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Monday
Oct162017

Donald Trump has condemned Bowe Bergdahl and his Taliban release from the beginning 

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As a candidate for president, Donald Trump was open about his displeasure of then-President Obama's deal to retrieve Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Afghanistan after his 2009 disappearance and capture by the Taliban.

Beyond condemning the deal itself, Trump also verbally attacked Bergdahl repeatedly, calling him a traitor and a deserter.

U.S. officials reached a deal in 2014 to release several Taliban prisons in exchange for Bergdahl, but then charged him with desertion with intention to shirk duty and misbehavior before the enemy. That was in 2015, just months before Trump announced his candidacy for president.

Before that, Trump wrote in a tweet on June 1, 2014, "President Obama created a VERY BAD precedent by handing over five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Another U.S. loss!"

Despite Trump's repeated claims that several soldiers died in connection to the search for Bergdahl, who ultimately remained in captivity for nearly five years, the U.S. military has never publicly acknowledged such fatalities, though at least three soldiers were seriously injured, according to a prosecution document.

The focus on the deal itself, which Trump clearly viewed as a mistake, carried through the campaign.

The deal granted Bergdahl's freedom for that of five Taliban prisoners who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Trump regularly included condemnation of the deal in his campaign speeches and likened it to the Iran nuclear deal, which he also thought was a mistake.

"We get Bergdahl, who was a traitor, and they get five of the greatest killers that they've wanted for eight years. We get Bergdahl -- I call it the five for one trade," Trump said in August 2016.

Trump has also called for Bergdahl’s execution, saying he "should have been executed" and that "30 years ago he would have been shot."

"You probably can't do it, but if I win I may just have him flown back in the middle of that place and dropped, right in the middle. Let them have him, let him have them. That's cheaper than a bullet," Trump said at an October 2015 campaign rally.

At another point, Trump said a firing squad should be used to execute Bergdahl and, on Nov. 9, 2015, he said "in the old days when we were strong and wise, we shoot a guy like that."

Bergdahl, who Monday entered a guilty plea to the two charges he faced, has taken notice of Trump's rhetoric and told a British filmmaker that it would be impossible for him to get a fair trial now that Trump is commander in chief.

“We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs that got what they wanted,” Bergdahl said. “The people who want to hang me; you’re never going to convince those people.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct162017

Trump, acknowledging GOP criticism, says senators are 'not getting the job done'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said he understands Steve Bannon's frustrations and added that the Republican Party is "not getting the job done" when it comes to their legislative agenda.

Bannon, who served the administration until August as White House chief strategist, said Saturday that he wanted to go to "war" with Republican senators who were slow to come to the president's defense during a recent feud with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn. Bannon previously clashed with the party's Senate leadership by endorsing Alabama's Roy Moore in his successful primary challenge of Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala.

Asked Monday by ABC News' Jonathan Karl for his opinion on Bannon's "war" with the establishment and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Trump described his understanding of the position.

"I have great relationships with, actually, many senators, but, in particular, with most Republican senators, but we're not getting the job done," said Trump. "And I'm not going to blame myself, to be honest. They are not getting the job done."

When Karl asked later whether the president thought Bannon could continue to campaign against incumbent Republicans seeking re-election, Trump only commented on his former chief strategist's perceived frustration.

"I know how he feels," said Trump.

The president noted growing frustration over failing to follow through on the party's 2016 election platform, including the thus-far stymied effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

"I can understand where Steve Bannon is coming from," he said, adding, "I can understand where a lot of people are coming from, because I'm not happy about it.

Trump portrayed his recent action to cut the Affordable Care Act's government subsidies to insurance companies as a move that was spurring action. He underscored that health care and tax reform are two agenda items that need more action.

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Sunday
Oct152017

Nikki Haley calls reports of friction with Tillerson 'dramatic' and 'ridiculous'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley dismissed rumors of friction between her and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during an appearance on This Week Sunday.

Haley was asked by ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos about a Politico report that tensions between Haley and Tillerson are reaching "World War III" proportions.

"That's so dramatic," Haley said. "That's so ridiculous."

