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Sunday
Sep242017

Trump warns North Korea 'won't be around much longer' if threats continue to escalate

ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  President Donald Trump continued to escalate threats to North Korea late Saturday as he responded to their foreign minister with a warning "they won't be around much longer" if the country continues provocation.

Trump took to Twitter just after 11 p.m. to respond to statements made earlier Saturday by North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, who said bombing the U.S. mainland was "inevitable."

Ri is currently in New York at the United Nations General Assembly and spoke on Saturday in a much-anticipated rebuttal to Trump's message delivered on Tuesday in which he said the U.S. would "totally destroy" North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.

"Due to his lacking of basic common knowledge and proper sentiment, he tried to insult the supreme dignity of my country by referring it to as a rocket," Ri said, referring to Trump's new penchant for referring to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as "Rocket Man." "By doing so, however, he committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets' visit to the entire U.S. mainland inevitable all the more."

Kim and Trump have spent the better part of the last few months hurling insults back and forth at each other. Trump tweeted early Friday morning that Kim was "obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people."

Ri referred to the president as "a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency" in Saturday's address.

The war of words has continued to escalate as North Korea advances its development of a nuclear weapon. The country has fired three intercontinental ballistic missiles over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean in the past month. They also conducted a nuclear test on Sept. 3, with U.S. officials saying the country exploded a hydrogen bomb at an underground facility.

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Saturday
Sep232017

Lebron James to Trump: 'Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up' 

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Cleveland Cavaliers star Lebron James lashed out at President Trump on Saturday on social media after the president said he was withdrawing his invitation to the Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry to visit the White House.

James, in his tweet, referred to Trump's comment that visiting the White House is "a great honor."

"Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up," Lebron wrote.

The three-time NBA champion later posted a two-minute video on Uninterrupted.com, a media outlet dedicated to giving athletes a platform to speak their minds, in which he criticized Trump, saying he "has tried to divide us once again."

"He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us," James said. "For him to try to use this platform to divide us even more is not something I can stand for and is not something I can be quiet about."

James finished the monologue by encouraging "us to all come together. It’s not about a division. It's not about dividing. We as American people need to come together even stronger."

The president's earlier tweet apparently was in response to Curry's disclosure that he didn't want to go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

No formal White House invite had been made to the Warriors but championship teams often make such a visit. The Warriors, winner of the 2017 NBA championship, have been in discussions with the White House about whether to visit, ESPN reported.

"I don't want to go," Curry told the press Friday. "My beliefs stay the same."

Curry, the Warrior's star shooter, has said it was important for the team "to understand the magnitude" of its decision of whether to visit the White House.

"Just like our country, every opinion counts and matters," Curry said, according to ESPN.

"Based on the conversations we've had in the past and what people have said to the media, to each other, I know pretty much where everybody kind of stands on it," he said. "But we want to respect the opportunity to represent not only ourselves, our own beliefs, but our organization because we're obviously in this position because we won a championship and we did something special together. So for us to just really take the time to understand the magnitude of this decision and the right thing to do, the right way to go about it is important."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday that he expects the team to meet in coming days to decide whether to go. But after Trump's tweet, the team posted a statement to Twitter on Saturday afternoon, saying, "We accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited."

"While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House, we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited. We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. We're disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise," the Warriors said in the statement.

It added, "In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we'll constructively use our trip to the nation's capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion -- the values that we embrace as an organization."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday evening he was "disappointed" the NBA champs wouldn't be going to the White House, which he said was "a rare opportunity for these players to share their views directly with the President."

"More importantly, I am proud of our players for taking an active role in their communities and continuing to speak out on critically important issues," he added.

The NBA Players Association also supported the Warriors' decision.

"The National Basketball Players Association defends its members' exercise of their free speech rights against those who would seek to stifle them. The celebration of free expression - not condemnation - is what truly makes America great," the union said in a statement.

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Saturday
Sep232017

Trump fires back at McCain over health care bill

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump slammed Arizona Sen. John McCain at a rally on Friday night after the senator said he would not be voting in favor of the Republicans' new bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Trump called McCain's opposition to the Cassidy-Graham bill "terrible, honestly terrible" at a rally for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange.

The president followed up on the criticism via Twitter on Saturday morning.

