EXCLUSIVE: Joe Walsh announces Republican primary challenge against President Trump

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Conservative firebrand former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh announced Sunday in an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" that he's launching a long-shot Republican presidential primary challenge against President Donald Trump.

"I'm going to run for president," Walsh told Stephanopoulos on Sunday in an exclusive interview.

The former Illinois congressman-turned-radio host was once a fervent Trump supporter who's become a fierce critic of the president. Walsh is just the second Republican to jump into the primary behind former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who announced back in April but has yet to gain serious traction.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told ABC News a dismissive one-word response to Walsh jumping into the race: "Whatever."

Walsh has acknowledged there's little chance his candidacy will result in Trump losing the party nomination, and he is instead focused on offering GOP voters an alternative vision for the party.

While he has argued that he plans to make the moral case for his candidacy, the former Tea Party congressman has a history filled with incendiary and controversial statements ranging from using racist slurs on Twitter to promoting falsehoods around former President Barack Obama's birth certificate and that he's Muslim.

Walsh only served one term in Congress, but his candidacy does perhaps bring a more current figure from conservative circles into the long-shot picture compared to Weld, who last held public office over 20 years ago. Walsh's nationally syndicated radio show and large online following arguably kept him more relevant.

The Trump administration's latest actions around trade and the economy along with what Walsh's team calls an "incredible reaction" and flood of support to an op-ed Walsh published in the New York Times last week is what pushed the conservative radio host to jump into the race.

Walsh's team says he is set to travel to and spend "a lot of time" in the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming weeks.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Democratic leadership again considers climate change debate -- and again says no

baona/iStock(SAN FRANCISCO) --  Democrats have shut the door to a presidential debate focused on climate change.

The proposal dominated the party's convention this week in San Francisco and pitted party officials who oppose single-issue debates against activists, who see climate change as an existential threat that deserves special attention heading into the 2020 election.

On Thursday, the proposal failed in the Democratic National Committee's resolutions committee, and on Saturday the DNC leadership delivered a final "no" vote.

DNC Chair Tom Perez, who opposed the proposal, said the committee has received "dozens" of requests for single-issue debates, all on "compelling issues," and that it would be a mistake to "change the rules in the middle of the process."

He also pointed out that the party has allowed candidates to appear at single-issue forums and town halls, and that many candidates will participate in a series of climate change forums on CNN and MSNBC this fall.

But a number of candidates, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke, have endorsed the idea.

"This decision is as baffling as it is alarming. Our planet is burning— the least we can do as a party is debate what to do about it," O'Rourke said on Twitter following the vote.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who made climate change the central issue of his campaign and proposed the idea of the debate in the first place, dropped out of the race this week.

Meanwhile, activists who argued that the singular threat posed by climate change set it apart from other issues denounced the DNC's decision.

“This is downright irresponsible. Climate change is an emergency, but Tom Perez isn’t acting like it,” said Sofie Karasek, a spokesperson with Sunrise Movement, a youth-led environmental group. “We have just over ten years to completely transform our economy to avert catastrophe, but instead of being the adult in the room, Tom Perez is throwing procedural temper tantrums.”

Proponents argued that a climate debate would help elevate the issue and force the eventual Democratic nominee and lawmakers to take the issue seriously.

Young people held more than 20 rallies and sit-ins at Democratic Party offices in support of the proposal in recent weeks, garnered the endorsements of 24 state party chairs and over 100 voting members, and the backing of dozens of city and county Democratic parties. 64% of Democratic voters support it, and a coalition of groups supporting the resolution collected over 540,000 signatures.

“The Democratic Party needs the energy and motivation of young people to win in 2020. The energy around this issue has been incredibly clear, yet Tom Perez keeps shooting the party in the foot by rejecting that energy and turning it away,” said Evan Weber, Sunrise Movement political director. “Without hundreds of thousands of people raising their voices, we never would have gotten the town halls on and CNN and MSNBC. This is the kind of energy we need from young people to win in 2020.”

Stifling debate?

