Melania Trump to host cyberbullying roundtable with tech execs at White House

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- First lady Melania Trump is set to sit down with technology industry leaders at the White House on Tuesday for a conversation on cyberbullying and internet safety — against the backdrop of the president's penchant for tweeting insults and name-calling on social media.

Executives from Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech companies are among invited attendees for Tuesday’s roundtable discussion with the first lady, according to a White House official.

The White House says Mrs. Trump will be looking to discuss both the positive and negative impacts of technology on the nation’s children.

“Mrs. Trump has simply asked for a meeting to discuss one of the many things that impact children -- as she has done many times in the past, on several different topics,” the first lady’s spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

Prior to her husband’s election to the White House, Mrs. Trump had said that the issue of cyberbullying would be one of her “main focuses” if she became first lady.

“Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough, especially to children and teenagers. It is never okay when a 12-year-old girl or boy is mocked, bullied, or attacked. It is terrible when that happens on the playground. And it is absolutely unacceptable when it is done by someone with no name hiding on the internet,” Mrs. Trump said at the time.

In the early months of her time as first lady, Trump backed away from publicly discussing the issue of cyberbullying, leading to speculation that she had abandoned the issue altogether in light of the contrast with the president's frequent social media attacks.

But in a speech at the United Nations in September, the first lady again dove back into the issue, offering her opinion about the need to protect children from negative online experiences.

"We must turn our focus right now to the message and content [children] are exposed to on a daily basis through social media — the bullying, the experience online and in person," the first lady said in September.

Mrs. Trump’s focus on cyberbullying has attracted ridicule given the president’s propensity to name-call and attack his rivals on Twitter. The first lady has made clear she doesn’t approve of all of the president’s Twitter habits and isn’t shy about offering her opinion when she thinks he shouldn’t send a tweet.

“Sometimes he listens, sometimes he doesn’t,” Trump said in an interview with CBS in 2016. “I think he hears me. But he will do what he wants to do in the end. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences. And I give him my opinion. And he could do whatever he likes with it.”

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Sitting Democrat fights to keep his seat in contentious primary battle

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the 2018 primaries, Democrats are looking to define the direction of their party, as the progressive grassroots movement gains strength. That fight is playing out in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District in a race between conservative incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski and his progressive challenger, Marie Newman.

The race has drawn national attention because it offers a window into the future of the Democratic Party, and staying power of the progressive movement. If Newman emerges as the victor and unseats Lipinski, it could be a signal that the party is less likely to accept conservative views on social issues like abortion and LGBT rights, and moving further left.

Democratic leaders have also picked sides in the race, and the leaders standing behind Lipinski and Newman respectively exemplify the tension that exists in the Democratic Party between centrist and progressives—a fight that is likely to continue into the 2020 presidential election cycle.

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has thrown his weight behind Newman in a district the senator won by eight points in the 2016 Democratic primary.

Sanders’ endorsement draws a sharp contrast with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of Lipinski.

Meet the candidates

A Lipinski has represented the southwest portion of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs in Congress for the last 35 years. Rep. Dan Lipinski was first elected to Congress in 2004, after his father, Rep. William Lipinski, dropped out of the race after the primary, but before the general election, and the Democratic Party tapped the younger Lipinski to fill the empty slot.

Lipinski has served seven terms in the seat and has held positions often at odds with the majority of his party. He is a co-chair of the Pro-Life Caucus and voted against the DREAM act in 2010. He also was the only Democrat from Illinois to vote against Obamacare, and did not publically endorse President Barack Obama for a second term.

Marie Newman poses one of the most serious challenges Lipinski has faced while in office and is looking to capitalize on the progressive movement that began after the 2016 election. Newman — who is running for office for the first time — is campaigning on a pro-choice, pro-LGBT, healthcare-for-all agenda.

Newman said she’s been approached to run several times over the last 10 years, but it was only after the election of President Donald Trump that she was compelled to do so.

“I realized very clearly that this had to be done, I had to step off the sidelines,” Newman told ABC News. “The day after Trump was elected, what I realized is nobody is coming to save us, that we have to save us.”

Big tent or single issue party?

Abortion has been a major issue in this campaign with groups on both sides lending their support to Newman and Lipinski.

Newman has the support of pro-choice groups NARAL Pro-Choice America, EMILY’s List, and Planned Parenthood — which, along with other groups, have spent more than $1.6 million campaigning against Lipinski through the super PAC "Citizens For A Better Illinois".

