SEARCH

Tuesday
Aug132019

Stacey Abrams launches multi-million dollar voter protection initiative in 20 states

3dfoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- After spending the beginning of 2019 mulling a presidential run and ruling out a run for Senate, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams announced a new multi-million dollar initiative on Tuesday that's aimed at beefing up voter protection operations in 20 battleground states throughout the 2020 election cycle.

"There are only two things stopping us in 2020, making sure people have a reason to vote and that they have the right to vote. I've decided to leave it to a whole bunch of other folks to make sure they have a reason to vote," Abrams said in Las Vegas during a speech at the 32nd General Convention for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. "But I'm here today to announce 'Fair Fight 2020' to make sure everyone has the right to vote in the United States of America. That is what we're going to do."

This new initiative, "Fair Fight 2020," gets its name from the election reform and voting rights organization she founded after losing Georgia’s gubernatorial race in 2018. Abrams would've made history as the first black female governor in the U.S., but she lost her race against Republican Brian Kemp by just under 1.5 percentage points. While she acknowledged Kemp would be "certified as the victor," she refused to concede to him, accusing the former secretary of state throughout the campaign of engaging in voter suppression as he held his position overseeing elections while he ran for the state's top executive job.

"We're going to have a fair fight in 2020 because my mission is to make sure that no one has to go through in 2020 what we went through in 2018 because despite how hard they work, I am still here, and we are going to work to make sure every voice is heard," Abrams said in her speech.

With this new program, Abrams, who formerly served as minority leader in the Georgia legislature, will continue her efforts to promote election fairness. Now, she's joining forces with state Democratic parties to advance voter protection infrastructure before a nominee is decided, and will also work with the state parties and other allies to either directly fund or raise money for these operations, a spokesperson for "Fair Fight" told ABC News.

"Fair Fight staff will provide ongoing support to these operations. Each state’s voter protection teams will start early (and) spend the next year ensuring that all eligible Americans can register, vote, and have their votes counted," the spokesperson said.

Abrams said she's going to use her "energies" and her "very, very loud voice" to "make sure that Donald Trump and the Senate take a hike and we put people in place who know what we need to have in the United States in America for progress to be possible," and "ensure that every ballot gets counted."

"I'm here to ask you to stand with me," she told the union crowd. "Stand with me as we create a new future together, as we put the power of democracy back in to the hands of our people because we will have a fair fight in 2020 and then we're on, on and on!"

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug132019

The story behind 'The New Colossus' poem on the Statue of Liberty and how it became a symbol of immigration

Manakin/iStock(NEW YORK) -- "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

These iconic words from "The New Colossus" — the 1883 poem written by American Emma Lazarus are etched in bronze and mounted on the Statue of Liberty's pedestal — and have again been catapulted into a heated political debate on immigration.

The Trump administration announced a "public charge" rule on Monday that could drastically limit legal immigration by denying green cards for those who qualify for food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers and various forms of public assistance.

Some reporters invoked "The New Colossus" when asking acting Director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services office Ken Cuccinelli about the new rule.

In defending the policy on Tuesday, Cuccinelli suggested to NPR that those lines should be rewritten to say "give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge."

According to Alan Kraut, a professor of history at American University, language restricting immigration for those likely to become a public charge appeared in U.S. legislation as early as 1891, and throughout its history, the United States has courted immigrants but simultaneously "repelled them and was very not welcoming to [them] when they arrived."

Since then, the Statue of Liberty has evoked passionate feelings as a symbol of freedom and immigration — and America's push and pull with it.

Early symbolism

The Statue of Liberty was the idea of Edouard Laboulaye, a French abolitionist and jurist, who wanted to gift the United States something to symbolize freedom after the Civil War to also serve as a reminder of France and America's friendship, according to the National Parks Service.

"When Edouard Laboulaye, the French abolitionist, came up with the idea of the Statue as a gift from the French people to Americans, his intent was to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States," Maria Cristina Garcia, a professor of American studies and history at Cornell University, told ABC News via email. "One early draft of the statue had Lady Liberty holding broken shackles in her hand. The shackles are now located at her feet, and are barely visible unless you are very high up (by helicopter, for example), which is one reason why Americans have forgotten this history."

The statue was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who, according to Kraut, was inspired by ancient symbols, including Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty.

