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Monday
May212018

President Trump visits CIA for Gina Haspel swearing-in ceremony

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump made a rare visit to CIA headquarters on Monday to deliver remarks at incoming director Gina Haspel’s swearing-in ceremony and expressed his optimism for the agency’s future under her leadership.

"There is no one in this country better qualified for this extraordinary office than you," Trump said.

Haspel's nomination followed President Trump's surprise ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who he replaced with Haspel's immediate predecessor Mike Pompeo. President Trump hailed her appointment as the first female director of the CIA as a "proud milestone."

"That's big," Trump said. "Now Gina will lead this agency into its next great chapter."

Early on in the president's remarks, he gave a special shout-out to House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes as “courageous. ”

It followed the president’s weekend tweets backing up Nunes and other House Republicans looking to increase pressure on the Department of Justice complying with their requests for information reportedly concerning a confidential informant.

The president also briefly alluded to the political fight Haspel underwent during her confirmation, referring to the “very negative politics” that surfaced as lawmakers raised objections over Haspel's reported role running a CIA 'black site' in Thailand.

“It took courage for her to say yes in the face of a lot of very negative politics, and what was supposed to be a negative vote,” Trump said. “But I'll tell you, when you testified before the committee, it was over. There was not much they could say.”

For her part, despite the president’s repeated clashes with the intelligence community, Haspel delivered her own set of remarks describing Trump as a steadfast friend of the CIA.

“You have placed enormous trust in the C.I.A. throughout your presidency,” Haspel said. “And the men and women of C.I.A. do not take that for granted.”



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Monday
May212018

Pompeo outlines new demands for Iran after U.S. pulled out of the nuclear deal

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, in his first major foreign policy address, outlined 12 demands the U.S. has for Iran moving forward after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S out of the Iran nuclear deal.

The demands ranged from ceasing all nuclear activity to ending support for terrorist groups like the Houthi rebels in Yemen, to pulling Iranian forces out of Yemen and Syria.

“Relief from our efforts will come only when we see tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies,” Pompeo said during the speech delivered at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. Pompeo noted the list of demands may seem long, but placed the blame for the long list on Iran’s malign activity including holding U.S. citizens hostage.

However, Pompeo did not explicitly outline the pressure campaign the U.S. intends to use to bring Iran to the negotiating table, nor did he outline a timeline for achieving his stated goals.

The U.S. has already re-imposed sanctions lifted under the Iran deal, or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and imposed new sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank and other entities funneling money to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force as well as Hezbollah.

Pompeo said the new sanctions are “just the beginning” of the pressure campaign and the sting “will only grow more painful” if the regime does not change course.

“These will be the strongest sanctions in history by the time we are done,” Pompeo said.

Affecting that much change in Iran’s behavior may be an uphill battle for the Trump administration, given the lack of support for this new deal from European allies.

“From my conversations with European friends I know that they broadly share these same views of what the Iranian regime must do to gain acceptance in the international community,” Pompeo said, calling on allies to join the U.S. in pressuring Iran to change.

But Pompeo later said he understands the European allies may try to keep the JCPOA in place.

“That is certainly their decision to make. They know where we stand,” Pompeo said.

In a question and answer session after the speech, Pompeo said in his first days as secretary of state, he spent time “Trying to see if there was a way to fix the deal.” Pompeo flew to Brussels for a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting just hours after being sworn in.

“We couldn’t get it done. We couldn’t reach an agreement there,” Pompeo said of his efforts. He didn’t specify how he would convince the European allies to go along with the U.S. plan. “I’m convinced that over a period of time, there will be a broad recognition that the strategy president trump has laid out is the right one, that will put Iran in a place where it will one day rejoin civilization in the way we all hope that it will.”

The European Union is currently moving ahead with launching a “blocking statute” against U.S. sanctions on Iran to soften the blow. The law would prevent European companies from complying with U.S. sanctions. The European Commission also suggested EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran’s central bank to avoid U.S. penalties and bypass the U.S. financial system.