In June, the DNC saiud it would block candidates from participating in third-party debates, and refused to host one on climate change themselves.

"If we change our guidelines at the request of one candidate who has made climate change their campaign’s signature issue, how do we say no to the numerous other requests we’ve had?" Perez wrote in a blog post at the time. "How do we say no to other candidates in the race who may request debates focused on an issue they’ve made central to their own campaigns?"

Tina Podlodowski, the main sponsor of the original climate debate resolution and the chair of the Washington State Democratic Party pointed out that the DNC leadership had changed the debate rules more than once already.

"Look no further than the escalating requirements to qualify for the debates themselves,” she said. "We are not asking for a single issue debate -- we are asking the DNC to recognize the urgency of this crisis and how it touches every issue that motivates the young people and union workers we must turn out to win in 2020.”

Indeed, the party's criteria for how candidates qualify for the debates was another major sticking point over three days of meetings at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square hotel.

Twelve presidential candidates addressed party members and insiders on Friday, while Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts, used his speaking slot to drop out of the presidential race.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, took aim at the party’s rules for debate qualification ahead of the third primary debate in Houston, which Bennet has not yet met.

“The DNC’s process is stifling debate at a time when we need it most,” he said, to some of the loudest cheers of the morning from party members. “We’re rewarding celebrity candidates with millions of Twitter followers, billionaires who buy their way onto the debate stage, and candidates who have been running for president for years.”

The DNC required that candidates have at least 130,000 individual donors or reach two percent in four national or early state polls certified by the party.

While the summer meeting represented a unique opportunity for candidates to glad-hand party officials from across the country, the conference is not the same power center it once was.

After Sanders and his supporters accused party insiders of undermining his support in the primaries in 2016, the party diluted the influence of the party’s superdelegates in the nominating process, preventing them from voting in the first round of ballots at next year's convention in Milwaukee.

With the influence of party insiders diminished, some of the candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden, skipped the event altogether. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who is on the verge of missing the cut for the next debate, did not attend the summer meeting either, but called on the DNC to change its qualifying rules.

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Immigration lawyers say efforts to address a backlog of cases has hurt clients 

Isaura Aceves/ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In 2014, Texas immigration lawyer Robert Painter first met a domestic violence victim he believed had a strong case for asylum. But due to the backlog in U.S. immigration courts, they did not appear before a judge until last month.

The woman’s next hearing is now a year away, and Painter fears the long delay has hurt her case, and made her that much more vulnerable if she is sent back to her home country.

Meanwhile, the sheer volume of such cases means that Painter's firm American Gateways, which represents low-income immigrants in central Texas, has been turning away as many as 140 cases a month.

“In spite of what this administration keeps trying to push, this narrative that people are trying to game the system ... it's important to remember that there are humans that are being served or not served by this system,” Painter said.

Texas has 135,177 open immigration cases and the average wait for a hearing is 713 days, according to Syracuse University's TRAC database.

The backlog in immigration courts is nothing new. But under President Trump, the volume of open cases has swelled to just under a million people, according to TRAC.

Under President Obama's administration, prosecutors could ask a judge to close a case and then have it removed from the docket without a ruling. But the Department of Justice under Trump claimed that the practice was illegal and returned 350,000 deportation cases to the system.

To address the bottleneck, the Trump administration has begun expediting family cases and hiring more judges. Immigration lawyers say they haven't had enough time to prepare some cases, while major delays can weaken other cases.

Between the time a person claims asylum and the ruling on that application, it’s possible that the requirements have changed several times over. In a bid to limit immigration, the Trump administration is continually declaring new mandates while advocacy groups implore federal judges to block them. The result is that rules for immigrants are ever evolving.

Last year, the Trump administration said it would begin restricting asylum claims of migrants fleeing domestic and gang-related violence, though the directive was later rejected by a federal judge. If it is reinstated, the rule would likely mean that Painter’s client in Texas would have no case for asylum.

And last month, Attorney General William Barr ruled that if migrants pass through a country on the way to the United States and don't apply for asylum there, then they are ineligible to seek asylum in the United States.

