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Monday
Sep162019

White House blocks former top Trump aides from testifying

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Monday blocked his former Staff Secretary Rob Porter and former Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn from testifying on Tuesday before Congress about events related to former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation as part of the House Judiciary Committee's ongoing probe into potential obstruction of justice and public corruption.

In letters sent to the committee on Monday, obtained exclusively by ABC News, White House counsel Pat Cipollone said Porter and Dearborn are immune from compelled congressional testimony.

"As you know ... in accordance with long-standing, bipartisan precedent, senior advisers to the President such as Mr. Dearborn and Mr. Porter may not be compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters related to their service as senior advisers to the President," the letter from the White House to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler , D-N.Y., said.

"Accordingly, in keeping with settled precedent and to protect the Office of President for the future, the President has directed Mr. Dearborn and Mr. Porter not to appear at the hearing scheduled for Sept. 17, 2019," the letter said.

The White House also used the "absolute immunity" argument to block testimony for former White House counsel Donald McGahn and to limit the scope of former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks' testimony before the panel and behind closed doors in June.

House Democrats argued in a recent lawsuit filed to enforce McGhan's subpoena that the "absolute immunity" argument has "no grounding in the Constitution, any statutes, or case law" and stating that the president cited "no legal authority" to instruct a private citizen, like McGhan or Porter, to defy a congressional subpoena.

The White House also directed Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski not to speak about conversations he had with Trump as president and with senior advisers and only about his time working for Trump on the campaign.

"... Mr. Lewandowski’s conversations with the President and with senior advisers to the President are protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests and, as a result, the White House has directed Mr. Lewandowski not to provide information about such communications beyond the information provided in the portions of the [Mueller] Report that have already been disclosed to the Committee."

In response, Nadler said in a statement, "This is a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity. The President would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress --even if they did not actually work for him or his administration. If he were to prevail in this cover-up while the Judiciary Committee is considering whether to recommend articles of impeachment, he would upend the separation of powers as envisioned by our founders.

"No one is above the law," the statement continued. "The House Judiciary Committee will continue our investigation of the President’s crimes, corruption and cover-up and get to the truth for the American people."

Lewandowski, who served as Trump's first campaign manager until he was fired in June of 2016, has remained close to the president and the West Wing, serving as an outside adviser to Trump since his election but never served in Trump’s administration.

Porter served as White House staff secretary for Trump from January 2017 until he resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse in February 2018 -- allegations he denied. He served as a key witness in Mueller's investigation.

Both Porter and Dearborn were on the list of a dozen subpoenas the committee authorized in June, requesting documents and testimony from twelve current and former administration officials and associates of Trump related to their obstruction investigation.

Democrats see public testimony from them and other prominent Trump figures as key elements of their investigation to determine whether to take up impeachment against the president.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

3 Women's March board members out months after controversy

iStock/Moussa81(WASHINGTON) -- Three founding members of the Women’s March Board, are leaving the board months after some controversy.

The organization announced that Tamika Mallory, Bob Bland and Linda Sarsour will leave the board and 16 others will join.

The statement did not address the reasons behind their departure, saying only that they "will transition off of the Women’s March Board and onto other projects focused on advocacy within their respective organizations."

Questions about alleged anti-Semitism and possible racist rhetoric connected to the Women’s March organizers swirled for months in late 2018 and ahead of the 2019 march in response to an article in online Jewish magazine Tablet that made such claims, which the organizers denied.

Fellow founding board member Carmen Perez-Jordan will remain on the board.

The statement from the Women's March notes that the board shuffle came as the result of an open-call solicitation and board nomination committee selection and transition that started as of July.

Organizers repeatedly denied all accusations of misconduct or using inappropriate speech, but the issue resurfaced in January when two of the march's organizers appeared on "The View."

During the show, march co-president Tamika Mallory was asked why she posted a photo of herself and Louis Farrakhan, a minister and leader of the Nation of Islam, who has been accused of making anti-Semitic statements in the past. Mallory posted the photo on Instagram with a caption that included the hashtag for the title "Greatest Of All Time."

"I didn’t call him the greatest of all time because of his rhetoric," Mallory responded. "I called him the greatest of all time because of what he’s done in black communities."

Pressed on the issue, Mallory said, "I don't agree with many of Minister Farrakhan's statements," but when asked directly if she condemned them, she demurred.