Those moves to save the deal indicate the Europeans would be reluctant to join a coalition with the U.S. to negotiate a new deal.

And despite those moves, Iran says Europe’s support for the JCPOA is not enough.

“With the withdrawal of America… the European political support for the accord is not sufficient,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the EU Commissioner for energy and climate during a meeting in Tehran Sunday.

National Security Advisor John Bolton has said “it’s possible” that the U.S. would also impose sanctions on European corporations who continue to do business with Iran and attempt to uphold the JCPOA.

Pompeo reiterated those threats today. “You should know that we will hold those doing prohibited business in Iran to account. Over the coming weeks, we will send teams of specialists to countries around the world to further explain the Administration’s policy, discuss the implications of sanctions re-imposition, and hear your concerns.”

As tensions with the Europeans increase, Pompeo called for U.S. allies around the world to support the administration’s new plan.

“I want the Australians, the Bahrainians, the Egyptians, the Indians, the Japanese, the Jordanians, the Kuwaitis, the Omanis, the Qataris, the Saudi Arabians, the South Koreans, the UAE, and many, many others worldwide to join in this effort against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo also called for Congress’s support, saying a treaty ratified by Congress, rather than executive action, is the preferred course of action. He expressed confident a plan proposed by President Trump would “surely garner… widespread support from our elected leaders and the American people.”

Pompeo referenced diplomacy with North Korea as evidence of Trump’s “sincerity and vision.”

“Our willingness to meet Kim Jong Un underscores the Trump Administration’s commitment to diplomacy to help solve the greatest challenges, even with our adversaries,” Pompeo said. But the remarks come as President Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, set for June 12th in Singapore, is in doubt, after a North Korean nuclear negotiator threatened the country might pull out of the meeting if the U.S. insists on “unilateral nuclear abandonment,” and expressed “feelings of repugnance” towards National Security Advisor John Bolton.



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Monday
May212018

Hillary Clinton pokes fun at Trump, herself in Yale College Class Day speech

Don Arnold/Getty Images(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton took a subtle jab at her rival in the presidential election in 2016 today -- but also, injecting one of most contentious issues in the heated race, poked a little fun at herself, too.

Clinton delivered the speech at Yale University's College Class Day and kept in the tradition of bringing an "over the top hat."

In a sea of ostentatious hats worn by faculty and soon-to-be graduates -- ranging from an open book, a wedding veil and a lampshade -- Clinton, who graduated from its law school in 1973 and gave the 2001 commencement speech, came prepared.

"I brought a hat, too," Clinton, dressed in a ceremonial gown, quipped. "A Russian hat."

Clinton raised from the lectern a furry black Ushanka hat and held it up with her right hand in the air as the crowd erupted in applause.

"If you can't beat them, join them," she said.

The dig was directed at the president and the looming investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller over whether the Russian government meddled with the election to benefit Donald Trump.

Clinton went on to say that she was happy for all of the graduates -- even those whose ballots weren't tallied.

"Even the three of you who live in Michigan who didn't request absentee ballots in time," she said.

The speech went on to praise Yale University's acceptance of women into its vaunted institution and for changing the term "freshman" to "first year."

She mentioned how the institution's a cappella singing group, the Whiffenpoofs, bucked its all-male tradition this year and began welcoming women into its ranks.

Clinton used that to take a shot at herself.

"As for my long lost Whiffenpoofs audition tape ... I've buried it so deep Wikileaks can't find it," she joked. "If you thought my e-mails were scandalous, you should hear my singing voice."

Her speech took on a more sobering turn from there, expressing her concern that the country is in "one of the most tumultuous times" and that it's going to be a long fight ahead.

"It's not easy to wade back into the fight every day," she said.

Clinton was also full of hope that "standing up to policies that hurt people" is a battle worth fighting.

"I'm optimistic just how tough America has proven to be," she said.

Yale's Senior Class Day is an annual tradition at the university, described as a "colorful, informal event." The school's commencement ceremony will be Monday. They traditionally do not have a commencement speaker, though 2001 was an exception.