"Adjudicating outstanding cases in the immigration backlog remains a priority for this Administration,” a Department of Justice spokesman said in a statement. “In doing so, all cases will be adjudicated in full accordance with the law and due process."
Outcome based on the law

One of the biggest changes made under the Trump administration has been to add around 200 immigration judges, which has brought the total number to 430. According to an analysis by the Associated Press, one in five judges appointed by the Trump administration are former military lawyers and attorneys who previously worked at Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE).

Anne Pilsbury, an immigration lawyer in Brooklyn, New York, said inexperienced judges come with a cost.

“When [judges] first start they just don't get it. They're not used to communicating with people with limited education and they just kind of don't know how to listen and ask questions," she said. “Which makes their chances of granting the case low because if a judge finds a person not credible, it’s the end of the case."

Pilsbury, who founded Central American Legal Assistance in 1986 and remains its executive director, has worked through myriad changes to immigration rules over different administrations. She said that delays can cause evidence to become stale and supporting documents to appear outdated.

“All of a sudden the burden becomes even heavier on us to try to convince them that they're still in danger [when] it could have been granted if it was heard promptly,” Pilsbury said.

Asylum petitions currently have a roughly 70 percent denial rate, according to TRAC.

A spokeswoman at the Executive Office for Immigration Review under the Department of Justice said it is “committed to ensuring that all who come before its courts will receive due process and a timely, fair adjudication whose outcome is based on the law.”
Restrictive laws

Andrew Arthur is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit organization that favors limiting immigration, and a former immigration judge. He said it has been important to bring in new judges and fast-tracking some cases because “it's crucial having the case heard in a timely manner.”

He said no judge is forced to rule negatively and deport people, and that judges who issue negative rulings are just following the law.

"The immigration laws in the U.S. are restrictive,” he said.

Diana Ricaurte went through an American immigrant court as a child and is now a justice fellow working with family asylum seekers and unaccompanied children through the Central American Refugee Center in Long Island.

She said she has been frustrated to find that some applicants do not in her view get a fair hearing, and that her personal experience gives her a window into how lost an asylum applicant can feel moving through the system.

“[It] doesn't give them the ability to cope with everything that's been going on, from the moment they flee to the moment that they're actually facing an immigration judge,” she said.

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Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg treated for new pancreatic cancer 

iStock Photo/Bill Chizek(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was recently treated for a "localized malignant tumor" on her pancreas, a court spokesperson said Friday.

"The tumor was treated definitively and there is no evidence of disease elsewhere in the body," spokesperson Kathy Arberg said.

The news, coming during the court's summer recess, is the second cancer scare for Ginsburg in the last year. In December 2018, doctors removed part of her lung after discovering cancerous nodules. Recovery from the surgery caused Ginsburg to miss public court sessions for the first time in her 25 years on the bench.

"When they say 'localized,' it means cancer has not spread outside the pancreas. That in itself is usually a good sign," said ABC News medical contributor Dr. Nithin Paul on "The Briefing Room" on ABC News Live. "When it’s a localized cancer, the American Cancer Society says there’s about a 34% chance of surviving to at least 5 years – but that’s a broad number based on studies from a few years ago. So, the actual number will vary based on the person's health status, response to treatments and other factors."

Ten years ago, in March 2009, Ginsburg was treated for pancreatic cancer. She also underwent surgery for colon cancer in 1999.

"She’s vigilant about monitoring her health. She gets a lot of regular check-ups. So, that’s led to the very early detection each time she has had a brush with cancer," noted ABC News court analyst and former clerk Kate Shaw.

The liberal justice, who has become a pop culture icon dubbed "the Notorious RBG" and a hero for young activists, dismissed concerns over her health in an interview with NPR in July, saying she is "very much alive."

"There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months," Ginsburg said. "That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive."

In an appearance at Duke University around the same time, Ginsburg said she intends to continue serving on the court "as long as I can do it full steam."

"At my age -- 86 -- you have to take it year by year," she said. "I was okay this last term and I expect to be okay next term. And then after that, we’ll have to see.” The court will convene in September to consider petitions and begin hearing oral arguments in October.