"Initially, immigration was not one of the things that inspired the Statue of Liberty for Laboulaye or Bartholdi but there was a transformation and Lazarus's poem is part of that transformation," Kraut, who chairs the History Advisory Committee of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island, said in a phone call with ABC.

Emma Lazarus and The New Colossus

Lazarus was a young poet and social activist living in New York City of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish descent who could trace her roots back to the first Jews who came to North America, according to the National Park Service.

Three years before the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in Bedloe's Island in the New York harbor, Lazarus was asked to write a poem as part of an arts festival to help raise money for the statue's pedestal.

The poem's title, "The New Colossus," was inspired by "The Colossus of Rhodes" — the ancient statue of the Greek sun-god Helios on the island of Rhodes.

At the time, Lazarus was involved in charitable work for refugees and was active in aiding Russian Jews who were trying to escape to the United States. According to Kraut, "immigration and freedom of the oppressed was very much on her mind when writing this poem."

Lazarus died of illness in 1887 — one year after the Statue of Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in October 1886.

It was not until 1903 — nearly 20 years after Lazarus's death — that the bronze plaque bearing the iconic sonnet would be added to the statue's pedestal, after her friend Georgina Schuyler found a book in 1901 containing "The New Colossus" and launched an effort to commemorate Lazarus' work.

"The poem, like the shackles, is not immediately visible," Garcia, who is also a member of the History Advisory Committee of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island, said. "The fact that we are conscious of these powerful and deeply moving words today is because of the generations of artists, editorialists, and politicians, who have continually reminded us of their power."

Lady Liberty and the New York Harbor

The location of the Statue of Liberty in the New York harbor — a major receiving port for immigrants in the 19th century — was a defining factor in the statue's symbolic "transformation," Kraut said.

During the 1880s through the early 1920s, there was "a peak period of immigration to the United States," according to Kraut, where 23 and half million immigrants seeking religious and political liberty and economic opportunity traveled to the United States.

"By the end of the 19th century there is an immigration flow that is very heavily southern and eastern European, and they are coming in great numbers, and they're, of course, passing the Statue of Liberty," Kraut said.

Bledsoe's Island was renamed Liberty Island in 1956.

According to Garcia, it is the stories of these immigrants who were greeted by the majestic Lady Liberty as they sailed past Ellis Island that defined the statue as a symbol of immigration.

"Popular culture also played a role in reinforcing this association," Garcia said. "Think of all the Hollywood movies that show the Statue as a backdrop for an immigrant character's arrival, from Charlie Chaplin's ‘The Immigrant,' [1917], to Francis Ford Coppola's 'The Godfather, Part II,' [1974]."

And according to Kraut, discrimination against immigrants has been a "pervading" part of American history. In fact, a year before "The New Colossus" was written, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Garcia echoed this notion, adding that in the early 20th century, anti-immigration advocates were motivated by a "fear" of southern and eastern Europeans who were arriving in large numbers and were considered "culturally inferior and unassimilable."

"Today, restrictionists like Trump want to bar entry to immigrants who are coming largely from Asia, the Americas, and Africa, and that view is also motivated, in part, by fear," Garcia wrote. "But in every generation, we also see people who advocate and fight for continued immigration — business leaders, human rights activists, faith communities — because they feel that immigration is good for the nation. Which perspective ultimately defines this generation is anyone's guess."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug132019

After odd hearing, trial date moved for alleged Mar-a-Lago trespasser Yujing Zhang

~User136e187a_881/iStock(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- The trial for Chinese national and alleged Mar-a-Lago trespasser Yujing Zhang has been delayed until early next month, following a bizarre pretrial hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon.

During the hearing Zhang, who had previously dismissed her public defenders, at times appeared to not hear the judge, refused to answer some questions verbally, claimed she was feeling "sick" and "dizzy," and generally didn't cooperate with the proceedings.

"I'm not available today," she said.

U.S. Judge Roy Altman of Florida's Southern District accused Zhang of "playing games" with the court.

Earlier Tuesday prosecutors filed documents related to the case, such as jury instructions and witness and evidence lists, but Zhang has not done so. When asked about her lack of filing by the judge, Zhang appeared not to know what the judge was talking about.

During the hearing, the government said they would waive a jury trial and allow the judge to rule directly on the case, and Zhang was asked if she wanted a jury to decide her case or for the judge to rule.