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Sunday
May202018

President Trump orders DOJ to 'look into' whether his campaign was 'infiltrated'

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump said in a tweet Sunday that he is ordering the Department of Justice to "look into" whether his 2016 presidential campaign was improperly "infiltrated or surveilled" for political purposes.

Trump added that he'd ask whether "any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration."

The president said he would make the order official on Monday but offered no further details about what form he would expect such an inquiry to take.

The Department of Justice currently did not have a comment on the tweet.

The tweet is the latest escalation by the president in fueling an assertion that the Trump campaign may have been spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the DOJ. President Trump has sent out a series of tweets in recent days advancing the accusation first voiced by some conservative commentators that the FBI had a spy in the Trump campaign.

The Washington Post and New York Times have reported in recent days that the FBI sent an informant to talk to several Trump campaign aides during the 2016 election. The Times cited unnamed sources that these contacts were made only after the FBI had gathered information that the informant’s targets had made suspicious contacts with Russians during the campaign.

The reports do not assert that there was an informant embedded inside the campaign or that the informant ever acted improperly.

On Saturday, the president in a tweet also called for the congressional review or release of classified DOJ documents that have been sought by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., "regarding a specific individual," according to a letter the Justice Department sent to Nunes rejecting his demand for the information earlier this month.

In rejecting Nunes' request, the Department of Justice warned that the disclosure of such information "can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives."

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Sunday
May202018

Special counsel aims to finish portion of investigation related to Trump by September 1: Giuliani

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said the special counsel has indicated they can wrap up a portion of their investigation by September 1.

Giuliani said about a month ago if the president agrees to an interview, special counsel Robert Mueller personally said his office will aim to finish up the investigation related to President Trump by that time.

A timetable for other aspects of the remaining investigation, which has expanded over the course of the last year, was not discussed, according to Giuliani.

"We needed some indication how long it will take for them to write a report," the former New York City mayor told ABC News.

Mueller and his investigators have been investigating whether the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election to favor Donald Trump.

On a newly emerging storyline, the former New York City mayor is in lock step with his client when it comes to an alleged FBI informant who was speaking to members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

"We have not made a request yet but will soon," Giuliani tells ABC News regarding all notes and information the Department of Justice has on this alleged informant.

"We can't prepare for any interview by the President until we know what this person may have said," he added. "We think the guy [informant] is going to support the fact that there was nothing going on as it relates to Russia and the campaign but we don't know that until we see the interview notes."

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Sunday
May202018

President Trump orders DOJ to 'look into' whether his campaign was 'infiltrated'

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump said in a tweet Sunday that he is ordering the Department of Justice to "look into" whether his 2016 presidential campaign was improperly "infiltrated or surveilled" for political purposes.

Trump added that he'd ask whether "any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration."

The president said he would make the order official on Monday but offered no further details about what form he would expect such an inquiry to take.

The DOJ currently does not have a comment on the tweet.

The tweet is the latest escalation by the president in fueling a narrative that the Trump campaign may have been spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the DOJ. President Trump has sent out a series of tweets in recent days advancing the theory first voiced by some conservative commentators that the FBI had a spy in the Trump campaign.

The Washington Post and The New York Times have reported in recent days that the FBI sent an informant to talk to several Trump campaign aides during 2016, with the Times citing unnamed sources that these contacts were made only after the FBI had gathered information that the informant’s targets had made suspicious contacts with Russians during the campaign.

On Saturday, the president in a tweet also called for the congressional review or release of classified DOJ documents that have been sought by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., "regarding a specific individual," according to a letter the DOJ sent to Nunes rejecting his demand for the information earlier this month.

In rejecting Nunes' request, the DOJ warned that the disclosure of such information "can risk severe consequences, including potential loss of human lives."