Lipinski has also gotten a hand from Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, which deployed 70 canvassers in the district last weekend to campaign on his behalf.

In a 2017 interview with the Washington Post, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that she doesn’t believe abortion should be a litmus test for Democrats, and Lipinski has warned against the party becoming the ‘tea party of the left.’

“Right now there is a battle for what the Democratic Party is going to be going forward,” Lipinski said in a recent interview with WGN Radio in Chicago.

“[T]here are some who want to have a Tea Party of the left in the Democratic Party to match unfortunately what has happened to the Republicans. But we need to have a big tent party, we need to rally around those issues that can bring all Democrats together.”

But Newman doesn’t believe that the race highlights divisions within her party—rather that it highlights how out-of-touch Lipinski is with party values.

“The problem is [Lipinski] is a straight-up Republican, so of course I look like I’m very left when in reality I’m just a true-blue Democrat,” Newman said.

“We are a big tent. We are a giant mosaic of lots of independent thinkers. He is not a Democrat.”

Big name endorsements

Democratic leaders are not the only endorsements at play in the race. In a rare move, two sitting representatives from Illinois: Rep. Jan Schakowsky of the state's 9th district and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of the 4th, broke with tradition and endorsed Newman over their colleague.

Newman also received the first endorsements in the country from three Indivisible groups in Illinois. Indivisible a progressive, grassroots organization that works at the local level to oppose Trump’s agenda.

But Lipinski has secured endorsements from some major unions, which could be crucial to victory. Lipinski has picked up endorsements from 27 union groups, including the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO, which has the third largest union membership in the nation.

For her part, Newman has picked up Union endorsements from the SEIU Illinois State Council and the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

One endorsement not at play? The Democratic Party’s. Both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have not publicly endorsed Lipinski in the race.

No threat from the right

One thing that is clear heading into Tuesday night is that whoever wins on the Democratic side will almost certainly take the seat in November.

Not only is the District safely blue, but the only Republican running in the race is Arthur Jones, a Holocaust-denier and self-described "white racialist".

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SCOTUS to hear arguments on California law requiring pregnancy center disclosures

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court Tuesday hears arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of a California state law requiring licensed “crisis pregnancy centers" — pro-life facilities that offer pregnancy-related services — to post notices advising clients that they are not medical facilities and that abortion and other services are available elsewhere.

The notice reads: “California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women.”

The National Institute of Family Advocates contends California’s FACT ACT, which stands for Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act, violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

“California imposes this compelled speech only on centers that oppose abortion," the group says. "The Act does not impose these compelled statements across the board but uses broad exemptions to exclude health providers that provide or promote abortion or abortifacients. Therefore, the only ones forced by the State to speak these government messages are those who oppose abortion.”

Attorneys for California argue the disclosure notice the centers must post under the act, “falls well within the First Amendment’s tolerance for the regulation of the practice-related speech of licensed professionals.”

Attorneys for the state argue the FACT ACT provides needed information. “A woman who seeks advice and care during pregnancy needs certain basic information to make informed decisions and obtain appropriate, timely medical care," they argue. "When she is offered assistance by a facility that provides pregnancy-related services of a type the public may associate with medical clinics, she needs to know whether the entity she is dealing with is in fact a state-licensed clinic staffed with regulated professionals."

"And when she visits a state-licensed clinic that caters to those not covered by private insurance or already enrolled in public programs and provides less than the full spectrum of relevant health care," they say, "she needs to know that there are state resources available to access additional care if she wishes to do so.”

The U.S Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the California law. Both the Fourth and Second U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals have struck down similar laws.

ABC News Supreme Court contributor Kate Shaw helps us understand the case:

What’s this case about?

This case involves a First Amendment challenge to a California law called the “Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act,” popularly known as the FACT Act.

The FACT Act requires all pregnancy-related clinics in California to make certain disclosures. First, the law requires unlicensed pregnancy centers, which typically provide women with counseling, adoption services, free baby products, and other sorts of support, to post notices informing patients that they do not provide medical care.

Second, the law requires centers that are licensed to provide medical care to post notices explaining that publicly-funded family planning services, including contraception and abortion, are available in California.

A group of clinics, who call themselves “pro-life pregnancy centers,” have challenged the FACT Act, claiming that it violates their speech and religion rights under the First Amendment.