She added, "Sometimes Secretary Tillerson and I have different opinions, but when we come to the [National Security Council], everybody has different opinions."

"At the end of the day, we present the president with all of the facts, we let him make decisions, and we all as a team go out and support that decision,” the U.N. ambassador said. “My relationship with Secretary Tillerson or [Defense Secretary] Mattis or anyone else, it's all a great relationship because we are all looking out for the best interests of America."

Haley also brushed off a charge by Republican Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, that President Trump is undermining Tillerson's authority on the world stage.

“I have seen the president and Secretary Tillerson work together," Haley said. "They work very well together. They talk through things and then they manage it properly. If there's an issue, I haven't heard about it."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct152017

California Senate leader announces bid to challenge Feinstein in 2018 primary

Eric Thayer/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Democratic state Sen. Kevin de León announced on Sunday his bid to challenge longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who at 84 is the oldest member of the Senate, in the 2018 primary election. He is the first candidate to announce a challenge to Feinstein.

"I'm running for U.S Senate to expand the California Dream (and) unite this country along progressive values," California Senate President pro Tempore de León, 50, wrote in a tweet about his decision, first announced in an email to supporters.

In a video accompanying both his tweet and email, de León discussed how growing up as "the youngest child of a single immigrant mother," and seeing his mother work "her fingers to the bone" every day cleaning houses, led him to this point in his life.

"I think that it's incumbent on policymakers, on leaders, to provide real opportunity so everyone can succeed," he said in the video. "That's what the country really wants. They want a job. They want a sense of security, so they can provide for themselves and their family."

De León already won the immediate endorsement of Democracy for America, which has previously endorsed more liberal members of Congress, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts. Nearly a third of the organization's members live in California.

DFA's Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said in a statement, "When Trump became President, de León didn't ask people to sit back and wait, hoping maybe Trump would someday turn out OK. He immediately began working to pass policies that would help the people most immediately affected by Trump's bigoted, greedy policies. The simple fact is this: We won't defeat Trump and his Republican Party with corporate Democrats pushing Republican-lite policies and weak leadership."

"Earning the early support of Democracy for America's grassroots members isn't just an honor, it's a reflection of my commitment to running a people-powered campaign for the U.S. Senate," de León said about the endorsement, according to an email from DFA.

According to his website, De León was elected to the California Senate in 2010 after serving three years in the state's General Assembly. He was elected to lead the 40-member body in 2014, becoming the first Latino in 100 years to hold the position.

On Monday, Feinstein announced she would seek a fifth full term, writing on Twitter, "I am running for reelection to the Senate. Lots more to do: ending gun violence, combating climate change, access to healthcare. I'm all in!" Feinstein joined the Senate in November 1992 when she won a special election to replace then-Sen. Pete Wilson, a Republican who had been elected governor.

"Sen. Feinstein is getting ready to run a very big race, well financed and organized campaign, and she comes to the campaign with a strong record of success in California elections," Bill Carrick, longtime political consultant for Feinstein, told ABC News.

Carrick noted that Feinstein already has endorsements from Democrats Sen. Kamala Harris, Rep. Adam Schiff, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla among other California officials. He also said that Feinstein has "strong support" among women, Latino, African American and Asian-American voters.

"We think she's in good shape," Carrick said. "Kevin de León has never run statewide for anything. It remains to be seen what kind of candidate he will be or campaign he would run."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct152017

Conservative commentator Charlie Sykes says GOP needs to stop 'enabling' Trump

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Conservative commentator Charlie Sykes said Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s recent searing criticism of President Donald Trump is a “come-to-Jesus” moment for the Republican Party.

“What Bob Corker said is what a lot of Republicans are thinking but not willing to say in public,” the former radio host told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on a roundtable for ABC News’ This Week Sunday.

It's time for Republicans to "stop enabling" the president's behavior, Sykes said.

Tennessee's Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an erstwhile Trump supporter, has been in an escalating war of words with the president. Last week he warned that Trump’s foreign policy could put the U.S. “on the path to World War III."