"I don't agree with these statements," Mallory responded. "It’s not my language, it’s not the way that I speak, it’s not how I organize ... I should never be judged through the lens of a man."

Mallory’s co-president, Bob Bland, responded to allegations that the organization expressed anti-Semitic beliefs behind closed doors, saying the claims "are not true. That is not how that meeting happened."

"The people that the journalist spoke to did not tell the truth, period, full stop," Bland said. "The Women’s March unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism, bigotry, transphobia ... We condemn any statements of hate."

The 16 new board members were listed in the Women's March statement as Samia Assed, Zahra Billoo, Charlene Carruthers, Mrinalini Chakraborty, Rabbi Tamara Cohen, Rev. T. Sheri Dickerson, Sarah Eagle Heart, Lucy Flores, Ginny Goldman, Ginna Green, Shawna Knipper, Isa Noyola, Kelley Robinson, Rinku Sen, Leslie Templeton and Lu-Shawn Thompson.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issues executive order to crack down on sales of e-cigarettes to minors

KXTV(LOS ANGELES) -- California has become the third state to issue an executive order regarding the sale of e-cigarettes but fell short of an outright ban on flavored products after efforts during its legislative session fell short, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference Monday.

The executive order will increase enforcement against counterfeit e-cigarettes and "against those abusing the law" who allow minors to access the products, Newsom said.

The state will also conduct a significant review regarding warning labels on e-cigarette packages and advertisements, which currently do not advise customers on the potential dangers of use, and spend $20 million on an advertising campaign to target the epidemic, Newsom said.

California has seen the use of e-cigarettes "skyrocket" on high school and middle school campuses in recent years, Newsom said. This year, one person has died and another 63 people have been hospitalized with respiratory illness related to vaping in the state, he said, although "a lot" of those cases were cannabis-related.

Earlier this month, Michigan became the first state to issue a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced an emergency executive order to ban the flavored products on Sunday amid growing health concerns.

Newsom is "hopeful" to institute a similar ban in California but would need legislative support to do so, he said.

"It appears the governor alone is not afforded the right, legally, to ban those products outright," Newsom said.

When asked by reporters how he would address the parents of teens who vape, Newsom replied, "There’s nothing fun, there’s nothing cute about this. Literally, people are losing their lives."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

President Trump brings 2020 roadshow to New Mexico hoping to expand electoral map

iStock/Oleksii Liskonih(SANTA FE, New Mexico) -- For the second time in nearly a month President Donald Trump will plant his flag Monday night in a state he lost in 2016 when he brings his massive campaign rally roadshow to New Mexico -- a move that's part of a wider strategy for the campaign which has its sights on flipping a number of blue states red in 2020.

It may seem strange for the Trump campaign to travel out West and hold a rally in a state that, not only did the president lose by nearly double digits, but one that hasn't gone Republican in well over a decade -- but the move is actually backed by internal data the team is seeing on the ground.

Back in February, during the president's trip to El Paso, Texas, for his first rally of the year, the campaign noticed something: A significant number of supporters from neighboring New Mexico had made the trip to Texas to see the president.

The president's larger reelection strategy aims to win in blue states such as Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico, which the campaign has identified as vulnerable in 2020.

"We saw in the data thousands of voters who did not vote for the president in 2016 show up to a rally, come listen to the president and register [to vote]," Parscale told reporters last week. "I've continued to say the president's policies are a win for Latino voters across America … and one of the first symbols of this was the El Paso rally."

The Trump campaign views the president's hardline on immigration as a signature issue that's resonated in the border state.

"As we started doing polling there, we saw a dramatic increase from 2016 and I went over this with the president and he said, 'Let's go straight into Albuquerque,'” Parscale added.

Monday's rally in New Mexico comes just weeks after the president first took his campaign into a blue state with a rally in New Hampshire in late August, a state he lost by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2016.

The campaign is already seeing one of the best responses for registrations regarding Monday's rally, and according to Parscale, it's a testament to the president's policies resonating in the area.

"New Mexico is a state that the Trump's policies are really working," he added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Trump's long history of making threats against Iran

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Tensions were rising Monday after President Donald Trump issued a thinly-veiled threat against Iran that the United States is “locked and loaded,” reigniting questions about military action after attacks on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure caused oil prices to surge.

“Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Trump tweeted.

It was just the latest in a long series of threats Trump has made against Iran, each followed by uncertainty over whether he would follow through with a military response.

