How candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley is changing how moms can run for office

Posted on: October 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The Washington Post/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In the middle of speaking to a group of voters on a chilly Long Island day, Liuba Grechen Shirley stops.

“Put your coat on baby, it’s cold,” she said over the microphone, after her 4-year-old daughter took off her jacket and tossed it on the ground.

Shirley continued to address the group, but she’s interrupted. It’s her daughter again. She sprinted through supporters to give her mother a sticker.

“Thank you, munchkin,” chuckled Shirley, who’s running for office in New York’s 2nd Congressional District.

With less than a month to the election, Shirley’s children are her two youngest supporters. Her daughter refers to door knocking as “trick or treating for votes” and jumps at the opportunity to tag along, she told “Good Morning America.”

Her husband can typically be seen pacing the edges of events with the couple’s second child in his arms.

 
Paving the way for more moms to run for office
“I’m a mom first and I’m running for office because of them,” she said. But her children also caused her biggest hesitation.

When she was approached to run for office by Square One politics, an organization started by staffers for former President Obama, they asked her one important question: “What do you need to run?”

“Child care,” Shirley responded. At the time, she was a full-time caregiver for her two kids, who were just 1 and 3 years old.

“I would be nursing my son, and my daughter would be playing with my hair and I’d be making phone calls,” she recalled. In the first two months of her campaign, she raised $126,000 — with no paid staff.

Child care, however, was expensive — a cost Shirley believes keeps many mothers from considering a run for office. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual cost of infant child care in New York is $14,144.

The Federal Election Commission, which monitors campaign finances, prohibits using campaign funds for personal use. Shirley decided to put in a request to the FEC to create a ruling that would allow her to use campaign funds from private donors on child care.

“I can make the decision to use these campaign funds on a pizza party for my staff or on more lawn signs or on child care — and without the child care I wouldn’t be able to run for office,” she said.

Hillary Clinton wrote in support of Shirley’s request, as well as 24 U.S. representatives, including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. The decision was approved in a unanimous bipartisan decision.

“This is for people who need to pick up the extra costs of child care to be able to run, because if you’re not independently wealthy and you have small children you can’t do it. You cannot run for office. And this rule changes that,” Shirley explained.

Running to flip a red district blue again
Shirley, who has a Master of Business Administration and previously worked for the United Nations Association, is facing off against Republican incumbent Rep. Peter King in November. King, who has held the seat since 2012, hosted President Donald Trump in the district in May to discuss ways to combat violence and the MS-13 gang.

Although the district leans red, Shirley believes this election is different from previous ones. For starters, although the district voted for Trump in the 2016 election, its constituents voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“The problem is this district was actually redrawn in 2012. We have more Democrats in this district. Peter King is out of touch with people in this district,” she said.

She admits that a lot of Democrats in her district, which includes Long Island’s Suffolk County, have voted for King in the past but said it’s because there wasn’t a serious challenger.

“Maybe they didn’t know his voting record, but they knew his name and he seems like a nice guy and so they’ll vote for him,” she said.

Shirley’s opponents call her a socialist, a description she denies.

While King voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Shirley would like to expand upon it. She supports a plan that provides Medicare for All, often championed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. A pro-choice advocate, she would like to protect a woman’s access to abortion care. She believes health care is a human right.

“When you knock on doors there are always four issues that people care about: It’s health care, taxes, education and the environment,” she said.

Shirley supports legislation that would cut taxes on the middle class. King voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts, a measure brought forward by the GOP to rewrite the nation’s tax code.

She’d also like to see campaign finance reform.

“There is a disconnect between the people who are in office and the people who live in the community. And that disconnect is there because of campaign finance issues. We need campaign finance reform. We need publicly financed elections,” she said.

Shirley, who grew up in the district, has seen it change: “There are a lot of people who have to leave Long Island because they can’t afford to live here; who can’t find affordable housing; who can’t find good paying jobs.”

The Long Island home her parents bought in the 1940s has been passed down through generations. After a long day of campaigning, Shirley enters the living room skipping over rocking horses and toy firetrucks. Her daughter decorated toilet lids with colorful stickers and her fridge is covered in her children’s artwork.

She admits she’s not like other politicians. She said she isn’t wealthy and is still paying off student loans while trying to provide for her kids. But she believes that representation is exactly what is needed.

“We need more diversity in Congress,” she said. “We need to be having the important conversations and we’re not going to have them until we change the dynamics at the table.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

How candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley is changing how moms can run for office

Posted on: October 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

The Washington Post/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — In the middle of speaking to a group of voters on a chilly Long Island day, Liuba Grechen Shirley stops.

“Put your coat on baby, it’s cold,” she said over the microphone, after her 4-year-old daughter took off her jacket and tossed it on the ground.

Shirley continued to address the group, but she’s interrupted. It’s her daughter again. She sprinted through supporters to give her mother a sticker.

“Thank you, munchkin,” chuckled Shirley, who’s running for office in New York’s 2nd Congressional District.

With less than a month to the election, Shirley’s children are her two youngest supporters. Her daughter refers to door knocking as “trick or treating for votes” and jumps at the opportunity to tag along, she told “Good Morning America.”

Her husband can typically be seen pacing the edges of events with the couple’s second child in his arms.

 
Paving the way for more moms to run for office
“I’m a mom first and I’m running for office because of them,” she said. But her children also caused her biggest hesitation.

When she was approached to run for office by Square One politics, an organization started by staffers for former President Obama, they asked her one important question: “What do you need to run?”

“Child care,” Shirley responded. At the time, she was a full-time caregiver for her two kids, who were just 1 and 3 years old.

“I would be nursing my son, and my daughter would be playing with my hair and I’d be making phone calls,” she recalled. In the first two months of her campaign, she raised $126,000 — with no paid staff.

Child care, however, was expensive — a cost Shirley believes keeps many mothers from considering a run for office. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average annual cost of infant child care in New York is $14,144.

The Federal Election Commission, which monitors campaign finances, prohibits using campaign funds for personal use. Shirley decided to put in a request to the FEC to create a ruling that would allow her to use campaign funds from private donors on child care.

“I can make the decision to use these campaign funds on a pizza party for my staff or on more lawn signs or on child care — and without the child care I wouldn’t be able to run for office,” she said.

Hillary Clinton wrote in support of Shirley’s request, as well as 24 U.S. representatives, including Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. The decision was approved in a unanimous bipartisan decision.

“This is for people who need to pick up the extra costs of child care to be able to run, because if you’re not independently wealthy and you have small children you can’t do it. You cannot run for office. And this rule changes that,” Shirley explained.

Running to flip a red district blue again
Shirley, who has a Master of Business Administration and previously worked for the United Nations Association, is facing off against Republican incumbent Rep. Peter King in November. King, who has held the seat since 2012, hosted President Donald Trump in the district in May to discuss ways to combat violence and the MS-13 gang.

Although the district leans red, Shirley believes this election is different from previous ones. For starters, although the district voted for Trump in the 2016 election, its constituents voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“The problem is this district was actually redrawn in 2012. We have more Democrats in this district. Peter King is out of touch with people in this district,” she said.

She admits that a lot of Democrats in her district, which includes Long Island’s Suffolk County, have voted for King in the past but said it’s because there wasn’t a serious challenger.

“Maybe they didn’t know his voting record, but they knew his name and he seems like a nice guy and so they’ll vote for him,” she said.

Shirley’s opponents call her a socialist, a description she denies.

While King voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Shirley would like to expand upon it. She supports a plan that provides Medicare for All, often championed by former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. A pro-choice advocate, she would like to protect a woman’s access to abortion care. She believes health care is a human right.

“When you knock on doors there are always four issues that people care about: It’s health care, taxes, education and the environment,” she said.

Shirley supports legislation that would cut taxes on the middle class. King voted against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts, a measure brought forward by the GOP to rewrite the nation’s tax code.

She’d also like to see campaign finance reform.

“There is a disconnect between the people who are in office and the people who live in the community. And that disconnect is there because of campaign finance issues. We need campaign finance reform. We need publicly financed elections,” she said.

Shirley, who grew up in the district, has seen it change: “There are a lot of people who have to leave Long Island because they can’t afford to live here; who can’t find affordable housing; who can’t find good paying jobs.”

The Long Island home her parents bought in the 1940s has been passed down through generations. After a long day of campaigning, Shirley enters the living room skipping over rocking horses and toy firetrucks. Her daughter decorated toilet lids with colorful stickers and her fridge is covered in her children’s artwork.

She admits she’s not like other politicians. She said she isn’t wealthy and is still paying off student loans while trying to provide for her kids. But she believes that representation is exactly what is needed.

“We need more diversity in Congress,” she said. “We need to be having the important conversations and we’re not going to have them until we change the dynamics at the table.”Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sen. Kamala Harris hits the campaign trail in Iowa

Posted on: October 23rd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — California Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, began a two-day campaign swing across Iowa on Monday, her first major visit to the state that will hold the first-in-the-nation caucuses in just over 16 months, telling voters to recognize the urgency of electing Democrats in the midterm elections that are just two weeks away.

“This is a pivotal moment, and we’ve got 15 days to get this done,” Harris told a crowd at a community college in Ankeny, Iowa.

Harris also cast the midterms as a part of a broader narrative beyond Donald Trump’s presidency.

“Let’s also recognize,” she said, “this moment at some point will pass. We will get beyond this, I promise you. We will get beyond this.”

A prominent critic of the Trump administration, Harris also said she rejects the notion that someone is not a patriot if they criticize the direction of the country.

“Sometimes when we’re critical about what’s not working in our country … that invites a question about one’s love of country,” Harris said. “I reject that, because I believe there are two different definitions of what it means to be a patriot. One, the definition that suggests you don’t condone the conduct of your country whatever it does. And then the other, being the kind of patriot that I believe most of us end up being. The kind that will fight each and every day for the ideals of our country.”

Attendees at Harris’ campaign stops today said they view her as an effective and positive messenger for the party, and see her as a legitimate contender to lead the Democratic charge to deny President Trump a second term.

“She’s my top choice because she is strong, she is smart, she is insightful,” Sarah Zigtema of West Des Moines told ABC News at Harris’ stop in Ankeny. “Watching her on Senate committees she asks really good questions and she gets her answers, and I appreciate that about her. Also I’d just love to see her go up against Donald Trump because I think she’d kick his butt.”

Carter Winton, a tech consultant from Urbandale, Iowa, said he’d like to see Harris on a presidential ticket with someone like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, but worries a woman of mixed race would face unfair prejudice in Donald Trump’s America.

“My dream ticket would be someone like her and Cory Booker,” Winton told ABC News before Harris’ speech in Des Moines. “But I don’t believe somebody of mixed race and a female would do very well in a general election. So as much as I would love to see her run, I don’t know if that’s a winning ticket.”

“She’s the type of person that doesn’t really take crap,” said Darrell Hagans, a 38-year-old software company worker from Des Moines who came to see Harris speak Monday night. “I think that she is a rising star in the Democratic Party. I think that she definitely has the potential, whether it’s in this next election or possibly the one afterwards.”

Harris is set to campaign in the central and eastern parts of the state, including stops in Des Moines, Cedar Falls, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, hoping to boost the Democratic nominee in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, Cindy Axne, and the Democratic nominee for Iowa Secretary of State, Deidre DeJear.

This is Harris’ first visit to the state since 2008, when she campaigned for then-Sen. Barack Obama during her time as the district attorney of San Francisco.

“There is so much on the line this year,” Harris said in a statement released by the Iowa Democratic Party last week. “We have seen how Republicans sow the seeds of hate and division throughout our country over the last two years. Now it’s time to hold them accountable, at every level of government, and Iowans know that better than anyone.”

Harris, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after serving as California’s Attorney General for six years, has been a prominent and fierce critic of the Trump administration during her time on Capitol Hill. She has clashed with numerous administration officials including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and recently called the confirmation hearings of then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme court a “sham and disgrace.”

Aside from her high-profile role as Trump administration antagonist, Harris also recently rolled out a new tax proposal called the “LIFT Act,” which aims to help U.S. families earning less than $100,000 year become eligible for a monthly tax credit of up to $500, or $6,000 a year.

While Harris has begun to make a name for herself on Capitol Hill as a forceful progressive advocate, the Democrat is still not widely known to much of the American electorate.

A recent poll from CNN had Harris polling at 9 percent, third in a field of potential Democratic 2020 contenders that included former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who campaigned across Iowa this past weekend.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump hugs it out with Cruz in Houston: ‘It got nasty! Then it ended’

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Loren Elliott/Getty Images(HOUSTON) — If the 2016 Republican presidential primary was a bare-knuckle brawl, President Donald Trump did his best to bury the hatchet in Texas on Monday night.

“It got nasty,” Trump told a raucous crowd in Houston before calling Senator Ted Cruz, his onetime foe, “a man who has become a really good friend.”

“Nobody has helped me more” than Cruz, Trump proclaimed, heaping praise on the Republican senator as he embarks on the home stretch of his unexpectedly competitive reelection race against upstart Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

The once icy relationship between Senator Cruz and the president has thawed considerably since the tumult of the 2016 election, when the two battled it out for the Republican nomination. Since conceding to Trump and dropping out of the race, Cruz has aligned himself firmly behind the president as a reliable vote in the Senate.

The president responded in kind, thanking Cruz for his legislative support.

“Thanks to Ted, we now have a brand new member of the United States Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh,” Trump said.

