Mueller agrees to testify before 2 House committees in July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The report is my testimony,” Mueller said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grisham will serve as both press secretary and Communications Director.

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

 

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

— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) June 25, 2019

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Sara Gideon (@SaraGideonME) June 24, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Trump signs executive order tackling health care cost transparency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also cites recent news reports prompting widespread outrage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Kellyanne Conway defends herself against alleged Hatch Act violations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Emotions run high at town hall as Pete Buttigieg faces a divided community

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

ABC News(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) — Mayor Pete Buttigieg is facing the biggest test of his presidential campaign so far: the fallout stemming from an incident in which a white police officer fatally shot a black man in his hometown of South Bend, Indiana.

On Sunday afternoon, the presidential hopeful appeared before hundreds of community members inside the Washington High School auditorium at a town hall that was at times angry, passionate and tense. Members of the community vented their frustration, not only about this recent fatal shooting, but a long history of distrust between the police department and the black community of South Bend.

Eric Logan was shot and killed on June 16 by Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, after he was allegedly caught breaking into cars, and allegedly approached O’Neill with a knife.

The shooting forced Buttigieg off the campaign trail, cancelling a speaking event in New York City and fundraisers in California. In a last-minute decision, Buttigieg also decided to skip Rep. Jim Clyburn’s Fish Fry on Friday night, which other Democratic presidential candidates attended, so he could go to a protest and march in South Bend.

The mayor spent a majority of his week in South Bend, speaking with the victim’s family and members of the community. He also directed his police chief to turn on all body cameras when engaging with civilians.

When Buttigieg was introduced alongside South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski to people gathered in the auditorium, he was met by both boos and applause.

During the two-hour event, the mayor was interrupted countless times, though some came to his defense, yelling at hecklers to let him speak so they could hear what he had to say.

Often appearing composed on the campaign trail, Buttigieg maintained his calm for the most part, only speaking up when he became frustrated that he was being interrupted.

Anger surrounding the police shooting came from both black and white residents of South Bend, who demanded changes to the police department.

The first person to ask a question came to the mayor’s defense, but was interrupted several times.

“Give him a chance. Pete Buttigieg is a good mayor,” he said, adding that he’s frustrated with crime in the community. “We are killing each other.”

Another woman took the mic and yelled advice to the mayor on how he could help an “oppressed society.”

“There are ways to assess the way people think. Do you understand? Get the people that are racist off the streets! Reorganize your department!” she shouted.

Buttigieg responded by saying that if anyone on patrol “is shown to be a racist or to do something racist in a way that is substantiated, that is their last day on the street.”

His answer was met with heckling from the crowd.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Buttigieg said the town hall was “an experience where a lot of pain and a lot of hurt, but also a lot of ideas came out.”

Many people who attended the event said they were grateful that the mayor showed up, but his campaign stops in South Carolina on Saturday were not lost on at least one person.

“You got to get back to South Carolina like you were yesterday,” a man shouted at the mayor.

Buttigieg said despite what’s happening in South Bend, he still plans on attending the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami this week, adding that he will continue to “serve this community to the best of my ability.”

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President Trump denies sexual assault allegation

Posted on: June 23rd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) —  President Trump is denying that he sexually assaulted advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s, calling her claims false and motivated by attempts to sell her forthcoming book.

In a New York Magazine article posted Friday, Carroll accuses Trump of sexually assaulting her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room 23 years ago. The article features an excerpt from Carroll’s forthcoming book “What Do We Need Men For” which is set to be released July 2.

In response to Carroll’s allegations, the president issued a statement Friday evening vehemently denying her claims, and saying that he never even met Carroll. “She is trying to sell a new book — that should indicate her motivation. It should be sold in the fiction section. Shame on those who make up false stories of assault to try to get publicity for themselves, or sell a book, or carry out a political agenda.” Trump then called for any information that “the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine, please notify us as soon as possible.” President Trump also addressed Carroll’s allegations on the South Lawn on Saturday morning, calling New York Magazine a “failing publication” that no one reads anymore.

In a brief phone interview with ABC News on Sunday evening, Carroll dismissed Trump’s suggestion that she could be associated with the Democratic Party.

“It’s so preposterous,” she said. “I am such a lazy person. I didn’t march. I would never do the bidding of a political party.” Carroll told ABC News she is a registered Democrat.

ABC News has obtained an advance copy of the book, in which Carroll, now 75, details the alleged assault in four pages, writing she ran into Trump at the revolving door entrance of the high-end department store’s entrance sometime during the fall of 1995 or spring of 1996. She claims he said to her “Hey, you’re that Advice Lady,” and then asked her advice on buying a present for “a girl.” She writes after he dismissed several of her suggestions, the two ended up in the lingerie department where Carroll claims he asked her to try on a see-through bodysuit. Inside the dressing room, Carroll alleges that Trump lunged at her, pushed her against the wall, placed his mouth on her lips, reached under her coat-dress and pulled down her tights.

In Carroll’s own words, she alleges: “The next moment, still wearing correct business attire, shirt, tie, suit jacket, overcoat, he opens the overcoat, unzips his pants, and, forcing his fingers around my private area, then thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me. It turns into a colossal struggle. I am too frightened to panic. I am wearing a pair of sturdy, black patent-leather, four-inch Barnes high heels. I try to stomp his foot. I try to push him off with my one free hand — for some reason I keep holding my purse with the other — and I finally get a knee up high enough to push him out and off, and I turn, open the door, and run out of the dressing room.”

Carroll said she never reported the incident to the police, but that she confided in two friends, contemporaneously. In her book, she described one friend as a journalist — a writer for New York and Vanity Fair magazine — whom she says encouraged her to go to the police. ABC News reached this friend by cell phone on Sunday evening, and she asked for her name to be withheld due to fear of retribution by President Trump’s supporters.

Carroll’s friend said she has known Carroll for over 30 years, and recalled Carroll calling her within a day of the alleged incident.

“She kept repeating to me, ‘He pulled down my tights, he pulled down my tights,’ as if that were the headline,” Carroll’s friend said. She recalled that Carroll made her swear not to a tell a soul, and they never spoke of it again until writers at New York Magazine recently reached out at Carroll’s request.

“She told me, to tell a friend…it gets smaller and less threatening the more people know,” the friend said.

The other friend that Carroll said she confided in is described in her book as a “New York anchor-person” who discouraged Carroll from going to the authorities. ABC News spoke with this friend briefly, and they corroborated what Carroll wrote in her book.

When asked by ABC News to address the president’s remarks that her motivations are to “sell a book,” Carroll responded, “The book is called ‘What Do We Need Men For?’ It is not called ‘Donald Trump Attacked Me.'”

Carroll added that she goes out of way not to name Trump in her book.

“This is a memoir, starting out when I was born. He was 15 minutes of that life. He’s gotta stop making himself the victim here.” Carroll also directly addressed the question “Why haven’t I come forward before now?” in her book, writing, “Receiving death threats, being driven from my home…only to see the man turn it around, deny, threaten and attack…doesn’t sound like much fun. Also, I’m a coward.”

New York Magazine, in the online article, included a photo provided by Carroll which shows Carroll, Donald and Ivana Trump, and Carroll’s then-husband, television news anchor John Johnson, attending an NBC party around 1987. ABC News reached out to Carroll’s ex-husband, Johnson, who has since retired from the industry. [Note: Johnson worked at Eyewitness News.] Johnson’s current wife said her husband has “no comment” on Carroll’s allegations against Donald Trump. Carroll was married once before, according to her previous writings, but ABC News has been unable to speak with her first husband.

On Friday evening, hours after the first excerpts from her book were posted by New York Magazine, Carroll gave an exclusive interview to MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell. She told the cable news host that she believed the situation she describes at Bergdorf’s was her fault.

“I blame myself for that.” she told O’Donnell. “I said I am the stupidest woman who’s ever walked and did that for years and it took my ‘Ask E. Jean’ letter writers who would write into my column ‘Dear Jean’…And I would say over and over, ‘It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. You’re not stupid. You’re doing right.’ You know? I was just saying this to all of these women for all of these years. And I never came forward and said, ‘I understand.’ And I still can’t kick that feeling that it was my fault. I can`t — it’s hard to get rid of that.”

During the interview, O’Donnell played the “Access Hollywood” tape for Carroll, in which Trump is heard bragging that “when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything…grab them by the *****.”

“I was astounded,” Carroll responded. “I couldn’t believe it, and I still can’t…He’s a very powerful man. He takes what he wants. That`s the thing. And the American voters liked it because that was a referendum. Are they going to vote for a sexual harasser? Yes, they are, because his power is so great that it doesn’t matter. He can have whatever woman he wants, and going on.”