"Maybe I don't need that many people to make that decision," she said.

"I'm not in my right mind," she added, in an apparent reference to her feeling ill.

Zhang, who previously told the court she worked as a consultant in China, is accused of trespassing onto the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's Florida country club, in late March after she was mistakenly allowed in by Mar-a-Lago staff. In addition to the purported trespassing, prosecutors allege she lied to Secret Service officers as she was let through checkpoints. She was only discovered when a receptionist realized her name was not on the access list for the club.

When Zhang was detained, investigators said they found several electronic devices on her and in her room at a local hotel, purportedly including a device to detect hidden cameras. Early on, prosecutors suggested Zhang was being investigated for potential links to espionage, but no further charges have been brought. Before they were dismissed, public defenders for Zhang argued the whole thing was a misunderstanding and said she had not made "direct misrepresentations" to federal agents as alleged.

Zhang pleaded not guilty in April, but was ordered held in detention in Florida ahead of her trial.

In Tuesday's hearing, Judge Altman told Zhang she has until Aug. 20 to decide if she wants a jury trial and then has until Aug. 30 to file whatever pretrial documents she wants to file or object to anything in the government documents. Her trial date was reset to Sept. 3.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug132019

Federal workers sue for the right to criticize political candidates

Pattanaphong Khuankaew/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The largest union of federal workers on Tuesday announced it's suing the U.S. government in a bid to get it to drop its rules restricting workers from criticizing President Donald Trump or other political candidates.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents some 700,000 federal workers, said it was concerned that the latest guidance restricted free speech and could be weaponized by politically motivated managers, including those seeking to punish people who express support for the president.

Last fall, the federal government's top legal counsel, the Office of Special Counsel, or OSC -- which is not related to former special counsel Robert Mueller -- warned federal workers not to call for a politician's impeachment or to lobby openly for any particular candidate.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said, "OSC's vague, overbroad guidance creates an opening for managers and political appointees to go after career civil servants for politically-motivated reasons."

Trump's supporters have alleged that the president's agenda is being undermined by federal workers who are part of a "Deep State." Trump has tweeted about such a conspiracy, specifically alleging that the FBI could be part of a conspiracy working against him.

Several senior White House and administration officials have received warnings from the OSC of violations, including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and White House social media director Dan Scavino Jr. The Hatch Act is a decades-old law aimed at preventing federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities. It does not apply to the president or vice president.

In a November memo to the nation's estimated two million workers, OSC said overt politicking at the office and online -- including the hashtag #Resist -- violates existing laws intended to keep the day-to-day operations of the government apolitical.

The OSC memo said context matters, however.

For example, criticizing a White House policy while chatting with coworkers might be acceptable, OSC said. But doing it in the context of the 2020 election? That could pose problems, according to the memo.

"There are no 'magic words' of express advocacy necessary in order for statements to be considered political activity under the Hatch Act," according to the memo. "Therefore, when a federal employee is prohibited by the Hatch Act from engaging in political activity -- e.g., when on duty, in the federal workplace, or invoking official authority -- the employee must be careful to avoid making statements directed toward the success or failure of, among others, a candidate for partisan political office."

An OSC spokesman declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Aug132019

'Breaking point': Swing voters weigh Trump rhetoric against economy

olya_steckel/iStock(MACOMB COUNTY, Mich.) — As national debate over white nationalism, racism and President Donald Trump's rhetoric reaches a boil, the political implications for the 2020 election are coming into focus in this influential corner of middle America.

In presidential races, as Macomb County goes, so goes Michigan. And in 2020, Macomb's quintessential swing voters -- mostly white, working class -- are very much up for grabs.

In dozens of interviews with ABC News Live, many voters expressed distaste for the president's words and behavior, but stopped short of concluding that they must rule out voting for him.

Macomb's voters picked Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but the county flipped for Trump by large margins in 2016. That swing helped Trump carry the state by just over 10,000 votes and cement a victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"There's a lot of people here -- tens of thousands of people who are still deciding, 'Can I pull the lever for Trump again? Or, am I going to go with somebody on the Democratic side?' And if the Democrats come and say, 'If you vote for Trump, you are a racist,' that's not going to sit well with those voters," said Mayor Michael Taylor of Sterling Heights, a city of 130,000 in the heart of Macomb County, about 20 miles north of Detroit.