Despite his best efforts on Monday, Trump’s chummy relationship with Cruz may not be as iron-clad as the president suggests. Asked by ABC News over the weekend whether he considers Trump a friend or a foe, Cruz refrained from hanging his hat on the former.

“He’s the president,” Cruz told ABC News’ Paula Faris in an interview that aired on “This Week” Sunday. “I work with the president in delivering on our promises.”

The president made his presence felt in this heated race long before Air Force One touched down in the Lone Star State Monday evening, bashing O’Rourke on Twitter last week as a “total lightweight” and a “flake.”

On Monday, Trump targeted O’Rourke again, calling him “a stone-cold phony.”

“O’Rourke pretends to be a moderate, but he is actually a radical, open borders left winger,” Trump said.

Despite O’Rourke’s national buzz as a progressive liberal over-performing in the conservative bastion of Texas, he still trails in most polls by nearly ten points. During a debate last week, the typically mild-mannered O’Rourke borrowed a nickname that Trump coined during the 2016 campaign, referring to Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted.”

Departing the White House on Monday afternoon, Trump renounced that moniker and coined a new nickname for Cruz.

“He’s not lyin’ Ted anymore, he’s beautiful Ted,” Trump told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl. “I call him ‘Texas Ted.'”

O’Rourke, who represents El Paso in the House of Representatives, also pledged to vote to impeach President Trump if given the chance.

Again mentioning his “10 percent tax cuts” for the middle class in addition to the “big tax cuts you’ve already gotten,” Trump said that he has been working with Rep. Kevin Brady for three months, and said they are “putting it in next week.”

“For all middle income people 10%” the president said.

Trump also spoke at length about the migrant caravan making its way from Central America through Mexico, with its ultimate destination the United States border — just a couple hundred miles south of Houston — accusing aspiring migrants of committing “an assault on our country.”

“In that caravan you have some very bad people,” Trump said. “We can’t let that happen to our country.”

Trump again claimed, without evidence, that the Democrats are behind the caravan.

“Democrats had something to do with it and now they said I think we made a big mistake. Because people are seeing how bad it is,” Trump said, as he called the caravan “an assault on our country.”

The total number of migrants now headed to the U.S. border is estimated to be about 7,200, the United Nations said Monday.

Recognizing the potential implications of a senate defeat in a state Trump carried by nine points in 2016, the president set his sights on Cruz’s race back in August, announcing his intention “hold a major rally” in “the biggest stadium in Texas we can find.”

The Trump campaign fell slightly short of that promise, initially booking an 8,000-seat arena in Houston’s suburbs. But after a “HUGE and unprecedented” response to ticket sales, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale announced a late change in venue to accommodate a larger audience, landing on Houston’s 18,000-seat basketball arena, the Toyota Center.

As Trump took the stage, Houston’s Police Chief Art Acevedo tweeted that approximately 3,000 people watched the rally from outside the arena.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump ‘not satisfied’ with Saudi response to Khashoggi killing, but not willing to risk arms sales

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — President Trump says he is “not satisfied” with Saudi Arabia’s response to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, days after the country admitted the Washington Post columnist died in its consulate in Istanbul, but claimed it was part of an interrogation.

“I am not satisfied with what I’ve heard,” Trump told reporters at the White House Monday, adding that the Saudis must hurry up their investigation after they said they may need a month: “That’s a long time. There’s no reason for that much. Be faster.”

Seventeen days after the journalist and royal insider went missing in Turkey, Saudi Arabia admitted to culpability for Khashoggi’s death on Friday. But they said it was part of an intelligence operation to convince Khashoggi to return home to the kingdom that was not authorized by senior Saudi leadership and went wrong after Khashoggi tried to leave, was put in a choke-hold, and died.

While the explanation has been dismissed by many U.S. officials and members of Congress as not credible, Trump withheld judgment on Monday until top U.S. intelligence officials could return from a trip to the region. The CIA did not return a request for comment, but there were media reports that its director Gina Haspel had traveled to Turkey on Monday.

“We have people over in Saudi Arabia now. We have top intelligence people in Turkey, and we’re going to see what we have. I’ll know a lot tomorrow,” he said, adding he had spoken to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman again, the young leader said to be the real power behind the throne. He’s suspected to be the one responsible for launching the plot against Khashoggi, although Saudi Arabia strongly denies that.

The president would not say whether he believes those denials in an interview with USA Today, but added he does still think it was “a plot gone awry.”

The stiffer tone from Trump, however, was softened by his continued defense of U.S.-Saudi economic relations and his expressed desire to not mess with it.

“I don’t want to lose all of that investment that’s being made in our country. I don’t want to lose a million jobs. I don’t want to lose a $110 billion in terms of investment,” he said.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017, Trump signed an agreement with the Saudis for them to purchase $110 billion of U.S. weapons, although so far only $43 billion of that has been detailed.

Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has a close relationship with the Crown Prince, issued the same caution Monday, saying the administration was “in the fact-finding phase” still.

“We’re obviously getting as many facts as we can from the different places, and then we’ll determine which facts are credible, and then after that the president and the secretary of state will make a determination as to what we deem to be credible and what actions we think we should take,” he said during a forum hosted by CNN.

But he too stressed being “focused on what’s good for America, what are our strategic interests.”

To that end, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with the Crown Prince Monday. While he canceled his participation in a major Saudi investment forum, he still flew to the capital Riyadh to discuss “combating terrorist financing, implementing Iran sanctions, Saudi economic issues and the Khashoggi investigation,” according to his spokesperson Tony Sayegh.

American diplomacy came as Turkey ramped up its investigation Monday, searching a car that belongs to the Saudi consulate, but was found in an Istanbul parking lot. CNN also aired surveillance video that Turkish authorities said showed one of the key suspects dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes leaving the back of the consulate shortly after he was killed. The suspect is reportedly now in Saudi custody.

It was yet another report citing anonymous Turkish authorities who have consistently leaked details of the investigation to the press to pressure Saudi Arabia and the U.S. But on Tuesday that will change as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan goes on the record with a major address before parliament.

In the first official comments from the Turkish government, Erdogan said he will reveal the details of Turkey’s investigation into the plot against Khashoggi: “It will be revealed in full nakedness.”

Erdogan’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said Monday that while Turkey’s “ultimate aim, duty, and responsibility is to enlighten the incident in all its parts,” Saudi Arabia remains “an important country for us. It is a brotherly and friendly country… Of course, we would not want this to be harmed.”

But in what could be a tease of Erdogan’s speech, his political party’s spokesperson was much tougher and called Saudi Arabia’s operation “a brutally planned [killing] and efforts were made to cover it up. When we look at it through this frame, it’s a very complicated murder.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Likely 2020 hopefuls weigh in on reports Trump administration mulling shift on transgender recognition

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Senators who are potential Democratic presidential candidates were quick to weigh in on a New York Times report that the Trump administration is contemplating changing federal policy to narrowly define gender – a move that could gut a number of federal protections for transgender people.

The New York Times reported Sunday that, according to a memo obtained by the newspaper, the Department of Health and Human Services was working to limit the term “gender” to either male or female, unchangeable and determined by a person’s genitals at birth.

ABC News has not seen the memo.

President Donald Trump appeared to confirm that the administration is mulling the move on Monday afternoon. According to a 2016 survey by the Williams Institute at the University of California School of Law, 1.4 million people identify as transgender in the United States, comprising an estimated .6 percent of adults.

“We’re looking at it,” President Donald Trump said Monday as he left the White House for a campaign event in Texas. “We have a lot of different concepts right now and we have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now. You know that as well as I do and we are looking at it very seriously.”

Several possible 2020 candidates quickly condemned the policy shift before Trump confirmed it.

“The Trump administration is trying to make discrimination more available all across the country,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in an videotaped statement during an event in her home state. “This is just fundamentally wrong. It is not who we are as a country. It does not reflect our best values and I will fight them on this. I will fight for anti-discrimination provisions,” she said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who ran for president in 2016 and has been an active campaigner for midterm candidates this cycle, expressed a similar sentiment.

“At a time when we should be doing everything we can to protect our transgender brothers and sisters, Trump and his administration are trying to exclude transgender people from civil rights protections,” he said in a statement. “Trump and his Republican friends must be held responsible for their discrimination and the pain they have caused. We are going to vote them out.”

Warren and Sanders both sit on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, which could exercise its role overseeing measures related to health, education and public welfare, all of which could be affected by a federal attempt to more narrowly define gender than the past administration.

Others, such as Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the HELP committee, released a tweet expressing solidarity with the transgender community.

The White House did not brief the HELP committee before the New York Times report came out, a Murray aide said.

Another member of the HELP Committee recommended an existing legislative recourse to address the administration’s planned policy shift.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., the first openly gay person elected to the Senate, said Congress should pass her bill, the Equality Act, co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. The Equality Act would provide consistent federal protections for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, two criteria which currently are not protected under existing federal non-discrimination law.

“This is another reason why Congress needs to take action and pass the Equality Act. We cannot allow the Trump Administration to erase transgender people from federal civil rights protections,” Baldwin said.

The reports also spurred strong responses from the larger LGBT community, and about 100 people or so participated in a protest sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Rights in Washington D.C. Monday afternoon.

Before Trump himself weighed in, the White House referred comments to HHS, whose spokesperson Caitlin Oakley noted that a 2016 federal court ruling found that the Obama administration had gone beyond federal statute in its own recognition of gender which went beyond a binary designation.

“That court found that the Obama administration regulation was overbroad and inconsistent with the text of the 1972 Title IX law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. The court order remains in full force and effect today and HHS is bound by it as we continue to review the issue,” Oakley’s statement read in part.

Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also tweeted their initial disapproval of the new policy without delving into specifics about how they might take congressional action to challenge the policies.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Likely 2020 hopefuls weigh in on reports Trump administration mulling shift on transgender recognition

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Senators who are potential Democratic presidential candidates were quick to weigh in on a New York Times report that the Trump administration is contemplating changing federal policy to narrowly define gender – a move that could gut a number of federal protections for transgender people.

The New York Times reported Sunday that, according to a memo obtained by the newspaper, the Department of Health and Human Services was working to limit the term “gender” to either male or female, unchangeable and determined by a person’s genitals at birth.

ABC News has not seen the memo.

President Donald Trump appeared to confirm that the administration is mulling the move on Monday afternoon. According to a 2016 survey by the Williams Institute at the University of California School of Law, 1.4 million people identify as transgender in the United States, comprising an estimated .6 percent of adults.

“We’re looking at it,” President Donald Trump said Monday as he left the White House for a campaign event in Texas. “We have a lot of different concepts right now and we have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now. You know that as well as I do and we are looking at it very seriously.”

Several possible 2020 candidates quickly condemned the policy shift before Trump confirmed it.

“The Trump administration is trying to make discrimination more available all across the country,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in an videotaped statement during an event in her home state. “This is just fundamentally wrong. It is not who we are as a country. It does not reflect our best values and I will fight them on this. I will fight for anti-discrimination provisions,” she said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who ran for president in 2016 and has been an active campaigner for midterm candidates this cycle, expressed a similar sentiment.

“At a time when we should be doing everything we can to protect our transgender brothers and sisters, Trump and his administration are trying to exclude transgender people from civil rights protections,” he said in a statement. “Trump and his Republican friends must be held responsible for their discrimination and the pain they have caused. We are going to vote them out.”

Warren and Sanders both sit on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, which could exercise its role overseeing measures related to health, education and public welfare, all of which could be affected by a federal attempt to more narrowly define gender than the past administration.

Others, such as Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the HELP committee, released a tweet expressing solidarity with the transgender community.

The White House did not brief the HELP committee before the New York Times report came out, a Murray aide said.

Another member of the HELP Committee recommended an existing legislative recourse to address the administration’s planned policy shift.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., the first openly gay person elected to the Senate, said Congress should pass her bill, the Equality Act, co-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Cory Booker, D-N.J. The Equality Act would provide consistent federal protections for people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, two criteria which currently are not protected under existing federal non-discrimination law.

“This is another reason why Congress needs to take action and pass the Equality Act. We cannot allow the Trump Administration to erase transgender people from federal civil rights protections,” Baldwin said.

The reports also spurred strong responses from the larger LGBT community, and about 100 people or so participated in a protest sponsored by the National Center for Transgender Rights in Washington D.C. Monday afternoon.

Before Trump himself weighed in, the White House referred comments to HHS, whose spokesperson Caitlin Oakley noted that a 2016 federal court ruling found that the Obama administration had gone beyond federal statute in its own recognition of gender which went beyond a binary designation.

“That court found that the Obama administration regulation was overbroad and inconsistent with the text of the 1972 Title IX law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex. The court order remains in full force and effect today and HHS is bound by it as we continue to review the issue,” Oakley’s statement read in part.

Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., also tweeted their initial disapproval of the new policy without delving into specifics about how they might take congressional action to challenge the policies.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Migrant caravan headed to US grows to 7,200: UN official

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As thousands of Central American children, parents, elderly and other adults intent on migrating to the United States awoke from a night sleeping on concrete in far-southern Mexico, President Donald Trump resumed tweeting about the migrant caravan as the fault of Democrats and a danger to the U.S.

The caravan of migrants, mostly from Guatemala and Honduras, bedded down Sunday night on the concrete of a town square in Tapachula, Mexico, but awoke Monday determined to resume their arduous journey to the U.S. border still some 1,700 miles away.