To date, more than a dozen women have publicly accused President Trump of sexual misconduct, all of which he denies.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Doctor compares conditions at immigrant holding centers to ‘torture facilities’

Posted on: June 23rd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Edelman/Getty Images(McAllen, TX) — From sleeping on concrete floors with the lights on 24 hours a day to no access to soap or basic hygiene, migrant children at least two U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities face conditions one doctor described as comparable to “torture facilities.”

The disturbing, first-hand account of the conditions were observed by lawyers and a board-certified physician in visits last week to border patrol holding facilities in Clint, Texas, and McAllen, a city in the southern part of the state.

The descriptions paint a bleak image of horrific conditions for children, the youngest of whom is 2 1/2 months old.

“The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,” the physician, Dolly Lucio Sevier, wrote in a medical declaration obtained exclusively by ABC News.

Lucio Sevier, who works in private practice in the area, was granted access to the Ursula facility in McAllen, which is the largest CBP detention center in the country, after lawyers found out about a flu outbreak there that sent five infants to the neonatal intensive care unit.

After assessing 39 children under the age of 18, she described conditions for unaccompanied minors at the McAllen facility as including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.”

All the children who were seen showed evidence of trauma, Lucio Sevier reported, and the teens spoke of having no access to hand washing during their entire time in custody. She compared it to being “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”

In an interview with ABC News, Lucio Sevier said the facility “felt worse than jail.”

“It just felt, you know, lawless,” she said. “I mean, imagine your own children there. I can’t imagine my child being there and not being broken.”

Conditions for infants were even more appalling, according to the medical declaration. Many teen mothers in custody described not having the ability to wash their children’s bottle.

And children who were older than 6 months were not provided age-appropriate meal options, including no pureed foods necessary for a child’s development, Lucio Sevier reported.

“To deny parents the ability to wash their infant’s bottles is unconscionable and could be considered intentional mental and emotional abuse,” she wrote.

The attorneys who represent the children threatened to sue the government if it denied a visit from a physician. They are part of a team working under the Flores settlement agreement, a 1997 ruling that stipulated detention standards for unaccompanied minors, including being held for less than 72 hours and in the “least restrictive setting appropriate to the child’s age and special needs.”

As part of that ruling, the lawyers, who are part of a class action lawsuit, represent all children in custody and, as such, are allowed to visit and interview them.

Lucio Sevier has no connection to the lawyers aside from their request for a physician to be granted access. The legal team, also from the Flores settlement agreement group, had negotiated access to the Clint facility in advance and officials from CBP knew of their pending arrival for weeks.

The alleged conditions documented at the facilities follow a Homeland Security inspector general report that found “dangerous overcrowding” and unsanitary conditions at a different CBP facility in El Paso, Texas, where hundreds more migrants were being housed than the center was designed to hold.

The El Paso Del Norte Processing Center housed as many as 900 migrant detainees earlier this month despite only having a recommended capacity for 125.

The reports come as President Donald Trump continues to make immigration a staple of his administration and a key issue in his re-election bid. After threatening to deport more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants, and then extending the deadline by two weeks, the president on Sunday tweeted his intention to “fix the Southern Border.”

Later in the day, the president blamed his predecessor for implementing the policy of separating migrant. Trump said he ended the policy, too.

“You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it,” he told reporters.

The Obama administration’s policy only separated families in rare circumstances when the child’s safety might be at risk.

Last April, the Trump administration and his attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, enacted a “zero-tolerance” approach that called for stepped-up prosecutions of any adult crossing the border illegally. As a result, 2,700 children were separated from their families in a matter of weeks.

More than a year later, though, documents from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — obtained by immigration rights groups and the Houston Chronicle through a Freedom of Information Act request — show family separations are still happening, even after a court ordered children to be reunited with their parents.

The documents showed more than 700 children were separated from parents between last June and May, often with questionable legal justification.

The CBP, however, said in a statement it has limited resources and is leveraging all of them to “provide the best care possible to those in our custody, especially children.”

“As [Department of Homeland Security] and CBP leadership have noted numerous times, our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations and we urgently need additional humanitarian funding to manage this crisis,” the statement read. “CBP works closely with our partners at the Department of Health and Human Services to transfer unaccompanied children to their custody as soon as placement is identified, and as quickly and expeditiously as possible to ensure proper care.

“All allegations of civil rights abuses or mistreatment in CBP detention are taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent possible,” the statement continued.

A U.S. government official added that the immigration system is “clearly broken,” but CBP is doing everything it can to “provide appropriate care for children in custody, even though they were never meant to.”

“The acting secretary and acting commissioner have been warning about these dire circumstances for months,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added. “More must be done to confront this humanitarian crisis and the requested supplemental funding is critical to mitigating it.”

The source added that transferring the children to the custody of the Health and Human Services department is a “top CBP priority.”

“Without a specific allegation of separating family members that can be looked into, CBP wouldn’t and shouldn’t provide additional details without knowing the facts and circumstances of individual cases,” the official added.

As for the conditions at detention facilities, lawyers for the Trump administration last week argued that providing basic necessities, like soap, was not a requirement of the Flores agreement. Three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals repeatedly asked if the lawyers if they were arguing that “safe and sanitary” did not include the ability to sleep soundly or use soap.

In Congress, the Senate Finance Committee last week passed, almost unanimously, a $4.6 billion spending bill that included $2.9 billion for HHS programs for unaccompanied children. The full Senate and House still need to pass the bill, which includes strict regulations that the funds may not be used for Trump’s proposed border wall.

Trump said despite Democrats not “even approving giving us money,” his administration is doing a “fantastic job under the circumstances.”

“Where is the money?” he asked. “You know what? The Democrats are holding up the humanitarian aid.”

Wherever the blame lies, the lawyers with the Flores agreement team said present-day conditions at the facilities need urgent attention. At the Clint facility, the environment was just as bad as they were at the McAllen site, the lawyers said.

The Associated Press first reported on the alleged neglect at the Clint facility, reporting ABC News later confirmed.

All of the detainees had been in custody longer than the 72 hours permitted for unaccompanied minors under the Flores agreement. The lengths of stay ranged from four days to 24 days.

“We wanted to try and find out what was happening down there and why these children were dying at a rate that we’ve never seen before,” said Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University who helped interview the children at the Clint border patrol facility.

On the day they arrived, they witnessed the Clint facility was home to 351 children — most from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. More than 100 were under the age of 13, while 18 children were 4 years old or younger, including the youngest, a 4 1/2-month-old, the lawyers found.

Like the McAllen facility, many were held for three weeks or longer, the lawyers learned from the children. Binford added the children who were old enough explained they arrived with a family member or planned to join a parent in the U.S. and all were lawfully entering and claiming asylum.

A lawyer who works with the Flores team told ABC News many children had parents living in the U.S. with whom they wanted to be reunited; others said they had been separated from their parents at the border.

The administration has maintained that separation only occurs in situations in which a family member is dangerous or cannot be confirmed to be the legal guardian.

At the Clint facility, Binford described conditions that included infants and toddlers sleeping on concrete floors, a lice outbreak that led to guards providing two lice combs to 20 children to “work it out,” guards punishing the children by taking away sleeping mats and blankets, and guards creating a “child boss” to help keep the other kids in line by rewarding them with extra food.

She said one of the most striking examples was a 2-year-old brought to her with no diaper and being cared for by “several other little girls.”

“When I asked where his diapers were and she looked down and said, ‘He doesn’t need them,’ and then he immediately peed in his pants right there on the conference chair and started crying,” Binford said. “So children are being required to care for other very young children and they are simply not prepared to do that.”

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Broad consensus on abortion rights at Democrat’s Planned Parenthood candidates forum

Posted on: June 23rd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Nearly all of the Democratic presidential candidates attended Planned Parenthood’s forum on Saturday, and – on the subject of abortion access, at least – presented a united front.

The “We Decide” forum, hosted by Planned Parenthood’s political arm, showcased the broad support among the 20 candidates in attendance for passing a federal law guaranteeing abortion rights, allowing federal funding for abortions, and expanding access to women’s healthcare, especially for poor and marginalized women.

“I got into politics because there are too many communities who are being left out and left behind,” said New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. “And a lot of these assaults on reproductive care are really assaults on low-income women and women in marginalized communities.”

So far this cycle, the parade of 2020 Democrats has sought to reclaim the reins of this politically sensitive issue with proactive proposals following a spate of restrictive anti-abortion bills sweeping across conservative states.

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 60% of voters said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 28% saying abortion should be legal in all cases, matching the highest level of support since the question was first asked in 2004. Only 13% of voters believe abortion should be illegal in the case of rape or incest.

But the ascent of two conservative judges to the Supreme Court under President Donald Trump has also raised hopes among abortion opponents that Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that guarantees abortion rights, might eventually be knocked down.

“We’ve been on defense for 47 years, and it’s not working,” said Massachusetts Senator Elisabeth Warren, who received one of the warmest receptions of the day. “We need to go on offense on Roe v. Wade.”