"I don't personally think that his support is based on race or based on this belief that brown and black people that are immigrants shouldn't be welcome here," Taylor added. "I think it's really more based on, Look, I want an economy that works for me and this is a guy that, even though he's a billionaire from New York City, he gets it, and he talks to me."

But support for Trump in this bastion of independent politics is not ironclad.

Taylor, a 36-year-old Republican lawyer who leads the state's fourth largest city, backed Trump in 2016 but said he's now had a change of heart.

"It's the constant lying. It's the belittling his opponents and his detractors. It's the childish nicknames that he gives people," said Taylor, a father of three. "I can't tell you when the breaking point came, but it was at some point I was just like, enough is enough for me."

How many of Macomb's 630,000 registered voters follow Taylor's lead may well determine whether Trump holds this county, the state -- and possibly the presidency.

In the last 10 presidential elections, going back to 1980, Macomb County has picked the winner eight times.

Last month, two-term Republican Congressman Paul Mitchell, who represents a significant part of Macomb County, announced that he would not run for reelection, alluding to the president and the polarizing rhetoric that has consumed Washington.

"It seems to me that rhetoric overwhelms policy, and politics consumes much of the oxygen in this city," he said.

Mitchell was one of the first GOP lawmakers to criticize Trump for his racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen of color.

Several Macomb residents who spoke with ABC News Live conceded they, too, are bothered by Trump's behavior, but few described it as reason to follow Taylor's lead, citing little direct impact on their day-to-day lives.

"I think we need some work as a country," said Diane McCauley, whose family has sold locally grown produce and wreaths at Irma's Farm Stand since 1958. "But, I have mixed emotions. Business is good. Life is good. Long as people are healthy and happy and working."

Unemployment in Macomb County, 4.2% in May, has tracked with national trends at near-50-year lows. Median household income in 2017 was just over $58,000, ranking the county among the state's highest.

"Since Trump's been in office, a lot of the current people are happy and still have jobs, but then there's a lot of plants that don't," said Jack Burke of Clinton Township. "I should just say, Trump's going to win."

Financial turbulence in the auto industry -- the lifeblood of the region -- continues to keep the local economy on edge. One of the five U.S. facilities that automaker General Motors will close this year is in Macomb County. The move eliminates 200 jobs, with 60 workers said to be transferred elsewhere, 25 choosing to retire and the others left without work, the company said.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised to lead a sweeping resurgence of the American auto industry, which hasn't materialized.

"Democrat or Republican, I just want someone to hear our voice," said General Motors UAW worker Regina Duley said last month as GM's Warren Transmission plan prepared to close. "I know they sell us all a dream. I just want someone to listen."

The stakes are not lost on Trump, who won handily here in 2016, or the Democratic candidates running to unseat him. All have their sights set on Michigan and Macomb, several campaign aides from both parties have told ABC News.

"We've got hardworking people that sometimes vote for Republicans, sometimes vote for Democrats. We're independent-minded," Taylor said.

"A Democrat can win Macomb County and Sterling Heights. They've done it before. They can certainly do it again, but it's going to have to be somebody with a big personality -- somebody that connects to the residents that live here, somebody that talks directly to them and understands what's going on."

In the 2018 midterms, the county flipped back to blue. Macomb voters helped send Democrat Gretchen Whitmer to the statehouse to replace Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, and reelect Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow.

On a recent weekday visit to Macomb County, a diner was packed with retirees swapping stories about their auto industry careers over coffee. In the local splash park, grandparents watched their kids dizzy themselves on playground slides while talking about preparations for back-to-school. At a farm stand opening for the season, talk was of the crisp, green apples -- not politics, Trump or the Democratic debates.

Many Macomb residents who spoke with ABC News suggested they're simply not paying close attention to the presidential race right now and aren't eagerly seeking a presidential alternative -- but won't rule one out.

"It's a little early and there are so many candidates," said Lindsey Dombowski, a 24-year-old school teacher who grew up in Macomb.

"Look, I hardly get my kids names right half the time," she joked, sharing her unfamiliarity with the vast Democratic field.

At the farm stand, McCauley said, "I've been busy working; just haven't paid attention to it."