What are the two sides arguing?

California claims it is simply imposing reasonable requirements to ensure that women do not inadvertently seek care at a center they believe to be a medical facility when in fact it is not, and that when centers do provide medical services like pregnancy tests and ultrasounds, they do not mislead women about their range of options.

The pregnancy centers argue that the state of California is forcing them to recite the state’s pro-abortion message, in violation of their religious convictions; they argue that they exist to promote childbirth and that California is requiring them to highlight the possibility of abortion.

How might the Justices rule?

The Justices could affirm the Ninth Circuit, which upheld that the FACT Act’s constitutionality. Or they could side with the challengers, striking down the FACT Act in its entirety. A third possibility is that they could uphold some but not all of the FACT Act—essentially the position of the Trump Justice Department, which has filed a brief arguing that they “unlicensed clinic” requirements are constitutional, but that the licensed clinic requirements are not.

This is the Court’s first significant abortion case since Justice Neil Gorsuch took the bench, so there will be a great deal of interest in how he votes in the case.

What is the national impact of this case?

Pregnancy centers like the plaintiffs in this case operate in every state, so the Court’s ruling here could well have national impact—though even if the Court upholds California’s law, no state will be required to regulate these centers as California has done. If the Court sides with the centers, the state argues that pregnant women will be at risk of deception and misinformation at these centers, with state law essentially powerless to prevent it.

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President Trump expanding his legal team

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is expanding his legal team and is adding veteran DC attorney Joe diGenova.

A source with direct knowledge tells ABC News the plan is for diGenova to join the president’s legal team which already consists of John Dowd and Jay Sekulow; Ty Cobb remains the in-house White House lawyer handling issues related to the presidency.

“Former US Attorney for the District of Columbia Joe diGenova will be joining our legal team later this week. I have worked with Joe for many years and have full confidence that he will be a great asset in our representation of the President, “ Jay Sekulow counsel to the president told ABC News in a statement confirming the hiring.

DiGenova declined to comment when reached by ABC.

DiGenova has been a fierce defender of the president on cable TV. He told Fox News earlier this month that the media is out to attack the President because the press “like Comey and McCabe and the senior Obama DOJ people, hate Donald Trump. And they believe that anything, including violating every known standard of federal law enforcement is justified to either keep him from office or, if elected, take him out of office."

He added: "It is one of the worst moments in the history of American law enforcement and the shame is on Comey and everybody associated with it.”

The president mentioned Special Counsel Robert Mueller by name this weekend.

As ABC News has previously reported, the president’s legal team has been in active negotiations with the special counsel over what an interview with the president can look like whether it would be in person or via questionnaire or a mix of both.

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations have told ABC among the topics the special counsel wants to ask the president about may include the circumstances around the firing of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the circumstances around the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

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Congressional lawmakers ask for more money to protect endangered species

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- More than 100 members of Congress are asking for more funding to protect endangered species, in a letter sent to the leaders on the House Appropriations Committee last week.

The Trump administration's budget proposed cuts to multiple agencies that carry out programs to protect endangered species, including an 18 percent cut to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget. The budget proposal for the FWS includes a $9.5 million cut to money available for listing new species as endangered, which is almost half the funding that program received in the 2017 fiscal year.

The non-profit Center for Biological Diversity said in a 2016 report that it would cost an estimated $2.3 billion per year to recover the populations of all endangered species. The U.S. currently provides just 3.5 percent of that funding, according to the report.

The proposed budget also includes a 64 percent cut for the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which provides grants for state and local governments for conservation.

Democratic Reps. Don Beyer, Debbie Dingell, and Raul Grijalva organized the letter which was co-signed by 103 Democratic Members of Congress and one Republican. In the letter, the lawmakers ask the leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to provide funding for Endangered Species Act programs in the budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

"The need for increased recovery funding is evident from the nearly 400 listed species that lack recovery plans. Congressional appropriation for both recovery and consultation, both insufficient, have not kept pace with the number of listed species," they wrote in the letter.

"It is abundantly clear that Congressional ESA appropriations have not kept pace with recovery, consultation, and conservation efforts," Beyer said in a statement. "Nearly 400 listed species lack recovery plans, and that is unacceptable. We need to adequately fund all aspects of the ESA process so that we can protect and preserve America’s national heritage.”