On Monday, he did as he often does, and answered reporter questions about his intentions with "We'll see what happens."

He came close to making good on this threats of military action in June, after Iran shot down an unarmed and unmanned U.S. RQ-4A Global Hawk drone flying in international airspace over the Gulf of Oman near the Strait of Hormuz. Trump tweeted that "Iran made a very big mistake" after a top Iranian commander warned Iran was "ready for war."

But he called off a military strike against Iran at the last-minute, placing the blame on someone "loose and stupid" in Iran -- an individual who had made a "big mistake."

Five days later and following the attack on two commercial tankers sailing in international waters in the Gulf of Oman, Trump escalated his threats against Iran, promising Iran would be met with "great and overwhelming force" and potential "obliteration" in some areas if it attacks "anything American" after Iranian leaders said the White House "is afflicted by mental retardation" and that they would be permanently close the door to diplomacy in the wake of U.S. sanctions.

Trump called statements made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and a spokesperson for Iran's foreign minister "ignorant and insulting," and then issued another stark threat: "Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration."

In June 2018, after Trump announced he was formally pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal, he issued a threat to Iran after the country's president Hassan Rouhani said that pursuing hostilities against his country could lead to "the mother of all wars."

Trump tweeted in all-caps, "To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly expressed concern over a potential war with Iran and in May said that "we have to avoid any war with Iran.”

During an interview at the Council on Foreign Relations in June, Pelosi expressed concern with why Trump is being "provocative with the Iranians."

“He comes in and undoes [the nuclear deal] and inflames the U.S.-Iran issue. Why?" Pelosi asked. "What is the purpose? I'm not going to accuse anybody of instigating anything, but for not having a policy that would smooth the waters so to speak.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Air Force's newest aircraft named T-7A Red Hawk in honor of Tuskegee Airmen

Twitter/@usairforce(SAN ANTONIO, Texas) -- The Air Force's newest aircraft honors the legacy of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen, the nation's first squadron of African American pilots who flew combat missions during World War II.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force Matthew Donovan announced on Monday that the service's advanced trainer aircraft, the T-X, has officially been named the T-7A Red Hawk. The aircraft will feature a distinctive red tail that pays tribute to the signature red tails painted on the Tuskegee airmen's planes 75 years ago.

One of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, retired Col. Charles McGee, was on stage at the 2019 Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber Conference in Maryland on Monday as the T-7A Red Hawk was unveiled. McGee, 99, flew more than 400 combat missions in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

"The name Red Hawk honors the legacy of Tuskegee Airmen, and pays homage to their signature red-tailed aircraft from World War II," Donovan said. "The name is also a tribute to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, an American fighter aircraft that first flew in 1938 and was flown by the 99th Fighter Squadron, the U.S. Army Air Forces' first African American fighter squadron."

According to the Air Force, the first T-7A Red Hawk aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. But eventually every Air Force base that trains pilots will use the new aircraft, replacing the older T-38C trainers.

"The T-7A Red Hawk, manufactured by Boeing, introduces capabilities that prepare pilots for fifth generation fighters, including: high-G environment, information/sensor management, high angle of attack flight characteristics, night operations and transferable air-to-air and air-to-ground skills," the Air Force said in a statement.

"The distance between the T-38 and an F-35 is night and day," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. "But with the T-7A the distance is much, much smaller. And that's important because it means the pilots trained on it will be that much better, that much faster at a time when we must be able to train to the speed of the threat."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Snapchat users can see who's behind political ads with new feature

alexsl/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Snap, the maker of the Snapchat app, unveiled an online database featuring all of the political ads within Snapchat, as 2020 presidential campaigns intensify and tech giants face increased scrutiny for their roles in the spread of information each election year.

The social media app company's Political and Advocacy Ads Library feature aims to give "the public an opportunity to find out details about all political and advocacy advertising running on our platform," according to its website.

Snap said that a political ad will appear in the library -- which is available as a downloadable sheet -- within 24 hours of it being delivered, and provide information about who created the ad, the targeting criteria, impressions and more.

Snap told ABC News that it has taken a unique approach in its newly-launched political ads library in that all of the ads are vetted by humans. Political ads also must include a "paid for by" disclosure and may not be paid for by non-resident foreign nationals.

Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy as well as a former privacy and public policy adviser at Facebook, told ABC News in a statement that this is a "critical development for a platform that has become increasingly important in American media."