And at The Pantry, a popular breakfast spot in Sterling Heights, Chuck and Lynn Veis said their marriage reflects the political dynamics of the county: He leans toward Trump, she leans toward a Democratic replacement, but who's in the White House is not a top concern.

"Sometimes the smallest things become national news, and we lose sight of what the big problems are," said Chuck Veis, a retired high school teacher. "We're dealing with a president that has taken on some of these big problems, but his presentation sometimes is questionable. But there are a lot of things out there of greater concern."

The couple spoke of challenges with medical coverage for their family, affording prescription drug costs and the high cost of auto insurance in the state.

"It's really stressful," Lynn Veis said when asked her feelings about the early presidential campaign. "I'm waiting for them to narrow it down."

Satisfaction with daily life, and choosing to stay out of the day-to-day political fray, is a common refrain in Macomb. The question now: Can one of the nearly two dozen Democrats running for the party's nomination break through?

"It's been close to 50-50," says Ron Kibzy, a retired firefighter who's lived in Macomb County for 56 years, of the area's politics. "It used to be heavy Democrats for a long time, but then it switched after the last election. And now, they may switch back. Who knows?"

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Agents descend on Epstein's island home looking for evidence of inner circle: Sources

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(NEW YORK) -- Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein was taken off suicide watch July 29, in part, at the urging of his defense attorneys, sources familiar with the decision told ABC News as federal agents were seen at the grounds of the financier's island home in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

ABC News on Monday afternoon observed federal agents, including FBI and Customs and Border Protection, at the dock and on the grounds of Little Saint James, Jeffrey Epstein’s island home in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Task force investigators with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York are looking for evidence of Epstein's inner circle, sources told ABC News

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the U.S. Virgin Islands has declined to comment on the nature of the operation. The U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York also declined to comment, but in a weekend statement the U.S. Attorney, Geoffrey Berman, said the investigation into Epstein’s alleged sex trafficking "remains ongoing."

Under heightened pressure from lawmakers over Epstein's death, Attorney General William Barr said on Monday that Epstein's alleged co-conspirators "should not rest easy" just because Epstein won't have his day in court.

"Let me assure you that case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein," Barr said in remarks to a law enforcement group in New Orleans on Monday. "Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. Victims deserve justice and will get it."

Barr also raised alarm over what he described as "serious irregularities" in the prison's handling of Epstein.

Before Epstein was formally removed from suicide watch, he had to undergo more than one psychiatric evaluation before prison officials made the move, according to sources.

The sources also told ABC News that while there are cameras on the cell block where Epstein had been held, it does not appear that cameras are trained on individual cells in the special housing unit. Therefore it’s unlikely there’s video showing Epstein's death by suicide.

Barr additionally said he was "angered" about what he described as the Manhattan Correctional Center's "failure" to secure Epstein, and highlighted what he called "irregularities" in the MCC's system that have already surfaced in the early stages of the DOJ investigations.

"We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation," Barr said. "We will get to the bottom of it, and there will be accountability."

The day after Epstein's death in prison, Barr announced he had asked the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General to investigate the circumstances surrounding the matter, in addition to an FBI investigation that already launched. A source familiar with the investigation told ABC News on Sunday that Barr instructed FBI deputy director David Bowdich to update Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen every three hours on their investigation and that Rosen has been in constant communication with Barr.

"I was appalled to learn that Jeffrey Epstein was found dead early this morning from an apparent suicide while in federal custody," Barr said in a statement Saturday. "Mr. Epstein's death raises serious questions that must be answered."

 Barr's remarks follow several scathing rebukes of the Justice Department from lawmakers like Sen. Ben Sasse, who in a statement Saturday said that there was no excuse for Epstein to be approved to be taken off of suicide watch.

"Every single person in the Justice Department -- from your Main Justice headquarters staff all the way to the night-shift jailer -- knew that this man was a suicide risk, and that his dark secrets couldn't be allowed to die with him," Sasse, R-Neb., said. "Given Epstein's previous attempted suicide, he should have been locked in a padded room under unbroken, 24/7, constant surveillance. Obviously, heads must roll."

In addition to Barr, the House Judiciary Committee is also seeking answers over Epstein's death. A bipartisan letter from the committee was sent to the Bureau of Prisons asking 23 questions related to the death of Epstein.