Trump said he was still holding out hope that Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., would change his vote. He even managed to level a shot at McCain as he lauded Paul's chances of flipping to "yes."

"Wouldn't it be ironic if he took John McCain's place?" Trump said. "And they definitely do not like each other."

McCain had said earlier in the day that he could not "in good conscience" vote for the bill.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together -- Republicans and Democrats -- and have not yet really tried," he said in a statement.

"Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums and how many people will be helped or hurt by it."

The success of the bill, pushed by Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., rests on the decisions of fellow Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Both voted against the last effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which was sunk when McCain decided in the eleventh hour to vote "no."


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Saturday
Sep232017

Trump stumps for Strange in Alabama but says he'll campaign for Moore if he wins 

Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images(HUNTSVILLE, Ala.) -- Despite delivering a meandering, hour-and-a-half-long speech that touched on the NFL, Kim Jong Un and his wife's stilettos, President Donald Trump drove home the message he intended to bring to Alabama: Sen. Luther Strange is his choice in Tuesday’s runoff election.

But the president also made clear he’s aware of the stakes for himself in this race, which pits the establishment-backed Strange against Judge Roy Moore, an outspoken conservative who’s leading in most polls and has garnered the support of former Trump officials like Steve Bannon.

"I might have made a mistake, I’ll be honest," Trump said, fully aware of how the race has drawn national attention as a proxy war between the political influence of the Trump and Bannon camps.

"If Luther doesn't win, they're not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They're going to say, 'Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line. It is a terrible, terrible moment for Trump. This is total embarrassment.'"

But Trump insisted that despite what he said was his political peril in getting involved, he chose to endorse and campaign for Strange because the senator is committed to pursuing the president’s agenda. Trump singled out his request for support on the Senate’s first attempt at repealing and replacing Obamacare and Strange not asking for anything in return.

"I said, 'Senator, I need your help. I gotta get your vote on health care.' He said, 'You got it,'" Trump said, sounding as if he was still amazed at how easy it was to whip Strange.

"I went home and told my wife, 'That’s the coolest thing that’s happened to me in six months!'" he exclaimed.

The president also told the crowd at the packed Von Braun Center, which seats 10,000, that Strange was not, as his political detractors have tried to cast him, a creature of the so-called "swamp" that Trump wants to drain. He rejected the notion that Strange has any relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, despite the fact that a McConnell-backed outside group has poured millions of dollars into Strange's campaign.

"He's not a friend of Mitch McConnell. He doesn't know Mitch McConnell," Trump said.

Despite Trump's embrace of Strange, the president also said he told the candidate that if he does lose Tuesday’s runoff, he will “be here campaigning like hell for [Moore].”

Several rally-goers seemed fine with that notion. Many were outright Moore supporters, and had simply come to the event to see Trump, whom they largely still support enthusiastically.

Others said they were voting for Strange simply because Trump endorsed him, and that if Trump ended up campaigning for Moore, should he win the runoff, they too would vote for him.

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Friday
Sep222017

Trump fires back at Kim Jong Un: 'Little Rocket Man' will be handled

Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images(HUNTSVILLE, Ala.) -- President Donald Trump slammed the NFL this evening for what he called the league's tolerance of players showing disrespect to the U.S.

Speaking to a crowd in Huntsville, Alabama, where Trump is campaigning for Luther Strange ahead of the Senate runoff for the Republican primary, Trump insisted the NFL take a stronger stance.

"Someone is going to say, 'That guy who disrespects our flag, he’s fired,'" Trump said.

"Wouldn’t you love one of the NFL owners when someone disrespects our flag, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now?'" he continued to thunderous applause and cheers.

Trump went on to encourage people to "leave the stadium to protest people doing things like kneeling during the national anthem. "I guarantee these things will stop," he said.

Trump fires back at North Korea

Trump also took aim at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Friday evening, saying "Little Rocket Man" should have been handled a long time ago and vowing he would shield Americans from Kim.

"You are protected. Nobody is going to mess with our people. … Nobody is going to put our people in that kind of danger. Nobody," Trump said.

In a statement Thursday, Kim said Trump will "pay dearly" for his address to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week, in which Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea.

"I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire," Kim said.

Trump told the crowd in Huntsville that he will "handle" Kim unlike previous administrations before him.