"Though this is a positive step forward, we must demand better political ad transparency of Snap," he added. "Clear disclaimers identifying political content to users, real time disclosures of engagement statistics, a searchable online database, better visualizations of historical ad creatives, and granular information about ad targeting and audience segmentation are all vital given Snapchat's increasing importance."

Ghosh added that if tech giants and the broader internet industry "fail to offer such transparency, our democratic process will remain vulnerable to disinformation operations."

Snapchat's effort comes on the heels of Facebook announcing it was also tightening its rules surrounding political ads ahead of the 2020 election, forcing advertisers to confirm their group's identity using a tax identification number (or other government ID) and including "paid for by" disclaimers, according to the Associated Press.

Critics, however, were quick to point out a loophole in Facebook's efforts that smaller groups could use if they don't have a tax ID, government website or registration with the FTC.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Trump urges patience after 'locked and loaded' threat following attack on Saudis

lucky-photographer/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Monday offered markedly more restrained language about possible retaliation for a weekend attack on a Saudi oil facility -- compared to his Sunday tweets that the U.S. was "locked and loaded depending on verification" if and when the U.S. publicly announces Iran's culpability.

A senior administration official told ABC News that there was an unclassified statement that was cleared and ready to be released, showing no doubt Iran carried out the strikes from its own soil. But the president was restrained in his comments.

Asked at an afternoon Oval Office photo-op with the crown prince of Bahrain if he has seen evidence that Iran was behind the attack, the president answered, "It is looking that way."

While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has already blamed Iran directly, Trump said, "We're having some very strong studies done" before announcing a determination."

The president's comments also indicated -- as ABC News previously has reported -- that the U.S. has assessed that Iran is behind the attacks, but is more interested in the Saudis coming forward to ask for U.S. help.

"That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, and that wasn't an attack on us," Trump said. "But -- we would certainly help them."

When pressed by ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl whether he still thinks that it's the Saudis responsibility to defend themselves, Trump suggested that if the U.S. were to intervene it would be under the condition that the Kingdom be prepared to pay up.

"This is something much different than other presidents would mention, Jon, but the fact is that the Saudis are going to have a lot of involvement in this if we decide to do something," Trump said. "They'll be very much involved. And that includes payment. And they understand that fully."

But he also showed a renewed wariness of getting the U.S. involved in a prolonged conflict in the Middle East, telling reporters that he doesn't believe diplomacy has been exhausted, even after the weekend strikes.

"No, it is never exhausted," Trump said. "In fact, the crown prince [of Bahrain] could tell you especially in your part of the world, it's never exhausted until the final 12 seconds, is that right?"

In terms of timing regarding potential U.S. retaliation, Trump assured reporters -- when asked what his message is for Iran -- that he's patient in terms of determining next steps.

"I think I'll have a stronger message or maybe no message at all when we get the final results of what we're looking at all," Trump said. "But right now it is too soon to say. There is plenty of time. You know, there is no rush."

Trump said Pompeo, who publicly blamed Iran over the weekend, would head to Saudi Arabia "at some point" to discuss the matter.

In a statement, the Saudi foreign ministry was more cautious: "Initial investigations have indicated that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian weapons. Investigations are still ongoing to determine the source of the attack."

Without mentioning Trump, Pompeo or the U.S., the Saudi statement thanked the "Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expresses its appreciation for the positions taken by the international community that have condemned and denounced this act. But instead of blaming Iran, the Saudis called for a U.N. investigation and pointedly said Saudi Arabia could defend itself.

Earlier Monday, Trump and his top national security officials met at the White House to discuss how to respond to the attack on a Saudi oil facility that the U.S. has blamed on Iran, according to three senior administration officials.

Pompeo was expected to present evidence that ties Iran to the weekend's attacks, according to the Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short. Over the weekend, Pompeo and Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, were pushing for a military buildup in the region, while the Pentagon was looking for a non-escalatory response that would push Tehran to the negotiating table, one senior administration official said.

ABC News was first to report that the U.S. believes the mix of cruise missiles and drones aimed at the key Saudi oil facility was launched from Iranian soil, according to two officials. The attack, which Iran denies, knocked out more than 5% of the world's daily crude oil production, disrupting global markets.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that there was "reason to believe" the U.S. knows who committed the attack, saying the U.S. is "locked and loaded depending on verification."

