” an act that spoke to Trump’s campaign promise that Americans will be able to say “Merry Christmas” again.

In another example from the report, Mueller detailed the way a fake group called “Black Fist” popped up, advertising as a group of self-defense instructors who would teach African Americans to protect themselves around police officers. The Russians behind the group, who were working for the IRA, even hired a self-defense instructor in New York.

The Russian social media posts were cited or retweeted by multiple Trump Campaign officials and surrogates, including Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale — architect of the Trump campaign’s 2016 digital strategy — and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn engaged with the Russian accounts.

Starting in June 2016, the IRA also contacted different Americans affiliated with the Trump campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States, according to the report.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Congress steps in, once more, to fill Trump’s silence on human rights in Myanmar

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

yorkfoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Amid ongoing concern about human rights in Myanmar, including the violence against the Rohingya ethnic minority, Congress is again trying to step in to fill a gap left by the Trump administration.

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers are set to introduce legislation in the House calling out Myanmar’s government for its ongoing detention of political prisoners, including two Reuters journalists, and to provide new funding to the State Department to support organizations working for the prisoners’ release, according to an advanced copy of the bill shared first with ABC News.

A group of Senate Republicans and Democrats introduced their own measure last week that would impose sanctions and other penalties on Myanmar for human rights abuses.

The legislation comes just days after Myanmar’s president issued 9,551 pardons on Wednesday, but only two for political prisoners, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent human rights organization that called the news “disappointing.”

Lawmakers in the U.S. have long been disappointed in President Donald Trump’s response to the human rights situation in Myanmar. Myanmar’s military began a systematic campaign to eradicate the Rohingya, a Muslim-majority ethnic group in the country’s northwest, in August 2017. Trump has never spoken publicly about the violence.

“We want to push hard to make sure that the United States is doing everything it can to advance the cause of human rights in Myanmar, both in terms of the Rohingya and, as our bill suggests, broadly throughout society,” said Rep. Andy Levin, D-Michigan, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri.

While senior officials like Vice President Mike Pence and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley have condemned the violence as “ethnic cleansing,” the Trump administration has been criticized for being slow to sanction Myanmar military officials and units, and declining to pressure the government on other human rights abuses. It has also stopped short of calling the campaign against the Rohingya a “genocide,” despite many other organizations, including the United Nations and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, using that term.

Last December, Republicans in the House of Representatives sent one of their few strong rebukes against Trump with a resolution calling the Rohingya crisis a “genocide.”

“The president still has not even said it was what it was,” Levin told ABC News. “We would like to see a lot more just roll-up-your sleeves activity,” especially on political prisoners.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was ruled for decades by a brutal military junta, but it began a transition to a power-sharing military-civilian government in 2010 that led the Obama administration to ease sanctions against the country. While the overall human rights situation improved with increased civilian control, including the release of many political prisoners, the violence against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities set back progress. Now, human rights groups are increasingly concerned that issues like freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are slipping away.

“The political prisoner issue has been an unfortunate and continuing challenge in Myanmar,” said Erin Murphy, who worked for the State Department’s special representative for Myanmar. “The recent amnesty by Myanmar President Win Myint likely fell short of expectations.”

There are currently over 350 political prisoners in Myanmar, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. That includes journalists, environmentalists and peaceful protesters, along with high-profile cases like Aung Ko Htwe, who has been detained since 2017 for speaking out about his experience as a child soldier, as well as Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested in December 2017 after their story on a mass grave of Rohingya victims was published.

“We have repeatedly called for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s immediate release, and our Embassy in Rangoon continues to engage publicly and privately” to secure their freedom, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News.

But they declined to comment on the issue of political prisoners, whose detention and at times abuse has been a longstanding issue. The department’s 2018 human rights report, released in March, made particular note of the government’s detentions, the “harsh and sometimes life-threatening” conditions of prisons, the use of torture and abuse against prisoners, particularly ethnic minorities, and the “significant surveillance and restrictions” political prisoners face after release.

“For democracy to take root in Burma, the government needs fair laws, safe prisons, and a competent justice system,” Rep. Wagner told ABC News. “Hundreds of political prisoners have been released in the past few years, but there are too many still behind bars.”

The State Department has provided some funds for aid groups that advocate for political prisoners, but an aide to Levin said they don’t know of any assistance the U.S. provides for this issue in Burma specifically, adding, “This bill would fill that void.”

Advocates say that funding is also necessary because of how the government has adapted colonial-era laws to increasingly harass human rights activists and political opponents.