"He may be smart, he may be strategic and he may be totally crazy. But no matter what he is … believe me we’re going to handle it," Trump said Friday.

The comments followed an early morning tweet from Trump, in which he called the North Korean leader a "madman" and said he "would be tested like never before."

McCain opposition to GOP health care bill 'unexpected,' Trump says

During the Friday remarks, Trump, who at times seemed to take on a Southern accent, also expressed his displeasure with Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said earlier today he would not support the Graham-Cassidy health care bill.

"That was a totally unexpected thing," Trump said. "Honestly, terrible."

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Friday
Sep222017

Mnuchin's travel: Investigators now probing another costly government flight

kafl/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used a costly government jet to make the short journey from New York City to Washington D.C. following a meeting in Trump Tower last month, a flight that is now under review by department investigators, along with at least two other requests for government travel involving the secretary, multiple officials told ABC News.

Mnuchin's trip on a U.S. Air Force C-37 jet, which took less than an hour and cost American taxpayers at least $25,000, took place on Aug. 15. Mnuchin was in New York to attend the now-infamous press conference in Trump Tower during which President Trump made highly controversial remarks on the violence in Charlottesville. Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who also flew on that government jet, flanked the president during his remarks.

The Treasury's Department's review of Mnuchin's travel habits was triggered after ethical questions were raised about a military jet he and his wife, Louise Linton, used to travel to Louisville and Fort Knox, Kentucky, last month, and whether they may have used that business trip to catch a prime view of the solar eclipse. Investigators are also examining why Mnuchin, an independently wealthy former banker at Goldman Sachs, requested a government jet to take the couple on their European honeymoon in early August, a story first reported by ABC News. Mnuchin has strongly denied he used the Kentucky trip to view the eclipse and a spokesman for the Treasury Department said the honeymoon request was made so he could communicate securely with Washington. They added that the honeymoon request was later withdrawn.

“We welcome the [Office of the Inspector General's] review and are ensuring the office has everything needed for a full evaluation of our travel procedures," the Treasury Department said in a statement.

Chao took the C-37 jet from Joint Base Andrews to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey for the Aug. 15 press conference, and Mnuchin, who flew up commercially, used it to return to D.C., according to their department spokespeople.

When asked for an explanation about who ordered the government jet for travel between New York and Washington, a Department of Transportation spokesman insisted it did not come from his department. A spokesman for the Treasury Department declined to comment.

However, two Defense Department officials told ABC News that U.S. Air Force records show Mnuchin's office requested the flight and that Chao was later added to it. According to the Defense Department, it costs $25,000 per hour to operate the C-37, the military's equivalent of a Gulfstream jet.

It is extremely unusual for treasury and transportation secretaries to use this method of transportation for domestic business travel. Aside from the president and vice president, travel on military aircraft is typically reserved for cabinet members who deal directly with national security, such as the secretaries of defense, state and homeland security. Former officials with the treasury and transportation departments told ABC News it is exceedingly rare that their bosses used government travel, and that when it did happen, it was typically on overseas business flights.

A spokesman for the Department of Defense also told ABC News that "generally, when other federal executive agencies request use of military airlift, it is provided on a reimbursable basis." That reimbursement, however, generally matches an equivalent coach fare, rather than the total cost to operate the aircraft.

Chao's office said she only takes government travel if there are concerns about security, excessive cost, or if there are no commercial options available. Yet her spokesman could not say which of these criteria she used to justify her government flight on Aug. 15. Multiple carriers shuttle hourly flights between Washington and New York that can be booked on the same day for less than $1,000.

Mnuchin is not the only member of Trump's cabinet whose travel has come under scrutiny.

ABC News has confirmed that Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is now under investigation by his department's inspector general for chartering dozens of private flights for domestic business trips. Politico reported this week the bills for those flights, footed by American taxpayers, amount to roughly $300,000.

A spokesman for Price told ABC News the private flights were necessary, in part, because of his demanding schedule.

"The Secretary has taken commercial flights for official business after his confirmation. He has used charter aircraft for official business in order to accommodate his demanding schedule. The week of September 13 was one of those times, as the secretary was directing the recovery effort for Irma, which had just devastated Florida, while simultaneously directing the ongoing recovery for Hurricane Harvey," the spokesman said.