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Sunday
May202018

Lobbying firm shuttered, but Tony Podesta’s fate in Mueller probe still a mystery 

Rebecca D'Angelo/Washington Post(NEW YORK) -- Lobbyist Anthony “Tony” Podesta filed his final papers with the Department of Justice earlier this month chronicling the last work performed by the once-powerful lobbying firm that bore his name but which is now defunct following its entanglement in special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging Russia investigation.

The Podesta Group’s 28-page closing foreign-agent registration filing -- made three months late due to a "computer error,” a spokesman said -- marks the firm’s termination of work for foreign clients including Iraq, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia, and suggests an end to Podesta’s 31-year run at the intersection of politics and influence in Washington.

It offers few clues, however, to his fate in the Mueller probe.

The special counsel demanded copies of records and correspondence from the firm, and federal investigators have interviewed half a dozen former employees in what several sources described to ABC News as long, grueling sessions. Many have been hit with exorbitant legal fees that Podesta was expected to pay. Three former associates told ABC News he has yet to do so.

Podesta has not been charged with any crime, and it is not known why the special counsel spent so much time interviewing associates of his firm. A spokesperson said that, in the past, the Podesta Group fully cooperated with the Mueller probe. Sources close to Podesta told ABC News the inquiries stopped earlier this year.

Former associates told ABC News that the Mueller team’s focus was Podesta Group’s work with the Trump campaign's former chairman, Paul Manafort, and his deputy, Rick Gates. In 2012, Manafort and Gates arranged for the Podesta Group to lobby on behalf of an obscure Brussels-based nonprofit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine. Manafort worked for the Kremlin-backed President of Ukraine at the time.

When Gates and Manafort were indicted and pleaded not guilty in October 2017 to charges including money laundering, tax fraud, and failure to register as foreign agents, many of the charges were tied to their work for Kremlin-backed Ukrainian politicians.

Gates then pleaded guilty in February to reduced charges and agreed to cooperate with Mueller’s investigators. In that agreement filed with the court, Gates admitted that to help hide their foreign lobbying work, he and his partner “arranged for the Centre to be the nominal client” of two Washington, D.C., firms, Mercury Public Affairs, which is still in business, and the Podesta Group. Mercury declined to comment when contacted by ABC News.

The deals between the Belgian nonprofit and the Washington lobbyists were cut without their representatives ever meeting, the court documents assert, and each was allegedly paid through offshore accounts associated with Manafort and Gates. Gates and Manafort allegedly misled the firms with a “false cover story” and “false talking points,” according to the court documents.

What remains unclear in the court filings is just how much Tony Podesta himself knew about the alleged scheme. Manafort’s trial begins in Virginia in early July and in Washington, D.C. in September. It’s unclear if Tony Podesta could be involved in some fashion. His representative in Washington declined to comment.

In the wave of publicity surrounding the special counsel’s reported interest in the work, Podesta abruptly shuttered his firm. The move sent a shock through Washington’s lobbying world. Podesta had deep ties to Democratic politicians and liberal causes -- his brother, John, served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and oversaw Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, and Podesta Group had been a staple for political and corporate clients with household names, from Google to The Washington Post to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Some employees still harbor resentment about the abrupt ending. Three former Podesta employees, all speaking on the condition they not be identified because they feared reprisals, told ABC News it was no surprise that the foreign work brought negative attention.

“A lot of us were suspicious of the business the moment it came in,” one staffer said of the Manafort work. Another described a “strong dispute” over whether or not to take on the Brussels nonprofit, saying “there was a lot of suspicion that it was a front for bad stuff.” A third said many of the associates were concerned that the firm was taking on “clients you wouldn’t want to touch with a 100-foot pole.”

Americans who work on behalf of a foreign government are required to disclose that work to the Justice Department every six months under a law known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and last week’s filing offers some new details of the firm’s final months of work for overseas clients.

Podesta Group received nearly $2.8 million in business for the Saudi American Public Relations Affairs Committee. Podesta described the firm’s work on an anti-Qatar website and Facebook page called The Qatar Insider, which still hosts negative headlines about the tiny oil-rich Gulf state. Qatar’s neighboring states, including Saudi Arabia, recently hit the country with a crippling blockade for its alleged support of terrorism and Iran, an arch Saudi foe.