President Donald Trump, who formally launched his own re-election campaign this week, has adopted rules that hinder the work of abortion providers, including barring health clinics that receive federal funds from making referrals for abortions or sharing office space with abortion providers.

Along with Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California have offered detailed plans for safeguarding abortion. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California has a plan for free contraception, while former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has a plan for expanding access to IUD’s.

The three candidates not in attendance – Steve Bullock, Tulsi Gabbard and Wayne Messam – have all in their campaigns expressed broadly similar views. Gabbard, for her part, used to lean more anti-abortion, but as a member of congress, she has a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood.

Many of the candidates said that a particular failing of healthcare in America is that poor, marginalized and black women are denied access to care.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who represented an area along Texas’ border with Mexico, likened a Trump administration policy that makes it harder for immigrant women to access reproductive healthcare to something out of the dystopian show “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

“Trying to force young women into only one option, not allowing them to make their own decisions about their own body,” O’Rourke said, was “haunting, chilling, reminiscent of maybe a scene from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” not the United States of America in 2018 and 2019.”

The forum also presented an opportunity for several candidates who have clashed with abortion rights activists in the past to explain themselves.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who recently came under fire for saying he supported the Hyde Amendment, which bars the use of federal funds for most abortion care — and then abruptly changed course — said his position is that women should have the same access to health care, regardless of where they live.

“I laid out of health care plan that is going to provide federally-funded health care for all women, and women who now are denied even Medicare in their home states across the board up, you’d be automatically signed up under [an] Obamacare-like provision,” he said.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, when asked about his past support for some anti-abortion candidates, said that recent news has shifted his thinking on the issue.

“I think, right now, given the attacks that we’re seeing, in recent years, on Planned Parenthood, in particular, and on abortion rights in general, I think what we can do and must do is find candidates in every state in this country and every congressional district in this country who do support absolutely a woman’s right to control her own body.”

In addition to offering their views on policy, the candidates also heard from women who recounted harrowing stories of abuse and others who recounted stories about their own abortions.

Near the start of the forum, a women recounted to Gillibrand, the senator from New York, how, at age 19, she had tried to throw herself down a flight of stairs in an effort to terminate her pregnancy. The senator responded by saying the story was “shared by millions of people,” and the attack on freedoms undermines the humanity of marginalized women.

“No legislature in any one of these states, which are mostly white men, mostly older men, they cannot know a minute of your experience,” Gillibrand said. “Not a minute of your experience as a mother, a minute of your experience as someone [who] has to make that decision.”

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Former top military adviser concerned president is ‘running out of options’ with Iran

Posted on: June 23rd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The former top military adviser to both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama said on Sunday that he’s concerned escalating tensions with Iran “could spin out of control,” stressing that the last thing the world needs is the United States going to war with the Middle Eastern country.

“My biggest concern is the president is running out of room, running out of options, and while the rhetoric goes back and forth on how close we came to hitting Iran just the other day, that this thing could spin out of control,” retired Adm. Mike Mullen told “This Week” Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz. “The last thing in the world we need right now is a war with Iran.”

Mullen, who boasts a lengthy military career and served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff between October 2007 and September 2011, said politicians need to diplomatically attain their goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, and that Americans need to call their representatives to advocate against declaring war on Iran.

“I really would like to know that the American people who feel we should not go to war with Iran are pressing their congressmen, their senators and everybody in the public domain to make sure that no matter what happens with respect to where we are with Iran right now, that we do not go to war,” he said on “This Week.” I think the politicians need to figure out a way to achieve the objective, which is Iran without a nuclear weapon, without — from my perspective — without regime change, without going to war.”

One of those politicians, House Armed Services Ranking Member Mac Thornberry told Raddatz that President Donald Trump “is clearly trying to navigate a fine line to show that you cannot attack Americans and American military equipment without having a response.”

“He’s very conscious of not getting on an escalatory ladder that leads to a military conflict that neither side wants,” the Texas Republican said in an interview on “This Week.”

However, 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, accused the president of “taking a belligerent course of escalation and provocation with Iran” since the beginning of his presidency.

“We pulled out of a anti-nuclear deal that gave us complete transparency into their nuclear program,” Booker said on “This Week,” referring to Trump’s decision in May 2018 to pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, colloquially referred to as the Iran nuclear deal. “We literally isolated ourselves from our allies and set us out on a very fragile limb towards conflict.”

“The critical crisis we have is not just a drone being shot down, but now Iran has moved back to where it was before, which could be months from getting a nuclear weapon, which puts us again in that region on the brink of chaos,” he added, also accusing the president of not having a strategy and making the U.S. “weaker.”

In a series of tweets on Friday, Trump said that he called off a military strike on Iran with just 10 minutes to spare on Thursday night, explaining that the civilian casualties that would have occurred would not have been a “proportionate” response to the Iranians shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone late Wednesday.

Iran claimed the drone was flying in its airspace, but the U.S. government disputed that, saying it was flying in international airspace. Trump’s reversal on the strike, which was first reported by The New York Times, was against the advice of Secretary of State Mike Popeo and national security adviser John Bolton, sources told ABC News.

Mullen told Raddatz that a it’s “very, very unusual,” but not unprecedented “that a strike would be called off so close to its execution.”

However, leaving for Camp David on Saturday, Trump told reporters “we hadn’t made a decision to go forward” with striking Iran when the retaliatory response was called off, later tweeting, “I never called the strike against Iran ‘BACK,’ as people are incorrectly reporting.”

The president reiterated to reporters that his reason for stopping the strike was because he didn’t want to kill 150 Iranians “unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

The United States did respond with a cyber strike against the country, The Washington Post reported on Saturday and a source later confirmed to ABC News. Trump approved an offensive cyber strike against Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches. The cyber attack was launched Thursday and was in the works for weeks if not months.

Thornberry told Raddatz on “This Week” that when Trump met with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders Thursday, himself included, “everyone agreed that shooting down an unarmed American aircraft deserved a response,” and that all agreed “it should be on the lower end of the range of possibilities.”

However, he added, “This story is not over,” saying the Iranian’s response to the cyber strike matters.

“Obviously the president has a whole range of additional responses that he could employ,” Thornberry said. “There are a number of other military and probably other actions that could be taken if the Iranians decide that they want to continue this aggressive provocative sort of behavior.”

The top Republican on the Armed Services Committee credited the president for seeking bipartisan input on how the United States should respond, but Booker was critical of the fact that a military response was considered at all, saying on “This Week” that Trump can’t take military action against Iran without congressional approval.

“The Constitution speaks very clearly on this that he needs to come to Congress before he engages in military action that again could have us tumbling towards chaos and war in that region,” he said.

“This situation is getting more and more tense, not less. We have a president that seems to be doing this like a reality TV show when trying to build more drama and trying to make a foreign policy by tweet,” Booker added. “We have to, as a nation, work in coordination with our allies to denuclearize Iran, and to bring stability and peace back to that region.”

Mullen said that if Iran does begin enriching uranium again and looks to be on its way to developing a nuclear weapon, it may lead to Israel attacking the country.

The former Joint Chiefs chairman also warned, “Iran with a nuclear weapon would start to proliferate nuclear weapons in the Middle East, which is incredibly dangerous. Other countries would then probably generate that kind of capability. And the Middle East has got a lot of problems and we don’t need more nukes.”

Booker echoed that warning, saying, “We’re closer to a nuclear weapon, which could trigger proliferation around the region. It could trigger a military conflict and have us tumbling back into a Middle East war that will cost American lives and trillions of American dollars.”

Thornberry said on “This Week” that Trump is “giving the Iranians every opportunity to back out of this cycle of increasing violence.”

He said Trump shouldn’t be criticized for giving the country the opportunity, but added that there’s a limit to that.

“If Iran goes back to mining tankers, the sorts of things they’ve been doing here lately, then we have a whole range of military and other responses which we can employ, and I think the president will look to do that,” he said.

But Mullen cautioned that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, “attacking militarily is a very, very difficult task to actually make it happen.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sen. Cory Booker: Biden showed ‘a lack of understanding’

Posted on: June 23rd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Sean Rayford/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Days ahead of the first Democratic debates and following a week of back-and-forth with former Vice President Joe Biden over comments he made about finding consensus with Southern Democrats in the Senate who supported segregation, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said Biden did not seem to fully grasp the impact his comments on the African-American community, during an interview on ABC’s This Week.

“He is a presidential nominee, and to say something — and again, it’s not about working across the aisle; if anything, I’ve made that a hallmark of my time in the Senate, to get big things done and legislation passed — this is about him invoking a terrible power dynamic that he showed a lack of understanding or insensitivity to by invoking this idea that he was called ‘son’ by white segregationists who, yeah, they see in him their son,” Booker told This Week Co-Anchor Martha Raddatz.

