First Lady Receives White House Christmas Tree

YURI GRIPAS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  First Lady Michelle Obama and dogs Sunny and Bo received the White House Christmas tree Friday morning, continuing a tradition that serves as the centerpiece of holiday decorations at the White House.

"This is the tree that we use to honor our military, our main tree," the first lady said as she examined the 19-feet tree. "It’s beautiful, it’s gonna work. We’ll get it in the house."

The Fraser fir came from Bustard’s Christmas Trees in Lansdale, Pennsylvania and arrived on a horse-drawn cart while a quintet of the president’s Marine band played “O Christmas Tree.”

The Bustard family won a national contest last summer – their first time entering – that garnered the festive honor.

The tree is traditionally presented to the First Lady. Security appeared relatively normal for a White House event, and she did not mention the White House fence jumper yesterday.

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GOP Presidential Candidates Practice Pardoning a Turkey

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- How is the president of the United States supposed to pardon a turkey?

Three Republican presidential hopefuls tried out their own turkey-pardoning skills with the Independent Journal.

Dr. Ben Carson said he was pardoning the turkey "for being ugly" while Carly Fiorina spent a lot of her time petting the turkey and offering it compliments.

Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio offered the turkey some cooking advice and said never to fry a frozen turkey.

Watch the full video from the Independent Journal below:

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Ben Carson Making Surprise Trip to Jordan to Tour Refugee Camp

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson was making a surprise trip to Jordan to visit a camp with Syrian and Iraqi refugees, a campaign official said.

The visit, which was announced on Thanksgiving, marks the first time one of the 2016 candidates has visited such a camp since the refugee crisis began this year.

Carson, who left Thursday night for the trip, posted a Thanksgiving message on his official Twitter account Thursday and made no mention of his trip to Jordan.

The trip comes after a recent spate of criticisms for Carson's alleged lack of foreign policy experience.

He also came under fire after comparing the need for screenings of refugees to protecting a child from a rabid dog.

“For instance if there’s a rabid dog running around the neighborhood, probably not going to assume something good about that dog and you’re going to want to put your children away,” Carson said in response to an ABC News question regarding whether Christian organizations should be helping refugees.

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Obama Administration: States Can't Legally Block Refugees 

iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration said Wednesday that states can't legally block the resettlement of refugees, according to a letter from the Department of Health
and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement sent to state officials.

In the letter, the agency said states are bound by the Refugee Act of 1980 to provide "assistance and services" to refugees "without regard to race, religion, nationality, sex or political opinion," and cannot cut off ORR-funded services to Syrian refugees.

Additionally, the letter says refugees are protected by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which "prohibits discrimination on the bases of race and national origin" in all programs that receive federal financial assistance.

More than 30 state governors have indicated they will attempt to block any future refugees from settling in their states.

The House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill on Nov. 19 that would require the FBI director to certify a background investigation for each potential refugee from Syria or Iraq, and administration officials including the Department of Homeland Security secretary must attest that each potential refugee is not a security threat to the U.S.

The White House and Senate Democrats oppose the measure, which passed through the lower chamber with a veto-proof majority.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., charged that the majority of U.S. governors have taken positions that reflect the views of their constituents.

"It’s hypocritical for Obama Administration officials to threaten enforcement action against these states when they refuse to enforce the vast majority of our immigration laws, such as cracking down on sanctuary cities that openly defy federal law and endanger the American people," he wrote. “The Administration’s latest threat shows why we need the American SAFE Act so that the American people have confidence in their government’s ability to fully screen refugees seeking to come here.”

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Trump Tweets Lengthy Statement About Reporter, Demands Apology from New York Times

Robin Marchant/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump responded to critics who accused him of imitating the mannerisms of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski in a lengthy statement he tweeted on Thanksgiving day.

“I have no idea who this reporter, Serge [Kovaleski] is, what he looks like or his level of intelligence,” the statement began.

Trump said in the statement that he was merely mocking Kovaleski’s journalism credentials for attempting to shy away from the Washington Post piece he wrote on Sept. 18, 2001 that alleges Muslims were celebrating the attack on the World Trade Center with “tailgate-style parties on rooftops” across the Hudson River in Jersey City, N.J.

“I merely mimicked what I thought would be a flustered reporter trying to get out of a statement he made long ago,” Trump wrote in the statement.


Kovaelski reportedly suffers from a condition that affects joint movement.

“I would definitely not say anything about his appearance,” Trump wrote. “ I have tremendous respect for people who are physically challenged and have spent tens of millions of dollars throughout buildings all over the world on making them handicapped accessible and ADA (Americans Disability Act) compliant.”

A statement also read that Trump demands an apology from the New York Times and accused Kovaleski of using his disability as a “grandstand,” adding that he should “get back to reporting for a paper that is rapidly going down the tubes.”

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Thanksgiving at the White House: First Family's Dinner Menu

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After serving turkey to homeless veterans and pardoning a turkey on Wednesday, President Obama will privately enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with his family at the White House on Thursday.