The letter was sent to the chair and ranking member of the subcommittees that recommend appropriations for the Interior Department and Department of Commerce.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was asked about the department's budget proposal and its impact on endangered species protection in a hearing Thursday, the day before the letter was released. Zinke said that the department proposed decreasing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is used to acquire and manage public lands, so it could focus specifically on wildlife corridors.

Zinke signed an order aiming to improve management of wildlife habitats in Western states in February, specifically for areas populated by game animals like antelope, elk, and mule deer.

The Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director, Noah Greenwald, said he's glad to see congressional support to increase funding for endangered species protection. He said the center has identified at least 47 species that went extinct while waiting to be listed as endangered and that other species' recovery plans are decades old.

"Once species are protected if we don't identify what they need for recovery they could go extinct," he said in an interview with ABC News.

Rebecca Riley of the Natural Resources Defense Council said Endangered Species Act programs have been underfunded for years which contributed to delays in creating and implementing recovery plans for endangered species.

For example, Polar bears were listed as threatened in 2008, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service database, but the recovery plan for the species was only finalized in 2016.

"The underfunding of the Endangered Species Act has been going on for a long time, so the Trump administration is proposing to cut something that was already underfunded," she said.

Funding for those programs is provided through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service within the National Oceanic at Atmospheric Administration.

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'Sex and the City' actress Cynthia Nixon to challenge N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in primary

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions(NEW YORK) -- “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon officially announced her primary challenge to New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.

In a video announcement, the actress states: “I love New York. I’ve never lived anywhere else."

Nixon also attacks Cuomo for “a string of indictments for corruption, his failure to fix the New York City subway, and his support for a backroom deal which handed Republicans control of the state Senate, resulting in the failure of numerous pieces of progressive legislation,” in her release announcing her candidacy.

The video, which aims to introduce her to voters, shows her at home with her wife Christine and son Charlie, and walking her son Max to school.

In the coming weeks, Nixon will travel across the state to hear from voters, according to an announcement from her campaign.

Her message also echoes the outsider, progressive message other candidates have invoked this year.

“We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us. It can’t just be business as usual anymore,” she said.

This would be Nixon's first bid at political office but she has long been an activist on political and social issues, particularly for LGBT issues and education issues. The actress, best known for her role as the practical lawyer Miranda on HBO' "Sex and the City," was born in New York.

Her announcement video emphasizes her long ties to the city and that she is a graduate of its public schools. It emphasizes her life as a New Yorker, showing her walking the streets and taking the subway.

Nixon has been an outspoken critic of Cuomo and his administration. Her bid comes as the Democratic Party looks to reconcile divides among its liberal and more moderate wings, a breach that has its roots in the 2016 election.

Cuomo, the son of legendary New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, is making his bid for a third term. He has $30.5 million in his campaign account, according to New York election records.

The actress is a longtime ally of the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Nixon's wife, Christine Marinoni, works in de Blasio's administration as a special adviser for community partnerships in the Department of Education.

Her announcement video ends with her on the train as the announcer says "Next stop, Albany."

The gubernatorial primary is Sept. 13.

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SCOTUS rejects GOP challenge to new Pennsylvania House map in boost to Democrats

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied a GOP-led request to hold off on using a new House map for the state of Pennsylvania, meaning candidates — including Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb lawmakers who recently faced off in a tough battle — in the state will run in new districts this November.

The move is a blow to Republican hopes and a boost to Democratic chances of retaking control of the House of Representatives.

It is the second time on Monday Republicans received a judicial blow from the courts. Earlier, a three-judge panel in Pennsylvania upheld the state’s new congressional map.

The Supreme Court announced, "the application for stay presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied."

There are few legal options left for Republicans in the state. The filing deadline for House candidates is tomorrow.

Republicans in the state had filed for a stay against the new map, which was drawn by the state Supreme Court after the Democratic governor and GOP-controlled state legislature could not come to terms on a new one.

The GOP took two legal routes — one before the U.S. Supreme Court and the other before the federal panel.

They lost on both.

Democrats are expected to pick up three to five House seats under the new map, according to estimates by election experts, which would help them on their way to the 24 seats they need to retake control of the lower chamber of Congress.

The filing deadline for House candidates in Pennsylvania is Tuesday.

The three-judge panel ruled that the Republicans had no standing to make their argument. The court also noted that “because fundamental principles of Constitutional standing and judicial restraint prohibit us from exercising jurisdiction, we have no authority to take any action other than to dismiss” the request.

