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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mueller’s office declined to comment for this article.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Obama goes up against Trump in fight for Nevada Senate seat

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

Obama is campaigning just days after Trump stumped in the state.

Obama goes up against Trump in fight for Nevada Senate seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Beto O’Rourke is working to become a household name

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

Beto O’Rourke, the three-term Democratic congressman challenging Sen. Ted Cruz, has garnered national notice in his progressive Senate campaign.

CDC warns against dressing up pet chickens for Halloween

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

The CDC is asking pet owners to refrain from dressing up their chickens this year due to a particular strain of salmonella.

Scaramucci on The View: Kelly has hurt morale in the White House

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

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci took aim at White House Chief of Staff John Kelly on Monday, claiming that Kelly is bad for the West Wing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Armed with ‘truth,’ dictionaries school Trump: Here’s what’s behind their strategy

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

Dictionaries have been responding to tweets and statements made by President Donald Trump and his administration, prompting some to ponder if they are trolling Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ad prompted some rebukes when it first aired.

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

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

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

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Republicans in flood of ads are health-care defenders despite work to end Obamacare

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

Many who supported the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act downplay estimates of higher costs.

Trump will accept Saudi crown prince denial on Khashoggi, like ‘Putin’s denials’: Dem

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

I think that the president is going to accept the crown prince’s denials much as he has accepted Putin’s denials and Kim’s denials, Rep. Adam Schiff said.

North Dakota Native Americans fight to protect their right to vote after court ruling

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

Native American groups are rushing to make sure voters on reservations have IDs that comply with North Dakota’s strict voting law after a court ruling.

5 major issues dominating the midterm elections: ANALYSIS

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

Trump, historic bids, the “pink wave,” health care and immigration are major themes dominating the midterm elections and defining the candidates who are running.

5 major issues dominating the midterm elections: ANALYSIS

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

Trump, historic bids, the “pink wave,” health care and immigration are major themes dominating the midterm elections and defining the candidates who are running.

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

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

The candidates in the GOP Texas race for U.S. Senate sat down with Paula Farris.

Biden rallies union for Democrats in tight Nevada races

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

Former vice president is urging union members in Las Vegas to get out the vote.

Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

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

President will pull U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

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

President will pull U.S. from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Republicans disavow ‘mob’ for confrontation of Nancy Pelosi

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

Republicans quickly disavowed what they called a “mob” that angrily confronted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Miami last week.

Republicans disavow ‘mob’ for confrontation of Nancy Pelosi

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

Republicans quickly disavowed what they called a “mob” that angrily confronted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Miami last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘A country to save’

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

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

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

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

Cruz has wavered on this point in the past.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

O’Rourke disagrees.

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

Early voting in Texas begins on Monday.

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Bernie Sanders swings through Iowa in final midterm sprint

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sanders’ swing sparks 2020 speculation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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President Trump blames Democrats for migrant group heading north

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In traditional New Jersey GOP district, Republican tax bill has voters unhappy

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

Will the GOP’s tax bill hurt or help them in an affluent New Jersey district?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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North Dakota Native Americans fight to protect their right to vote after court ruling

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

ChrisBoswell/iStock/Thinkstock(BISMARCK, N.D.) — Courtney Yellow Fat, a tribal council member for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has lived on a reservation for most of his life – a community which historically hasn’t used street names or addresses and instead relies on post office boxes.

So, a few years back when he made the 90-minute trek to the state capital of Bismarck to the department of motor vehicles for an updated license, he felt he had no choice but to make up one on the spot.

“Sitting Bull Street, I think,” he said of the street address he gave for his state-issued driver’s license.

His tribal issued ID is correct because he has since gotten an actual street address listed for 911 purposes and he plans to add that address to his driver’s license.

Still, it’s a complicated matter for thousands of Native American voters in North Dakota who, because the Supreme Court last week allowed the state to implement its strict voter ID law, now find themselves scurrying to make sure they have identification with street address so their votes will count. According to studies commissioned by Native American rights groups who sued North Dakota over the new law, roughly 35 percent of that population doesn’t have an acceptable ID with a residential address.

Nevertheless, Yellow Fat and other tribal leaders are optimistic that the ruling will galvanize Native American voter turnout.

“I believe and I hope it’s going to have the opposite effect of suppression because the people here are so used to fighting uphill battles against the U.S. government,” he said.

The question of whether Native American votes will be counted is an especially relevant one in the upcoming midterms because, in less than three weeks, Yellow Fat and Native Americans across North Dakota will be among the nation’s most important groups in an election likely to help determine Senate control.

North Dakota’s voters are the most powerful in the country, according to FiveThirtyEight’s voter power index. A vote in North Dakota has more influence on which party will control the Senate majority than a vote in any other state, a point not lost on Yellow Fat.

“After the election of Sen. Heitkamp is when a lot of this came up through the legislature. And to us it’s clearly suppression of our votes,” Yellow Fat said.

The ability to have those Native American voters’ ballots count is especially important for Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s re-election bid.

She won her first election in 2012 by fewer than 3,000 votes thanks in part to Native American voters who cast their ballots under less restrictive voting laws. The court decision makes her already tough reelection bid against popular Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer even harder than it already has been.

Native Americans comprise two percent of the national population, but make up a larger share of North Dakota’s population at just over five percent. The state is also home to five reservations, which often vote in large numbers for Democrats and serve as a chunk of the state Democratic Party’s base.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger, the defendant in the voter ID lawsuit, told ABC News voter suppression is not the intent of his office or the voter ID law.

“I can look you straight in the eye and I will tell you that nothing has ever happened in this office to target anybody. That’s not what I was elected to do,” Jaeger said. “I took an oath of office to follow the laws of the state of North Dakota and I try my best every day to do that.”