Overnight the group was joined by about 1,500 additional migrants who followed them up from Guatemala, organizers told ABC News. The total number of migrants now headed to the U.S. border is estimated to be about 7,200, United Nations Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York on Monday.

Haq said that the International Organization for Migration reported that migrants continue to stream into Mexico from Guatemala and “are likely to remain in the country for an extended period.”

Trump, meanwhile, in a series of tweets asserted that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” are amid the crowd, for which he offered no evidence. He also again said Democrats are to blame for not working with his administration on immigration reform.

“Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

He went on to tweet that the Mexican federal police have been unable to stop the sea of humanity. The Mexican officers have been monitoring the caravan since the crowds breached a fence Friday at the Mexico-Guatemalan border and pushed past border patrol agents.

“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy. Must change laws!”

Trump offered no evidence that anyone from the Middle East is with the Central American migrants. An ABC News crew traveling with the group has also seen no evidence to support the president’s claim.

The president also blasted the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the countries that make up the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Central America — for failing to prevent the exodus of people from their countries. He threatened to cut off aid.

“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” Trump tweeted Monday.

As he left the White House Monday afternoon for a campaign rally in Houston for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Trump slammed the Central American countries during a gaggle with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

“We give them tremendous amounts of money … Hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Trump, adding that in return they give “nothing to us.”

He also criticized the Mexican government’s handling of the caravan.

“I guess it looks like the people are walking right through the middle of Mexico. So I’m not exactly thrilled there either,” Trump said.

Responding to a question from ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl on whether he has any evidence of terrorists infiltrating the caravan, Trump said: “Go into the middle and search. You’re going to find MS-13 [gang members]. You’re going to find Middle Easterners. You’re going to find everything. Guess what? We are not allowing them in our country. We want safety.”

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, dismissed Trump’s claim as a diversion from other issues, particularly health care, ahead of the midterm elections.

Rep. Eliot Engle of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would be illegal for the president to withhold foreign aid to Central American countries appropriated by Congress.

“Fortunately, Congress — not the president — had the power of the purse, and my colleagues and I will not stand idly by as this administration ignores congressional intent,” Engle said in a statement Monday.

The migrants in the caravan, many of whom are trudging north on worn shoes or bare feet, with some fainting from dehydration in the hot sun on Sunday. One young girl apparently suffering from dehydration in the heat Sunday fell from a rickshaw into the arms of an ABC News reporter, who helped her back on the rickshaw to be taken to an ambulance.

The rickshaw driver told ABC News on Monday that the girl was treated and was doing better.

Many of the migrants said they are fleeing violence and murderous gangs in their homelands.

“My family is suffering right now, but what’s happening in Honduras is worse,” one migrant, Blanca, who is traveling with her two young sons and teenage daughter, told ABC News.

Blanca said she fled her Honduras home with her children after her husband was killed by gangs. She said her goal is to reach the United States.

The migrants have been warned by Mexican federal officials that they entered that country illegally and have been advised to go to shelters and apply for asylum to legally remain in the country, at least temporarily.

But many of the those in the caravan told ABC News that they believe the offer of asylum is a ruse to round them up for deportation.

Thousands of migrants walked about 25 miles on Sunday from near the Guatemala border to Tapachula, Mexico, where they spent the night in the town square.

Unlike in previous days, the presence of Mexican federal police and military Blackhawk helicopters were not in sight as the migrants walked north, many holding hands and chanting, “United people will never be defeated!”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Migrant caravan headed to US grows to 7,200: UN official

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As thousands of Central American children, parents, elderly and other adults intent on migrating to the United States awoke from a night sleeping on concrete in far-southern Mexico, President Donald Trump resumed tweeting about the migrant caravan as the fault of Democrats and a danger to the U.S.

The caravan of migrants, mostly from Guatemala and Honduras, bedded down Sunday night on the concrete of a town square in Tapachula, Mexico, but awoke Monday determined to resume their arduous journey to the U.S. border still some 1,700 miles away.

Overnight the group was joined by about 1,500 additional migrants who followed them up from Guatemala, organizers told ABC News. The total number of migrants now headed to the U.S. border is estimated to be about 7,200, United Nations Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York on Monday.

Haq said that the International Organization for Migration reported that migrants continue to stream into Mexico from Guatemala and “are likely to remain in the country for an extended period.”

Trump, meanwhile, in a series of tweets asserted that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” are amid the crowd, for which he offered no evidence. He also again said Democrats are to blame for not working with his administration on immigration reform.

“Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

He went on to tweet that the Mexican federal police have been unable to stop the sea of humanity. The Mexican officers have been monitoring the caravan since the crowds breached a fence Friday at the Mexico-Guatemalan border and pushed past border patrol agents.

“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy. Must change laws!”

Trump offered no evidence that anyone from the Middle East is with the Central American migrants. An ABC News crew traveling with the group has also seen no evidence to support the president’s claim.

The president also blasted the governments of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — the countries that make up the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Central America — for failing to prevent the exodus of people from their countries. He threatened to cut off aid.

“Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S. We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them,” Trump tweeted Monday.

As he left the White House Monday afternoon for a campaign rally in Houston for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Trump slammed the Central American countries during a gaggle with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

“We give them tremendous amounts of money … Hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Trump, adding that in return they give “nothing to us.”

He also criticized the Mexican government’s handling of the caravan.

“I guess it looks like the people are walking right through the middle of Mexico. So I’m not exactly thrilled there either,” Trump said.

Responding to a question from ABC News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl on whether he has any evidence of terrorists infiltrating the caravan, Trump said: “Go into the middle and search. You’re going to find MS-13 [gang members]. You’re going to find Middle Easterners. You’re going to find everything. Guess what? We are not allowing them in our country. We want safety.”

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, dismissed Trump’s claim as a diversion from other issues, particularly health care, ahead of the midterm elections.

Rep. Eliot Engle of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it would be illegal for the president to withhold foreign aid to Central American countries appropriated by Congress.

“Fortunately, Congress — not the president — had the power of the purse, and my colleagues and I will not stand idly by as this administration ignores congressional intent,” Engle said in a statement Monday.

The migrants in the caravan, many of whom are trudging north on worn shoes or bare feet, with some fainting from dehydration in the hot sun on Sunday. One young girl apparently suffering from dehydration in the heat Sunday fell from a rickshaw into the arms of an ABC News reporter, who helped her back on the rickshaw to be taken to an ambulance.

The rickshaw driver told ABC News on Monday that the girl was treated and was doing better.

Many of the migrants said they are fleeing violence and murderous gangs in their homelands.

“My family is suffering right now, but what’s happening in Honduras is worse,” one migrant, Blanca, who is traveling with her two young sons and teenage daughter, told ABC News.

Blanca said she fled her Honduras home with her children after her husband was killed by gangs. She said her goal is to reach the United States.

The migrants have been warned by Mexican federal officials that they entered that country illegally and have been advised to go to shelters and apply for asylum to legally remain in the country, at least temporarily.

But many of the those in the caravan told ABC News that they believe the offer of asylum is a ruse to round them up for deportation.

Thousands of migrants walked about 25 miles on Sunday from near the Guatemala border to Tapachula, Mexico, where they spent the night in the town square.

Unlike in previous days, the presence of Mexican federal police and military Blackhawk helicopters were not in sight as the migrants walked north, many holding hands and chanting, “United people will never be defeated!”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Targeted by Mueller, what did Trump confidante Roger Stone actually do?

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators usually operate in secret, but an ongoing legal fight has forced them to admit publicly that they are examining Donald Trump’s longtime confidante Roger Stone.

And while widespread discussion over Stone has often focused on what may have transpired in private, his very public statements and actions alone could put him in legal jeopardy, former federal prosecutors told ABC News.

Trump insists Mueller is on “a witch hunt,” reciting the phrase “no collusion” at least 32 times in the past six months alone.

Mueller, however, has yet to offer a final assessment of alleged links between Trump’s associates and Russian operatives. And just two weeks ago, FBI Director Chris Wray told lawmakers: “There is a very serious, ongoing criminal investigation” still underway.

Mueller’s team is currently fighting – in open court – to compel a former Stone aide to testify before a federal grand jury about Stone and other matters. And last week, ABC News reported that Mueller’s team is pressing for answers about Stone from their newest cooperator, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

So what did Stone actually do – and could it even be criminal?

WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT STONE

Mueller recently charged 12 Russian spies for interfering in the 2016 presidential election by hacking into Democratic institutions and then orchestrating “the staged release” of stolen documents.

To help execute their “large-scale cyber operations,” the Russian operatives created an online identity they named “Guccifer 2.0” and “falsely claimed to be a lone Romanian hacker,” according to Mueller.

Their first big release came in July 2016, when Wikileaks published tens of thousands of emails heisted from the Democratic National Committee.

In the months right after the disclosure, Stone praised Guccifer 2.0 as the “hero” who “hacked and leaked” it all, but he also promised – at least a dozen times – that Wikileaks had yet to release its biggest blow against Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

He repeatedly called the coming bombshell “an October surprise” because, he later explained to ABC News, an “intermediary” to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange told him early on, “It’s coming in October.”

Stone’s teases offered tantalizing details – he repeatedly said the next release would come from inside the Clinton Foundation, and at one point in August 2016 he pronounced on Twitter that it would soon be “the Podesta’s time in the barrel.”

Stone has since insisted he was referring not only to Clinton’s then-campaign manager John Podesta but also to Podesta’s lobbyist brother, whose overseas business dealings were starting to receive media scrutiny.

Nevertheless, four days into October 2016, Guccifer 2.0 publicly claimed to have hacked the Clinton Foundation and posted several documents online. “Many of you have been waiting for this, some even asked me to do it,” Guccifer 2.0 wrote.

And that same week, Wikileaks released thousands of emails stolen from John Podesta’s personal email account.

There’s no indication Stone ever discussed such disclosures with Guccifer 2.0, and he told ABC News it was a journalist’s email that first suggested to him the Clinton Foundation had been hacked. But Stone has admitted exchanging “benign, innocent and even banal” private messages with the online persona.

In those exchanges, Stone expressed “delight” over Guccifer 2.0’s Twitter account and, at Guccifer 2.0’s request, offered minor feedback over a heisted Democratic document just posted online.

Mueller cited the exchanges in his indictment against the 12 Russian spies, describing Stone as someone who discussed “the release of stolen documents” with Guccifer 2.0, which Mueller said was created to “undermine the allegations of Russian responsibility” for the DNC hack.

Throughout the summer of 2016, Stone was engaged in his own effort to discredit those allegations, despite growing evidence from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was to blame.

And Stone has consistently denied ever believing Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian front, even though media reports at the time insisted that was the case.

In August 2016, Stone published an article about Guccifer 2.0 headlined, “DNC Hack Solved, So Now Stop Blaming Russia.”

In the article, Stone posted a link to Guccifer 2.0’s website and encouraged the public to “have a look.”

The website highlighted by Stone included batches of documents snatched from Democratic operatives and this statement from Guccifer 2.0: “I’m often asked if I’m afraid of being prosecuted by the FBI. My answer is No! I’ve expected it … But it won’t be that easy to catch me.”

COULD STONE ACTUALLY BE PROSECUTED?

Stone’s public statements and since-released private messages offer what former federal prosecutor Ed McAndrew called a “robust factual record.”

And while there is no law explicitly outlawing the specific act of “collusion,” Mueller is looking at a vast array of U.S. statutes that make certain acts of collaboration or assistance a federal crime.

Several former federal prosecutors suspected Mueller has been contemplating whether Stone should face conspiracy-related charges or even “aiding and abetting” or “accessory after the fact” charges.

Those former federal prosecutors were confident Mueller won’t seek any indictment unless he has what former assistant U.S. attorney Joe Facciponti called “rock solid” proof.

“I suspect Mueller is looking to develop additional proof … [and] more facts around Stone’s knowledge and intent before bringing charges,” said Facciponti, now with the firm Murphy & McGonigle in New York.

If Stone fully knew he was championing a hacker who – by Stone’s own acknowledgment – stole and spread private material, “he’s looking at ‘aiding and abetting,'” according to McAndrew.

“They can show that he is encouraging [or] … inducing them to engage in this activity. He’s teasing it. He’s the provocateur,” McAndrew said.

If prosecutors conclude Stone was knowingly aiding the hackers, Stone could also be “exposed” to an “accessory after the fact” charge, as McAndrew sees it.

According to federal law, anybody who “comforts or assists” someone they know has committed a federal crime, and does so “to hinder or prevent” apprehension, “is an accessory after the fact.”

The charge is rarely used in federal cases, especially by itself, “but it is there for – quite frankly – this type of fact pattern, where someone knows who the bad guys are, knows what they’ve done, and could be seen … in any way assisting in avoiding exposure,” McAndrew said.

Federal prosecutors have used the charge before in hacking-related cases, including when the global intelligence firm Stratfor suffered a major cyber-heist four years ago.

The Justice Department not only prosecuted the hacker who stole and then released millions of private records, the department also imprisoned Barrett Brown, a loose associate of the hacker, for being an “accessory after the fact.”

Acting on behalf of a hacker he only knew as “o,” Brown reached out to Stratfor to discuss whether “o” should redact information about certain individuals before releasing it.

Even though Brown didn’t know “o’s” true identity, prosecutors in Dallas concluded Brown was an “accessory after the fact” because – as a middleman – he created “confusion” over “o’s” true identity and “diverted attention away from the hacker,” according to documents filed with his plea deal in the case.