Republicans can appeal the ruling. That appeal could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a new House map drawn, citing gerrymandered districts that favored Republicans. The GOP has been fighting the court order ever since and the U.S. Supreme Court denied an early request to put a stay on the map.

Republicans currently hold 12 of the state's 18 congressional districts, while Democrats control just five. The special election last week for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was held under the old map.

Several GOP lawmakers found their House districts dramatically affected by the new map, including Rep. Ryan Costello, who is considering retirement, several state and national officials in GOP politics told ABC News.

His 6th Congressional District was transformed from one that Hillary Clinton won by one point in 2016 to one she would have won by nine points.

Costello has not said he is retiring and his office and campaign did not respond to ABC News' multiple requests for comment.

Pennsylvania’s House delegation took a big hit in Republican members this year.

GOP Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after a scandal. Rep. Lou Barletta is running for Senate. And Reps. Bill Shuster, Charlie Dent and Patrick Meehan are retiring.

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Costly cabinet travel prompts senators to ask federal budget office to explain spending

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid multiple investigations and controversies over the cost of travel by Trump administration officials, two senators are asking the Office of Management and Budget to provide more detail about the administration's policies on travel spending.

Several members of Trump's cabinet have been under scrutiny for the cost of their travel and other expensive purchases. The president asked former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign last September after reports that his travel on private planes cost more than $1 million of taxpayer money.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, the ranking member of theFederal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management subcommittee, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday asking him to explain how the Trump administration is enforcing rules on the cost of government travel and whether OMB has reviewed any other relevant guidance or rules.

"It is our duty to provide oversight and ensure that taxpayer money is spent responsibly, without waste, fraud, or abuse," the senators wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by ABC News. "As you have said yourself about past issues with Administration travel, “just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.” We owe it to the American people to ensure with the utmost vigilance that tax dollars are being spent appropriately."

The senators are also asking Mulvaney for documents on all travel approved by the White House Chief of Staff related to travel on government-owned or charter planes. OMB said in a memo issued after Price resigned that some travel would need to be approved by the chief of staff and that the chief of staff would provide further guidance on the use of government and private planes.

There are multiple investigations pending from congressional committees and agency watchdogs seeking more information about whether officials' travel spending followed all the relevant rules. The inspectors general at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior have ongoing investigations into travel spending and the IG from the Department of Veterans Affairs already published a report into Secretary David Shulkin's spending on a trip to Europe.

Federal law says that government officials should use the least expensive travel option available and should use commercial flights, unless otherwise authorized.

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Sen. Cory Booker: 2018 is 'the most important midterm election of our lifetime'

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Cory Booker diverted questions Monday about running for president in 2020, instead saying that he is focused on the 2018 midterms.

"I am a contender for the 2018 midterms where I'm going to be fighting for every Democratic candidate," the New Jersey Democrat said on The View Monday.

"This is the most important midterm election of our lifetime. ... For folks looking beyond that, don't look beyond," he said.

Booker said that although his party does not have control of the government, U.S. citizens all have power. He urged Americans to let their voices be heard.

"First of all, understand that the power of the people is greater than the people in power," he said. "Their voice is so important right now."

During his appearance on the talk show Monday, Booker also told the hosts he is "very interested" in investigating the recent firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

"The way that Donald Trump is going about this does not reflect well on him, on the presidency and our values as a country," he said.

On Friday, McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, just two days before he was set to retire from government after nearly 22 years in federal law enforcement.

Despite what is at stake in the 2018 midterm elections, Booker stressed the importance of Americans seeing each other for the "truth of who we are."

"While Donald Trump seems to be intent on separating, dividing, demeaning, degrading. I want Republicans and Democrats to start a new national narrative about how we need each other," Booker said.

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Michael Flynn 'putting his life back together' after guilty plea in Mueller probe

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn awaits sentencing for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian officials, the retired three-star Army general has been quietly "putting his life back together," surfing and even dabbling in politics, friends and relatives say.

Flynn has kept a low profile for more than three months following the dramatic court appearance in which he made what confidants call a humiliating admission for a soldier with a decorated 33-year military career. He has avoided the news media and even moved to shut down a conservative lobbyist’s unauthorized public fundraising event for his legal defense fund.

"He felt he needed to act as a soldier and has kept his mouth shut," a close confidant told ABC News. "He doesn't want to be viewed as whiner."