On Wednesday, Booker released a statement with strongly worded language calling on the former vice president to apologize for praising segregationist senators while at a fundraiser. That same day — which happened to be Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the abolition of slavery — Booker had testified before a House Judiciary Subcommittee on reparations.

“You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,'” Booker wrote. “Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone.”

Biden initially called on Booker to apologize to him, saying, “He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body.”

He added Saturday during an event in South Carolina that his use of the word “boy” was taken out of context.

On This Week, Booker explained that in the wake of Biden’s original remarks, he’s heard from “many African-Americans” who told him that they found the words “hurtful,” but he also characterized the vice president’s comments as a “mistake,” though one that the former vice president should have been more mindful of.

“We make mistakes. We sometimes tread upon issues that maybe we aren’t knowledgeable of,” the senator said. “I don’t think the vice president should need this lesson, but this was a time for him to be healing and to be helpful — especially the time that he is looking to bring this party together and lead us in what is the most important election of our lifetime.”

According to ABC News reporting, Biden called Booker shortly after a CNN interview to talk about the situation. Booker said Sunday on This Week that, while he was disappointed, the pair “had a very constructive conversation” and that he maintains “a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for the vice president.”

“That’s why, again, I felt it really, really important, especially with our friends, not to sweep things under the rug, but to be candid and straightforward with each other,” Booker said.

By Friday night, both Biden and Booker were seen shaking hands at Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn’s “World Famous Fish Fry” in Columbia, South Carolina, a gathering that attracted an additional 19 members of the crowded presidential field.

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Republican state senators go into hiding as Dems delay climate change vote

Posted on: June 23rd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

iStock(SALEN, Ore.) — A group of Republican state senators in Oregon remain in hiding after walking out of the state Capitol over refusing to vote on a climate change bill.

Eleven Republicans refused to show up to work on Thursday and went into hiding in protest of HB2020, a bill that establishes a carbon cap, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Industries that emit carbon dioxide — power plants, manufacturers, etc. — would have to buy an “allowance” for each metric ton emitted, thereby reducing the incentive to produce carbon dioxide in the first place.

The goal of the bill is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 versus 1990 numbers.

But the purchasing of allowances would likely mean costs are passed down to the consumers, and prices for gas or diesel would increase — a position untenable for the Republicans holding out from a vote. Rural Oregonians, who drive longer distances, and farmers, who use heavy machinery, would likely be disproportionately affected.

Without a quorum, the legislature cannot legally vote on the bill.

The stalemate continued into the weekend.

“I don’t think you’re going to see us anytime soon,” Republican Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr, the state Senate’s minority leader, told Portland ABC affiliate KATU-TV by phone Saturday evening.

The senators are being fined $500 per day as they skip out on work.

A GoFundMe account was started to raise money to pay off the absentee politicians’ fines, which had raised over $37,000 in two days as of Saturday night. State ethics laws prevent the senators from accepting the money, however, unless the donations are tracked through the government’s filing system, called Orestar.

“Public servants are chosen by and entrusted to represent their constituents, and working for the people of Oregon is an honor and a privilege,” Kate Kondayen, deputy communications director for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, said in a statement Tuesday as legislators threatened the walkout. “Playing games and avoiding tough conversations is a dereliction of that responsibility and trust.”

“Governor Brown has always dealt fairly and transparently with the Senate Republicans, and trusted them when they gave their word they wouldn’t engage in further walkouts earlier this session,” Kondayen continued. “She expects them to honor their word and if not is prepared to call upon those resources available to her — including authorizing state troopers to bring senators back to the Capitol and, if necessary, calling legislators back to Salem to complete their work over the summer.”

State troopers were indeed searching for the senators on Friday and Saturday, Brown said.

They were unlikely to find state Sen. Tim Knopp, who told KATU-TV on Friday he was not even in Oregon anymore.

“I am in a cabin near a lake,” Knopp said during a Facebook video chat interview. “And that’s about all I can tell you.”

The 11 senators who are MIA include Baertschiger, Cliff Bentz, Brian Boquist, Fred Girod, Bill Hansell, Dallas Heard, Knopp, Dennis Linthicum, Alan Olsen, Chuck Thomsen and Kim Thatcher.

The walkout got even stranger on Friday, when Democratic state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward tweeted a text message she had received, saying, “The Senate will not be meeting tomorrow (Saturday). The State Police Superintendent just informed the Senate President of a credible threat from militia groups coming to the Capitol tomorrow.”

No such militia showed up on Saturday, but the Capitol hallways were empty.

Democratic senators, at least, planned to return to the Capitol on Sunday.

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President Trump to hold off on deportation raids for two weeks

Posted on: June 22nd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump said on Saturday he will delay plans for a mass removal of undocumented immigrants for two weeks so that he can negotiate with members of congress.

“At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border,” the president tweeted. “If not, Deportations start!”

 

At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process (Deportation) for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border. If not, Deportations start!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2019

 

The Trump administration planned to deport more than 2,000 undocumented immigrants in as many as 10 cities, administration officials said this week, in an unprecedented show of force aimed at deterring illegal migration of families.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quickly took to Twitter to welcome the decision.

“Mr. President, delay is welcome,” she tweeted. “Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together.

Mr. President, delay is welcome. Time is needed for comprehensive immigration reform. Families belong together. https://t.co/R9PDrfaKWj

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 22, 2019

A record number of migrant families have arrived at the southern border in recent months. Of the roughly 144,000 migrants stopped by U.S. authorities in May, more than 105,000 came as families. The numbers represent the largest North American land migration trend in more than a decade.

A source told ABC News that Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the president Friday night to ask him to call off the deportation raids.

The president’s tweet represented a change of course even from earlier in the day on Saturday.

Prior to sending the tweet, as the president departed for Camp David, he addressed a group of reporters and said that the deportations would start “during the course of this next week, maybe a little bit earlier than that” and that “everybody that came into the country illegally will be brought out of the country very legally.”

“These are people who came into the country illegally, they’ve been served, they’ve gone through a process, a process of the courts and they have to be removed from the country,” Trump said. “They will be removed from the country. It’s having a very big effect on the border.”

When news broke that the president was calling on deportation raids, cities like Los Angeles, Baltimore and Chicago immediately fired back, saying they wouldn’t cooperate with the raids and warned residents to make sure they had functional locks on their doors. Residents are not required to open their doors to officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.

Law enforcement officials said the threat of deportation raids would hurt efforts by police departments to keep cities safe because people living in immigrant communities would grow too fearful to cooperate.

In an interview with ABC News Live Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Mark Morgan said there were no plans to commence deportations in the range of “millions,” as Trump’s tweet suggested.

“This is not about fear,” Morgan said. “No one is instilling fear in anyone. This is about the rule of law and maintaining the integrity of the system,” Morgan told ABC News.

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McGahn’s chief of staff delays hill appearance, will answer written questions

Posted on: June 22nd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) — The former chief of staff to former White House counsel Don McGahn has struck a deal with the House Judiciary Committee that will allow her to submit answers in writing rather than appear for in-person questioning on Monday, her lawyer said.

The aide, Annie Donaldson, had been subpoenaed to appear before lawmakers on June 24, but she has agreed to instead submit written answers because she is pregnant and does not live in Washington, according to her attorney Sandra Moser. Donaldson agreed to appear in person on Capitol Hill after Nov. 1 if the committee considers it necessary, Moser said.

Donaldson, who was due to appear based on a subpoena, was one of the key fact witnesses for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign of President Trump. Her memos and notes became a central part of the Mueller report and, in particular, the report’s discussion of possible instances of obstruction of justice.

“We are pleased that an accommodation obviating the need for Ms. Donaldson to appear at this time has been successfully negotiated,” said Moser, who works for the firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

A committee spokesman declined to comment, but the accommodation was confirmed by people familiar with the arrangement.

In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos earlier this month, Trump said McGahn “may have been confused” when he told Mueller that Trump instructed him multiple times to have the acting attorney general remove the special counsel because of perceived conflicts of interest.

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

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2020 candidates flock to South Carolina for Jim Clyburn’s ‘World Famous Fish Fry’

Posted on: June 22nd, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — South Carolina played host to 4,400 pounds of fish, 6,400 slices of white bread and a lot of cringeworthy punchlines Friday night.

Just as the food supplies ran out — 21 Democratic presidential hopefuls took the stage to each make a brief pitch to thousands of voters at Rep. Jim Clyburn’s annual “World Famous Fish Fry” in Columbia, South Carolina, ahead of the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention on Saturday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who boasts a close friendship with Clyburn as a veteran third-time fish fry attendee, focused on delivering one concise message in his short speech: “Whomever the Democratic nominee is, we have to stay together and elect a Democratic president of the United States of America.”