Progressives had been particularly concerned over Ginsburg’s health in recent years, fearing that if she can no longer serve or retires, this would give President Donald Trump the opportunity to nominate another conservative justice. The president wished Ginsburg well late Friday ahead of his visit to France for the G-7.

"Well, I hope she does really well and our thoughts and prayers are with her," Trump said. "It's a very serious situation. I'm hoping she's going be fine. She's pulled through a lot. She's strong. Very tough. But we wish her well, very well."

During his presidency, Trump has already appointed two justices to the court -- Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

"She has totally kept up by all accounts," said Shaw. "It even sounds as though during the course of treatment she went to Broadway shows, she went shopping -- at the moment it does not seem to be slowing her down at all."

The new tumor on her pancreas was detected after a routine blood test in early July and a biopsy on July 31 confirmed it was malignant, the court said.

A three-week course of radiation treatment at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City ended Friday. "The tumor was treated definitively" and, according to the court spokesperson, "no further treatment is needed at this time."

The treatment caused her to cancel her annual summer visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the court said, but she had otherwise maintained "an active schedule."

"Recovery from radiation therapy is usually much quicker than other therapies like surgery or chemotherapy," said Paul. "Generally speaking, because it’s non-invasive, it’s a quicker return to daily life."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Murphy says White House still committed to gun background checks despite Trump's mixed signals

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told reporters on Friday that, despite President Donald Trump’s recent mixed signals on gun sale background checks, he believes the White House is still committed to working on a comprehensive anti-gun violence proposal.

Murphy, who spoke with Trump by phone last week, said Trump “told me personally that he was indeed serious about moving forward together on what he called meaningful background check legislation.”

“The president told me that he knew that Republicans in the Senate wouldn't support it unless he supported a background checks measure and he was committed to finding a way forward,” Murphy said.

But then, Murphy said, Trump made comments later this week that seemed to suggest he was “once again backing away from his commitment to work on background check legislation.”

Murphy said he was in contact with the White House as late as Thursday night and said he believes the White House is still on board with finding a background check reform solution.

But it’s unclear which measure the White House supports and if it would include implementing universal background checks or simply expanding on current background checks.

Congress has not passed any sweeping gun reform legislation since the 1990s. Lawmakers have tried and failed numerous times, notably after the 2012 shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, in which 20 school children were killed by a gunman. Murphy was the US senator for Connecticut at that time.

Other proposals the White House is potentially weighing, according to Murphy, include a federal grant program that would assist states in implementing the “Red Flag” law, which Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C,. and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., support. The state law typically permits police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.

The White House could also consider two background check bills passed by the House in February.

One of the bills would establish new background check requirements for firearm transfers between private parties. The other bill would extend the review period for the FBI to complete its background checks for gun purchases from three days to 10 days.

“I am skeptical that these efforts are going to bear fruit,” Murphy said Friday. “I think it’s very hard to negotiate with this White House when the president’s public positions seem to change by the day.”

“I'm sure there will some there will be some people who will say I'm naive to think that we're going to end up getting a proposal through that will significantly expand background checks and be able to get 60 votes in the Senate, but I'm going to try,” he added.

Murphy said he believes Trump has the “instinct to lead” but he’s talking to the gun lobby “more more frequently than he’s talking to me.”

“If this, you know, all seems like a ruse, an attempt by the president to make it look like he's doing something without actually moving the ball down the field, I think we'll know that in fairly short order,” Murphy said.

Murphy acknowledged that public support for passing a universal background check is at an all-time high and it’s very likely Republicans are keeping this in mind heading into the 2020 presidential election cycle.

“If you want to win the presidency in 2020 you can't be in the pocket of the gun lobby,” Murphy said. “If you win a seat for Congress in the 2020 elections, you can't be owned by the gun industry. You have to show that you are willing to take them on.”

Murphy said he thought it was “interesting” that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is “opening the door” to a background checks bill in the Senate because McConnell likely recognizes the issue of guns could be a real “political vulnerability” for his caucus.

