Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Step Down

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down, a longtime confidant confirmed Monday to ABC News.

Hagel, 68, decided to resign following a series of talks with President Obama, ABC News has learned.

Story developing...

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President Obama Defends Use of Executive Action on Immigration

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Barack Obama defended his decision to use executive authority to enact changes to the U.S. immigration system during an exclusive interview with This Week, challenging Republican Speaker John Boehner to “pass a bill” if he was not satisfied with the president’s unilateral actions.

“Congress has a responsibility to deal with these issues and there are some things that I can’t do on my own,” the president told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos during an interview in Las Vegas on Friday. “What I do have is the legal authority to try to make the system better. Given the resource constraints that we have, we have to prioritize.”

During a primetime address on Thursday from the White House, the president – expressing frustration over a lack of Congressional action — announced he would be employing executive action to circumvent Congress and offer temporary legal status to approximately five million undocumented immigrants, among other actions.

During the interview with Stephanopoulos, the president pushed back against the argument made by some of his detractors that he is taking action that he previously said he did not have the authority to take.

“What is absolutely true is that we couldn’t solve the entire problem and still can’t solve the entire problem,” Obama said. “But what we can do is to prioritize felons, criminals, recent arrivals, folks who are coming right at the border and acknowledge that if somebody’s been here for over five years — they may have an American child or a legal permanent resident child — it doesn’t make sense for us to prioritize them when we know that we need more resources.”

“If you look, every president – Democrat and Republican – over decades has done the same thing as I mentioned in my remarks,” he added. “George H. W. Bush, about 40 percent of the undocumented persons at the time were provided a similar kind of relief as a consequence of executive action.”

When asked about using executive action, the president said his view on the issue has not changed.

“If you look – the history is that I have issued fewer executive actions than most of my predecessors, by a longshot,” Obama said. “The difference is the response of Congress, and specifically the response of some of the Republicans. But if you ask historians, take a look at the track records of the modern presidency, I’ve actually been very restrained, and I’ve been very restrained with respect to immigration. I bent over backwards and will continue to do everything I can to get Congress to work because that’s my preference.”

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Gabby Giffords Completes 11-Mile Bike Race

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords completed the 11 mile El Tour de Tucson on Sunday on a reclining three-wheeled bicycle.

Giffords, who was critically wounded in a 2011 shooting during a public appearance, had been training for the event for six months. The former Representative posted a photo from the event to her Facebook page on Sunday.


Giffords was an avid cyclist before the 2011 shooting. Her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly said he wants Giffords to do everything she did before the shooting.


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President Obama: American People Want 'New Car Smell' in 2016 Campaign

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama, acknowledging he's taken some political "dings" during his time in the White House, said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that the American people will want that "new car smell" when it comes to the 2016 presidential campaign, suggesting he may not have a prominent role on the campaign trail as the country prepares to select his replacement.

"I think the American people, you know, they're going to want -- you know, that new car smell. You know, their own -- they want to drive something off the lot that doesn't have as much mileage as me," Obama told ABC News Chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

During the interview conducted in Las Vegas on Friday, Stephanopoulos asked the president how he would navigate a potential White House bid by his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

The president, who said he talks regularly with Clinton, called her a friend and seemed prepared for Clinton to differentiate herself politically should she choose to pursue the presidency, which appears likely.

"She's not going to agree with me on everything. And, you know, one of the benefits of running for president is you can stake out your own positions," Obama said.

Earlier in the conversation he'd said he thought she'd make a "formidable candidate" and a "great" president.

The president, who said there were "a number" of potential Democratic candidates who would make great presidents, said he would do everything he could to ensure that a member of his own party succeeded him.

"I am very interested in making sure that I've got a Democratic successor," he said. "So I'm going do everything I can, obviously, to make sure that whoever the nominee is is successful."

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry Dies

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry has died at the age of 78.

Barry's D.C. council spokeswoman, LaToya Foster, says he died shortly after midnight Sunday at a hospital in Washington.

He served 4 terms as mayor of Washington D.C, but his terms were overshadowed by his 1990 arrest after he was caught on videotape smoking crack cocaine.

The cause of Barry's death has not been released.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Biden Announces $135 Million in Humanitarian Aid for Syrians Affected by Conflict

Official White House Photo by David Lienemann(WASHINGTON) -- Vice President Joe Biden announced on Saturday that the U.S. would pledge an additional $135 million in humanitarian aid to help feed citizens impacted by the conflict in Syria.

According to a release from the White House, the latest round of humanitarian assistance brings the total pledged by the U.S. to over $3 billion since the start of the crisis, including $222 million to international humanitarian organizations working with the Turkish government. The White House notes that an estimated 1.6 million refugees from Syria have received aid from Turkey, and 190,000 refugees have left the town of Kobani for Turkey in recent weeks.

The breakdown of the aid money includes $133 in regufee food needs -- $63 million for those displaced by the conflict to other parts of Syria and $70 million for those forced to neighboring countries. About $11 million of the $70 million will go towards food assistance for those refugees in Turkey.

Biden made the announcement from Istanbul, following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Senate Committee to Hold Hearing on Pro Sports League Domestic Violence Policies

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee announced on Friday that the committee would hold a hearing regarding addressing domestic violence in professional sports.

Rockefeller, D-W. Va., said that the hearing will examine the current policies held by the four major sports leagues -- the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League. The hearing is expected to focus on how those policies deter violence, promote awareness, provide due process and punish those who commit acts of domestic violence.