Sen. Cory Booker, of New Jersey, who was seen hugging Biden off-stage after a week of animosity between the two over comments on segregation, followed Biden in emphasizing the importance of unity in the party.

“This election is not about one person and one office, it is about who we are as a nation and who we must be to each other,” Booker said. “We all must make sure that we may be in the midst of a primary, but when the primary is over, we become a united force. Not just to beat one guy in one office, but we become a united force to put the indivisible back in this one nation under God and stand up for liberty and justice for all.”

Booker closed his remarks with a joke for the fish fry: “Let’s not flounder, let’s get out there and kick some bass.”

Many others, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, of Texas; Sens. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts; and Any Klochuchar, of Minnesota; addressed some of the big issues the country is facing, such as health care, public schools, criminal justice reform and climate change.

“We make this government work for us, and that means we’re just getting started,” Warren said. “We need to attack our problems head on. We need to attack climate change head on. We need to attack the control of the NRA head on. We need to have courage in this country. So for me, it’s about building a future. This is our chance. 2020. We can dream big, fight hard, and win!”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the only one in his button-down while all 20 other candidates were wearing matching Clyburn T-shirts, emphasized the power of unity in defeating the current president.

“Brothers and sisters, at the end of the day, the 1 percent, they got a lot of money and they got a lot of power,” Sanders said. “But we got something they don’t have. We are the 99%. And 99%, is a hell of a bigger number than 1%. Let us stand together. Let us defeat Trump. Let us transform this country.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, of Colorado, one of the lesser known candidates, drew laughs from the audience by taking a jab at President Donald Trump.

“In my view, we have a president who doesn’t care about America,” Bennet said. “I don’t think he loves America. I don’t think he loves anybody but himself.”

Sen. Kamala Harris, of California took a more serious tone, reminding the crowd of the South Carolina mass shooting that killed nine people at Mother Emanuel AME Church four years ago.

“And in this fight, this is a fight not only to recognize our history and honor the ancestors and honor the heroes,” Harris said, “It is a fight for our future, and a vision of our future.”

The largest gathering so far for the 2020 contenders — and a prelude to the first Democratic debates next week — ended with remarks from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, of Hawaii, followed by a group photo with all the candidates on stage.

Since its inception, the fish fry, which is free and open to the public, has been an effort to give South Carolinians a glimpse at candidates without the cost of attending the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention’s Blue Palmetto Dinner. Tickets to the sold-out dinner cost $150.

The fish fry isn’t only about making a good impression on voters, it’s also about forming key relationships with the Democratic establishment in South Carolina.

Clyburn, the third-highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, has hosted the fish fry for nearly three decades. He’s considered the most influential leader in South Carolina politics and his endorsement is highly coveted.

Though Clyburn has promised to refrain from endorsing a candidate ahead of the state’s Democratic primary in February, in 2016, Clyburn endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after saying he would stay neutral. He didn’t publicly endorse a candidate during the 2008 Democratic primary.

“Vice President Biden has the inside track because of his name I.D., because of his established relationships with the state,” Harrison said. “Many of these presidential candidates are new to South Carolinians and to the South Carolina Democrats.”

Still, other 2020 presidential hopefuls are hoping to make inroads in South Carolina — a state where African-Americans make up nearly 30% of the population.

Both Booker and Harris have campaigned heavily in the state, venturing out of the two large metropolitan areas, Charleston and Columbia. While others, like South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have struggled to garner much African American support at events in the state.

Buttigieg skipped the fish fry to hold community meetings following the fatal shooting of Eric Logan, a black man, by a white police officer in his hometown.

The mayor, who traveled back to South Bend after his remarks earlier in the day at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) in Miami, was surrounded by members of the community and activists, including individuals holding Black Lives Matter signs, who jeered and heckled the candidate.

Jaime Harrison, a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and current U.S. Senate candidate, recommended that candidates shore up their South Carolina teams with staffers that have strong ties in the state. He says doing outreach in some of the most rural corners of South Carolina is critical.

“Speak with Democrats that not only live in urban areas, where most of the state’s population is, but also in many of the rural communities which will probably be very influential in determining who ultimately wins the primary,” Harrison said.

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Democratic presidential candidates weigh in on tensions with Iran

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

adamkaz/iStock(WASHINGTON) — Many of the 23 Democratic candidates vying to take on President Donald Trump in the 2020 election are in agreement that a strike on Iran would lead to devastating consequences and the administration’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal is to blame for the escalating tensions between the United States and the Middle Eastern country.

Trump said in a series of tweets Friday that he called off an attack on Iran with just 10 minutes to spare Thursday night, saying the civilian casualties that would have occurred would not have been a “proportionate” response to the Iranians shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone late Wednesday. Iran claimed the drone was flying in its airspace, but the U.S. government disputed that, saying it was flying in international airspace. Trump’s reversal on the strike was against the advice of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, sources told ABC News.

The plan and reversal was first reported by The New York Times.

While most of the Democrats running for president expressed concern about what they see as the Trump administration escalating tensions with Iran, the candidates differed on how they would handle a similar situation if they occupied the Oval Office, what impact military action could have and whether they would support re-entering the Iran nuclear deal.

What they would do if they were president

Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, told ABC News he would respond to Iran striking down a U.S. drone “by simply turning off the power to the grid in the southern part of Iran,” adding on Twitter that he would target that area because it’s “where the missile system is located.”

“It would be a very clear decisive response but it wouldn’t escalate things to the point where Iran would have a justification for escalating things further,” he said in a phone interview with ABC News.

Moulton also said he would use this situation “as an opportunity to reopen diplomatic engagement, especially with our European allies who right now are trying to go around us and our secondary sanctions.”

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 as a Navy Reserve intelligence officer, also said he would “respond by engaging our allies.”

“We would also need to respond by signaling that Iran needs to stop with provocations, but do it in a way that demonstrates our understanding that this cannot be allowed to escalate into a more and more violent situation,” he said during a media availability at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) presidential forum in Miami on Friday.

Speaking at the same conference, California Rep. Eric Swalwell said the administration needs to negotiate directly with Iran, as it did with North Korea.

“I submit that (Trump) was right to engage with the North Koreans, wrong to pull us out of the nuclear agreement with Iran,” he said at the NALEO forum. “So we should directly negotiate with them, deescalate the tension, but also earnestly show a desire to get back into a nuclear agreement.”

Asked on MSNBC Thursday how he would have reacted, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said he “would not have blown up the Iran nuclear deal to begin with and jeopardize the alliance that we built to keep Iran`s nuclear program in a box.”

Bennet said the United States needs to “respond in a way that protects the national security interests,” but when pressed on whether that meant military action, the senator said he didn’t want to specify, but that countermeasures are needed.

Concerns about escalation

Multiple candidates warned that military action could lead to another war in the region, with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper saying Trump is bringing the U.S. closer to “a worldwide conflict” not seen since World War II. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said Friday at the NALEO forum that he has “no confidence” in the administration deescalating the situation or even faith that it wants to.

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke said on Twitter Thursday that the Trump administration “is gunning for war in Iran,” a sentiment shared by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker who said in a statement Friday that this “march to war” has “no off-ramp.”

“This is not reality television, where decisions are made in the pursuit of maximum drama,” Booker said. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio echoed his comments, tweeting, “This isn’t a sick ratings game or reality show. Lives are at stake.”

Cautioning against military action

However, the candidates urged caution when it comes to military action.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he thinks there are people in both the Trump administration and the Iranian government who want to go to war.

In a tweet Thursday, California Sen. Kamala Harris echoed Sanders’ concerns about going to war, writing, “Either the Trump Administration is angling for another disastrous war in the Middle East, or they’ve spent two years saber-rattling against Iran with no strategy and no endgame.”

In an interview on MSNBC Friday morning, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the fact that a retaliatory strike was even considered “is deeply troubling.”

“Thank God, he called it off. He has no idea what a first strike would do in this instance. He has no idea what the impact would have been… I have very grave concerns about his ability to protect the country at this point,” she said, calling Trump’s foreign policy “erratic.”

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan also called the president “erratic” in a tweet Friday, adding that it’s “unbelievable that we’re supposed to be relieved he didn’t get us into World War III last night.”

Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney said Iran “must be held accountable” for shooting down the U.S. drone if it was over international waters, but did not specify how it should be held accountable.

Asked whether Trump taking military action without congressional approval would be an impeachable offense, Gillibrand, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she “would seriously consider that.”

A campaign spokesperson for former Vice President Joe Biden, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his congressional tenure, told ABC News Biden thinks going to war with Iran without congressional approval would be “an impeachable offense.”

“Vice President Biden believes a war against Iran without authorization from Congress would be unconstitutional. An illegal war that puts at risk thousands of American lives and would bog down the U.S. military in conflict in the Middle East for years would certainly qualify as an impeachable offense,” TJ Ducklo told ABC News.