Other controversial Podesta clients dot the firm’s final filing, including the Democratic Party of Moldova and the Embassy of Azerbaijan, two countries accused by Trump’s State Department of human rights abuses such as torture and detention of political prisoners.

For all its troubles, the lobbying shop took in nearly $5 million in the second half of last year, according to the disclosure, continuing to collect cash even after the firm broke up. Politico, which first reported on the filing, noted that Japanese clients paid out $48,000 to the firm in mid-December. Azerbaijani clients made three payments that month totaling more than $110,000.

In the firm’s final months, internal disagreements about foreign clients grew so intense that a special review committee was set up to “shield the firm,” said one former associate of the firm. It was called the Client Intake Committee, and it was set up in the wake of the Ukraine lobbying controversy, first revealed by The Associated Press in late 2016.

Three former associates said Podesta would sometimes bring on clients without his management team’s awareness, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal. A 36-page “rule book” for dealing with the 74-year-old Podesta that was given to all executive assistants and shared with ABC News by a former firm associate detailed his preferences in minute detail, with one section under “Email” reading, “Tony tends to have conversations/email correspondence with clients and not share it with the rest of the team.” It instructs the assistant to then share the mail with members of the team and advise top managers if Podesta is attempting to establish “a prospective new client.”

When he met with staff in October -- after the Manafort and Gates indictments -- to tell them he was stepping back, one former principal at the firm recalled that Podesta never said he was retiring.

“He said he recognized the challenges he was dealing with and that it was affecting others,” this person recalled. “But he was still hanging around the office. He came in every day, and staff would be wondering why he was there. It was so awkward.”

A spokesperson told ABC News in an emailed statement that Podesta "has continued his active and strong advocacy for the issues and ideals he’s always fought for. In the past couple months, he’s taught a few classes at major universities, is supporting artists around the world, helps lead and sustain numerous art museums, and mentor younger activists and political veterans. … He also provides wise counsel for his clients, colleagues, and legions of friends, who count on him following his years as a leader in progressive campaigns, as the former President of People for the American Way, and as the founder of one of the most successful public affairs companies in Washington."

Several former associates told ABC News they expect Podesta to reemerge as a lobbyist, with one saying he is “desperate to work again.” Another pointed to Podesta's continued online presence as a sign that he wants back in the game.

But that could all depend on Mueller, whose interest in Podesta remains a mystery.

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Sunday
May202018

Texas official suggests video games, abortion bear part of blame for gun violence

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The Texas lieutenant governor, speaking two days after 10 people were killed in a school shooting in his state, said abortion, divorce and violent video games and movies show that "we have devalued life," which he pointed to as a cause of school shootings.

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday, "We have devalued life, whether it's through abortion, whether it's the breakup of families, through violent movies and, particularly, violent video games."

Patrick continued, "Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that students are desensitized to violence, may have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours of video violent games.”

He said, “The problem is multifaceted. It's not any one issue. But we, again, we have to look at our culture of violence, just our violent society, our Facebook, our Twitter, the bullying of adults on adults, and children on children. We have to look at ourselves, George. It's not about the guns -- it's about us.”

Stephanopoulos said, “We also have violent video games in other developed countries. We have Twitter and Facebook in other developed countries."

"Americans of high school age are 82 times more likely to die of gun homicide than their peers in the rest of the developed world? That has to be connected to the availability of guns, doesn’t it?”

“No, it doesn’t have to be,” Patrick said. “I can’t compare one country with another country because there are many variables in all these countries. Here’s what I know: We live in a violent country where we’ve devalued life.”

Stephanopoulos also asked Patrick about his comment Friday that there are "too many entrances and too many exits” on school campuses in Texas.