He was ultimately sentenced to a year in prison for the “accessory” charge and four more years for two other charges in the case.

Asked by ABC News to assess Stone’s actions, a pro-Republican former federal prosecutor with links to Trump’s administration said they “do come somewhat close to the line” of taking “affirmative steps” to help the hackers avoid prosecution.

But, speaking on the condition of anonymity so he could talk freely, he still questioned whether there is “sufficient” evidence to warrant an “accessory after the fact” charge, emphasizing, “It does require Stone to be more than a public advocate/cheerleader in support of the hacking.”

The attorney who represented Brown four years ago, Ahmed Ghappour, was even more skeptical that Stone could face such charges, noting there’s no evidence suggesting Stone’s public statements “were at the behest of the Russians” or those specifically behind Guccifer 2.0.

While Stone’s public statements and his “direct contact” with Guccifer 2.0 “give rise to legitimate suspicion, I have yet to see any real evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” said Ghappour, now a professor at Boston University Law School.

An attorney representing Stone categorically denied his client has committed any crimes.

“Mr. Stone did not conspire, aid, abet, or act as an accessory with any computer hackers, Russian or otherwise,” and unless they “work as a lawyer” in Mueller’s office, anyone offering their opinion about Stone’s potential culpability “is speculating without evidence,” attorney Robert Buschnel told ABC News.

Buschnel has previously argued Stone’s tweets and public statements were “nothing more than political speech” and “protected by the First Amendment.”

Still, Stone recently told ABC News, “It’s not outside the realm of possibility that [Mueller] may consider bringing some offense against me.”

“A dedicated prosecutor could indict anybody for anything,” he said.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

The former federal prosecutors who spoke with ABC News emphasized that Stone’s fate could rest on what Mueller has gathered in secret.

“The real question is: What does the special counsel’s office know beyond what’s been made public,” said McAndrew, now with the firm Ballard Spahr in Washington.

Mueller’s investigators have already interviewed or contacted nearly a dozen associates of Stone, including his longtime aide Andrew Miller, who worked for him during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In June, Mueller’s investigators sent a subpoena to Miller demanding he hand over any emails dated between June 2015 and June 2018 that mentioned six specific topics: Stone, Assange, Wikileaks, the DNC, Guccifer 2.0, or the other online Russian front DC Leaks.

Miller gave them a tranche of emails, but Mueller’s team wants the former Stone aide to testify under oath to a federal grand jury, and Miller has resisted helping any further. The matter is currently before the U.S. appeals court in Washington.

Meanwhile, Mueller’s investigators have access to all sorts of private correspondence from the time and to witness testimony behind closed doors. But perhaps “more importantly” they also have access to classified information secretly collected by the U.S. intelligence community and its allies around the world, McAndrew noted.

“That’s the stream we really know next to nothing about,” he said.

And such closely-held information is not always incriminating, Facciponti cautioned.

“The public record might just be the tip of the iceberg,” but “further investigation might reveal that seemingly suspicious acts have entirely innocent explanations,” he said.

Mueller’s office declined to comment for this article.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Obama goes up against Trump in fight for Nevada Senate seat

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Mark Makela/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former President Barack Obama is back on the campaign trail two weeks before the midterm elections, appearing Monday at a rally at the University of Nevada Las Vegas campus to boost Democrats up and down the ballot.

He’s particularly focused on Nevada’s Senate race, one of the tightest in the country. Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen is challenging Republican incumbent Dean Heller, the only Republican senator up for re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.

Heller has been endorsed by President Trump, who just on Saturday stumped for him in Elko, Nevada, on the same night that Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, campaigned in the state for Rosen.

Rosen has made health care the primary issue of her campaign — an issue that was also central to Obama’s presidency.

Her supporters told ABC News they were concerned about a number of issues in 2018, especially women’s rights, health care, and having a check on President Trump.

Obama is the latest in a string of national surrogates who have visited Nevada in the 2018 midterm cycle and Democrats are hoping some Hollywood star power will invigorate their base. Obama will be joined by “Ugly Betty” actress America Ferrera, and the hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa.

Steve Sisolak, the Democratic candidate for governor, was also scheduled to speak at the rally. Sisolak, who’s currently the Commission Chairman of Clark County, the county that encompasses Las Vegas, faces Republican candidate Adam Laxalt, the state’s attorney general.

It’s an open seat race for the seat currently held by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has reached the end of his term.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sen. Kamala Harris heads to Iowa ahead of midterms as 2020 speculation abounds

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(DES MOINES, Iowa) — California Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, began a two-day campaign swing across the state of Iowa in the town of Ankeny Monday morning, her first major visit to the state that will hold the first-in-the-nation caucuses in just over 16 months.

Harris is set to campaign in the central and eastern parts of the state, including stops in Des Moines, Cedar Falls, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, hoping to boost the Democratic nominee in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District, Cindy Axne, and the Democratic nominee for Iowa Secretary of State Deidre DeJear.

This is Harris’ first visit to the state since 2008, when she campaigned for then-Sen. Barack Obama during her time as the District Attorney of San Francisco.

“There is so much on the line this year,” Harris said in a statement released by the Iowa Democratic Party last week, “We have seen how Republicans sow the seeds of hate and division throughout our country over the last two years.”

“Now it’s time to hold them accountable, at every level of government, and Iowans know that better than anyone. I’m excited to be coming to Iowa to make sure everyone uses the most powerful tool we can as Americans, our votes, to make real change in Iowa and in our country.”

Harris, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 after serving as California’s Attorney General for six years, has been a prominent and fierce critic of the Trump administration during her time on Capitol Hill. She has clashed with numerous administration officials like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and recently called the confirmation hearings of then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme court a “sham and disgrace.”

“When we wake up in the middle of the night with that thought that has been weighing on us, sometimes we wake up in a cold sweat,” Harris said at a dinner hosted by the Ohio Democratic Party in Columbus earlier this month, “Well, for the vast majority of Americans, when we wake up thinking that thought, it is never through the lens of the party for which we are registered to vote.”

Aside from her high-profile role as Trump administration antagonist, Harris also recently rolled out a new tax proposal called the “LIFT Act,” which aims to help U.S. families earning less than $100,000 year become eligible for a monthly tax credit of up to $500, or $6,000 a year.

While Harris has begun to make a name for herself on Capitol Hill as a forceful progressive advocate, the Democrat is still not widely known to much of the American electorate.

A recent poll from CNN had Harris polling at 9 percent, third in a field of potential Democratic 2020 contenders that included former Vice President Joe Biden, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who campaigned across Iowa this past weekend.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Beto O’Rourke aiming to become a household name amid tight Senate race

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(EL PASO, Texas) — All eyes have been on the Texas Senate race this cycle, as three-term Congressman Beto O’Rourke takes on Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

The 45-year-old Democratic hopeful has garnered national attention for his candid campaign style: he recently broke the record for fundraising for a U.S. Senate candidate in a single quarter, raking in $38.1 million for his campaign from July through September.

O’Rourke grew up in a political family in El Paso. His father held various local government seats, including county commissioner and county judge, according to the Dallas News. O’Rourke followed those footsteps after attending Columbia University and returning to El Paso.

He hasn’t lost a political race thus far, winning seats twice on the El Paso City Council and three times in the U.S. House.

His appeal, for some, is rooted in his laid-back demeanor.

O’Rourke rides his skateboard into rallies, sweats through all of his t-shirts and livestreams videos of himself jamming to “The Who” after his senatorial debates. He may be a career politician, but he’s tried to craft himself for a new era of voters and politics in America.

O’Rourke embraced the progressive agenda from the beginning. According to the Dallas News, O’Rourke recruited progressives for a liberal city council, aiming to work on issues like urban sprawl and development.

O’Rourke has been candid about his 1998 DWI arrest, saying in an August 2017 interview with the Palestine Herald-Press, “I have no excuse for my behavior then. However, since then, I have used my opportunities to serve my community and my state. I’m grateful for the second chance and believe we all deserve second chances.”

He has pinned his platform on education reform, health care, and immigration.

His steadfast embrace of the non-traditional has built him a strong base, but in a deep-red state with a powerful incumbent, he has encountered pushback from a conservative-leaning electorate. Recent polls show him falling behind Cruz in a large single-digit lead.

O’Rourke has signaled his intention to continue his fight to turn the seat blue, saying that he will not share the millions he raised in the third quarter with other candidates, in hopes to close the widening gap between him and Cruz.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Beto O’Rourke aiming to become a household name amid tight Senate race

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(EL PASO, Texas) — All eyes have been on the Texas Senate race this cycle, as three-term Congressman Beto O’Rourke takes on Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

The 45-year-old Democratic hopeful has garnered national attention for his candid campaign style: he recently broke the record for fundraising for a U.S. Senate candidate in a single quarter, raking in $38.1 million for his campaign from July through September.

O’Rourke grew up in a political family in El Paso. His father held various local government seats, including county commissioner and county judge, according to the Dallas News. O’Rourke followed those footsteps after attending Columbia University and returning to El Paso.

He hasn’t lost a political race thus far, winning seats twice on the El Paso City Council and three times in the U.S. House.

His appeal, for some, is rooted in his laid-back demeanor.

O’Rourke rides his skateboard into rallies, sweats through all of his t-shirts and livestreams videos of himself jamming to “The Who” after his senatorial debates. He may be a career politician, but he’s tried to craft himself for a new era of voters and politics in America.

O’Rourke embraced the progressive agenda from the beginning. According to the Dallas News, O’Rourke recruited progressives for a liberal city council, aiming to work on issues like urban sprawl and development.

O’Rourke has been candid about his 1998 DWI arrest, saying in an August 2017 interview with the Palestine Herald-Press, “I have no excuse for my behavior then. However, since then, I have used my opportunities to serve my community and my state. I’m grateful for the second chance and believe we all deserve second chances.”

He has pinned his platform on education reform, health care, and immigration.

His steadfast embrace of the non-traditional has built him a strong base, but in a deep-red state with a powerful incumbent, he has encountered pushback from a conservative-leaning electorate. Recent polls show him falling behind Cruz in a large single-digit lead.

O’Rourke has signaled his intention to continue his fight to turn the seat blue, saying that he will not share the millions he raised in the third quarter with other candidates, in hopes to close the widening gap between him and Cruz.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump asserts migrant caravan headed to US includes ‘unknown Middle Easterners,’ offers no evidence

Posted on: October 22nd, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — As thousands of Central American children, parents, elderly and other adults intent on migrating to the United States awoke from a night sleeping on concrete in far-southern Mexico, President Donald Trump resumed tweeting about the migrant caravan as the fault of Democrats and a danger to the U.S.

The caravan of migrants mostly from Guatemala and Honduras bedded down Sunday night on the concrete of a town square in Mexico but awoke Monday determined to resume their arduous journey to the U.S. border still some 1,700 miles away.

Trump meanwhile in a series of tweets asserted that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” are amid the crowd, for which he offered no evidence. He also again said Democrats are to blame for not working with his administration on immigration reform.

“Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws! Remember the Midterms! So unfair to those who come in legally,” Trump tweeted Monday morning.

He went on to tweet that the Mexican federal police, who have been monitoring the caravan since the crowds breached a fence Friday at the Mexico-Guatemalan border and pushed past border patrol agents, have been unable to stop the sea of humanity.

“Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States,” Trump tweeted Monday. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in. I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy. Must change laws!”

Trump offered no evidence that anyone from the Middle East is with the Central American migrants. An ABC News crew traveling with the group has also seen no evidence to support the president’s claim.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, dismissed Trump’s claim as a diversion from other issues, particularly health care, ahead of the midterm elections.

The migrants, many of whom are trudging north on worn shoes or bare feet, with some fainting from dehydration along the way say they are fleeing violence and murderous gangs in their homelands.

They have been warned by Mexican federal officials that they entered the country illegally and have been advised to go to shelters and apply for asylum to legally remain in the country, at least temporarily.

But many of the those in the caravan told ABC News that they believe the offer of asylum is a ruse to round them up for deportation.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Republicans trumpet pre-existing condition protections despite votes to repeal Obamacare

Posted on: October 21st, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — In the final weeks of the 2018 midterm campaign, Republican candidates across the country have released ads touting concerns about maintaining protections for people with pre-existing conditions, even as their party and the current administration have moved repeatedly to weaken the anti-pricing-discrimination laws.

In more than 20 competitive districts from California to Iowa to North Carolina, Republicans in tight federal House and Senate races have released new television and digital ad spots that look similar to one from Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

“Steve Chabot is fighting to help reduce health care premiums by up to 30 percent and guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions have access to quality care,” the advertisement states.

But like many Republicans, Chabot voted repeatedly to roll back the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — at one point co-sponsoring a 2013 bill to repeal the health care law, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions that prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage based on a previous diagnosis.

Chabot also voted in favor of the 2017 American Health Care Act (AHCA), the Republican bill intended to replace the ACA.

The AHCA failed to pass in the Senate, but would have eliminated premium limits on those with pre-existing conditions set under the ACA, often referred to as “Obamacare.”

Though those with pre-existing conditions would not have been denied coverage outright, an analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that more than 6 million people who fall into that category would likely face higher premiums and surcharges under the Republican plan.

“Republicans have voted consistently to protect those with pre-existing conditions and Democrats saying otherwise are not telling the truth,” said National Republican Congressional Committee spokesperson Matt Gorman, in a statement to ABC News.