So what will the first family be eating this Turkey Day? Check out the menu below:


Thyme Roasted Turkey
Garlic Jus and Cranberry-Orange Relish
Honey-Baked Ham with Apricot-Mustard Glaze
Prime Rib and Creamed Horseradish
Cornbread Stuffing with Chorizo and Roasted Peppers Oyster Stuffing
Braised Winter Greens (Collards, Kale and Turnip Greens)
Macaroni and Cheese
Sweet Potato Gratin
Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Fresh Greens
Kale Caesar Salad


Banana Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Pecan Pie
Cherry Pie

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How 2016 Presidential Candidates Are Spending Thanksgiving

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- This Thanksgiving, candidates are taking a break from the grind of the 2016 campaign trail to relax at home with their families -- even if it's only for a day.

Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton and Ben Carson will be with their families in Miami, Chappaqua, New York and Baltimore, respectively. Rubio told voters at a campaign event he will be frying the turkey.

Jeb Bush, like Rubio, will also be in Miami. But this holiday will not be spent with the famous Bush clan. Instead, he will be with his immediate family, which he tells CNN includes his "four unbelievably near perfect grand-children."

Donald Trump is the third presidential candidate spending the holiday in Florida -- but his location of choice is Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, not Miami.

Ted Cruz, who is celebrating the holiday in Texas, is planning on playing Cuban dominoes. Some movies are definitely in the cards as well, with the Hunger Games at the top of the list.

And, of course, the menu features prominently into the day. Cruz is excited for his father's flan. Bush insinuated he may break from his Paleo diet to eat his favorite Chipotle stuffing. Bernie Sanders' family menu includes Ben and Jerry's vanilla ice cream, a fitting dessert choice for the Vermont location. Carly Fiorina will be making her special cranberry sauce, with red pepper flakes, single malt whiskey, raisins, mustard, oranges, onion and fresh strawberries.

And while the campaign trail is draining, some may need a bit more recuperation than others, mainly Mike Huckabee, who just underwent knee surgery. Huckabee will recuperate in Little Rock, Arkansas this holiday, spending the time with his grandchildren.

Noticeably not on the table this Thanksgiving are stops in Iowa or New Hampshire. But the reprieve is short-lived; many candidates, including Trump, Carson and Clinton, pick right back up again this weekend, venturing out to campaign hard before voting officially begins in February.

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Obama Likens Syrian Refugees to Pilgrims in Weekly Address

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- In this week’s address, President Obama tied the story of the Pilgrims to the plight of refugees fleeing ISIS in the Middle East, saying the settlers who inspired Thanksgiving were “refugees who had fled persecution and violence in their native land.”

“Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims -- men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families,” he said. “What makes America America is that we offer that chance.”

Obama said Americans have been writing the White House offering to take in refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and Iraq.

“Now, people should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States," he said. "That was the case before Paris, and it’s the case now. And what happened in Paris hasn’t stopped Americans from opening their arms anyway.”

Read the full transcript of the president's address below:

Hi, everybody.  In 1620, a small band of pilgrims came to this continent, refugees who had fled persecution and violence in their native land.  Nearly 400 years later, we remember their part in the American story – and we honor the men and women who helped them in their time of need.   
Thanksgiving is a day for food and football, and for hoping the turkey didn’t turn out too dry.  But it’s also a day to count our blessings and give back to others – a reminder that no matter our circumstances, all of us have something to be grateful for.  Maybe it’s good health, a new addition to the family, or a child taking a next step toward college or a career.  Maybe it’s a new job, or a long overdue raise.  Maybe it’s something as simple, and as important, as the chance to spend time with the people who matter most. 
Of course, every American can be thankful for the chance to live in a country founded on the belief that all of us are created equal.  And as President, I’m thankful that I get to see the best of America every day – the courage of our troops and veterans, the resilience of our families, and the basic goodness of the ordinary people who call this country home. 
On this uniquely American holiday, we also remember that so much of our greatness comes from our generosity.  There’s the generosity of Americans who volunteer at food banks and shelters, making sure that no one goes hungry on a day when so many plates are full.  There’s the generosity of Americans who take part not just in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but Giving Tuesday – recognizing that in the holiday season, what you give is as important as what you get. 
And I’ve been touched by the generosity of the Americans who’ve written me letters and emails in recent weeks, offering to open their homes to refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL. 
Now, people should remember that no refugee can enter our borders until they undergo the highest security checks of anyone traveling to the United States.  That was the case before Paris, and it’s the case now.  And what happened in Paris hasn’t stopped Americans from opening their arms anyway. 
One woman from Pennsylvania wrote me to say, “Money is tight for us in my household … But I have a guest room.  I have a pantry full of food.  We can do this.”  Another woman from Florida told me her family’s history dates back to the Mayflower – and she said that welcoming others is part of “what it means to be an American.” 
Nearly four centuries after the Mayflower set sail, the world is still full of pilgrims – men and women who want nothing more than the chance for a safer, better future for themselves and their families.  What makes America America is that we offer that chance.  We turn Lady Liberty’s light to the world, and widen our circle of concern to say that all God’s children are worthy of our compassion and care.  That’s part of what makes this the greatest country on Earth.  
I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving, surrounded by loved ones, and full of joy and gratitude.  And together, may we all play our own small part in the American story, and write a next chapter that future generations can be thankful for. 
From the Obama family to yours, have a great Thanksgiving. 