But Price also took a flight in June from Washington to Philadelphia at the same time commercial carriers were flying that route. The price of a 40-minute commercial flight from Washington to Philadelphia typically falls in the hundreds of dollars range. Private charter companies typically charge a two-hour, $10,000 minimum for the day.

Today, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), called on Republicans to hold hearings on the administration's use of costly travel.

“Too many Trump Administration officials have an entitled, millionaire mindset when it comes to squandering taxpayer money that does not belong to them just to support their lavish lifestyles,” Cummings said in a statement. “This starts at the very top, and the American people are not going to keep footing the bill for the Trump Administration’s champagne wishes and caviar dreams."

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Friday
Sep222017

Public prefers Obamacare to Graham-Cassidy, 56-33% (POLL)

Jupiterimages/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Americans by more than a 20-point margin prefer the existing federal health care law to the latest, imperiled Republican alternative -- another challenge to the GOP’s long-held effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The public supports Obamacare over the proposed Graham-Cassidy bill by 56-33 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll. Intensity of sentiment also is on the current law’s side: Forty-two percent strongly prefer it, nearly twice as many as strongly prefer the GOP plan.

See PDF with full results here.


The result is similar to public views on the previous GOP repeal-and-replace effort, which failed in July. Americans preferred Obamacare to that plan by 50-24 percent, again with a 20-point advantage for the current law in strong sentiment.

The latest GOP plan suffered a blow on Friday when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he’d oppose it. His decision could be fatal to the measure, as it was in July.

Given that the bill is comparatively little-known, the survey summarized Graham-Cassidy by noting that it would end the national requirement for nearly all Americans to have health insurance, phase out the use of federal funds to help lower- and moderate-income people buy health insurance and let states replace federal rules on health care coverage with their own rules.

Notably, nearly a quarter of Republicans (23 percent) and a third of conservatives (31 percent) say they’d prefer Obamacare to this proposal.

Beyond typical political and ideological divisions, there’s a vast racial gap in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. Seventy-five percent of nonwhites prefer Obamacare, compared with 45 percent of whites. Age gaps are substantial, with preference for Obamacare ranging from 63 percent of young adults to 47 percent of seniors. Preference for Obamacare ranges from 61 percent among those with household incomes less than $50,000 down to 48 percent of those with $100,000-plus incomes. And there’s a big gender gap: Sixty-two percent of women prefer Obamacare; 50 percent of men agree.

Methodology

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Sept. 18-21, 2017, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 31-23-36 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt Associates of Cambridge, Massachusetts. See details on the survey’s methodology here.

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Friday
Sep222017

Anthony Scaramucci on why he stood by Trump: 'He was going to win'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci defended his decision to stand by President Donald Trump after his many controversial statements on the campaign trail.

Scaramucci told the co-hosts of "The View" he stood by Trump during the election because "he was going to win — I saw that."

Scaramucci was fired 11 days after the announcement of his appointment as communications director, at the advice of the incoming White House chief of staff John Kelly — who joined the administration only days earlier. Former press secretary Sean Spicer announced his resignation on the same day Scaramucci was appointed.

Scaramucci explained he first realized Trump would win when he attended the campaign's first fundraiser in May 2016.

"I went into the audience and started shaking hands with the people," Scaramucci said. "People were desperate."

"I'm going one person to the next, and it's dawning on me — oh my god. The country is separating like in 1890 and 1912."

Scaramucci was referring to two presidential election cycles where a powerful third party emerged as a result of polarized differences in political beliefs in America — in 1890, the Populist Party emerged as a result of economic strife, and in 1912, Democrat Woodrow Wilson beat Theodore Roosevelt with the Progressive Party.

"I knew he was going to win!" Scaramucci said. "I said ... if I can somehow help incrementally, whatever the flaws are of this man ... I wanna be there as an American patriot to try and help him!"

When asked if Scaramucci would consider himself "complicit" in the president's wrongdoings, he said: "I would say that I'm not. I don't agree with everything that he says."

Among his disagreements with Trump, Scaramucci listed his "15 years" working for marriage equality.

Scaramucci concluded his reasoning with a call for unity in America.