But in a move that stunned some supporters, Flynn returned to the spotlight on Friday night, appearing beside Omar Navarro, a Republican who is running against Democratic stalwart Rep. Maxine Waters in California’s 43rd Congressional District and has already collected endorsements from a trio of political celebrities: GOP consultant Roger Stone, Infowars' Alex Jones and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“What I'm not here to do, is I'm not here to complain about who has done me wrong, or how unfair I've been treated or how unfair the entire process has been,” Flynn said to laughter from supporters as he introduced Navarro at the rally. “You know, it is what it is."

While a far cry from his infamous "Lock her up!" speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Flynn’s appearance at a political rally raised eyebrows among some of Flynn’s supporters, who believe he should have avoided an event that did little to help his public image.

Several longtime friends who served with Flynn in the military -- and spoke anonymously to comment more frankly about a former commander they still admire -- found the campaign appearance last week "perplexing," with one deriding it as an example of "more bad decisions.”

Waters is not a member of the Congressional committees investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections, but she has been critical of Flynn in the past, which could explain the general’s surprise support for Navarro. In an February 2017 appearance on MSNBC, Waters slammed Flynn as a member of what she called Trump’s “Kremlin clan.”

Flynn's lawyer Robert Kelner did not respond to an ABC News request for comment on the Friday campaign appearance.

Navarro told ABC News that he did not pay Flynn “directly or indirectly” to speak or cover his travel expenses from Rhode Island, but his closest supporters say carefully raising his public profile again is key to his ability to earn income.

Flynn is selling his Old Town Alexandria townhouse for about $835,000 to pay steep legal fees amassed over the past ten months since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to probe alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.

Friends and family say he’d like to get back to doing some sort of "foreign policy" consulting, but it's not apparent whether he has actively sought or accepted any such work.

Out of public view, Flynn has been focused mostly on grappling with a year of personal turmoil since President Trump dismissed him after 24 days as his national security adviser. Recent photos shared on social media by family members show Flynn surfing frigid waves off the New England coast in a body suit.

"What he's doing is putting his life back together and looking forward," his brother Joe Flynn told ABC News.

Many of his supporters do not believe that he did, in fact, lie to the FBI when agents visited the White House 14 months ago to question him about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador during the transition following the November 2016 election.

"I think he did not lie to the FBI,” author and commentator Michael Ledeen, a close friend of Flynn and his wife Lori, said recently. “I cannot imagine him lying to the FBI.”

His younger brother Joe also rejects the idea that his sibling would ever do anything dishonorable.

"There is nothing he would ever do willfully to harm the United States,” Joe Flynn told ABC News.

Why Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to FBI agents and agreed to be a cooperating witness as part of a plea to avoid a trial -- if he was actually innocent, as his supporters maintain -- has so far not been explained.

"We know the truth about the man,” said another close confidant. “There is no way those crimes were committed.”

A popular belief pushed by some conservative supporters is that he pleaded guilty to protect his outspoken son Michael Flynn Jr. from facing unspecified charges related to his role in the now-shuttered Flynn Intel Group lobbying firm. Mueller's team reportedly threatened to indict his son, according to the Washington Post, but sources close to the family say even the Flynn family is in the dark about what prosecutors actually did or did not have on Flynn Jr.

For one thing, until former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was charged by Mueller, it was very rare for anyone to be prosecuted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is one law Mueller looked at as he examined Flynn’s work for entities tied to the Turkish government.

A month before his father’s surprise guilty plea, Michael Flynn Jr. tweeted, “The disappointment on your faces when I don’t go to jail will be worth all your harassment.” Flynn’s son has not been charged with any crime.

Friends and family members have discussed a social media effort to build public support for somehow reversing the disgrace of a felony conviction. They have pushed the hashtag #ClearFlynnNow, which Joe Flynn says has gained some traction on Twitter.

But given the iron-clad language of his plea agreement, even diehard supporters in the retired general’s orbit concede privately it will be tough to walk back Flynn’s guilty plea. It is also unclear how he is helping the Mueller investigation.

Some supporters are holding out hope that the Justice Department inspector general’s report due to be released possibly next month — which sank FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday when he was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions 26 hours before his effective retirement date — will somehow offer exculpatory evidence of FBI misconduct that will compel the judge to let Flynn off the hook.

Trump could also pardon Flynn at any time, but his lawyer and family have not said if he has asked the White House to do so.

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