Democrats argue that the claims in the Republicans’ ads, including Chabot’s ads, are misleading. While the AHCA would have prevented insurers from limiting access to those with pre-existing conditions, the increasing costs could have unintentionally forced many off their plans anyway, health care experts warned.

“Democrats have used facts to aggressively define the terms of the health care debate,” said Molly Mitchell, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Facing the toughest re-elections of their careers, House Republicans have resorted to outright lies about their health care records.”

According to data gathered by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and confirmed by ABC News, the following Republicans in competitive races, Chabot included, all voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pass the ACHA, but have also, in the final months of their midterm campaigns, released ads targeted to people with pre-existing conditions:

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.
Rep. John Faso, R-N.Y.
Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio
Rep. George Holding, R-N.C.
Rep. French Hill, R-Ark.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.
Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Pa.
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas
Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kan.
Rep. David Young, R-Iowa

Several others have made similar claims in interviews and debates, according to ABC News research.

On Chabot’s campaign website, the congressman asserts that “the American people deserve better than Obamacare,” arguing that “costs continue to skyrocket and far too many people are unable to purchase coverage for their families.”

But when his health care issue statement pivots to note that his supported legislation “guaranteed coverage with pre-existing conditions,” it says nothing of the associated projected cost increases.

“The goal of the Republican plan is to bring insurance premiums down,” wrote Chabot in a May 2017 blog post.

In addition to legislation in Congress, the Trump administration, too, has made it easier for insurance companies to discriminate against people based on medical history.

One such action includes a move to extend the sale of short-term insurance policies, specifically limited by the Obama administration. The short-term plans are not subject to the same regulations and requirements as other, longer-term insurance plans, meaning that not only can those with pre-existing conditions be denied access to these plans outright, but by taking people without previous medical diagnoses out of the larger market, those with conditions who need more fulsome insurance will likely see a hike in their rates.

Republicans argue that the changes are acts of deregulation, intended to wrest control of the industry from the federal government’s hands and allow for more competition.

“Restoring consumer choice… would provide more affordable alternatives and allow for consumer options in the event individuals in that market develop illnesses,” wrote a group of 35 Republican senators, led by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in a letter to Trump Cabinet officials this summer encouraging the change.

Earlier this month, Democratic senators forced a vote to try and stop the administration from expanding the sale of these short-term plans, but the proposition failed in a 50-50 vote along party lines. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, was the only Republican to vote with Democrats on the issue.

According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, 82 percent of Americans consider health care to be a top-tier issue for them this election cycle, and by a margin of 53-35, voters say they trust Democrats more on the issue.

The Trump administration also supported several states this year in a lawsuit filed against the federal government claiming that parts of the current Obamacare law are unconstitutional, including, specifically, the protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Josh Hawley, the current attorney general of Missouri and the state’s Republican candidate for Senate, is one of 20 GOP state officials who joined a federal lawsuit earlier this year that could end Obamacare and those protections. Hawley, like many Republican House candidates, has come under considerable attack this month for a last-minute health care ad that shows him with his family.

“Earlier this year we learned that our oldest [son] has a rare chronic disease, a pre-existing condition. We know what that is like,” Hawley says in the ad. “I support forcing insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions.”

The ad prompted some rebukes when it first aired.

“Republicans have never lacked for chutzpah, which is what it takes to file a lawsuit intended to take away protections for pre-existing conditions, and then run a soft-focus ad about how committed you are to protecting those with pre-existing conditions,” Washington Post opinion writer, Paul Waldman, wrote last month.

Hawley, like some other Republicans, has argued that protections for afflicted groups and the continued enforcement of the ACA are not mutually exclusive.

“We don’t have to have Obamacare in order to cover people with pre-existing conditions,” Hawley told reporters as he defended the balancing act on a press call earlier this month. He added he had no regrets about being a part of the lawsuit.

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Texas Senate showdown: Cruz and O’Rourke talk presidential ambitions, border politics

Posted on: October 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(HOUSTON) — In the midst of a fiery and critical U.S. Senate race in Texas, Republican Senator Ted Cruz and his opponent Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke each sat down with ABC News’ Paula Faris ahead of the November midterm election, opening up about presidential ambitions, the politics of immigration and President Donald Trump.

Cruz, who just two years ago was running against Trump for president, deflected questions about his 2016 campaign trail battles with Trump. At different times during that campaign, Cruz called Trump “utterly amoral,” “a serial philanderer” and a “pathological liar.”

Nor was he inclined to respond to Trump’s campaign trail attacks on him.

“Look, I have no interest in revisiting the comments of 2016,” he said — calling the campaign “bare-knuckle” with “hard shots on all sides.”

During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, Trump attempted to link the father of the Texas senator, Pastor Rafael Cruz, to Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

Faris, who asked Cruz if he would consider Trump a friend or a foe, stopped short of answering the question.

“He’s the president,” said Cruz. “I work with the president in delivering on our promises.”

‘A country to save’

When Faris asked the elder Cruz if he had moved past the president’s insults, he suggested that it was not the time to be dwelling on the past.

“We have a country to save,” he said. “We have a state to save. And we need to put away our petty differences and stand shoulder to shoulder.”

Trump — who has endorsed Cruz’s campaign — is scheduled to arrive into Houston for the senator’s Monday rally. Cruz, in turn, said he would campaign for the president during his 2020 re-election bid.

When Faris asked if the senator would say unequivocally that he would serve his entire second term, Cruz said “absolutely.”

Cruz has wavered on this point in the past.

With the 2020 presidential race drawing nearer, there was at least one thing opponents O’Rourke and Cruz could agree on.

When asked if he would ever run for president, O’Rourke said no, partly in deference to his family.

“We can’t be out on the road for another two years. Nor would I want [to]. Nor do I think that’s right,” he said, in reference to his wife and two young kids.

“We’ve seen the consequence of a junior senator who leaves the state to pursue the presidency — leaves our priorities. our opportunities, our needs — behind,” O’Rourke said, in a veiled reference to the unsuccessful presidential campaign that Cruz — Texas’s junior senator — ran in 2016.

“I want to make sure that I’m there — every single day, for every single one of us.”

ABC NewsWith immigration taking center stage in Texas politics and a caravan of asylum seekers heading for the southern U.S. border with Mexico, Cruz believes law enforcement should intervene.

“If you’ve got 4,000 people trying to cross illegally at one point, of course we should have the law enforcement resources to stop that,” Cruz said. “That’s simple, common sense.”

O’Rourke disagrees.

“If things are so desperate — in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador — that someone would risk their lives to come here, then what can we do to improve conditions there?”

Early voting in Texas begins on Monday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Bernie Sanders swings through Iowa in final midterm sprint

Posted on: October 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — As part of an aggressive campaign swing in the final weeks of the 2018 midterms, Sen. Bernie Sanders will return to the state of Iowa this weekend, looking to boost a Democratic congressional hopeful that is trying to flip the state’s most conservative district to blue.

Sanders will campaign on Saturday and Sunday with J.D. Scholten, the Democratic candidate in Iowa’s 4th Congressional District against GOP Rep. Steve King, a conservative provocateur and fervent supporter of President Trump known for his hard-line rhetoric and positions on immigration.

The district is the most Republican in the state, according to statistics from the Iowa secretary of state. And despite his penchant for generating controversy, King has only failed to win 60 percent or more of the vote in his district during his nearly 16-year congressional career.

Then-candidate Donald Trump won the district by more than 27 points in the 2016 election, but Scholten, a first-time candidate and former professional baseball player, has significantly out-fundraised King in the final stretch of the campaign, hauling in more than four times the $151,673 King raised in the third quarter of 2018, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

FiveThirtyEight rates the race as “Likely Republican,” giving King a seven-in-eight chance to win re-election.

The swing begins in the far western part of the state with a rally in Sioux City, with additional events planned in Fort Dodge and Ames, including a Social Security town hall and an appearance at the Iowa State University homecoming parade, according to Scholten’s campaign.

King once again sparked outrage this week by praising a candidate for Toronto mayor, Faith Goldy, who appeared on a podcast produced by a Neo-Nazi website during last year’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Scholten condemned King’s support for Goldy, writing on Twitter, “Once again, Steve King spends more time supporting far-right leaders in other countries than he does focusing on the needs of the people of our district.”

The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, endorsed Scholten in his challenge to King last week, sharply criticizing the Republican incumbent.

“This one’s a no-brainer for any Iowan who has cringed at eight-term incumbent King’s increasing obsession with being a cultural provocateur,” the Register‘s editorial board wrote, “In his almost 16 years in Congress, King has passed exactly one bill as primary sponsor, redesignating a post office. He won’t debate his opponent and rarely holds public town halls. Instead, he spends his time meeting with fascist leaders in Europe and retweeting neo-Nazis.”

GovTrack, a site that tracks the activities of the U.S. Congress, confirms that King has indeed only been the primary sponsor of exactly one piece of legislation: H.R. 2758, which redesignated a post office in Glenwood, Iowa, as the “William J. Scherle Post Office Building.”

Sanders’ swing sparks 2020 speculation

The trip for Sanders is part of an aggressive, nine-state campaign blitz that the Vermont senator’s team announced last week and began on Friday with a campaign rally in Bloomington, Indiana, for congressional candidate Liz Watson.

“It is a diversity of Democrats on the list from some people who are unabashedly progressive to some who are progressive but not totally aligned with Bernie on every issue,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ former presidential campaign manager and current adviser, told ABC News in a phone interview last week.

Sanders is also campaigning in South Carolina on Saturday, and has stops planned in Wisconsin, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and California in the coming weeks, as speculation that he could be mounting another presidential bid in 2020 continues.

But Sanders is not the only 2020 Democratic contender visiting Iowa in the coming days.

California Sen. Kamala Harris is making her first trip to the Hawkeye State early next week, where she will rally with congressional candidate Cindy Axne in the state’s 3rd Congressional District and other Democratic hopefuls during her two-day swing.

Harris is set to campaign in the central and eastern parts of the state, including stops in Des Moines, Cedar Falls, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

“There is so much on the line this year,” Harris said in a statement released by the Iowa Democratic Party this week. “We have seen how Republicans sow the seeds of hate and division throughout our country over the last two years.”

“Now it’s time to hold them accountable, at every level of government — and Iowans know that better than anyone. I’m excited to be coming to Iowa to make sure everyone uses the most powerful tool we can as Americans — our votes — to make real change in Iowa and in our country.”

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President Trump blames Democrats for migrant group heading north

Posted on: October 20th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Ralph Freso/Getty Images(MESA, Ariz.) — As a caravan of about 3,000 migrants from Central America heads toward the U.S. border, President Donald Trump blamed the Democrats on Friday for the surge in illegal border crossings at a rally in Mesa, Arizona.

“Democrats believe that illegal border crossers should be set free,” Trump said, though he did not identify any Democrats who have said this by name. “Democrats believe our country should be a giant sanctuary city for criminal aliens.”

Trump was stumping for Republican candidates in the state where security along the U.S.-Mexican border is a critical issue for voters.

“Democrats want to throw your borders wide open to criminals; I wanna build a wall,” Trump said. “The Democrats don’t care that a flood of illegal immigration is going to bankrupt our country.”

Arizona is the second stop on the president’s western swing. On Thursday, Trump stumped for Republicans in Montana. On Saturday, he heads to Elko, Nevada, for another rally.

Trump won Arizona by a little over 3 percentage points in the 2016 general election. Republican Senate candidate Rep. Martha McSally is neck to neck in the polls with her Democratic challenger, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, to fill the seat vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

The outcome of the hotly contested race could determine which party controls the Senate. The Republicans currently control the Senate by a two-seat majority.

Even though Sinema has positioned herself as a moderate, Trump called her a “far-left extremist” who would vote along party lines on Friday. He claimed that Sinema is against the border wall and supports sanctuary cities, even though Sinema has called for increased border security, including a physical barrier, but has called the wall “an 18th-century solution.”

“A vote for Kyrsten Sinema is a wasted vote, but more importantly, it’s a dangerous vote,” Trump said to the raucous crowd.

Trump did not mention the death of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

He did return to attacking Sen. Elizabeth Warren over her Native American ancestry. For the second straight rally — in a state with the country’s second-largest Native American population — he attacked the Massachusetts senator for taking a DNA test that strongly supported she had an “unadmixed Native American ancestor” in her pedigree from six to 10 generations ago.

“We’re gonna have to come up with another name; I can’t use the word Pocahontas anymore,” he said. “I have more Indian blood than she has, and I have none.”

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Trump wades into California water wars, calls for diverting water to farmers in central valley

Posted on: October 19th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is wading into California’s water wars, demanding speedy action by the federal government to divert much-needed water resources to Republican-leaning farmers in California’s central valley — a move sure to infuriate left-leaning environmentalists on the west coast.

Signing a presidential memorandum in Arizona Friday afternoon, the president set into motion a plan that’s expected to benefit farmers who have complained about water restrictions intended to protect endangered fish and other species.

“This is a vital action … to improve access to water in the American West,” President Trump said, signing the memorandum. “They’ve taken it away, they have so much water and they don’t know what to do with it and they send it out to sea.”

Republicans quickly responded, calling the decision a clear win for communities in the West.

Environmentalists argue that diverting water to farmers will decimate endangered Delta smelt and Chinook Salmon. The president’s action Friday will speed up the environmental review and approval process needed to create the infrastructure needed to divert the water.