“Yes, I’ve been criticized by saying we should have fewer entrances,” Patrick said. “Look, you need all the exits -- fire exits -- you need. But we should have eyes on students walking into our schools. This student walked in with a gun under a trench coat Friday, and no one in law enforcement stopped him. We can’t guard every entrance of the 8,000-plus schools we have in Texas, but we can guard one or two. We have to think out of the box, George.”

Immediately following Patrick on This Week came Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was among the 17 people killed in a school massacre earlier this year in Parkland, Florida.

Guttenberg, who has become a gun control activist since his daughter's murder, slammed Patrick’s remarks as the "most idiotic comments I've heard regarding gun safety."

“Let me be clear,” Guttenberg said. “He should be removed from office for his failure to want to protect the citizens of Texas. To hear him continue to make the argument after 10 people died in his state that guns are not the issue is simply a crock.”

Eight students and two adults were killed and 13 others injured in a shooting rampage at Santa Fe High School in southeast Texas on Friday morning. A 17-year-old student is the suspect.

Guttenberg, referring to the killing of his daughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, said, “I'm here this weekend at what was supposed to be my daughter's dance recital, where they're honoring my daughter's memory instead of having my daughter dance. And for [Patrick] to make those moronic comments -- unacceptable.”

Appearing with Guttenberg was another parent of a child who died in a school shooting.

Nicole Hockley's 6-year-old son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School gun massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. She said she didn’t agree with much of what the Texas lieutenant governor said, but does believe the country has “a problem where we devalue life.”

“The fact that this shooting [in Santa Fe, Texas] has not received a significant amount of coverage, that this shooting is not seeing a significant amount of action -- to me, that is devaluing life itself. There are 10 people who are dead who are not going back to their families,” Hockley said.

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Sunday
May202018

Defeated House bill offered resources for farmers facing high suicide rates

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Psychologist Michael Rosmann said that whenever he is home at his family's farm in western Iowa, he is taking calls or answering emails from farmers asking for help or counseling.

He specializes in behavioral health for farmers and said he has received more requests for assistance in recent months than the last three decades.

"My phone and my email have just been completely filled for the last six months," he told ABC News.

The calls are part of a critical issue faced by farmers. Their profession faces the highest overall rate of suicide in the nation -- much higher than the number of suicides in the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Debbie Weingarten reached out for help four years ago when she was running a vegetable farm in Arizona. She was a first-generation farmer and said that even without the pressure of maintaining a family farm, she felt depressed and anxious about the possibility that they would lose money or crops.

"I felt like the risk that farmers undertake to produce food for eaters is not spread out fairly across the food system, so that's squarely on the backs of farmers," she told ABC News.

She said she couldn't find anyone to talk to online who understood her situation until she found a program run by Rosmann. The website said it lost funding a few years before, but she called anyway.

"I was grasping at straws," she said.

Rosmann picked up the phone.

Weingarten said she left farming in 2014 but still writes about agriculture. She spent five years researching and reporting a story about the suicide rate among farmers that was published in The Guardian last year.

Farmers in industries that have faced falling commodity prices and international trade disputes have encountered additional economic pressure in recent years. Farming experts and industry leaders say the uncertainty around the nearly $400 billion-dollar Farm Bill adds additional stress for farmers and their families.

“Farmers were going through a very stressful winter weather-wise, a cold and tough winter, and on top of that we are into our fourth year of low milk prices, below the cost of production, and that has been creating a lot of stress,” Robert Wellington, a senior vice president of Agri-Mark Dairy Farmer cooperative, told ABC News on the phone Thursday.

On average, Wellington estimated, small and medium dairy farmers have struggled through four years of milk prices that are 10 to 30 percent below the cost of production.

His group sent a letter to members in January forecasting yet another year of low milk prices. In the letter, they included phone numbers for people dealing with financial and emotional stress and a suicide hotline.

The farm bill has traditionally been bipartisan legislation to maintain subsidies, crop insurance programs and livestock disaster programs, but there has been dramatic debate and delays in this year's bill due to proposals to cut funding from food stamp programs, which make up a huge portion of the money allocated by the bill every five years.