“The only way that we pass a bill in the Senate is if there is a proposal with words on a piece of paper that the president says he's for and says it for more than 24 hours at a time,” Murphy said.

He added: “If Donald Trump gets behind a background checks reform bill, it will pass the Senate.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign wants the DNC to change debate qualifying poll requirements

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign is calling on the Democratc National Committee to revise its list of debate qualifying polls in an effort to help the Hawaii Congresswoman qualify for the upcoming third DNC debate hosted by ABC News.

According to the criteria that the DNC set forth, 2020 candidates must meet the donor threshold of 130,000 unique donors and 2 percent in 4 DNC qualified polls. Gabbard has exceeded the donor threshold but needs two polls to meet the debate criteria.

The Gabbard team is citing what they describe as several irregularities in the selection and timing of the DNC sponsored polls. The campaign points out “Gabbard has exceeded 2% support in 26 polls, but only two of them are on the DNC’s “certified” list.

In a press release, the campaign says many of the uncertified polls, including those conducted by highly reputable organizations such as The Economist and the Boston Globe, are ranked by Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight as more accurate than some DNC “certified” polls.”

Additionally, they have polled at or above 2% in two polls sponsored by the two largest newspapers in two different early primary states: The Boston Globe which is the largest circulated paper in New Hampshire and The Post and Courier in South Carolina.

Gabbard, who is a major in the Army National Guard is still currently in Indonesia for a two week military training, during which time she is unable to work with her campaign in any capacity. Gabbard will return to the campaign trail on August 27.

Another issue the Gabbard campaign is highlighting is the lack of polls that have been released following the second debate. After the first debate, the campaign highlights that 11 polls were released however that number shrank to just four polls after the second debate.

The Gabbard campaign also notes that only two polls were released in the two weeks following the second debate. The campaign stressed that the lack of polls that have been released are “particularly harmful to candidates with lower name-recognition. Delayed poll releases are an advantage for high-name recognition candidates such as Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris.”

This isn’t Gabbard’s first run in with the DNC, in 2016, she stepped down from the party after serving as Vice Chair to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders. Following her endorsement, Gabbard was outspokenly critical of the DNC, having clashed with then DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz over the DNC’s debate schedule resulting in Gabbard being disinvited from the first debate in 2015.

At the time Wasserman Schultz claimed that Gabbard’s complaints were a distraction.

Also earlier this week, Gabbard threw her support behind a failed attempt to call for the DNC to support a Climate Change debate.
Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Democratic presidential hopeful Rep. Seth Moulton drops out of 2020 race

sanfel/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Combat veteran Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., who wanted to add “president” to his long list of accomplishments -- four tours of duty in Iraq, three Harvard degrees, four years in the U.S. Congress -- announced on Friday that he's dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.

Struggling to meet the Democratic National Committee's requirements, Moulton missed both the first and second Democratic presidential debates and isn’t expected to meet the threshold for the third debate next month hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision.

During his speech Friday at the DNC's summer meeting in San Francisco, Moulton is expected to tell the committee, "Though this campaign is not ending the way we hoped, I am leaving this race knowing that we raised issues that are vitally important to the American people and our future."

"For the first time in my life, I talked publicly about dealing with post-traumatic stress from my four combat tours in Iraq," he continues, according to prepared remarks from his campaign.

In June, Moulton told ABC News he wasn’t worried about making the debates because he was seeing momentum on the ground and didn’t think meeting the DNC’s donor metrics was “a good use of resources.”

During his 123-day presidential bid, Moulton campaigned in nine states where he held at least 56 events and focused mostly on national security, national service and mental health.

The Bronze Star recipient brought an unmatched passion for service to the 2020 presidential race by continuously hosting veteran and military themed events: roundtables with JROTC students, military family groups, town halls with veterans, American Legion and VFW visits and most recently, Moulton visited the Veterans Community Project, a Kansas City based nonprofit that builds tiny houses for homeless veterans.