"The Attorney General has stated that the FBI and the Inspector General of the Department of Justice are investigating the death of Mr. Epstein, and we look forward to learning the results of their inquiries," according to the letter. "However, it is imperative that the Committee on the Judiciary, which has the responsibility to exercise oversight over the Department of Justice, receive responses to these questions related to the adequacy of BOP’s suicide prevention policies and their implementation in this instance, as soon as possible."

The letter, which is signed by chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., asks for a response by Aug. 21.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Special Operations Command orders comprehensive ethics review following recent scandals

coward_lion/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of recent scandals involving America's most elite military troops, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command has ordered a comprehensive review of the culture and ethics of special operations forces.

"Recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question and threaten the trust placed in us," Gen. Richard Clarke, the head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) wrote in a memo sent to the forces under his command.

"As a result, I am initiating a comprehensive review of Special Operations Forces (SOF) culture and ethics," he added. "The review will gather insights and observations from across our force and will draw upon the unique perspectives of leaders from internal and external entities," he added.

Clarke said the review would look at all facets of special operations culture including, recruiting, selection, training, ethics education and how ethical failures are addressed.

"The American people must trust those who protect, including the special operations professions in this Command," Clarke wrote. "This trust is paramount and must never be compromised."

"Most importantly, recognize this review as an opportunity to strengthen our values and reinforce trust," said Clarke.

Over the past two years elite special operations forces have been involved in high-profile scandals involving alleged criminal behavior.

That includes two members of the elite Seal Team 6 and two special operations Marines who were charged in the 2017 death in Mali of Army Green Beret Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar.

In the prosecution of Navy Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward "Eddie" Gallagher, charged with killing a detainee in Iraq, Gallagher was found not guilty of murder and attempted murder charges, but guilty on charges of posing with the man's corpse.

Army Green Beret Maj. Mathew Golsteyn is facing a court-martial for the death of an Afghan man whom he had detained.

Clarke wrote that the review would be concluded later this fall and encouraged forces under his command to be "open and candid."

"This is about making us better," he said.

Earlier this year SOCOM carried out a congressionally mandated, comprehensive review of the command's ethics and professional training and found that no systemic issues were to blame for the incidents of misconduct. But in a report to Congress, SOCOM said it was pursuing changes to improve that training, particularly when it comes to moral decision making.

Two weeks ago the head of the Navy's Special Warfare Command issued a letter to his forces calling for a return to "good order and discipline" following a spate of incidents involving bad behavior by Navy SEALs.

"I want all hands to understand that 'we have a problem' and that this is our main effort and my top priority," wrote Rear Adm. Collin Green in a July 25 letter to Naval Special Warfare (NSW) obtained by ABC News.

"I don't know yet if we have a culture problem, I do know that we have a good order and discipline problem that must be addressed immediately," wrote Green.

He directed SEAL leaders to provide him a written plan of action by Aug. 7 that details how teams will address ethics concerns. He also ordered leaders to "engage everyone in your formations," including those deployed overseas, about the problem.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Special Operations Command orders comprehensive ethics review following recent scandals

Monday
Aug122019

Top moments from the Iowa State Fair 

ABCNews.com(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- During the politically important Iowa State Fair, presidential hopefuls walked a high wire act of emotion – on and off their iconic Soapbox stage – as the nation reels from back-to-back mass shootings and debate was sparked anew about what leaders should do.

The tragedies loomed large and heavy over the fairgrounds and even as the candidates sought to balance that deep endemic pain and the frivolity of fried Oreos.

Here are the top seven standout moments from 2020 candidates at the Iowa State Fair and nearby events.

1. Gun reform takes center stage

In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton massacres, presidential candidates emphasized the urgent need to combat gun violence in America. Their push for more stringent gun reform was met with round applause – a striking reception in a Midwest swing spot like Iowa, so proud of their gun culture.

California Sen. Kamala Harris spoke passionately about how kids “should not have to go through drills and learn how to hide under desks and cower in corners… in the event there is a mass shooting.” She joined several of her fellow 2020ers in calling for Walmart to stop selling firearms.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren rolled out her own gun reform plan this week – and impressed upon her crowds the urgency of this issue getting solved.

It was a core call to action the fair fun orbited loosely; several moments of silence were held throughout this week’s Iowa events – and on Saturday, 16 of the Democratic candidates came to the day-long forum on gun control that had been quickly assembled in the wake of El Paso and Dayton - former Rep. Beto O'Rourke missing the Iowa barnstorm altogether to stay home with his community.