“What Bob Corker said was really a warning flare reflecting what’s going on, that these are major stakes,” Sykes said. “We're not talking about Twitter wars anymore. [Corker] actually invoked World War III.”

Republicans have “allied themselves with a mad king,” Sykes said, adding that “conservatives who are in denial about this should give him some tough love rather than enabling ... all of this.”

Sykes also noted Trump’s failure so far to accomplish major legislation such as on health care.

“We're finding out that the guy who wrote The Art of the Deal is terrible at this,” Sykes said of Trump’s attempts to pressure Democrats into a health care deal. “He's a terrible negotiator. He doesn't understand policy. He doesn't understand the legislative process.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct152017

GOP senator 'very disappointed' in Trump's actions on health care

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A key moderate Republican senator said she is "very disappointed" in President Donald Trump's decision to end health care subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans under Obamacare.

GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week Sunday. "The debate in Washington has been whether or not to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the future. What the president is doing is affecting people's access and the cost of health care right now."

Collins said Congress needs to "step in" to reform health care in a more comprehensive way.

"I don't agree with his decisions on the subsidies that help low-income people afford their deductibles and copays, and I don't agree with his executive order," Collins said, referring to an executive order Thursday that would allow cheaper policies that offer fewer benefits.

Stephanopoulos also asked the Maine congresswoman about former Trump adviser Steve Bannon's speech at the conservative Values Voter Summit on Saturday, where he declared "war" on the "GOP establishment."

Collins said Bannon's comments are "not helpful or appropriate."

"Mr. Bannon has the right to support whomever he wants to support. But I think his rhetoric is exactly what the American people are tired of," Collins said. "They don't want this hyperpartisanship. They want us to work together. And they want us to get things done."

“They want us to work across the aisle. They want us to work with the president. And Mr. Bannon's over-the-top rhetoric is not helpful,” she added.

Collins announced Friday that she has decided not to run for governor of her state because she believes she can do more for her state by staying in Washington.

“My voice and vote really matter in Washington right now. The Senate is closely divided, and I am able to make a difference," she said on Friday.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct152017

Pelosi: President Trump 'went rogue' on Iran deal, health care

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic leader of the House of Representatives said President Donald Trump "went rogue" with his decisions on ending Obamacare subsidies, changing birth control coverage mandates and decertifying the Iran nuclear deal.

“President Trump went rogue," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on This Week Sunday. "He went rogue on women's health in particular, the Affordable Care Act, the Iran decision that he made. And ... he continues his war on the middle class with his unfair tax plan.”

On Thursday, Trump announced he is ending subsidy payments to health care insurers that help low- and middle-income Americans afford premium costs and other expenses under Obamacare.

The next day, Friday, Trump “decertified” the Iran nuclear agreement but left it up to Congress to decide whether to go further by renewing sanctions on Iran that ended when the deal took effect in 2015.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos about what can be done about these decisions, Pelosi said, “I've tried to suggest to him that while we understand our differences, we can find our common ground if we have evidence-based decisions.”

Pelosi referenced two Republican governors, John Kasich of Ohio and Brian Sandoval of Nevada, as being against Trump’s latest health care executive order because it would destabilize the market even more.

“Either the president doesn't know or he doesn't care,” said Pelosi.

Stephanopoulos asked Pelosi about fellow California House Democrat Linda Sanchez saying "it's time for change" and “a new generation of leaders” for the Democratic Party.

Pelosi said she thinks there’s “a great array of talent” in the party that she has “promoted all along the way,” but also noted “it’s up to the caucus to elect its next leadership.”

The Democratic House Leader stressed that she’s not ready to leave government while Obama’s health care system is under attack by the Republican Party.

“The Affordable Care Act, as you know, is very important to me... When the president became the president and I saw the threat to it, I said, ‘I've gotta stay to take care of the Affordable Care Act.' That's my fight. That's my mission,” she said.

“What [Trump is] doing is hurting the American people. This isn't about policy or politics. It's about the American people.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Oct152017

Golfing buddies: Trump hits the links with Lindsey Graham again

Ron Sachs/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hit the links together Saturday, marking the second time they did so in a week.