But a senior official told ABC News that the president knows Iran was behind the attack and wants Saudi Arabia to acknowledge that fact publicly if they want assistance from the U.S.

Saudi military spokesperson Col. Turki al-Malki said on Monday that initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used in the attack and that those weapons were not launched from inside Yemen.

The president tweeted again on Monday morning about an incident in May in which Iran shot down an unmanned American drone over the Strait of Hormuz after saying it had crossed into Iranian airspace.

"They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie," Trump tweeted. "Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We’ll see?"

Following the May incident, the Pentagon advocated for a more cautious response than was pushed for by other senior national security officials in the administration. Ultimately, the president chose to conduct a strike on Iranian missile batteries inside Iran, only to call off the strike at the last minutes due to concerns over casualties and the proportionality of that response.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep162019

Woman linked to newly revealed allegation against Kavanaugh: 'Ask Brett'

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- A woman reportedly involved in a second allegation of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh during his freshmen year at Yale University had a simple response when asked by ABC News if there are other people who can speak to her story: “All I can say is, ask Brett.”

The woman, who ABC News is not naming at this time, said Sunday she “can’t do it again” referring to speaking about the allegations. The alleged incident was not widely reported on until the New York Times published a story that a former classmate said he saw Kavanagh "with his pants down” at a dormitory “where friends pushed [Kavanaugh’s] penis into the hand of a female student."

That classmate, named in the Times as Max Stier, who now runs a non-profit, nonpartisan organization in Washington called “Partnership for Public Service,” declined to comment to ABC News.

The Times report, adapted from the soon-to-be-released book titled "The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation," written by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, is reigniting controversy by publicizing this alleged incident and raising questions about the scope of the FBI’s probe into allegations of sexual misconduct when Kavanaugh was a student. Pogrebin and Kelly say that although the FBI was notified of the unnamed alleged victim’s account, the FBI did not investigate it, and that the agency declined to interview over two dozen people “who may have had corroborating evidence”related to another former classmate who says she had a similar experience, Deborah Ramirez.

Ramirez told the New Yorker that during a dorm party sometime in the 1983-1984 academic year, Kavanaugh "thrust his penis in her face" causing her "to touch it without her consent." The New Yorker article was published less than a week after Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh were made public. Kavanaugh flatly denied Ramirez’s accusations.

"This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen," he said in statement soon after the report was published. "The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple."

Kavanaugh again denied the allegations, along with Blasey Ford’s and those of another accuser, Julie Swetnick, during his public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last September.

Through a court spokeswoman, Kavanaugh declined comment to ABC News on the allegations made in the Times story published Sunday and the new book out this week. At the request of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, President Donald Trump eased limits on an FBI background check into Kavanaugh, sources close to the process told ABC News last October. Trump had previously called for it to be "limited in scope," but sources told ABC News he later authorized the FBI to interview anyone it wanted, with a focus on accusations raised separately by Ford and Ramirez.

In early October, the FBI delivered its report to the Senate Judiciary Committee. After reviewing the report, the committee’s chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley called the women’s accusations "uncorroborated" and said "neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations." The Senate ultimately confirmed Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by a vote of 50-48.

The book authors now claim that FBI investigation wasn’t sufficiently thorough, saying that Ramirez’s legal team gave the FBI a list of at least 25 individuals who they said might have been able to confirm her allegations, but that none of them were interviewed as part of the bureau’s supplemental investigation, even after some of them tried to contract the FBI on their own accord. The Times also reports that two FBI agents interviewed Ramirez and said that they found her "credible," but that the Senate "had imposed strict limits on the investigation."

When it was initially published, the New York Times report did not include reporting that the unnamed woman did not remember the alleged incident, and that she declined to be interviewed by Pogrebin and Kelly, although this information is included in the forthcoming book. The Times’ article has been updated to include these details. A spokesperson for Ramirez declined to provide a comment to ABC News.

These newly revealed allegations against Kavanaugh are prompting both calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment and renewed support from his allies. Trump, championed his nominee on Twitter, writing, "He is an innocent man who has been treated HORRIBLY. Such lies about him. They want to scare him into turning Liberal!"

Many of the Democratic candidates for president were quick to call for Kavanaugh’s removal. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment through tweets. Both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders were critical of the new reports, but did not specifically call for impeachment.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., weighed in on last year’s investigations into Kavanaugh on "This Week" telling ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "My concern is that the process was a sham."