Earlier this year, as 17 fires ravaged California, Trump falsely claimed that the state government was mismanaging water supplies that should be available to fight the infernos, even though firefighters there said access to water was not a problem.

Environmentalists feared at the time that the president was using the wildfires as a smokescreen for wading into a deeply controversial fight between farmers and conservationists.

The memo Trump signed Friday calls on the Interior Department and Commerce Department to speed up infrastructure projects, including water desalination and recycling, and clarify how to manage water while continuing to follow environmental laws and the Endangered Species Act.

“The big problem was the federal approvals that were un-gettable and now they are very gettable and we’re going to have them in a very short period of time,” Trump said.

“This will move things along at a record clip, and you have a lot of water, I hope you enjoy the water that you’re going to have … great for the farmers, great for the people, great for recreation,” Trump said.

The president’s action is sure to anger the local authorities in California, who will see this as federal overreach, but it’s also sure to please his political allies in the state with midterms just two-and-a-half weeks away.

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Support for the military critical issue on both sides of the Arizona Senate race

Posted on: October 19th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(PHOENIX) — Arizona was represented by an American war hero for decades, and now the military is playing a role in Arizonans’ search for their next senator as well.

The Senate seat that will be filled by the state’s first female senator come November is not the one left open by the passing of Sen. John McCain, but his military legacy, and the pride that Arizonans put in military service, is clear.

Bumper stickers denoting military branches are a regular sight in Phoenix. Earlier this month, a stall selling flags at the state fair prominently displayed the iconic black-and-white flag dedicated to prisoners of war and those missing in action. Arizona prides itself as the state with the sixth-highest number of active duty Air Force personnel, according to June 2018 figures from the Department of Defense.

Military pride has permeated the Senate campaign between Republican Rep. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, and their ties to the military has become an issue for supporters.

McSally was the nation’s first female fighter pilot to serve in combat, and hints of her 26 years of service have trickled in throughout her campaign.

She uses militaristic language in her speeches, likening parts of the campaign to air wars and ground wars, and talking about her current “deployment” in Washington. She wore a silver pendant of an A-10 Warthog plane for the debate on Monday. And most recently, President Donald Trump noted her service in an email that he sent to her supporters ahead of their rally together in Mesa on Friday night.

The military theme extends into the crowd as well, as supporters at a recent rally wore t-shirts with the phrases “fly, fight, win” and “Martha’s wingman.”

At that rally, where she stood alongside former Gov. Mitt Romney on Oct. 12, she said that “part of our culture as veterans” means that “we just run into gunfire, not away from it. We’re the ones that run into the toughest battles.”

She’s now battling Sinema, regularly drawing a contrast between their levels of service by calling it a contest between “a patriot and a protester.”

In that, McSally is referencing Sinema’s time protesting the Iraq War in 2003, before she started her political career. Sinema’s protesting past was the subject of one of the most damning ads of the Arizona election, wherein Sinema is shown protesting in a pink tutu while McSally is pictured in her Air Force uniform.

To leave the comparison at that, however, would be misleading.

Sinema has personal ties to the military as well, as one of her brothers is a Marine and another is a sailor. She also has made veteran’s affairs issues a focus of her work in Congress, and was one of the leaders calling for reform at the VA in the spring of 2014 after news broke of misconduct at the Phoenix VA — it had happened before McSally was in Congress.

Where voters stand will be determined on election day, when exit polls will show which voters listed the military as their top priority and which candidate gets their vote.

For Chris Brant, a McSally supporter, he has a personal connection to the A-10 Warthog, a plane that McSally flew while in uniform and allocated appropriations funds for while in Congress.

Brant is originally British, a veteran of the Royal Marines, and became a U.S. citizen in 1983.

“The A-10 came in and rescued wounded Royal Marines in Afghanistan,” Brant said, while wearing a green Royal Marines beret and a red McSally t-shirt at the rally with Romney.

Brant’s niece, Adrenne Kelley, 37, accompanied him to the event and also cited McSally’s “honorable service” as a selling point. Kelley’s spouse is a U.S. Marine.

Vermelle Bibler, a 76-year-old McSally supporter, identified herself as a Gold Star widow who appreciates McSally’s service.

“I always lean toward somebody in the military plus I like her better than Kyrsten Sinema,” Bibler said.

That said, the appreciation of McSally’s service extends across party lines.

“I support the fact she was a military person, and the fact that I’m proud of her that she’s a woman. However, that’s where my support ends,” Bernie Williams, a Democrat protesting the McSally-Romney rally, told ABC News. “However, that’s where my support ends.”

Gregg Gordon, 71, is a disabled veteran who was injured while fighting in the Vietnam War. He and his wife, Linda, opened the doors to their home to volunteers who used their home as a base of operations for a door-knocking event for Arizona Democrats on Sunday, Oct. 14.

He said that his support for Sinema stems from his respect for her work in addressing the crisis at the Phoenix Veteran’s Affairs Office in 2014. He worked there at the time and remembers seeing Sinema and McCain visit the VA to make sure the issue was addressed.

“They cared about veterans and what happened,” Gordon said.

Caleb Hayter, 28, is a member of a group called Veterans for Sinema. An Afghanistan veteran and a current Congressional constituent of McSally’s, he said that he respects McSally but is going to be voting for her opponent.

“I’m not begrudging Congresswoman McSally’s service and I think she has every right to talk about her service. I appreciate her service,” Hayter said. “However, what I’m looking at this November is two different ideas of what service should be as a U.S. senator. I think that if a person is going to serve in politics as an elected official, then they have to put the interests of their constituents first.”

He added, “Because of her record and her ideology I wouldn’t trust her to put the interests of veterans ahead of the interests of her fellow ideologues and her campaign donors.”

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Russian woman charged with alleged ‘information warfare’ against US midterms

Posted on: October 19th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Roman Babakin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Federal authorities have charged a Russian woman for allegedly taking part in a Russian plot to influence public opinion over the upcoming 2018 midterms elections and other politically-charged events inside the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.

“The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” the U.S. attorney overseeing the case, Zach Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

According to prosecutors, 44-year-old Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova of St. Petersburg, Russia, served as the chief accountant of a $35 million effort to conduct “information warfare” against the United States and elsewhere using social media and other online sites.

Operating under an umbrella organization called “Project Lakhta,” Khusyaynova and her alleged conspirators used fake identities online to pretend to be “ordinary American political activists,” prosecutors said.

Their postings did not exclusively reflect one ideological viewpoint, and the operatives were directed to create “political intensity through supporting radical groups” and to “aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population,” the Justice Department said.

They allegedly focused on such topics as immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women’s March, and the NFL national anthem debate.

And, according to the Justice Department, they “took advantage of specific events in the United States to anchor their themes,” including the racially-motivated shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church three years ago that left nine people dead, and the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally last year that left one woman dead.

Project Lakhta is allegedly funded by Russian oligarch and associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, and two companies he controls. Those companies have been indicted in a separate case by special counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly taking part in the massive Russian campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. They have pleaded not guilty to the charge against them and are fighting the case in court.

In his own statement, FBI Director Chris Wray said the case “serves as a stark reminder to all Americans: Our foreign adversaries continue their efforts to interfere in our democracy … [and] we must remain diligent and determined to protect our democratic institutions and maintain trust in our electoral process.”

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US and South Korea suspend more military exercises

Posted on: October 19th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ByoungJoo/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The United States and South Korea said Friday they have decided to suspend another joint military exercise to give more breathing room for ongoing denuclearization talks with North Korea.

The Pentagon announced Defense Secretary James Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo had agreed to put off this year’s version of Vigilant Ace, a large-scale air exercise slated for December.

“Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to suspend Exercise VIGILANT ACE to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue,” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokesperson.

“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” she added.

Both Mattis and Jeong had met earlier Friday in Singapore on the sidelines of the ASEAN security meeting.

Last year’s version of the annual Vigilant Air exercise included the participation of 230 aircraft and more than 12,000 personnel. Some of the United States Air Force’s most sophisticated aircraft participated in the exercise, including the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.

Occurring just days after North Korea’s successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the east coast of the United States, North Korea blasted the exercise as being a provocation.

The suspension of this year’s Vigilant Air exercise marks the second time that the U.S. and South Korea have agreed to put off an annual large-scale military exercise in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore this past June.

Trump’s pledge to stop ‘war games’ with South Korea throws critical exercises into question

A month after that summit, the United States and South Korea announced they would suspend the large Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise scheduled for August.

Mattis has said the “good faith effort” of suspending that exercise was not open-ended and that he wanted to wait and see how future negotiations with North Korea progress before making a decision about future large-scale exercises, particularly the Foal Eagle exercise scheduled for the spring.

In September, Mattis said there had suspension of previous exercises had had a “negligible” effect on the readiness of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

White said on Friday that Mattis and Jeong “pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises.”

Mattis consulted Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya ahead of the joint U.S. and South Korean announcement. White said “they reaffirmed their commitment to regional security.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

US and South Korea suspend more military exercises

Posted on: October 19th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ByoungJoo/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The United States and South Korea said Friday they have decided to suspend another joint military exercise to give more breathing room for ongoing denuclearization talks with North Korea.

The Pentagon announced Defense Secretary James Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo had agreed to put off this year’s version of Vigilant Ace, a large-scale air exercise slated for December.

“Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to suspend Exercise VIGILANT ACE to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue,” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokesperson.

“Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces,” she added.

Both Mattis and Jeong had met earlier Friday in Singapore on the sidelines of the ASEAN security meeting.

Last year’s version of the annual Vigilant Air exercise included the participation of 230 aircraft and more than 12,000 personnel. Some of the United States Air Force’s most sophisticated aircraft participated in the exercise, including the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.

Occurring just days after North Korea’s successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the east coast of the United States, North Korea blasted the exercise as being a provocation.

The suspension of this year’s Vigilant Air exercise marks the second time that the U.S. and South Korea have agreed to put off an annual large-scale military exercise in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore this past June.

Trump’s pledge to stop ‘war games’ with South Korea throws critical exercises into question

A month after that summit, the United States and South Korea announced they would suspend the large Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise scheduled for August.

Mattis has said the “good faith effort” of suspending that exercise was not open-ended and that he wanted to wait and see how future negotiations with North Korea progress before making a decision about future large-scale exercises, particularly the Foal Eagle exercise scheduled for the spring.

In September, Mattis said there had suspension of previous exercises had had a “negligible” effect on the readiness of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

White said on Friday that Mattis and Jeong “pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises.”

Mattis consulted Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya ahead of the joint U.S. and South Korean announcement. White said “they reaffirmed their commitment to regional security.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Heidi Heitkamp fends off attacks from Kevin Cramer over voting record in first North Dakota Senate debate

Posted on: October 19th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(BISMARK, N.D.) — The first debate in a Senate race that could shape up to be one of the most critical in the country was largely an argument over which candidate would be less beholden to politics and stand up more for the people of North Dakota.

“I ran six years ago and I said, ‘I’m not joining any team.’ I’m not 100 percent with anyone other than North Dakota,” said Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in the debate against her Republican challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer.

But Cramer sought to paint a different picture, calling Heitkamp’s bipartisanship an “illusion.”

“Donald Trump stands with North Dakota more often than Heidi Keitkamp stands with North Dakota,” he said during the debate, which aired across the state Thursday night.

Heitkamp is a Democrat running for re-election in a state President Donald Trump won handily in 2016. It is forcing the senator to maintain a tough balance, and recent public polling shows Heitkamp behind Cramer by double digits — a fact she likes to say was also reported when she won in 2012 by only about 3,000 votes.

Because Democrats need to not only defend 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016, but also pick up two seats in reliably Republican states in order to take control of the chamber, Heitkamp’s seat is key.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s voter power index, North Dakota’s voters are the most powerful in the country.

And in order to come out victorious, Heitkamp will have to win over voters on both sides of the aisle and go up against the Trump-endorsed Cramer, who benefits from the president’s popularity in the state.

“When one team is so much better for North Dakota than the other team, you don’t abandon the good team half the time just to say you’re only with ‘em half the time,” Cramer said, knocking Heitkamp’s work across the aisle.

“[Trump’s] on the right side of North Dakota, that’s what matters,” he said.

Speaking after the debate, Heitkamp called the strategy “ridiculous.”

“When you look at my history and my record with the president, I’ve attended many signing ceremonies, worked with the administration. He knows that,” said Heitkamp, who votes in line with Trump around 54 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker.

“And so, you know, I think people see through that,” she added.

Heitkamp hammered her moderate voting record in the debate, shedding light on her bipartisan accomplishments and diverting Cramer’s attempts to pair a vote for him with support for the president.

“I think it’s interesting that Congressman Cramer talks about President Trump. Why not talk about what you’ve done, why not talk about your accomplishments, why not about your bipartisan credibility?” asked Heitkamp.

“Because when you look at rankings, no matter what he says, I’m 50th-most conservative and 49th-most liberal,” Heitkamp said.

She compared moderates in the Senate to “connective tissue in between that stops gridlock” and said they are the ones “trying to get things done and do get things done.”

But Cramer called it a “tricky game.”

“This is the thing, she’s with them when we don’t need her. She’s never been with them when we needed the vote. And that’s the problem,” he said in an interview after the debate.

The #MeToo movement has also played a role in each of the two candidates’ campaigns, and Cramer was quick to hit Heitkamp for voting “no” on Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“You vote against Brett Kavanaugh when 64 percent of your constituents want you to vote for Brett Kavanaugh?” he asked rhetorically in an interview after the debate.