The commander in chief and Graham were spotted arriving Saturday morning at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, located about 30 miles from the White House. They went golfing there on Monday, as well.

Golf clubs were spotted being loaded into one of the motorcade vehicles Saturday morning, according to one of the White House pool reports.

In a rare move, deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters confirmed to the pool earlier Saturday, "The President will be golfing with Senator Graham today."

When asked about the pair's second round of golf, a spokesman for Graham said, "Why not? Senator Graham loves golf. South Carolina is home to some of the best courses in the world."

Following Graham's Monday outing with the president, the senator tweeted about the experience.

In an interview with Golf.com published Wednesday, Graham described Trump as an ideal host.

"I ran out of golf balls," he said. "He started giving me golf balls. He's a gracious host. They didn't have the presidential seal. You know, they make TaylorMade golf balls in South Carolina. I'm going to have some made for him. They make them 10 miles from where I live."

On Saturday evening, according to a pool report, the president and first lady Melania Trump dined at Trump International Hotel near the White House.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct142017

Trump takes hard line on Iran, but keeps Obama deal in place 

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump slammed Iran Friday, called the country a "menace" and announced new sanctions against the regime -- but didn't do anything that would alter the Obama-era deal that he has denounced since his presidential campaign.

The deal, Trump said, is no longer in the national security interest of the United States. This decision, which has been referred as “decertification,” is a shift in official position.

It is a significant declaration that leaves the nuclear agreement in place, but puts Congress in charge of whether or not to follow up with action -- triggering a 60-day window for lawmakers to re-impose sanctions against Iran that were suspended in 2015 as part of the agreement.

Trump outlined three steps as part of America's path forward: to counter "destabilizing activity" in the Middle East, impose new sanctions on non-nuclear aspects of the regime and address the country's nuclear ambitions.

"Our policy is based on clear assessment of Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world," Trump said.

While the president portrayed the decision as having originated with his administration, he acknowledged that Congress holds the key to the deal's future.

"I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal's many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons," he said.

Tehran and world powers in July 2015 crafted a deal that eased sanctions on Iran in exchange for stepped-up international monitoring of its nuclear development activities. The agreement reduced the amount of nuclear fuel Iran can keep and extended the "breakout time" needed for Iran to create a single bomb. Some of Iran's facilities are now also subject to constant monitoring, with others subject to inspections after a waiting period.

The president accused Iran of "not living up to the spirit of the deal," while the U.S. abides by its promises, despite top officials on his national security team, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying Iran has technically complied with its restrictions.
"By its own terms, the Iran deal was supposed to contribute to regional and international peace and security," Trump said. "And yet while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended his country's participation in the deal Friday after Trump's speech and attacked the decision, saying that the U.S. was "completely alone" in its policy toward Iran. He added that Iran would not hesitate to respond if the deal's other parties "do not stay loyal."

Rouhani further characterized Iran’s missile program as purely defensive in nature and necessary in the face of U.S. aggression.

“We always tried to produce weapons ourselves,” he said. “And from now on we will redouble that effort... to defend ourselves.”

Trump also announced sanctions Friday on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, whom he accused of providing assistance to terrorist groups. He encouraged U.S. allies to take action to counter the group's efforts "including thorough sanctions outside the Iran deal that target the regime's ballistic missile program in support for terrorism and all of its destructive activities, of which there are many."

Though Trump did not go so far as to end the nuclear deal, he told reporters on the White House South Lawn after his speech that his prior threat to "rip it up" was still a possibility.

"I may do that. I may do that," Trump said. "The deal is terrible. So what we've done is, through the certification process, we'll have Congress take a look at it and I may very well do that. But I like a two-step process much better."

Republicans critical of the initial deal have urged the administration to enforce it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement Friday that he agrees with Trump that the deal doesn't benefit U.S. interests, but that he is interested in approving, rather than ending, it.

"I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress on additional legislation to increase sanctions and other pressure to hold Iran accountable for its broader destructive behavior in the region," McCain said in the statement. "I am also eager to collaborate with our partners and allies to revisit the most problematic provisions of the nuclear deal, and support a unified, forceful international front in the event that Iran materially breaches the terms of the agreement."

On Wednesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif. said in a hearing that while he felt the deal was "flawed," he believed the U.S. "must now enforce the hell out of it."

“Let’s work with allies to make certain that international inspectors have better access to possible nuclear sites, and we should address the fundamental sunset shortcoming, as our allies have recognized," said Royce.

Even Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., one of the most vocal critics of the Iran deal and supporters of decertification, has recommended holding off on “snapping back,” or restoring immediately, the nuclear sanctions lifted as part of the deal. He called the move a “backward-looking step” and said Congress should instead impose new ballistic sanctions and lift some of the Iran agreement’s sunset provisions which allow some regulatory measures to expire after certain periods.

The goal with such actions, according to Cotton, would be to bring Iran back to the negotiating table to strengthen the original deal.

But some Obama-era officials who worked on the agreement said that hope was unrealistic.

“I would love to see Iran come back to the table, apologizes for everything and agree to all of our demands,” Philip Gordon, White House coordinator for the Middle East during the Iran negotiations, told ABC News. But he called such a notion a “fantasy.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who led the charge against the bill and wrote a law forcing congressional oversight of the Iran agreement, has also expressed skepticism that decertifying the deal is the right decision.

“You can only tear these things up one time. It might feel good for a second, but one of the things that's important for us is to keep our allies with us,” he said, referring to the other signatories of the Iran deal which include China and Russia as well as the European Union.

The White House has been in touch with Capitol Hill for the past two weeks over its Iran decision. White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster was on Capitol Hill Wednesday evening briefing top Republican lawmakers on the administration’s forthcoming announcement.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also been briefing key lawmakers on the administration’s plans for the agreement, and met with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Wednesday at the State Department.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who was among a group of Senate Democrats who met with McMaster last week, said the White House was open to negotiating the Corker-authored bill that requires the president to certify the deal every 90 days in the first place.

Coons told reporters in a conference call earlier this week that he believes Trump should just continue to affirm that Iran is complying with the deal but said he’d be open to amending the requirement “if that’s what’s required to get the president to continue to embrace” the Iran deal.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Oct142017

Steve Bannon slams 'establishment' Republican senators

Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump's controversial former chief strategist Steve Bannon said he plans to go to "war" against the GOP senators who didn't rush to Trump's defense during his public feud with Sen. Bob Corker.

"Nobody can run and hide on this one. These folks are coming for you," Bannon said Saturday to the crowd at the Value Voters Summit of social conservatives.

Bannon, who called for Corker to resign last week after the Tennessee senator said Trump's rhetoric put the United States at risk of "World War III," told the conservative gathering that such comments undermine U.S. soldiers stationed overseas.

"Bob Corker has trashed the commander in chief of our armed forces while we have young men and women in harm's way," Bannon said.

Bannon departed the White House in mid-August and immediately rejoined conservative media outlet Breitbart News as executive chairman, promising to be an outside bomb-thrower against those in opposition to Trump and targeting, in particular, GOP lawmakers who have opposed the president or spoken out against him.
    
The former Trump strategist also responded to a write-up in Vanity Fair earlier this week that said Bannon has told associates he believes the president has a “30 percent chance” of making it through his first term.

In contrast, Bannon told the crowd that he believes Trump is “going to win with 400 electoral votes in 2020.” Winning the presidency requires getting 270 of the total 538 electoral votes.

Bannon also pointed with pride to the victory of a GOP firebrand -- former judge Roy Moore -- in the primary for Alabama senator over the establishment candidate endorsed by Trump.

He said he believes Trump’s recent actions, such as decertifying the Iran nuclear deal and other moves that Bannon said “blow up” the Obamacare insurance exchanges, are a direct result of Moore’s victory putting pressure on the president to follow through on campaign promises.

“Those are not random events, folks. That is 'victory begets victory.' We owe that to Judge Moore,” Bannon said. “Every day is like Christmas Day now.”

Bannon predicted Trump will soon name the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.



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