Trump accused the Times of trying to libel Kavanaugh.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, claims that he first learned of the new allegation on Sunday from the Times report.

"The sad consequences of this article are a misinformed public, a greater divide in our own recourse -- discourse, and a deeper lack of faith in our news media," he said on the Senate floor.

But Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told ABC News that he copied Grassley on a letter he sent to the FBI about the new allegation at the time.

"I also remain upset, frustrated, concerned that the FBI conducted an overly narrow follow on the investigation. As is now public, I sent a letter to Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Feinstein and the director of the FBI. It was a letter to the director of the FBI, but the Chairman and Ranking member of Judiciary were copied, encouraging them to contact a particular individual. We now know that to be Max Stier," Coons said.

On the Senate floor Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the Times report on Kavanaugh, calling it "poorly sourced, thinly reported" and "unsubstantiated."

"There they go again," McConnell said, "call it a one-year anniversary reenactment."

"The latest report was blasted out by a major newspaper despite a lack of any, any, corroborating evidence whatsoever," McConnell said.

McConnell went on to criticize the Democratic presidential candidates who he said were "hysterically" calling for Kavanaugh's impeachment, and warned they are scheming to "pack the courts."

"This is not just a left wing obsession with one man, it's part of a deliberate effort to attack judicial independence," McConnell said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep152019

'We've seen too damn many' mass shootings in Texas: Sen. Ted Cruz

iStock/somboon kaeoboonsong(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said there have been "too damn many" mass shootings in Texas, but claimed that gun control proposals from Democrats would not have stopped the recent mass shootings in his home state.

"We've seen too damn many of these in the state of Texas. So, we need to end them, absolutely, yes," he said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, after describing the time he spent with the families of mass shooting victims in west Texas.

"Now, the question is what do we need to do that actually works? And this is where I get frustrated with Democratic politicians in Washington," he added. "Because the proposals they're putting forward would not have stopped a single one of these mass murders."

Cruz’s claim comes despite federal and local law enforcement sources telling ABC News that the gunman who killed seven and injured 25 in a shooting spree in Midland and Odessa Texas on Aug. 31 purchased his AR-style weapon in a private sale that may have been barred under expanded background check legislation.

Law enforcement sources have told ABC News that the suspected gunman was barred from purchasing or possessing a firearm because he had been diagnosed with a mental illness. He obtained the firearm he used in the shooting through a private sale, federal and local law enforcement sources said.

In private sales, a seller is not allowed to sell a weapon to a buyer that has been flagged by law enforcement. However, sellers are not obligated to run a background check themselves or ask if the buyer can legally own a weapon.

Universal background check legislation -- passed by the House earlier this year -- and the Manchin-Toomey bill proposed in the Senate would expand requiring background checks to include private and internet sales.

On "This Week," Cruz instead argued for the proposal he first introduced in 2013 with Sen. Chuck Grassley, which the two re-introduced in May. While it doesn't enact universal background checks, the legislation aims to strengthen the current system by prosecuting those with a criminal history who lie on background check forms and criminalizing straw purchases

Cruz said there was "a very good possibility" that the Grassley-Cruz proposal could have prevented the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting when speaking to the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday.

Mass shootings in August, two of which were in the senator's home state of Texas, have renewed discussions around the country and on Capitol Hill about gun control.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeated on Tuesday that he would not advance gun control legislation that he believed President Donald Trump would not sign.

Trump said there had been "a lot of progress" on background checks when speaking with reporters on Thursday after being briefed on proposed gun control measures.

However, of Democrats recent proposals on the issue, he said, "There's a possibility that this is just a ploy to take your guns away."

Cruz said he spoke with both McConnell and Trump this past week about his proposal, which he argued would improve and strengthen background checks while protecting Second Amendment rights.

When Stephanopoulos asked Cruz about proposals to expand background checks to private sales, Cruz argued that Democratic proposals were a slippery slope towards gun confiscation.

"If you have a federal government background check for (private transactions), what you will see the next step to be is the only way to enforce that is a federal gun registry and a gun registry is the step you need for gun confiscation," he said.

Cruz voiced opposition to Democrats' proposals for gun control, including that of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who has called for mandatory gun buybacks.

"The federal government should not be confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens," Cruz said.

He has also said previously that expanding background checks too far could hurt Republicans politically in 2020.

"If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights, that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren," Cruz said Thursday in comments reported by The Hill.

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