Opening up about his own experience with PTS (post-traumatic stress), Moulton launched a “Veterans Mental Health” tour and released a mental health plan that advocated for a national mental health hotline, routine mental health check-ups for active duty military personnel and veterans, and called for funding for yearly mental health screenings for high schoolers.

Moulton also used these past four months, in part, to repeatedly point out President Trump’s lack of military experience, with the most recent comment being at the Iowa State Fair last week when a fairgoer yelled “Go Trump!” and the Marine replied “If you want a draft dodger, he’s your guy.”

So what's next for Seth Moulton? The congressman is expected to run for reelection in Massachusetts’ 6th Congressional District and to relaunch his PAC, Serve America, which helped elected 21 new Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018.

"While this is the end of my campaign, it is certainly not the end of our efforts," he will say this afternoon. "I will once again be running for Congress in the 6th District of Massachusetts, my home, and I can’t wait to get back at it."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Trump team defends 2020 campaign manager's compensation

adamkaz/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign team on Thursday angrily disputed a report in a British tabloid that campaign chairman Brad Parscale is profiting excessively from his work for Trump.

Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh rejected as false anonymous allegations in The Daily Mail that Parscale was getting a cut of 2020 campaign donations.

"The suggestion that he is siphoning off a percentage of donations is a lie," Murtaugh said in a statement. "To report that because he -- or anyone -- is paid any amount by the campaign means he is receiving a 'percentage' of donations is deceptive and deliberately inflammatory. The same could be said for anyone receiving a paycheck from the campaign."

A spokesperson for The Daily Mail issued a single-sentence statement to ABC News late Thursday night in response to the Trump campaign's contention Parscale is not getting a percentage of 2020 Trump campaign donations.

"We stand by our reporting," spokesman Sean Walsh said in an email.

The campaign spokesman said Parscale had made plenty of money selling startups. And Parscale has previously acknowledged that he has made sizable sums through his campaign work for Trump. He reportedly told The Daily Mail that working for the president since 2015 has made him a "wealthy man."

"I make no secret about the fact that working for the Trump family made me a wealthy man well before I ever became President Trump's campaign manager," he said, according to the tabloid. "The president is an excellent businessman, and being associated with him for years has been extremely beneficial to my family."

Parscale has varying interests in companies that do campaign work, although details about his compensation from those firms remain unclear because they're privately held. He was involved in the creation of a firm called American Made Media Consultants, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. That firm has received more than $5 million from campaign committees supporting Trump in this election cycle, according to public filings. Parscale tweeted in February that he does not own the company and receives "no percentage of any ad buys from the campaign."

Parscale sits on the board of a separate firm called Data Trust, according to published reports, a firm that's been paid $2.5 million from the RNC this campaign cycle, the party's election filings show.

Murtaugh said in a phone interview with ABC News Thursday evening that Parscale holds a stake in only one vendor being used by the Trump campaign itself during this election cycle. That company, Parscale Strategy, provides a wide range of fundraising and web services, including digital consulting, web development and video production. It's been paid a combined sum of almost $10.5 million from the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the two joint fundraising committees between the campaign and the national party committee. It is not known how much of that went to Parscale himself.

In the nine months since the president's 2020 reelection campaign began, Parscale has spent millions on Florida real estate.

Public records indicate that Parscale bought a $2.4 million canal-front property in Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 3, 2019. Three months earlier, he spent $895,000 on a three-bedroom condo nearby. An investment company he set up with his parents, called Parscale Properties, also purchased another Fort Lauderdale condo in 2018 to the tune of $1,075,000. Murtaugh said Parscale's parents oversee the investments.

Even before the latest tabloid report, the real estate purchases, totaling nearly $4.4 million, have drawn attention to the wealth Parscale and his companies have accrued through working for Trump and his campaign.

In March 2018, ABC News reported that Parscale's companies had billed the Trump 2016 campaign and the Republican Party for more than $100 million since he first became involved with the campaign in 2015. Most of those payments went to a San Antonio firm he ran when he first began working for Trump called Giles-Parscale. It's difficult to know how much of that money went to Parscale himself. A sizable portion was passed through to pay for digital advertising that the firm helped purchase for the campaign.