Jaeger said his office is entirely focused on making voting accessible to anyone who wants to do so.

“I don’t have time to try to figure out how to disenfranchise anybody in the state of North Dakota because all of our efforts to make sure that anyone who wants to vote will be able to vote.”

Heitkamp countered Jaeger’s view in an interview with ABC News after Thursday night’s Senate debate. She said the law by its nature blatantly disenfranchises Native Americans by requiring a residential street address.

“Why would we ever disenfranchise a Native American veteran who only has a P.O. box that everybody knows when they walk into the polling booth, they know exactly who that person is, they know that they’re a North Dakota resident. That’s why we don’t have registration in North Dakota because we don’t have this problem and anyone who says this isn’t about disenfranchising Native Americans is not being honest,” the senator said.

Jaeger said that the P.O. box requirement was meant for the state to verify that voters who live in a given precinct get a ballot specific to where they live and that votes are not supposed to be cast by people who do not actually live in the precinct.

“It becomes very difficult if somebody just comes in with a P.O. box because we have no way of knowing which ballot that they should receive,” Jaeger said, giving examples of how election issues vary in different towns across the state. “Voting is tied to a residential address, and so there’s a lot of different ballots.”

Although a lower court sided with the Native Americans before the state’s June primary, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have both ruled in recent weeks that the state can move ahead with its law for its stated purpose, namely combatting voter fraud.

Voter fraud, however, has been virtually nonexistent in North Dakota, with the Secretary of State’s office saying that the number of fraudulent voter cases found have been in the single digits in both the 2012 and 2016 elections.

Jaeger, however, said that the numbers do not mean they can rule out the existence of voter fraud, citing voters in 2016 who voted without IDs and were unable to be matched by his office, in the weeks after the election, back to a home address they’d written down when they voted.

“Their ballot was counted and we can’t find them anymore. From my position that’s a concern. Because that means the integrity of the election may have been compromised,” Jaeger said.

The first effort at a voter ID law in North Dakota passed in 2013, within a few months of Heitkamp’s victory. A court win by tribal members prevented the law from taking effect for the 2016 election.

Last year, the Republican legislature worked with the secretary of state’s office on a new bill. The bill allowed voters without an ID showing a residential address to vote, but would only count their vote if they could prove their address to election officials within six days of the election.

Tribal activists submitted to the state legislature statistics detailing Native Americans’ difficulty in getting an acceptable ID.

The bill passed with overwhelming support from the Republican majority.

Court documents indicate the state did not consult with tribal governments about the impact of the bill on Native Americans, even after tribal members won their 2016 case.

Activists have accused Republican legislators and state election officials of erecting barriers to voting for the state’s mostly Democratic Native American population. North Dakota’s two majority-Native American counties both supported Heidi Heitkamp with nearly 80 percent of the vote when she first ran in 2012.

In a statement this week, the leaders of the four largest tribes in North Dakota opposed the law, calling it “suppressive” and accused the state of attempting to disenfranchise Native American voters.

“We believe the requirement of a physical, residential property with a street address was intended to disenfranchise Native American voters. To combat the disenfranchisement of our members, we intend to ensure that our members that lack residential street addresses can obtain them so that they may exercise their right to vote,” the statement read.

“We encourage all tribal people to come out to vote on November 6th even if you do not have a qualifying ID,” the statement added. “We will not be silenced by the blatant attempts to rob our people of our voice.”

Heitkamp and Cramer both addressed the voter ID ruling in their debate Thursday night.

Heitkamp accused the state legislature of deciding that “there are certain people in North Dakota that they don’t want to vote,” and that the law countered the state’s values, expressing hope that votes from Native Americans will count.

Cramer said North Dakota, as the only state without voter registration, needs to make sure voters demonstrate they live where they say they do and noted that “the integrity of the ballot box is very precious.”

Jaeger said it should be up to the tribes to provide proper qualifying identification to citizens on the reservation who have not sought them.

“I certainly hope that the appropriate authorities will see that their people have that since it’s so essential for everything that’s done.”

In an interview with ABC News, Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said he expected people to see the court ruling as a challenge that will drive people to come to the polls.

“With this ruling, I think it actually energized more people to go out. They want to be challenged for not voting, I think they’re going to go meet that challenge and I think they’re going to get out to the polls. That is our outlook,” Faith said.

But others on the reservation are wary.

Bill Left Hand, who has lived on the reservation most of his life with his five children — and now their children, said he is concerned people may not be able to vote because of the address requirement.

But he expressed approval for the tribe’s efforts to increase awareness about the new law.

“Standing Rock tribe is making every effort they can to inform the people of that and I’m also encouraging a lot of people to get out and get their address updated and to come and vote because that’s what we need, our voices to be heard most of all,” he said.

Faith and other tribal leaders in North Dakota are coordinating ahead of election day to ensure that Native Americans on the state’s five reservations will be able to vote. Four Directions, a Native American voting rights advocacy group, has put forward a proposal agreed to by tribal leaders to help residents secure acceptable forms of ID to present at the polls.

“As long as you provide a name and you’ll be at a physical residence, [the state] will honor a tribal letterhead as an ID for that person to vote,” said OJ Semans, Four Directions’ executive director. “We’re working with the tribes getting tribal officials to be at polling places or setting up an office near the polling places so people can get a tribal letterhead, get their IDs and go vote.”

Semans says his message for the state and people outside North Dakota is that the tribes will vote.

“It’s real simple. At the end, you tell them — Standing Rock will vote. Spirit Lake will vote. Turtle Mountain will vote. Sisseton-Wahpeton will vote. All of the tribes are united in ensuring that our tribal members are able to participate in this democratic process.”

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