"We are polarized and we are killing each other," Scaramucci said. "Whether you like the president or you don't ... we gotta meet somewhere in the middle to get things done for the American people — we have to do it!"

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Friday
Sep222017

McCain says he cannot vote for Graham-Cassidy bill

Paul Morigi/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced in a statement on Friday that he cannot support the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. McCain’s opposition will likely sink the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for the Graham-Cassidy proposal. I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried," he said in a statement.

"Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums, and how many people will be helped or hurt by it."

The Graham-Cassidy bill, considered to be Republican’s last-ditch attempt to follow through with an almost seven-year campaign promise to end Obamacare, was spearheaded by a close friend of McCain’s, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

As Senate Republicans leaned on McCain this week -- whose "no" vote contributed to the demise of July's Health Care Freedom Act -- Graham remained optimistic that McCain would eventually support the bill, telling an ABC affiliate on Thursday, “He won’t vote because of our friendship, I would never ask him. I don’t expect him to vote because we’re friends, I expect him to vote for what’s best for the country.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey came out in support of Graham-Cassidy on Monday, saying in a statement it “is the best path forward to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Republicans hoped that Ducey’s support would help convince McCain to support the bill.

But in the end, it wasn’t enough. McCain was frustrated by Republicans' hasty efforts to pass the bill without it going through what he called “regular order.”

"Without a full CBO score, which won’t be available by the end of the month, we won’t have reliable answers to any of those questions,” said McCain.

The CBO, or Congressional Budget Office, could only offer a partial assessment of the Graham-Cassidy bill's effect on the federal deficit as well as how many people it would cover.

"I take no pleasure in announcing my opposition. Far from it. The bill’s authors are my dear friends, and I think the world of them. I know they are acting consistently with their beliefs and sense of what is best for the country. So am I.

“I hope that in the months ahead, we can join with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to arrive at a compromise solution that is acceptable to most of us, and serves the interests of Americans as best we can.”

Where other Republicans stand on the bill

Republicans have a deadline of Sept. 30 to pass Graham-Cassidy under parliamentarian rules of reconciliation, allowing them to pass a bill with a simple majority of 51 votes. This has left little wiggle room for Republicans to lose any votes -- with three "no" votes, the bill cannot pass.

In addition to McCain, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. is the only other GOP senator to confirm his opposition. Paul said he planned to vote "no," calling the bill “Obamacare lite" and arguing for legislation that would constitute a more complete repeal.

Two other Republicans have signaled that they are undecided on the Graham-Cassidy: Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Collins’ spokesperson said in a statement that she is “leaning no" and the senator said at an event in Maine Friday that she was "reading the fine print."

"The premiums would be so high they would be unaffordable," said Collins, adding, "I'm just trying to do the right thing for the people of Maine."

Murkowski, who joined Collins in opposition on three related votes in July, remains undecided her office told ABC News on Friday.

"Sen. Murkowski is still focused on how the bill will impact Alaska, specifically," a spokesperson said. "She's continuing to gather data and is looking at the details of the bill to determine what's best for her state."

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Friday
Sep222017

Trump administration plans to replace controversial travel ban with new rules

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is planning to introduce tailored limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries as a replacement for its controversial travel ban, according to a senior administration source with knowledge of the plans.

The new restrictions, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, could be implemented as early as this weekend.

The administration declined to discuss details about the new travel restrictions, but a White House official provided the following statement to ABC News in response to inquiries: “The Trump administration will ensure we only admit those who can be properly vetted and will not pose a threat to national security or public safety."

Trump signed the original travel ban one week after his inauguration in January, setting off waves of protests and legal challenges across the country as travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- were suddenly blocked from entering the U.S. and, in some cases, detained by customs officials.

After a federal judge blocked the ban -- a move later upheld by an appeals court -- Trump signed a new order in March that revoked the first travel ban, removed Iraq from the restricted countries and clarified rules on permanent U.S. residents, among other changes.

But the second order was temporarily put on hold by two district court judges, who noted that members of the administration, including Trump, had indicated that the second travel ban was intended to be a facsimile of the first.

However, in June, upon a challenge by the Department of Justice, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the ban could be reinstated, with some exceptions, until the court could take up the case in the fall.

Supreme Court arguments on the matter are currently scheduled for Oct. 10.

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