The forum grew quite emotional – Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang cried onstage after hearing from a woman whose four-year-old daughter had been killed by a stray bullet.

“I have a 6 and 3-year-old boy,” he said. “I was imagining it was one of them that got shot – and the other saw it – I’m so sorry.”

2. Candidates face tough questions on the stump and on the sidewalk


The candidates faced questions from the press and the public about their policies for the future.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar got her fair share – on gun reform especially. Confronted by one person in the gaggle of reporters around her on assault weapons, she finally stopped in the street:

“If you want to have a debate, we will have a debate,” Klobuchar challenged.

Candidates also had to answer for their policies – and it illustrated the moderate/progressive line the party now faces. Moderate candidates appeared less eager to take hard line stances related to racial tensions. former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland and Hawaii's Rep. Tulsi Gabbard both stopped short of calling President Trump a white supremacist, where some of their fellows like former Rep. O’Rourke and Senator Warren have gone full stop. There was a clear hunger among the voters for strong, decisive action - and the words to match.

"He's a white supremacist!" someone shouted about President Trump.

"Well, that's what I'm basically saying." Delaney tried to reason.

"So say it! Stop with the semantics!" some in the crowd responded.

"I'm not saying semantics. I'm being very blunt about it. I said it," Delaney said.

"No you didn't. Say it he's a white supremacist!" someone pushed.

Delaney saying - "He supports white supremacy --"

But the crowd interrupted - "Is he a white supremacist?!"

Delaney responding, " -So what else can you conclude?"

3. Biden's gaffe during an Iowa Asian and Latino Coalition PAC event

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign said Friday he "misspoke" after he came under fire for a gaffe he made during an Iowa Asian and Latino Coalition PAC event Wednesday night, separate and away from the state fair, saying “poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.”

“We have this notion that somehow if you're poor, you cannot do it, poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids. Wealthy kids, black kids, Asian kids. I really mean it. But think how we think about it. We think now we're going to dumb it down. They can do anything anybody else can do give it a shot,” Biden said at the coalition event to applause.

President Trump’s re-election campaign quickly seized on the comments Thursday night, blasting them out on the “Trump War Room” Twitter account in a post that was re-tweeted more than 7,000 times as of Friday afternoon.

Biden’s Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield issued a statement following the criticism, saying Biden simply misspoke and noted the vice president "immediately corrected himself."

4. The massive crowds


It was elbow to elbow as 2020 candidates came face to face with those Iowa voters – to the point where press and public alike could barely move as both groups chased the candidates. If the close quarters for so many high profile politicians was a concern before - it increased tenfold after the recent mass shootings. The fair stepped up security in their wake - adding more officers and more security cameras on the grounds.

Wherever they went - the candidates towed a massive slipstream of people and reporters craning their necks and cameras to get a better view. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Klobuchar and Harris all had enormous crowds following them around.

Warren drew such a group wherever she went that at one point in the sea of people jostling around her – a nearby baby carriage got knocked over in the chaos. Several reporters stopped their pursuit of Warren to help right the stroller.

5. Fried food and frolic

There were moments of light, levity, and delicious fried things lifting spirits high, in spite of the somewhat sober underbelly.

Wafting smells from every concession stand flood the air at the State Fair – frying bread dough, briny pickles on a stick, cheese curds, sizzling pork grease– and the 2020 candidates were there for all of it.

Harris arrived at the main gate Saturday – and true to prosecutor form, the former California attorney general didn’t mince words.

“Where’s the butter cow?” Harris asked right away. “I want to see that cow.”

She and several other 2020ers donned an apron and flipped pork chops and burgers themselves.

“I’m so excited… this is how I’m going to flip Republicans!” she joked.

Andrew Yang took his stump off the stage with one of the fair’s must-have smoked turkey legs, breaking down his plan to give every American $1000 per month with how many turkey legs that extra cash could buy

Right after his soapbox speech, Sanders made sure to visit the butter cow as well – chomping down a corn dog - before heading out.

Governor Jay Inslee of Washington told reporters he wanted to try every single food at the fair. Like his climate proposal – a sweeping promise – and an undertaking many might consider near-impossible. He picked chocolate ice cream to start.