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


How to Avoid Talking Politics at Your Thanksgiving Dinner 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Politics and religion: two topics that are best avoided with coworkers and new acquaintances. Same goes with family on Thanksgiving.

But, in an election season like this one, politics is in the air and it’s easy to forget this rule of thumb once the turkey is served.

So, ABC News spoke to two etiquette experts -- Jacqueline Whitmore, an author and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, Fla., and Diane Gottsman, who runs the Protocol School of Texas -- to get some tips.

Both said that in a perfect world, Thanksgiving would be a time to catch up and rekindle relationships with loved ones. But they acknowledged that a side dish of politics was inevitable.

 Are political topics ever fair game at the dinner table?

WHITMORE: “I think everything is fair game. Whether it’s appropriate or not is the question. It’s appropriate to have a healthy conversation. Etiquette is all about being mindful of others and also being considerate.”

GOTTSMAN: “The protocol at the dinner table is to make pleasant conversation and interact with each other, so normally we would say to stay away from politics, but the reality is, it’s not going to happen. So, if you’re talking politics and chances are you will, you need to be respectful of other people’s opinions. It should be a conversation not a food fight.”

What are your tips for making the discussion tolerable?

WHITMORE: “As long as you keep it light and positive that’s the most important thing. In a political year, different people have a different way of dealing and discussing different topics. Downer topics are not necessarily the best to discuss.”

GOTTSMAN: “It’s all up for debate, because there’s going to be someone that’s offended with anything someone says. If you have to talk politics, make that 10 percent of your conversation and 90 percent should be on reflection around the table. It’s not okay to be combative with your views and express them at the Thanksgiving table.”

Let’s say politics come up and things are getting awkward. What’s the most polite way to put a stop to an uncomfortable conversation and change the subject?

WHITMORE: “If possible, talk about topics that are most pleasant like holiday memories, food and travel. Or if it’s too uncomfortable volunteer in the kitchen, remove yourself from the situation.”

GOTTSMAN: “I always suggest the host take the lead, saying, ‘It’s clear that we all have an opinion -- that we can agree on -- but I think it’s important to reflect on why we’re sitting here together.’ If you are going to talk politics the bottom line is you should do it respectfully. It’s important to show tolerance and consider each other’s views.”

If you’re the host, what’s the best way to set ground rules without appearing disrespectful?

WHITMORE: “You can always start the conversation on a positive tone by saying, ‘Let’s all talk about what we’re thankful for this year,’ instead of just letting everyone talk about what they want.”

GOTTSMAN: “You already know Uncle Bob is just a staunch Republican, and everyone at the table are Democrats. So, set ground rules with Uncle Bob by saying, ‘We will talk politics for three minutes then we will change the subject.’ Tell everyone it’s going to happen and Uncle Bob has to be accepted for who he is. It’s okay to have family banter -- we wouldn’t have family if we didn’t have banter -- and who knows, you might just learn something you didn’t know.”

Let’s say your in-laws are in town and you are curious to know their thoughts on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). What’s the best way to ask at the dinner table without steering the conversation in negative direction?

WHITMORE: “I would probably ask them on the side, not in front of everyone, because you’re going to launch a bigger discussion. Pull them aside when you’re preparing the meal.”

GOTTSMAN: “If you want to know their views it would be best to say, ‘I’m not certain that I’m really working with all of the facts. Will you just share your opinion with me? Maybe I’m just not understanding.’ Being informed is different than combat.”

Any final tips for a relaxing Thanksgiving dinner?

WHITMORE: “Keep [the dinner conversation] light and positive, and if someone gets in a heated discussion change the subject or steer it in another direction.”

GOTTSMAN: “Come to the table with your own idea of what you want to get out of the meal. The Thanksgiving table is not an open forum, it’s interaction, it’s conversation, it’s asking people about their lives. We know what’s on television, we know the political parties of the people sitting at the table. Unyielding views will not grow relationships stronger. You want people to remember you fondly, not grateful that you’re walking out of the door.”

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Sen. Mike Lee Delivers Thanksgiving Message in Weekly GOP Address

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Mike Lee delivered the Republican weekly address on Thursday, saying he is thankful for the service members who protect the U.S., the volunteers who help those less fortunate and the parents who provide their kids with loving  and supportive homes.

But while he said Americans have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, he noted that living costs are rising in the U.S. while pay remains stagnant.

"We have too many Americans trapped in poverty, sometimes for generations, and often because the dysfunctional government programs that are supposed to help them, only make it harder and less likely for them and their children to build a better life," Lee, R-Utah, said.

“I know it’s going to take hard work to overcome the problems besetting our economy,” he added. “But the American people never shrink from our greatest challenges. We always confront them, head on. In America freedom has never meant ‘you’re on your own.’ For us, freedom means, and has always meant, ‘we’re all in this together.’”

Watch his full address below:

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