“The level of funding and type [of] support has not kept up with the changing tactics of the new government,” said Francisco Bencosme, the Asia-Pacific advocacy manager for Amnesty International, which has endorsed Wagner and Levin’s bill.

An aide to Wagner said that the House bill, and the Senate bill introduced last week, could end up merging, “And we will be pushing all avenues to help get this language into law.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Congress steps in, once more, to fill Trump’s silence on human rights in Myanmar

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

yorkfoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Amid ongoing concern about human rights in Myanmar, including the violence against the Rohingya ethnic minority, Congress is again trying to step in to fill a gap left by the Trump administration.

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers are set to introduce legislation in the House calling out Myanmar’s government for its ongoing detention of political prisoners, including two Reuters journalists, and to provide new funding to the State Department to support organizations working for the prisoners’ release, according to an advanced copy of the bill shared first with ABC News.

A group of Senate Republicans and Democrats introduced their own measure last week that would impose sanctions and other penalties on Myanmar for human rights abuses.

The legislation comes just days after Myanmar’s president issued 9,551 pardons on Wednesday, but only two for political prisoners, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent human rights organization that called the news “disappointing.”

Lawmakers in the U.S. have long been disappointed in President Donald Trump’s response to the human rights situation in Myanmar. Myanmar’s military began a systematic campaign to eradicate the Rohingya, a Muslim-majority ethnic group in the country’s northwest, in August 2017. Trump has never spoken publicly about the violence.

“We want to push hard to make sure that the United States is doing everything it can to advance the cause of human rights in Myanmar, both in terms of the Rohingya and, as our bill suggests, broadly throughout society,” said Rep. Andy Levin, D-Michigan, who is co-sponsoring the bill with Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Missouri.

While senior officials like Vice President Mike Pence and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley have condemned the violence as “ethnic cleansing,” the Trump administration has been criticized for being slow to sanction Myanmar military officials and units, and declining to pressure the government on other human rights abuses. It has also stopped short of calling the campaign against the Rohingya a “genocide,” despite many other organizations, including the United Nations and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, using that term.

Last December, Republicans in the House of Representatives sent one of their few strong rebukes against Trump with a resolution calling the Rohingya crisis a “genocide.”

“The president still has not even said it was what it was,” Levin told ABC News. “We would like to see a lot more just roll-up-your sleeves activity,” especially on political prisoners.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was ruled for decades by a brutal military junta, but it began a transition to a power-sharing military-civilian government in 2010 that led the Obama administration to ease sanctions against the country. While the overall human rights situation improved with increased civilian control, including the release of many political prisoners, the violence against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities set back progress. Now, human rights groups are increasingly concerned that issues like freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are slipping away.

“The political prisoner issue has been an unfortunate and continuing challenge in Myanmar,” said Erin Murphy, who worked for the State Department’s special representative for Myanmar. “The recent amnesty by Myanmar President Win Myint likely fell short of expectations.”

There are currently over 350 political prisoners in Myanmar, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. That includes journalists, environmentalists and peaceful protesters, along with high-profile cases like Aung Ko Htwe, who has been detained since 2017 for speaking out about his experience as a child soldier, as well as Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested in December 2017 after their story on a mass grave of Rohingya victims was published.

“We have repeatedly called for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s immediate release, and our Embassy in Rangoon continues to engage publicly and privately” to secure their freedom, a State Department spokesperson told ABC News.

But they declined to comment on the issue of political prisoners, whose detention and at times abuse has been a longstanding issue. The department’s 2018 human rights report, released in March, made particular note of the government’s detentions, the “harsh and sometimes life-threatening” conditions of prisons, the use of torture and abuse against prisoners, particularly ethnic minorities, and the “significant surveillance and restrictions” political prisoners face after release.

“For democracy to take root in Burma, the government needs fair laws, safe prisons, and a competent justice system,” Rep. Wagner told ABC News. “Hundreds of political prisoners have been released in the past few years, but there are too many still behind bars.”

The State Department has provided some funds for aid groups that advocate for political prisoners, but an aide to Levin said they don’t know of any assistance the U.S. provides for this issue in Burma specifically, adding, “This bill would fill that void.”

Advocates say that funding is also necessary because of how the government has adapted colonial-era laws to increasingly harass human rights activists and political opponents.

“The level of funding and type [of] support has not kept up with the changing tactics of the new government,” said Francisco Bencosme, the Asia-Pacific advocacy manager for Amnesty International, which has endorsed Wagner and Levin’s bill.

An aide to Wagner said that the House bill, and the Senate bill introduced last week, could end up merging, “And we will be pushing all avenues to help get this language into law.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.