The hearing, to be held on the afternoon of Dec. 2, will also examine potential future policies.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


House Intelligence Committee's Benghazi Report Finds No Intelligence Failure Before Attacks

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The House Intelligence Committee released a report on Friday concluding that there was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.

The report took more than two years to investigate, and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., determined that while there was no intelligence failure, "the early intelligence assessments and the Administrations' public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attack were not fully accurate." The committee also determined that the CIA didn't conduct any "unauthorized activities in Benghazi, and "did not intimidate any officer or otherwise dissuade them from telling their stories to Congress."

The report is at least the seventh Congressional report on the Benghazi attacks, though the most notable one, by a special House select committee remains ongoing.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Obama Expands Scope of US Mission in Afghanistan

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has authorized the military in Afghanistan to continue to target Taliban fighters next year, a move that broadens the scope of the training mission that is to begin in 2015.

The NATO and U.S. combat mission is slated to end at year's end and convert to a training mission for Afghan security forces that is expected to last two more years.

Original plans called for the 9,800 U.S. military trainers who would remain in Afghanistan next year to also have the authority to conduct limited counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Those operations would be conducted by part of the 2,000 Special Operations forces that will remain in Afghanistan next year.

U.S. officials confirm that Obama has signed an executive order that would also allow military forces to conduct limited targeting of Taliban forces if they pose a threat to U.S. troops or if they were providing support to al Qaeda.

The order would also allow U.S. military aircraft to provide close air support for Afghan troops on the ground if needed. The new authorizations were first reported by the New York Times.

A U.S. military official said that the new authorization will not allow the targeting of Taliban fighters "solely because they are members of the Taliban." Another U.S. official said the limited targeting would be allowed if specific Taliban fighters posed a specific threat to U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military official said that any air support provided to Afghan security forces will occur "in limited circumstances."

"And of course we will protect our own forces and coalition partners," the official said.

The official said the new authorizations have been "an ongoing process that has gotten us a place that we feel is about right to protect our own forces and help the Afghan National Security Forces" in extreme circumstances.

In a video conference with Pentagon reporters in early November, Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the number two military commander in Afghanistan, hinted at that process. Asked about the scope of the future counterterrorism mission and when close air support could be provided to Afghan forces with the pending end of the combat mission, he said "those authorities have yet to be defined."

For years the al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan has been estimated to consist of less than a hundred fighters. While they remain the target of U.S. counter terrorism efforts, the bulk of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan has focused on the battlefield threat posed by the much larger force of Taliban fighters.

Since last year Afghan security forces have taken the lead in the fighting against the Taliban as U.S. military forces primarily remained on their bases providing training and support.

That has led to a significant increase in casualties among Afghan military and police personnel. In early November, Anderson disclosed that over the past two years nearly 9,000 Afghan army and police personnel had been killed in fighting with the Taliban. Anderson said such fatality rates were not sustainable and the U.S. was working with the Afghan military to reduce those numbers.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio


Obama Talks Immigration Reform in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In this week's address, President Obama discusses immigration reform.

Obama talks about the specific steps he outlined this week.

"We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings, and send home those who do cross over," Obama says. "We’ll focus enforcement resources on people who are threats to our security – felons, not families; criminals, not children.  And we’ll bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check, and get right with the law."

Obama says he will continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan bill that can fix the immigration system.

Read the full transcript of Obama's address:

Hi everybody.  Today, I’m at Del Sol High School, in Las Vegas, to talk with students and families about immigration.
We are a nation of immigrants.  It has always given America a big advantage over other nations.  It keeps our country young, dynamic, and entrepreneurial.  But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.
That’s why, nearly two years ago, I came to this school and laid out principles for immigration reform.  And five months later, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the Senate came together to pass a commonsense compromise bill.  That bill would have secured our border, while giving undocumented immigrants who already live here a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line.  Independent experts said it would grow our economy, and shrink our deficits.
Now, had the House of Representatives allowed a yes-or-no vote on that kind of bill, it would have passed with support from both parties. Today it would be the law. But for a year and a half, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.  Now, I still believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together – both parties – to pass that kind of bipartisan law.  But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.
I took those actions this week.  We’re providing more resources at the border to help law enforcement personnel stop illegal crossings, and send home those who do cross over.  We’ll focus enforcement resources on people who are threats to our security – felons, not families; criminals, not children.  And we’ll bring more undocumented immigrants out of the shadows so they can play by the rules, pay their full share of taxes, pass a criminal background check, and get right with the law.
Nothing about this action will benefit anyone who has come to this country recently, or who might try and come to America illegally in the future.  It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive.  And it’s certainly not amnesty, no matter how often the critics say it.  Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people living here without paying their taxes, or playing by the rules.  And the actions I took this week will finally start fixing that.
As you might have heard, there are Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better.  Well, I have one answer for that:  Pass a bill.  The day I sign it into law, the actions I’ve taken to help solve this problem will no longer be necessary.
In the meantime, we can’t allow a disagreement over a single issue to be a dealbreaker on every issue.  That’s not how our democracy works.  This debate deserves more than politics as usual.  It’s important for our future.  It’s about who we are, and the future we want to build.
We are only here because this country welcomed our forebears, and taught them that being American is about more than what we look like or where we come from.  What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.  That’s the country we inherited, and it’s the one we have to leave for future generations.
Thank you, God bless you, and have a great weekend.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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