Booker, who also sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and fellow Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, both stressed that Trump needs congressional approval to strike Iran.

“Any military action in Iran that circumvents Congressional approval is a blatant and unconstitutional power grab,” Booker said.

The way forward with Iran

Biden, who during the Obama administration helped negotiate congressional support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, blasted Trump’s decision to leave in a statement Thursday, saying his “Iran strategy is a self-inflicted disaster.”

“Trump promised that abandoning the deal and imposing sanctions would stop Iran’s aggression in the region. But they’ve only gotten more aggressive… the predictable has happened: Iran is building back up its nuclear capability,” the former vice president said. “Another war in the Middle East is the last thing we need.”

“What we need is presidential leadership that will take strategic action to counter the Iranian threat, restore America’s standing in the world, recognize the value of principled diplomacy, and strengthen our nation and our security by working strategically with our allies,” Biden said.

Castro, Klobuchar, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and others called Trump leaving the Iran nuclear deal a “foreign policy failure.”

“Withdrawing from the Iran agreement, alienating our allies, and ramping up the pressure on Iran without a clear strategy has created an inherently dangerous situation in the region and is a foreign policy failure by the Trump administration,” Delaney said.

Others want to return to the deal.

Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang said on Twitter Thursday that he would “pursue diplomatic solutions.”

“We need to return to that agreement and once again work with our allies to achieve this goal – rather than being driven toward war by the chaos and dysfunction of the Trump Administration,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement Friday.

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, who in February defended her non-interventionist foreign policy stance in an interview on ABC’s “The View,” took to Twitter Friday and said in a posted video that “war with Iran is highly likely unless Trump swallows his pride and returns to the Iran nuclear agreement that he tore up.”

ABC News’ Armando Garcia, Cheyenne Haslett, Adam Kelsey, Molly Nagle, Lissette Rodriguez and Zohreen Shah contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Pelosi, Schumer say they weren’t informed of Trump’s plan to strike Iran

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The top two Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, said Friday they were not informed by the White House of President Donald Trump’s plan to stage a military operation against Iran in retaliation for shooting down a U.S. drone.

“I did not receive any heads up that there was a strike that was in the works,” Pelosi told reporters. “Maybe the other leaders did on the Republican side, but I did not receive any of that.

“And that would be a departure,” she added. “The president has informed us, for example in Syria, before we went there.”

Pelosi said that during Thursday’s White House Situation Room briefing for a select few members of Congress, there was bipartisan agreement that the president should de-escalate the situation with Iran.

“We left with the idea that the president was going to consider some options,” Pelosi said.

She said that she hasn’t spoken to Trump on Friday, but she’s glad he didn’t go through with the strike.

“I don’t know how imminent the strike was, we hear different things, but a strike of that amount of collateral damage would be very provocative and I’m glad the president did not take that,” she said.

“De-escalate, de-escalate, de-escalate,” she said. Take a deep breath and de-escalate.”

While the president tweeted Friday that he stopped a U.S. military response “10 minutes before the strike,” congressional leaders who met with Trump in the White House Situation Room Thursday said that a military response was not discussed in the classified meeting and that Democrats made clear any military action needed congressional approval.

Indiana Republican Rep. Greg Pence, the brother of Vice President Mike Pence, told ABC News that he has “confidence” in the Trump administration “to do the right thing” as it mulls a response to Iran shooting down a U.S. military drone this week.

“I have confidence in the administration, the State Department, the military to do the right thing on behalf of the American people,” Pence said, refusing to elaborate on his position.

Across the aisle, Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson said he was concerned by reports that the president scuttled a military operation after learning the toll of civilian casualties.

“The consequences if he had followed through would have been quite grave for the nation,” Johnson said. “The president is not acting carefully at this time. He has many of us very concerned about the direction of our country at this crucial time.”

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith, who attended the classified briefing in the White House Situation Room Thursday, criticized Trump for sharing details of the aborted plans on Twitter.

“That’s not the kind of thing that I think the president should say in public,” Smith, D-Wash., said. “He should not be saying stuff like that publicly because it gives the impression of a level of indecision.”

“I wish he was more discreet about what he shared with everybody,” he added.

Johnson said Trump should be consulting with congressional leadership.

“The president appears to be making decisions by the seat of his pants – impulsively,” he said. “Perhaps there is some logic that he understands in his madness but it’s driving the American people crazy and it’s presenting real concerns about whether or not a fire would be lit.”

Johnson blamed Trump for an “uptick in aggression” in the Middle East, adding the president “should be acting very carefully not to cause the unthinkable to happen.”

“Our nation is not leading. Our nation is being led by other nations and our leader is not a thoughtful individual, has not carefully studied the geopolitical situation in which he has stuck his heavy thumb,” Johnson said. “It’s like a bull in the china shop. A blind bull in the china shop at that.”

 

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Trump says he stopped Iran strike because he was concerned about casualties

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

The White House(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Friday reacted on Twitter to reports that he ordered a military strike on Iran for shooting down an American drone, but then reversed his decision after the plan was underway, saying he was concerned about potential casualties.

In a series of tweets he said, “We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not…. proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!”

….proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world. Sanctions are biting & more added last night. Iran can NEVER have Nuclear Weapons, not against the USA, and not against the WORLD!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2019

Sources told ABC News the reversal was against the advice of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

The plan and reversal was first reported by The New York Times.

A senior level administration source briefed on the plan says it would have escalated the situation quickly had it been carried out. Officials feared the attack could have caused hundreds of civilian casualties.

Iran shot down a U.S. drone early Thursday, claiming it had flown into the country’s airspace. The U.S. government claims it was operating in international airspace.

Trump called Iran’s decision to shoot down the drone “loose and stupid” when speaking to the press following a discussion with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The comments came following a morning meeting with his top national security advisers over the downing of what the U.S. military said was an unarmed and unmanned U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone flying over the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz.

Shortly before, Trump had tweeted that “Iran made a very big mistake” after a top Iranian commander warned Iran was “ready for war.”

Top politicians from the Senate and House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, met with administration officials over the downed drone Thursday afternoon.

“The president may not intend to go to war here, but we’re worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war,” Schumer said.

Pelosi called it a “dangerous situation” and cautioned the president that the U.S. “cannot be reckless in what we do.”

Gen. Hossein Salami, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, offered a strongly worded threat to the U.S. after the drone was downed.

“Shooting down the American spy drone had a clear, decisive, firm and accurate message,” he said, translated from Farsi. “The message is that the guardians of the borders of Islamic Iran will decisively respond to the violation of any stranger to this land. The only solution for the enemies is to respect the territorial integrity and national interests of Iran.”

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Democratic presidential candidates to pitch Latinos at Miami forum ahead of debates

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

adamkaz/iStock(MIAMI) — When eight Democratic presidential candidates descend on Miami for a forum focused on Latino issues on Friday morning, their appearance will highlight the early importance of one of the most vital swing states and the need to make inroads with Hispanic voters — a group set to become the largest minority voting bloc this election cycle.

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren all are scheduled to take the stage at the Telemundo Center at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials presidential candidate forum. The event takes place just days before 20 of the 23 major Democratic candidates meet for the first two-night debate of the 2020 presidential election season.

Democrats aren’t the only ones with a giant stake in the Sunshine State.

Just this week, President Donald Trump officially launched his 2020 reelection campaign in Orlando, Florida, holding his event in a state he frequently calls his second home. Next week the Trump campaign is expected to roll out a national “Latinos for Trump” effort in Miami headlined by Vice President Mike Pence alongside Florida Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nunez, who’s Cuban American.

The plan is part of the campaign’s larger strategy to reach out to Hispanic voters, particularly on television, with Trump sitting down for an interview this week with Telemundo anchor José Diaz-Balart in the president’s first interview with a Spanish-language network.

During the interview set to air Thursday night, Trump told Diaz-Balart that Latino voters want him to follow through on his threat to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

“They want me to do it — they’re here illegally. They don’t want to lose their jobs, they want to keep their salaries, their wages, up,” Trump said. “And they don’t want crime. When people come through, you have MS-13 coming through.”

Why Florida?

Florida is no stranger to extremely close races and post-election day drama. Since the 2000 Bush vs. Gore hanging-chads saga, the last two presidential elections have been decided by approximately 1 percentage point — Barack Obama won Florida in 2012 by less than 1 percent, and Donald Trump won the state in 2016 by 1.2 percent.

Most recently, two Trump-backed candidates faced some recount drama of their own following a contentious 2018 midterm election.

Following two weeks of machine and manual recounts, allegations of voter fraud and uncounted ballots, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis narrowly won the state’s gubernatorial race, by 32,463 votes. Meanwhile, then-Gov. Rick Scott won a Senate race by just 10,033 votes. Both candidates had some of the president’s biggest midterm endorsements, with the fate of the 2020 presidential election potentially hanging on the results of their own races.