This draft of this year's farm bill in the House would have also provided funding for crisis hotlines and other programs to provide mental health help to farmers.

"Our farmers who feed the world are feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders," one of the sponsors of that bipartisan provision -- Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn. -- said on the House floor this week.

The House rejected the proposed bill on Friday.

In a 2016 report, the Centers for Disease Control found that about 84 out of every 100,000 people in the farming, fishing and forestry industries died by suicide in 2012, the most recent data available. The suicide rate for the general population was about 12 out of every 100,000 people that year, according to CDC data.

That study included data from 17 states but did not include data from states such as Iowa, Texas or California, where agriculture is a major part of the economy.

The report said the high rate among farmers could be due to the potential to lose money in the business, as well as social isolation, access to lethal means and lack of mental health services.

Rosmann is a psychologist and adjunct professor at the University of Iowa who specializes in behavioral health for farmers. He said farming is physically and emotionally stressful, but that the current health system does not deal with all of the physical and mental risks for farmers.

"The bigger picture is that we have not attended to the behavioral well-being of the agricultural population the way we have to the general population's need for behavioral health," Rosmann told ABC News.

He said farmers have a unique psychology that drives them to work hard, but that some factors are out of their control, such as policy, weather or commodity prices, resulting in a very stressful situation. He said there has been increased economic stress on farmers in recent years and that they think they're being economically marginalized.

Rosmann said farmers have a strong bond to their land and their farming operation. On a psychological scale, the stress of a life event such as losing a family's farm can be just as traumatic as losing a child, he said.

"It's almost always because of the loss of livelihood that people do such dramatic things as taking their lives," he said.

Rosmann said he strongly supports a provision in the farm bill sponsored by Rep. Emmer to provide more money for states to offer mental health services such as crisis hotlines for farmers and ranchers.

He said some states offer resources such as a crisis hotline, but they need a stronger network of resources and a national center to help with the problem. In Minnesota, the state employs one rural mental health counselor to help roughly 100,000 farmers, according to MinnPost.com.

Just last week, the president of the National Farmers Union, Roger Johnson, wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging him to proactively address what he called the "farmer suicide crisis."

“Farming is a high-stress occupation,” Johnson wrote in his letter. “Due to the prolonged downturn in the farm economy, many farmers are facing even greater stress."

Last month Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, introduced a bipartisan bill on the issue of farmer suicide that would mandate more spending on mental health resources in rural areas.  Emmer also introduced a bipartisan bill earlier this year to provide mental health services for farmers and ranchers.

Emmer's bill was included in the version of the farm bill that was voted down in the House on Friday. The Senate's farm bill has not yet been released.

The current farm bill is set to expire in September.

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Saturday
May192018

Former President Jimmy Carter ribs President Trump's 'crowd size' during Liberty University graduation speech

Rick Diamond/Getty Images(LYNCHBURG, Va.) -- Former President Jimmy Carter took a sly dig at President Donald Trump Saturday as he hyped the size of the crowd listening to his commencement speech at the Liberty University a year after Trump spoke at the school's graduation.

"This is a wonderful crowd," Carter mused. "It's even bigger -- and I hate to say this -- than it was last year."

Several in the crowd of graduates and parents chuckled and clapped.

"I don't know if President Trump will admit that or not," he said, a joking reference to the Trump administration's assertion that the crowd for his 2017 inauguration was the largest ever.

The university estimated that 8,000 graduated participated in the rain-soaked ceremonies on the school's campus in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Carter, a devout Christian, mostly spoke about his faith during the speech. But he also confronted numerous crises in the world, most notably the distribution of wealth and human rights.

The former president said that one of the greatest human rights problems is "discrimination against women and girls in the world."

Carter said he hoped Christians and all religions would "come together to promote the word of the gospel" as nuclear threats and divisions continue to be sown by politicians and the public.

Carter was the third commencement speaker at Liberty University to have held the office of president, the university said on its website: Trump (in 2017) and George H.W. Bush (in 1990) spoke at the school's graduation while still in office.

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