He also called out Heitkamp for running an advertisement that inadvertently outed women who were victims of sexual assault, which she opened the debate by apologizing for.

“I just thought it was really important to begin, to just say, ‘I’m sorry,’” Heitkamp said of the decision to use her opening statement to apologize.

Asked if the mistake might lose her votes with Independent women, a key bloc of support in the state, Heitkamp said it wasn’t about votes.

“This really for me isn’t about the election. This is about, ‘I made a bad mistake, my campaign made a bad mistake, and I need to own it, and I need to do everything possible to fix it,” she said.

“So that’s not about getting votes or losing votes. That’s about making amends,” she added.

But while Cramer criticized the intent of the ad as a play toward “identity politics,” he also addressed his own comments over the #MeToo movement that landed him in hot water recently. In comments to The New York Times, he said the women in his family “cannot understand this movement toward victimization” because they are “tough.”

Heitkamp responded tearfully, when first asked about Cramer’s comments in early October, and said her own mother, a victim of sexual assault, was no less tough because of it.

“We say all politics is local, I think all politics is personal,” Heitkamp said after the debate Thursday. “In North Dakota, what they want is they want someone who has integrity, they want someone who knows how to talk to people and knows the opportunities that we should be pursuing for the state.”

Cramer, speaking separately, pointed to a different quality he thinks voters appreciate — and defended his comments to The New York Times.

“What I think North Dakotans like is they like common sense,” he said.

“And when a movement becomes so extreme that it’s now hurting the very cause and the people that it states that it’s helping, North Dakotans see through that quickly. And when you call it out, in Washington they think it’s a gaffe. Here they think it’s somebody talking to them,” Cramer said.

Both Heitkamp and Cramer also described health care and tariffs as key issues for voters in the state. Heitkamp is aiming to preserve the Affordable Care Act while Cramer wants to replace it, and Heitkamp is against Trump’s tariffs while Cramer supports the president’s efforts.

“Tariffs are a key issue in the media, and they are a key issue certainly to the people directly affected, but even most of them, soybean farmers, as an example, strongly support Donald Trump,” Cramer said.

“I used to say I’m the chief bitcher about these tariffs because they are so wrong for North Dakota,” Heitkamp said in contrast. “These tariffs are going to decimate a very critical and important market for one of our most important cash crops: soybeans.”

Over the summer, the Trump administration announced tariffs of 10 percent on more than $200 billion of imported Chinese goods. The response from China hit Trump country specifically, with tariffs on billions of dollars of American products, including soybeans.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Outgoing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley introduced as ‘next president of the US’ at charity dinner

Posted on: October 19th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley poked fun at President Donald Trump, his longtime rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other high-profile politicians in a lighthearted speech on Thursday.

Haley showed off her aptitude for keeping a secret last week with a shocking resignation announcement, but she displayed a brand new talent during her speech in New York City on Thursday as she assumed the role of a comedian for the night.

“Two years ago Trump was here and made some waves with his remarks, so last year you went with Paul Ryan, who’s a Boy Scout and that’s fine, but a little boring. So this year, you wanted to spice things up again,” she quipped after being introduced as the “next president of the United States.”

Haley kept the crowd entertained during her keynote speech at the Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a fundraiser for impoverished children, and she even touched on the president’s ongoing feud with Warren, D-Mass., over the senator’s Native American ancestry.

“I get it, you wanted an Indian woman, but Elizabeth Warren failed her DNA test,” joked Haley, whose parents emigrated from Punjab, India. “Actually, when the president found out that I was Indian American, he asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren.”

Haley, who will keep her post at the U.N. until the end of the year, acknowledged that she had tough shoes to fill as keynote speaker, an honor most-recently bestowed to House Speaker Ryan, Trump and Hillary Clinton.

“I really am super excited to be at the Al Smith Dinner. As a member of the Trump Cabinet, it is a thrill to be out to dinner without being harassed,” Haley said. “Actually the president called me this morning and gave me some really good advice.

“He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N., I got to tell you.” she added, referring to an incident at the U.N. General Assembly last month when audience members laughed after Trump said his “administration has accomplished more than almost any in the history of our country.”

Haley also made light of her role as America’s ambassador in a joke about “the most important thing” she learned working under Trump.

“I learned that the U.N. has 193 member nations, 180 of which are mad at us on any given day, and the most important thing I learned is that with all of our differences there is still one thing that unites all 193 countries: At one point every single one of them was paying Paul Manafort,” she said, referring to Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was convicted on federal money laundering charges.

The former South Carolina governor also delivered punchlines about rapper Kanye West and Trump’s embattled attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

“Jeff Sessions wanted to be here but he recused himself,” she said. “Actually I saw Jeff Sessions earlier today, but not in New York, I saw him on LinkedIn looking for a job.”

The Al Smith Dinner, a white-tie gala featuring prominent politicians, was one of Haley’s first appearances since announcing her resignation in an Oval Office meeting with the president Oct. 9.

“She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump during the meeting. “We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose you.”

Haley said her working with the U.N. was an “honor of a lifetime” and said she would continue to support Trump as “a private citizen.”

“I expect to continue to speak out from time to time on important public policy matters, but I will surely not be a candidate for any office in 2020,” she said following her announcement. “As a private citizen, I look forward to supporting your re-election as president and supporting the policies that will continue to move our great country toward even greater heights.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

At Montana rally, President Trump praises Greg Gianforte for body-slamming reporter

Posted on: October 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump kicked off a western tour in Montana on Thursday ostensibly to support Matt Rosendale as he attempts to unseat Sen. Jon Tester, but it was his praise for House Greg Gianforte’s physical assault on a reporter that stole the show.

Gianforte is running for re-election as the state’s lone seat in the House of Representatives, and made national headlines during a special electionfor assaulting a reporter in a moment caught on audio tape.

“Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” Trump said to cheers.

“I was in Rome with leaders when I heard about it, and I heard that he body-slammed a reporter,” Trump said.

Trump said he was afraid Gianforte would lose after the moment, but then recalled, “Wait a moment, I know Montana.”

Gianforte pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service for the incident. He apologized on the night of his election victory, saying, “When you make a mistake you have to own it.”

For Trump, the Montana Senate race is personal.

Trump came to Montana on the attack against Tester, a two-term Democratic senator, who is in a close race against Matt Rosendale, the current state auditor.

The president has made it his mission to unseat Tester, whose office publically released information about alleged misconduct that led to White House physician Adm. Ronny Jackson’s failed nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jackson denied allegations of misconduct and that he overprescribed medications, but eventually withdrew his name from consideration. Trump never forgot.

“That’s really why I’m here,” Trump said. “I can never forget what Jon Tester did to a man of the highest quality. It was vicious.”

The president spoke at length about immigration and falsely said that Democrats are supporting a caravan of immigrants traveling up from Central America.

“They wanted that caravan and there are those who say that caravan didn’t just happen, it didn’t just happen. A lot of reasons that caravan — 4,000 people — but I just want to thank the Mexican government because they’re stopping it hopefully before it ever gets to Mexico,” Trump said.

“As you know, I’m willing to send the military to defend our Southern border if necessary all because of the illegal immigration onslaught brought by the Democrats because they refuse to acknowledge or to change the laws — they like it,” Trump said.

Trump said that the midterm elections will be “an election of Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order and common sense — that’s what it’s going to be.”

At times, the president veered off script, talking about the first lady’s trip to Africa and controversy over her pith hat (“I think she bought it in Los Angeles!”) and fake allegations he wears a toupee (“He wears a hair piece”).

But then he would swerve back on course to talking about Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test in a state home to many Indian reservations: “It’s too bad because I can’t call her Pocahontas anymore.”

While Trump comfortably won the Big Sky state by 20 points, Tester, a moderate Democrat, maintains a slight lead in what has become one of the most expensive political contests in the small state’s history as millions of dollars have poured into Montana. It’s the president’s third trip to Montana, and Tester is only a few points ahead of Rosendale in recent polls.

Tester has touted a bipartisan record in the Senate, even publishing a full-page newspaper ad at the beginning of the summer thanking the president for signing 16 of his bills into law on everything from government waste to veterans affairs.

“We can’t let Jon Tester and the radical liberal agenda win, they’ll go after President Trump,” Rosendale said.

While the president’s ire toward Tester is rooted in Jackson, many of the voters ABC News spoke with before the rally began didn’t seem to know his name.

“I really don’t have any thoughts about him,” Jeffrey Stenger from Polson, Montana, told ABC News.

His wife Lynn jumped in, to remind him he was the White House physician who “got in a spat with Tester.”

“He has a good instinct of reading people, even in the beginning of the election he called people out and said the truth. So far, he hasn’t lied to me,” Stenger said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

President Trump on whether Jamal Khashoggi is dead: ‘certainly looks that way’

Posted on: October 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he is concerned Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi might be dead.

“It certainly looks that way to me,” Trump said as he departed from Joint Base Andrews. “It’s very sad. Certainly looks that way.”

While U.S. officials are awaiting the results of three investigations, the president said he feels confident “we should be able to get to the bottom fairly soon.” He added that he would consider “severe” consequences if oil-rich ally Saudi Arabia was involved.

Vice President Mike Pence went a step further during a stop in Denver earlier in the day and vowed: “the world deserves answers.”

“If what has been alleged has occurred. If an innocent person lost their life at the hands of violence, that’s to be condemned,” Pence said. “If a journalist, in particular, lost their life at the hands of violence, that’s an affront to a free and independent press around the world. And there will be consequences. But we’ll wait for the facts, we’ll wait for all the information to come in.”

The comments from the president and vice president were some of the strongest from the pair to date in the wake of mounting questions over the journalist’s fate. It also adds to the drumbeat of American politicians and business leaders demanding answers and, in the meantime, withdrawing support from Saudi-sponsored functions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took to Twitter Thursday to announce his withdrawal from a Saudi-hosted, major investment forum called the Future Investment Initiative, sometimes referred to as “Davos in the Desert”. He said he made the decision after speaking with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Several business leaders and media companies have also pulled out of the event over concerns about the Khashoggi episode, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, Virgin and its CEO Richard Branson, venture capitalist and AOL co-founder Steve Case, LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, Bloomberg Media, and CNN, among others.

Earlier in the day, Pompeo said he told President Trump that the Saudis should have “a few more days” to complete their investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“We made clear to them that we take this matter with respect to Mr. Khashoggi very seriously,” Pompeo said following his nearly hour-long briefing with the president. “They made clear to me they too understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi. They also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and they will do so in a timely fashion and that this report itself will be transparent for everyone to see, to ask questions about, and to inquire with respect to its thoroughness.”

Trump echoed Pompeo’s comments shortly after, tweeting that the secretary of state met with him Thursday morning and discussed in “great detail” the investigation and meeting with the crown prince.

Pompeo again stressed several times in his statement the “long strategic relationship” the U.S. shares with Saudi Arabia and their status as an “important counter-terrorism supporter.”

He said between the Turkish and Saudi investigations they expect “a complete picture will emerge for what actually transpired here.”

Pressed why the Saudis should be entrusted with an investigation into themselves, Pompeo said: “We’re all going to get to see the work product.”

“We’re all going to get to see the response the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes with this,” Pompeo said. “All of us will get a chance to make the determination… whether it’s fair and transparent in the way they made a personal commitment to me and the Crown Prince made a personal commitment to the president when he spoke to him the night before last.”

Pompeo’s comments also come amid ongoing speculation that Turkey may have audio tapes that reveal what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and royal insider who has been missing for over two weeks after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Pompeo met with Turkish President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu Wednesday but refused to express any doubt or skepticism about the legitimacy of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Following that meeting, Trump stressed that his earlier comments about Saudi Arabia’s denials of any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance were not an attempt to give the oil-rich ally cover.

“No not at all, I just want to find out what’s happening,” Trump told reporters.

Khashoggi, who had been living in the U.S., visited the consulate to file paperwork for his wedding and has not been seen since. Turkish officials allege Khashoggi, who has written critically about the Saudi government, was killed, which the Saudis have fiercely denied.

Turkish officials say that a hit squad of 15 Saudis flew to Istanbul for just hours surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance, and they reportedly claim to have audio recordings of Khashoggi being interrogated and murdered.

Trump told reporters Wednesday the U.S. has asked for the recordings “if it exists.”

“We don’t know if it exists yet. We’ll have a full report when Mike [Pompeo] comes back, that’s going to be one of the first questions I ask him,” he said in the Oval Office.

In his first sit-down interview with U.S. media, a close friend of Khashoggi’s described to ABC News what he’d been told in briefings by Turkish security officials.

“I talked with some Turkish government and security officials and they said Jamal was killed. I didn’t know what to do. I really couldn’t answer. Then I called a few colleagues, again security officials, trying to have them verify it, saying ‘Is this really true?'” Turan Kislakci said Wednesday. “They said, ‘Yes, Turan, and let’s tell you even beyond that, he was killed in a very barbaric way.’ I was shocked. They not only kill him in the consulate, but also in a barbaric way.”

Khashoggi warned of increasing efforts to silence the media in the Middle East in a column he wrote just before he vanished earlier this month. The “final column” was published online Wednesday.

Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for The Washington Post, wrote that Khashoggi’s translator sent the article a day after the journalist disappeared while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

President Trump on whether Jamal Khashoggi is dead: ‘certainly looks that way’

Posted on: October 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he is concerned Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi might be dead.