By the numbers

According to 2018 midterm election exit polls, 15 percent of Florida voters identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino, and the group favored Democrats by about 10 points in statewide races — Democrat Bill Nelson outpaced Republican Rick Scott 54 percent to 45 percent in the Senate race, and Democrat Andrew Gillum led Republican Ron DeSantis 54 percent to 44 percent.

The percentage of Hispanics and Latinos as a proportion of the total 2016 Florida electorate was 18 percent, and there was a strong preference for Hillary Clinton, who outperformed Trump within the group 62 percent to 35 percent. But Trump’s relatively poor performance among the Hispanic/Latino population statewide was fairly isolated, as Republican Sen. Marco Rubio received support from 48 percent of the bloc, nearly matching Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

In 2018, 39 percent of Hispanic/Latino exit poll respondents said they considered themselves Democrats, compared to 35 percent who said they were Republicans. As a whole, the group skews middle-right of the political spectrum, with 42 percent considering themselves moderate “on most political matters,” 32 percent saying they’re conservative and 26 percent claiming to be liberal. Nearly one-third of the group said it was their first time voting in a midterm, potentially a sign of a boom in Latinos reaching voting age or more of them being interested in politics — or both.

Despite frequent outreach to the community by candidates on the topic of immigration, Hispanic and Latino exit poll respondents in 2018 showed less interest in the issue than white voters, with 24 percent of Hispanics and Latinos noting that immigration was the most important issue facing the country, compared to 35 percent of their white counterparts.

Further, 54 percent of Florida’s Hispanics and Latinos said Trump’s immigration policies were “too tough,” compared to 18 percent who said they weren’t tough enough and 26 percent who felt they were “about right.”

Opportunity for Castro

This will be only the second time Democratic presidential candidates gather to discuss issues specific to the Latino community and the largest gathering of its kind so far.

Last month, four presidential candidates participated in the Unity & Freedom presidential forum focused on immigration in Pasadena, California. While the forum mainly focused on issues facing the undocumented immigrant community, Friday’s forum in Miami will offer candidates a platform to speak on a plethora of issues affecting the Latino community.

The NALEO forum and next week’s debate present a particularly unique opportunity for Castro, the field’s lone Latino candidate, who, in polls, has sat in the middle of the crowded group for much of the year, despite his early entrance into the race and diverse resume.

Castro has made no secret of his identity while on the trail, speaking with regularity of his grandmother’s immigration to the U.S. from Mexico and making immigration reform one of the first issues of the focus of his campaign. His brother Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, sits on NALEO’s board of directors.

But, just as African American candidates Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., have campaigned diligently in South Carolina, making no assumptions that the black voters who make up 60 percent of the early-voting state’s Democratic registrants would automatically gravitate towards a figure with a shared identity, so, too, the former HUD secretary isn’t taking for granted support from Latinos — particularly in Florida, where the population is highly diverse, hailing from a wide variety of Spanish-speaking nations in South and Central America and across the Caribbean.

“The worst thing Julian Castro can say is, ‘I have the Latino vote in the bag because of my last name and because I was mayor of San Antonio,'” Arturo Vargas, NALEO’s CEO told The Intercept last year. “The only way that materializes is if there is significant investment in Latino voter turnout in [states with large Latino populations].”

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Trump rolling out coalition aimed at courting Hispanic voters

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign next week will roll out its first coalition of the 2020 election aimed at turning out Latino voters ahead of the first Democratic debate in Miami.

Just a day before Democrats hold their first 2020 debate, Vice President Mike Pence will head to Miami on Tuesday to launch “Latinos for Trump,” a national effort to lure Hispanic voters, along with Republican party members including Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, the Trump campaign confirmed to ABC News.

The campaign argues that the president’s economic record throughout his first term in office will help to boost his appeal with Latino voters, which includes the lowest unemployment rate — 4.2 percent — for Americans of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity on records since 1973. As well as Trump’s tough stance toward China and the administration’s backing of uprisings in Venezuela and Cuba.

A source close to the campaign tells ABC News that the timing of the “Latinos for Trump” rollout in Miami plays right into the campaign’s larger, in-flux, counter-programming strategy for the first 2020 Democratic debate. Trump took 29 percent of the Latino vote in 2016, making good on his long-held prediction of topping Romney, who took 27 percent of the Latino vote in 2012.

Hispanics are projected to become the largest minority group in the electorate in 2020, with 13.3 percent, surpassing African Americans.

The coalition announcement comes days after the president promised to begin deporting “millions” of people next week, the same week “Latinos for Trump” is set to launch. A U.S. official told ABC News the deportations described by the president on Twitter aren’t imminent.

Aspects of Trump’s immigration strategy have faced intense criticism, including the short-lived zero-tolerance policy that resulted in children being separated from their parents while crossing the Southern border. The Trump administration rescinded the policy last June.

However, the campaign claims the president’s hardline stance on immigration is one of its strongest assets to attract more Hispanic voters in 2020.

“Many Latinos agree with the president’s position on illegal immigration,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News. “A lot of people who followed the rules to come to this country think that others should follow the rules too.”

Albert Morales, who used to lead the Democratic National committee’s Hispanic affairs office, doubts the president’s economic record will be enough to boost Latino turnout in his favor.

“There are 40 former GOP members of Congress who employed that strategy last November. It didn’t work for them, and it certainly won’t work for Donald Trump,” Morales told ABC News. “Latinos remain as enthusiastic about voting in the upcoming presidential primary as they did during the final days leading up to the 2018 midterm election.”

Another part of the campaign’s strategy will be reaching Hispanic voters on television.

Trump recently sat with Telemundo anchor José Diaz-Balart for his first interview with the Hispanic television network since taking office. Two weeks ago the campaign said it’s looking to put resources in New Mexico and Nevada, two states with significant Hispanic populations.

But for the Trump campaign, selecting Miami as the location to roll out its “Latinos for Trump” initiative a day before the first Democratic debate is a matter of timing and location.

Florida’s 27th Congressional District, which includes Miami, is often described as the “ultimate melting pot” by residents and local candidates. More than 70 percent of the district identifies as Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census.

While Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen became the first Latina elected to Congress after winning in the 27th Congressional District, after she retired the district flipped blue in the 2018 midterms.

Voters in that district, which includes downtown Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Key Biscayne and surrounding neighborhoods, voted for Ros-Lehtinen in previous elections but also voted for Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. Trump narrowly won Florida in 2016. And the president’s allies see rallying support in that type of congressional district early on as crucial, especially if the 2020 race is tight.

A source close to Ros-Lehtinen and the Florida GOP told ABC News that a winning strategy for Trump is all about appealing to the demographic density in the state — adding Hispanic voters who aren’t hard right-wing supporters but believe it’s better than the alternative. The president’s rebuke of socialism is appealing to voters in communities where families fled socialist dictatorships and are fearful of Democrats like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to the source.

The campaign plans to launch additional coalitions on a rolling basis over the coming months, with one aimed at women voters likely next, according to those familiar with the plans.

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2020 candidates flock to SC for Jim Clyburn’s ‘World Famous Fish Fry’

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — Take 22 Democratic presidential candidates, add thousands of voters and mix in thousands of pieces of fish and slices of bread and you get a recipe for Majority Whip Jim Clyburn’s annual “World Famous Fish Fry” — a must-attend event for politicos hoping to win in South Carolina.

“They’re going to be the people who are going to drive their grandma to the polls in February. They’re going to be the people who put a sign in their yard,” Amanda Loveday, former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, said of fish fry attendees Friday night in South Carolina’s capital, Columbia. “These are going to be the core voters of the Democratic Party, and this is the weekend that they get to meet and shake hands with the potential next president of the United States.”

Since its inception, the fish fry, which is free and open to the public, has been an effort to give South Carolinians a glimpse at candidates without the cost of attending the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention’s Blue Palmetto Dinner. Tickets to the sold-out dinner cost $150.

At the fish fry, each candidate is introduced to the crowd with a pre-selected song of their choosing and addresses the thousands expected to attend. The gathering is expected to run through 4,400 pounds of fish and 6,400 slices of bread.

“Everybody will be there just simply having good old time,” said Jaime Harrison, a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party and current U.S. Senate candidate. “Eating, drinking, dancing, laughing and then sitting back and listening to our presidential candidates.”

The fish fry isn’t only about making a good impression on voters, it’s also about forming key relationships with the Democratic establishment in South Carolina.

Clyburn, the third-highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, has hosted the fish fry for nearly three decades. He’s considered the most influential leader in South Carolina politics and his endorsement is highly coveted.

Though Clyburn has promised to refrain from endorsing a candidate ahead of the state’s Democratic primary in February, in 2016, Clyburn endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after saying he would stay neutral. He didn’t publicly endorse a candidate during the 2008 Democratic primary.