In early 2015, before Trump announced he was running for president, Parscale was tapped to set up the Trump's campaign website in just two days. He had never worked in politics before, but he would go on to be an architect of the Trump campaign's digital strategy and a big player in Republican online operations before being promoted to 2020 campaign manager in February 2018.

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Trump's claims and what experts say about mental illness and mass shootings

Kameleon007/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- "Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger, not the gun," President Donald Trump said soon after the recent mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left 31 dead.

Under pressure to take action, the president has repeatedly tried to shift the cause of mass shootings away from guns and toward mental illness.

Experts say that's completely wrong.

"He's scapegoating people with mental illness as the cause of the problem completely inappropriately," Jeffrey Lieberman, chair of the Department of Psychology at Columbia University, told ABC News.

Trump was asked Wednesday by ABC News' Kyra Phillips why everyone shouldn't have to go through a background check before purchasing a gun.

"I want guns to be in the hands of people that are mentally stable. People that are insane, people that are sick up here," Trump said, pointing to his head, "I don't want them to get a gun."

Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, told ABC News that the president's remarks are an attempt to avoid talking about guns and instead take advantage of a belief held by many Americans that mass shooting suspects must be "crazy."

"What we know is that the majority of these mass shooters, did not have one of the major diagnosable psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression, that we know of," Swanson said.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1 percent of the yearly gun homicides in the U.S. A 2015 study looking at 235 mass killings determined that 22 percent of the perpetrators were considered mentally ill. And research shows that people with a mental illness are more likely to harm themselves than others, and are often the victims of violent crime.

"To the extent that there is an association, which there is between gun violence and mental illness, it's one contributor of many contributors, and it's the only one that has a ready solution," Lieberman said. "And the solution is providing better health care."

Motivation behind mass shootings

Following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Trump gave his now-standard response.

"I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem," Trump said. "I don't want them to forget that, because it is. It's a mental health problem."

But mental illness is just one of many motivators of gun violence, experts say. Others include domestic and foreign terrorism, race hatred or ideologies, disaffected loners and disgruntled employees, according to those who've studied mass shootings.

While experts agree that there is a relationship, they say that Trump's comments overstate the correlation. A 2015 study by Swanson found that even if mental illness was completely eliminated as a risk factor, violence would decrease by only about 4 percent.

He argues that Trump's comments tying mental illness to gun violence is part of strategy to create a "them versus us" mentality.

"It's creating this boundary and saying we're on this side, and those people over there are to blame," Swanson said. "What better boundary could you think of then building an asylum and locking them all up in there, and it's just not going to work."

Would more mental hospitals work?

As Trump quickly changed the subject from background checks to mental illness, he called for more mental hospitals, suggesting mentally ill homeless were responsible.

"I remember, growing up, we had mental institutions," Trump said Sunday. "A lot of them were closed. And all of those people were put out on the streets. And I said — even as a young guy, I said, 'How does that work? That's not a good thing.' And it's not a good thing. So, I think the concept of mental institutions has to be looked at."

"President Trump's comments about it's all a mental health problem and we need to build more mental hospitals and go back to the asylum movement is just 100 percent wrong," Lieberman said.

Marvin Swartz, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral Sciences at Duke University, agreed, telling ABC News that while there is a need for more beds in mental institutions, that hospitalization is not a feasible solution to preventing mental illness.

"We do have a shortage of beds, but the problem with that is finding a mass shooter is finding a needle in a haystack," Swartz said. "So, to prevent an act of violence by that needle in a haystack, you would have to hospitalize the entire haystack."

How Trump's comments affect the mental health community

The White House has been briefed on a proposal to develop a way to identify early signs of mental illness that could lead to violent behavior, according to the Washington Post.

When reporters on Wednesday pointed out to the president that other countries with similar levels of mental illness don't have similar numbers of mass shootings -- and why access to guns in the U.S. isn't to blame -- Trump focused his answer on video games.