“It certainly looks that way to me,” Trump said as he departed from Joint Base Andrews. “It’s very sad. Certainly looks that way.”

While U.S. officials are awaiting the results of three investigations, the president said he feels confident “we should be able to get to the bottom fairly soon.” He added that he would consider “severe” consequences if oil-rich ally Saudi Arabia was involved.

Vice President Mike Pence went a step further during a stop in Denver earlier in the day and vowed: “the world deserves answers.”

“If what has been alleged has occurred. If an innocent person lost their life at the hands of violence, that’s to be condemned,” Pence said. “If a journalist, in particular, lost their life at the hands of violence, that’s an affront to a free and independent press around the world. And there will be consequences. But we’ll wait for the facts, we’ll wait for all the information to come in.”

The comments from the president and vice president were some of the strongest from the pair to date in the wake of mounting questions over the journalist’s fate. It also adds to the drumbeat of American politicians and business leaders demanding answers and, in the meantime, withdrawing support from Saudi-sponsored functions.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took to Twitter Thursday to announce his withdrawal from a Saudi-hosted, major investment forum called the Future Investment Initiative, sometimes referred to as “Davos in the Desert”. He said he made the decision after speaking with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Several business leaders and media companies have also pulled out of the event over concerns about the Khashoggi episode, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, Virgin and its CEO Richard Branson, venture capitalist and AOL co-founder Steve Case, LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, Bloomberg Media, and CNN, among others.

Earlier in the day, Pompeo said he told President Trump that the Saudis should have “a few more days” to complete their investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“We made clear to them that we take this matter with respect to Mr. Khashoggi very seriously,” Pompeo said following his nearly hour-long briefing with the president. “They made clear to me they too understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi. They also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and they will do so in a timely fashion and that this report itself will be transparent for everyone to see, to ask questions about, and to inquire with respect to its thoroughness.”

Trump echoed Pompeo’s comments shortly after, tweeting that the secretary of state met with him Thursday morning and discussed in “great detail” the investigation and meeting with the crown prince.

Pompeo again stressed several times in his statement the “long strategic relationship” the U.S. shares with Saudi Arabia and their status as an “important counter-terrorism supporter.”

He said between the Turkish and Saudi investigations they expect “a complete picture will emerge for what actually transpired here.”

Pressed why the Saudis should be entrusted with an investigation into themselves, Pompeo said: “We’re all going to get to see the work product.”

“We’re all going to get to see the response the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes with this,” Pompeo said. “All of us will get a chance to make the determination… whether it’s fair and transparent in the way they made a personal commitment to me and the Crown Prince made a personal commitment to the president when he spoke to him the night before last.”

Pompeo’s comments also come amid ongoing speculation that Turkey may have audio tapes that reveal what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and royal insider who has been missing for over two weeks after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Pompeo met with Turkish President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu Wednesday but refused to express any doubt or skepticism about the legitimacy of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Following that meeting, Trump stressed that his earlier comments about Saudi Arabia’s denials of any involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance were not an attempt to give the oil-rich ally cover.

“No not at all, I just want to find out what’s happening,” Trump told reporters.

Khashoggi, who had been living in the U.S., visited the consulate to file paperwork for his wedding and has not been seen since. Turkish officials allege Khashoggi, who has written critically about the Saudi government, was killed, which the Saudis have fiercely denied.

Turkish officials say that a hit squad of 15 Saudis flew to Istanbul for just hours surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance, and they reportedly claim to have audio recordings of Khashoggi being interrogated and murdered.

Trump told reporters Wednesday the U.S. has asked for the recordings “if it exists.”

“We don’t know if it exists yet. We’ll have a full report when Mike [Pompeo] comes back, that’s going to be one of the first questions I ask him,” he said in the Oval Office.

In his first sit-down interview with U.S. media, a close friend of Khashoggi’s described to ABC News what he’d been told in briefings by Turkish security officials.

“I talked with some Turkish government and security officials and they said Jamal was killed. I didn’t know what to do. I really couldn’t answer. Then I called a few colleagues, again security officials, trying to have them verify it, saying ‘Is this really true?'” Turan Kislakci said Wednesday. “They said, ‘Yes, Turan, and let’s tell you even beyond that, he was killed in a very barbaric way.’ I was shocked. They not only kill him in the consulate, but also in a barbaric way.”

Khashoggi warned of increasing efforts to silence the media in the Middle East in a column he wrote just before he vanished earlier this month. The “final column” was published online Wednesday.

Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for The Washington Post, wrote that Khashoggi’s translator sent the article a day after the journalist disappeared while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

The real problem with Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test: Geneticists

Posted on: October 18th, 2018 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Does Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren really have Native American blood running through her veins?

It’s scientifically impossible to know for sure, according to a collection of leading Native American geneticists, industry experts, research scientists with expertise in indigenous genetics and Native American leaders who spoke with ABC News.

The process of tracing one’s ancestry is still evolving, geneticists told ABC News, and efforts to establish genetic affiliation with an indigenous group like Native Americans are at best thorny and uncertain, and, in the extreme, offensive.

Some experts were critical of Warren’s press conference this week and her latest declarations.

Numerous experts also said that the Native American gene databases are too thin to make definitive conclusions about ancestry as far back in a person’s lineage as Warren laid claim to again this week.

One leading Native American geneticist — Dr. Kim Tallbear — characterized Warren’s Monday press conference and declarations as just the latest incidence in a decades-old practice of white Americans co-opting the Native American identity when it suits them.

Finally, critics said, using DNA to claim an ancestral affiliation with Native Americans contravenes contemporary notions of Native American identity, and, to some in the Native American community, is simply insulting.

Some experts, including Tallbear, saw Warren’s DNA test as an affront to Native Americans’ spiritual heritage, which is based on long and deeply-held tribal beliefs that the tribes have for centuries occupied the land on which their reservations sit.

Warren’s renewed claims to Native American heritage touch on an extremely delicate subject among U.S. geneticists who study indigenous genomics. Several of a dozen scientists and experts interviewed by ABC News asked to talk on background in order to speak frankly and avoid any political blowback.

As genealogy databases have grown in recent years, Native American tribes have been inundated by DNA test result-toting Caucasians seeking tribal certification for everything from eligibility for school scholarships to sought-after tax relief, experts and Native American geneticists said.

Neither Warren nor anyone on her staff has responded to multiple requests for comment from ABC News.

‘I am just very proud of it’

Warren has been dogged by her assertions that she descended from Native Americans ever since her successful 2012 Senate run, during which a 1996 article surfaced that quoted a Harvard Law School spokesperson as saying Warren is Native American.

The future U.S. senator — who changed her ethnicity from white to Native American at the University of Pennsyvlania Law School, where she taught from 1987 to 1995, and at Harvard Law School, where she was a tenured faculty member beginning in 1995, according to a 2012 Boston Globe investigation — defended herself on the campaign trail that year.

“Being Native American is part of who our family is, and I’m glad to tell anyone about that,” she said at the time, describing her understanding of her heritage as having come from stories her mother told her as a child. “I am just very proud of it.”

In a subsequent campaign ad, Warren doubled-down on the claim.

“I never asked for documentation from my mother when she talked about our Native American heritage,” she said in the ad. “What kid would? But I knew my father’s family didn’t like that she was part-Cherokee and part-Delaware, so my parents had to elope.”

“Let me be clear,” she continued. “I never asked for, never got any benefit because of my heritage. The people who hired me have all said they didn’t even know about it.”

This week, Warren held a press conference revealing conclusions of a DNA test she took that was conducted by Stanford University geneticist Carlos Bustamante.

The test determined with “high confidence” that she is likely somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American, adding that Warren “absolutely [has] a Native American ancestor in [her] pedigree…likely in the range of 6-10 generations,” according to the report and videos released by Warren’s office this week.

Warren has stressed repeatedly that she’s not seeking membership in or direct affiliation with any U.S. tribe.

The revelation sparked near immediate political backlash from President Donald Trump, who called the Massachusetts politician a “total fraud.” Earlier this year, Trump had challenged Warren, whom he often refers to derisively as “Pocanhatas,” to take a DNA test.

‘Inappropriate and wrong’

Tallbear, an assistant professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, has long been one of the most strident critics of Warren’s genealogy claims.

Tallbear, who recently authored “Native American DNA: Origins, Ethics, and Governance,” assailed Warren’s DNA test campaign this week, contending that her strategy is a cynical one, though consistent with Tallbear’s experience in recent years as gene-testing technology has evolved.

She said she objects to how Warren maintains she’s not seeking tribal membership or affiliation while simultaneously touting scientific evidence about her bloodline.

“Elizabeth Warren and genome scientists … get to have it both ways,” Tallbear said in a statement pinned to her Twitter feed on Tuesday. “They know very well that the broader US public will understand a DNA test to be a true indication of Elizabeth Warren’s right to claim Native American identity in some way.”

“The broader US public knows nothing about tribal citizenship and histories of settler-colonial meddling in our laws. The broader US public is also invested…in making what are ultimately settler-colonial claims to all things Indigenous: our bones, blood, land, waters, and ultimately our identities.”

Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. released an equally embittered statement about Warren’s press conference this week.

“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong,” Hoskin Jr. said.

“It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and [their] legitimate uses, while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well-documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren,” he added, “is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage.”

Tallbear said she has long been frustrated by Warren’s claims.

In 2016, Tallbear published a 47-tweet thread decrying the notion that DNA has nearly anything to do with Native American identity.

Tallbear said the Cherokee Nation has been asking Warren since 2012 to stop affiliating herself with them.

Not all Native American leaders, however, have been publicly critical of Warren’s DNA testing.

“Senator Warren has not tried to appropriate Cherokee or Delaware culture,” Eastern Band of Cherokee Principal Chief Richard Sneed said in a statement sent to ABC News. “She has not used her family story or evidence of Native ancestry to gain employment or other advantage. She has not tried to claim a treaty or trust obligation, or seek the protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act.”

“On the contrary,” he continued in the statement, “she demonstrates respect for tribal sovereignty by acknowledging that tribes determine citizenship and respecting the difference between citizenship and ancestry.”

Sneed went on to note that Warren has sponsored legislation to help prevent suicides in Native American populations, identify missing and murdered Native American women, and help tribes reaquire land they once occupied.

‘Not a yes or no answer’

None of the experts and industry executives who spoke to ABC News — including scientists who have worked with Bustamante — directly refuted his conclusions.

Instead, they contended that the underlying science is apt to be flawed because the Native American gene databases for tribes in the U.S. are so thin –- making conclusions like Bustamante’s all but useless from a scientific perspective.

“It’s hard to say that there is a definitive conclusion, especially if someone has such small amounts of Native American ancestry,” said Dr. Nanibaa’ Garrison, a faculty member in the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“When you’re testing someone who might have an ancestor more than four or five generations back, that’s when it becomes very hard to piece out that ancestor from all the other ancestors that the person has,” Garrison added. “It’s not a yes or no answer.”

There are a number of different DNA tests that examine a person’s genes, and they generally fall into two broad categories: paternity or maternity tests, which compare a child’s genes to those of a possible parent, and genetic ancestry testing, which looks at numerous genes from an individual and compares their sample to a broader database.

Warren took a genetic ancestry test, which the National Congress of American notes “is based on probabilities and can provide information about how different or similar an individual’s DNA is to that of most people within a larger group of people.”

Industry executives like Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA and Gene by Gene, concurred.

Greenspan, who’s worked with Bustamante, said definitive conclusions on ancestry stretching as far back as Warren’s purported lineage are harder to stand by than tests for other races because the indigenous databases are too limited.

That in turn has forced geneticists like Bustamante to draw from databases of tribal ancestry from north and south of U.S. borders.

“All of us — at Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage — we all strive to obtain the fullest, most complete Native American databases simply because Native Americans have historically been unwilling and uninterested in participating in this game of identification,” Greenspan said.

“When the National Geographic Society was trying to recruit Native Americans for their project 13 years ago,” Greenspan added, “they had a very, very hard time obtaining DNA samples in the U.S. So, quite often, the DNA samples that have been obtained are either Canadian, Mexican or South American.”

Bustamante has said that due to limited Native America databases, he compared Warren’s DNA sample to recent samples from indigenous populations in South America rather than Native Americans in the U.S.

“He [was] not comparing markers to populations that lived in what is now the United States,” said Dr. Michael Hammer, a biotechnology research scientist at the University of Arizona.

Neither Bustamante nor his staff at the scientist’s eponymous lab responded to numerous requests for comment from ABC News.

Defining Native American identity

While multiple independent geneticists explained why Native American gene databases are far less reliable measuring sticks for ancestry than other Western races, they also stressed the more subtle, underlying damage that efforts like Warren’s do to the Native American psyche.

Several leading geneticists told ABC News that the whole issue of gene-testing is a particularly sensitive one to Native Americans.

“As a geneticist, I don’t want to be telling an indigenous people like Native Americans where they come from,” said one leading genetic scientist who requested anonymity in return for speaking frankly. “They really don’t appreciate that. Their origin story is where they live now — so who am I to tell them that’s not true?”

Hammer, the University of Arizona research scientist, explained that Native Americans’ concept of their ancestry is built less upon gene tests than tradition, including oral histories passed down through generations.

“That’s the way they were raised and brought up, and that information was transmitted from generation to generation,” he said. “It’s their legacy, their heritage. It’s the spiritual side of their origin.”

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