“I mean, if you believe the polls, the majority of people are going to be there supporting Joe Biden, but that doesn’t mean that the other 21 candidates shouldn’t come,” said Loveday, who also served as Clyburn’s communications director. “That’s the reason why Jim Clyburn doesn’t endorse anybody until right before the primary date. He wants all the candidates to come and let folks across the state understand why they’re running.”

However, former Vice President Joe Biden is hoping his long friendship with Clyburn and the relationships built in South Carolina will prove vital in the campaign’s South Carolina strategy. Biden’s South Carolina relationships helped make him an attractive running mate to then-Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in 2008.

“Vice President Biden has the inside track because of his name I.D., because of his established relationships with the state,” Harrison said. “Many of these presidential candidates are new to South Carolinians and to the South Carolina Democrats.”

Still, other 2020 presidential hopefuls are hoping to make inroads in South Carolina — a state where African-Americans make up nearly 30 percent of the population.

Both Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris have campaigned heavily in the state, venturing out of the two large metropolitan areas, Charleston and Columbia. While others, like South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, have struggled to garner much African American support at events in the state.

Harrison recommends that candidates shore up their South Carolina teams with staffers that have strong ties in the state. He says doing outreach in some of the most rural corners of South Carolina is critical.

“Speak with Democrats that not only live in urban areas, where most of the state’s population is, but also in many of the rural communities which will probably be very influential in determining who ultimately wins the primary,” Harrison said.

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President Trump ordered military strike on Iran, but reversed at last second: Sources

Posted on: June 21st, 2019 by ABC News No Comments

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump ordered a military strike on Iran late Thursday, but reversed his decision after a plan was already underway, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The sources tell ABC News the president’s reason for changing course was unclear, but the reversal was against the advice of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

A senior level administration source briefed on the plan says it would have escalated the situation quickly had it been carried out. Officials feared the attack could have caused hundreds of civilian casualties.

Iran shot down a U.S. drone early Thursday, claiming it had flown into the country’s airspace. The U.S. government claims it was operating in international airspace.

Trump called Iran’s decision to shoot down the drone “loose and stupid” when speaking to the press following a discussion with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The comments came following a morning meeting with his top national security advisers over the downing of what the U.S. military said was an unarmed and unmanned U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone flying over the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz.

Shortly before, Trump had tweeted that “Iran made a very big mistake” after a top Iranian commander warned Iran was “ready for war.”

Top politicians from the Senate and House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, met with administration officials over the downed drone Thursday.

“The president may not intend to go to war here, but we’re worried that he and the administration may bumble into a war,” Schumer said.

Pelosi called it a “dangerous situation” and cautioned the president that the U.S. “cannot be reckless in what we do.”

Gen. Hossein Salami, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, offered a strongly worded threat to the U.S. after the drone was downed.

“Shooting down the American spy drone had a clear, decisive, firm and accurate message,” he said, translated from Farsi. “The message is that the guardians of the borders of Islamic Iran will decisively respond to the violation of any stranger to this land. The only solution for the enemies is to respect the territorial integrity and national interests of Iran.”

 

 Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

Former White House aide Hope Hicks’ testimony transcript released

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

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former White House aide Hope Hicks refused to answer questions about several key incidents related to President Donald Trump’s potential obstruction of justice investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to a transcript of her congressional testimony released Thursday.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee questioned Hicks for nearly seven hours on Wednesday in a closed-door hearing. Democrats expressed some frustration with the former aide for refusing to answer any questions about her time at the White House.

Democrats on the committee said lawyers representing the Trump administration blocked Hicks from answering questions 155 times. Hicks and her legal team said she was “following the instructions from the White House.”

Hicks served as one of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers, ending her tenure as the White House communications director in March of 2018.

After tweeting on Wednesday that Democrats were putting Hicks “through hell,” Trump told reporters on Thursday at the White House that he “heard she was terrific” during the hearing.

“She is a great, great person,” Trump added. “And she was terrific yesterday.”

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

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Despite cold shoulder form Trump, GOP firebrand Roy Moore announces 2020 bid for the US Senate

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

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Judge Roy Moore, the controversial conservative firebrand who narrowly lost a U.S. Senate special election in Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones in 2017, announced Thursday he will again compete for the GOP nomination to challenge his former rival in 2020 – setting up a rematch in one of this cycle’s most consequential races.

“I’m ready to do it again and yes, I will run for the United States Senate in 2020.” “Can I win? Yes, I can win,” he said in response to a reporter question in a press conference in Montgomery announcing his second Senate bid Thursday.

Moore re-enters the political arena roughly a year and a half after seeking to replace former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who vacated the seat to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general. Moore ultimately lost by more than 22,000 votes to Jones in a major blow to Republicans.

The former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice initially surged onto the national stage after defeating Trump-backed state Sen. Luther Strange in the GOP primary, which was seen as one of the earliest tests of the president’s political influence.

But his candidacy was stymied by the emergence of multiple accusations of sexual misconduct in the 1970s, which included inappropriate contact with underage women when he was in his 30s, during the general election campaign. He has denied the allegations and was never charged or investigated.

He has denied the allegations.

Jones’ victory in 2017 foreshadowed the rise of the “blue wave” in the Trump era – and was an early signal of the limits of the power of his presidential endorsement. But as the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in 25 years, he is now considered one of the most endangered incumbents up for re-election, and political experts have cast the race as a toss-up.

The GOP currently controls the Senate 53-47 over Democrats, but to ensure it can hold on to the chamber in 2020, the party is taking aim at the Senate seat in deep red Alabama which shows even deeper tints of red in a presidential cycle. The GOP primary in the state in March 3.

Prior to Moore’s announcement, Jones didn’t appear to show any signs of concern about him entering the Republican primary.

“I’m not going to give an ‘if’ answer, especially not with THAT guy,” he told ABC News only hours before Moore made his announcement.

Although Jones is battle-tested, the contest is expected to be one of the most closely-watched due to Jones’ vulnerability and the eagerness of the Republican bench already lining up to oust him.

Moore is entering a crowded primary, with four other candidates already competing for the nomination and the chance to take on Jones, including Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and state Rep. Arnold Mooney. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill filed official paperwork with the FEC to run for the seat, and is set to make a formal announcement next week.

Moore’s uphill climb also includes a potential rivalry with Sessions, who has not ruled out a bid for his former seat. In early May, the former attorney general said during a live interview at the SALT conference, “I haven’t made a formal announcement about the senate race, but I am interested in the issues … I’d love to see us bring more intellectual heft behind those positions. I think it exists, and maybe I can contribute some in that.”

Sen. Richard Shelby, the state’s other sitting senator, who has talked to Sessions about running again, also said the day before Moore announced his bid, “I don’t think [Sessions has] ruled it out. I’ve talked to him about it. I think if he ran he would be a formidable candidate.”

“I have not encouraged him to run but he’s a friend and if he ran I think he’d probably clear the field,” he added.

Back in 2017, Moore secured Trump’s coveted endorsement only a week shy of the election, and while he never campaigned alongside him, the president urged voters at a campaign rally held just days before the election took place and just over 50 miles from the Alabama state line to back Moore.

“We want people that are going to protect your gun rights, great trade deals instead of the horrible deals. And we want jobs, jobs, jobs. So get out and vote for Roy Moore,” Trump said during a December 2017 rally in Pensacola, Florida.

But as Moore teased a political comeback over the last couple of months, the support he once boasted from within his own party has thinned, as Trump and other top Republicans appear wary of his candidacy and have even warned him against launching a bid.

Last month, Trump asserted that he would cost the GOP the crucial Senate seat.

“If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories,” the president tweeted. “Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating…Judges and Supreme Court Justices!”

Moore fired back at the president during an interview with Politico, in which he said, “The president doesn’t control who votes for the United States Senate in Alabama. People in Alabama are smarter than that. They elect the senator from Alabama, not from Washington, D.C.”

He also said that despite Trump’s opposition, he’s confident he would successfully capture the GOP nomination again.

“They know I’ll win,” he added. “That’s why they’re upset.”

Republicans worry Moore’s entrance into the race could potentially muddy the waters for the party’s hope to flip the seat – and could possibly elevate Jones’ chances to earn a second term.

Shelby told reporters on Capitol Hill Wednesday that he would not support Moore if he decided to run again.

“It’d be up to the people of Alabama,” he said. “There are a lot of other people that will hopefully be running … I would not support him.”

“I think Alabama could do better and he would be a disruptor,” Shelby continued. “I think we can win that seat back.”

The top aide of Senate Republicans’ campaign arm also previously signaled that they would be against a Moore bid.

“There’s a lot about Roy Moore that still needs to be examined, especially on the financial element, it’s a tangled web,” Kevin McLaughlin, the executive director of the National Republican Senate Committee, told the New York Times, before calling himself “A.B.R.M — Anyone but Roy Moore.”

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