"There are many, many things in play," he said. "People are talking about videos. People are talking about lots of different things. But we do have a way of bringing what we already have ... we have many, many people that are unable to buy guns right now. Many people are unable to buy guns. We have background checks. But there are loopholes in the background checks."

While experts would be happy to see deficiencies in the mental health system taken more seriously on the federal level, Swanson said it is disappointing that such needs seem to get addressed only after a mass shooting.

"This drives mental health stakeholders bonkers because they really want to have this conversation about improving mental health care in the United States, but the only time we get to talk about it is when there is some horrifying mass casualties," Swanson said.

Swanson added that this puts mental health advocates in a bind. Even though the president is potentially proposing an increase in funding for mental health care, which advocates support, his simultaneously tying improvements to gun violence, Swanson said, is forcing advocates to "make a deal with the devil in order to get something important done."

"It's just the wrong reason. It's really part of a solution to a different problem," he said.

Trump's statements are not only wrong but can discourage those on the fence about getting treatment for their mental illness, according to Swartz.

"His comments are really stigmatizing," Swartz said. "And I think it makes it hard for people to accept that they have a mental illness if they're going to be lumped in with what Trump calls deranged killers."

He added, "There is no correlation between the number of psychiatric beds and the generosity of outpatient treatment and rates of homicide across the country. The only thing that is correlated is the rate of gun ownership in the United States."

There was strong reaction as well from National Alliance on Mental Illness Acting CEO Angela Kimball. "The president should be talking about better care and earlier access to intensive treatment, not revisiting the shameful institutions of our past," she said in a statement.

"Words matter, Mr. President. 'These people' are our friends, neighbors, children, spouses. They're not 'monsters,' 'the mentally ill' or 'crazy people' -- they're us. Talking about reinstitutionalization only further marginalizes and isolates the 1 in 5 people with mental illness. Instead, we need to be talking about the power of early treatment and effective intervention to change lives," she said.

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John Hickenlooper joins crowded Senate race in Colorado

krblokhin/iStock(DENVER) -- Onetime 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper launched his campaign to unseat GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Thursday morning, entering a crowded Democratic primary to challenge the vulnerable Republican incumbent.

"I know changing Washington is hard but I want to give it a shot," Hickenlooper said in a new video announcing his Senate campaign. "I'm not done fighting for the people of Colorado."

The former governor, who dropped out of the even more crowded presidential Democratic field just a week ago, in his Senate campaign video took direct aim at Washington politics and Gardner.

"I don't think Cory Gardner understands that the games he's playing with Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are hurting the people of Colorado," Hickenlooper said. "We ought to be working together to move this country forward and stop the political nonsense."

Hickenlooper enters an already crowded Democratic primary in Colorado's Senate race where 11 other candidates are competing to win the party nomination to challenge one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in 2020. But the former governor is already seen as one of the more viable Democrats in the race because of his existing recognition boosted by his seven-month presidential run.

One of the Democrats running for the Colorado Senate race, former U.S. Ambassador Dan Baer, responded to the news of Hickenlooper's new Senate campaign saying "new voices" are "ready to lead" the state in a statement.

"There are new voices ready to lead across our state and in the U.S. Senate, voices who understand that there is no back to normal, there’s only forward to normal. That’s why I was running yesterday, and that’s why I’ll be running tomorrow," Baer said in a statement.

The news of Hickenlooper's Senate run doesn't come out of the blue: In May, Hickenlooper expressed confidence in his potential candidacy in the Senate race during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," touting his record in the state as "both as an entrepreneur in the private sector, but also as a mayor and a governor."

And just two days before Hickenlooper ended his presidential campaign, 314 Action, a federal PAC, launched a “Draft Hick for Senate” campaign, urging the former governor to end his presidential candidacy to run for Senate.

As more 2020 Democrats are ending their presidential bid, Hickenlooper was the first - and potentially, not the last Democratic presidential candidate to wind up running for Senate in his home state. Shortly before Hickenlooper announced his Senate bid, fellow Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced Wednesday night his decision to drop out of the presidential race.

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