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey – a devout vegan – found his way to savor as well, with fried PB&J sandwiches.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro revealed Saturday that he hadn’t eaten any food at the fair the day before – and blamed it on reporters.

“Y’all got in my way!” he exclaimed.

It’s also hard not to get in each other’s way at the State Fair – though the grounds span more than 400 acres, candidates kept bumping into each other – even playing a few pranks.

Visiting the Iowa Democrats’ booth, Klobuchar was mid-autograph when she heard a voice in her left ear: “Senator, would you sign mine?”

She turned – to see New York's Senator Kirsten Gillibrand – and they both burst into peels of laughter.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and his five-year-old son Brady were enjoying the day’s fun when they ran into Kamala Harris. Excited, Harris picked Brady up.

“I love seeing you!” she said to Ryan’s son, cuddling him.

“Say good luck!” Ryan said smiling, as they handed Brady off. “But… not too much luck!”

6. Moms and dads on the trail


Fairs like Iowa’s famed one are fun for the whole family – and that goes for presidential candidates, too: this week, we got to see a lot of the 2020ers with their nearest and dearest in tow.

Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan walked around the fair carrying his son Brady on his shoulders. Buying him a root beer float – his son’s first – Brady exclaimed – “This is the best thing I’ve ever had!”

Gillibrand was in full mom mode: waiting in line for a cherry lemonade, she made sure to rub sunscreen all over her 11-year-old Henry’s fair freckled face, arms and legs.

Henry was in it for all the special treats he would have at the fair – and asked what tricks he’s got to sweet-talk his parents into letting him get away with more junk food- he was sly.

“Top secret!” he said.

7. Lend me your “ears”

Iowa voters may still be unsure who they’ll throw their support behind – but the candidates themselves sure aren’t. Each of them made sure to stop by the Corn Kernel Poll – the famous unscientific tradition at the state fair, where people voice their 2020 preference by dropping a kernel of corn in a glass jar labeled with each candidate’s photo.

Any guesses who they all voted for? (Spoiler: themselves.)

But there was one nail-biting moment: when Gillibrand’s 11-year-old son Henry nearly cast his (really his mom’s – you have to be 18, like real voting – but the senator ceded hers to her boy) kernel for Warren instead.

“Hmm… who should I pick…?” Henry teased. “I hear she’s good…” his hand drifted towards Warren’s jar.

Gillibrand, laughing, took her son’s hand – and guided it towards her own jar.

“At least I have one vote!” Gillibrand joked.

And while Iowans love seeing all the candidates, there to curry favor with the key state at the polls, most of them are still holding out their vote and are not shy about saying so.

Voters at the fair know they’ve got an important role to play – and with so many in the race to choose from – a lot of options to sort through. Asked by ABC News who they support – or at least piques their interest – many Hawkeyes at the fair couldn’t help but laugh about how many candidates there are to consider.

Moreover they added: there’s still plenty of time left for consideration before caucus time, and as they’re being wooed – there’s no rush.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Trump administration announces rule that could limit legal immigration

Eblis/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is moving forward with a rule that could drastically curb legal immigration by limiting who is allowed to enter and stay in the United States based on that person's need for various public benefits.

The "public charge" rule is part of the Trump administration's broader push to favor skilled applicants and those who are less likely to rely on public assistance. The government estimates some 380,000 applicants would be immediately subject to review under the new guidance after they are finalized in October.

Critics vowed to challenge the regulation in court, charging that it unfairly penalizes low-income immigrants -- particularly those of color -- and warned it would stoke fear in immigrant communities.

"The rule essentially puts a price tag on obtaining lawful permanent residency in the United States, shifting it away from family-based immigration toward one restricted to people who are already relatively well-off or highly skilled when they enter the country," said Bob Greenstein, president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"In doing so, it ignores our nation's centuries-long experience -- one still true today -- of immigrants coming to our shores, building a better life for themselves and future generations, and contributing to our economy," he said.

 President Donald Trump has long tried to curb both legal and illegal immigration and used racially charged language to make his case, frequently referring to border crossings as an "invasion." In announcing his bid for presidency, Trump said people from Mexico crossing into the U.S. were "bringing crime" and were "rapists." Last year, he questioned in a private meeting with lawmakers why the U.S. was accepting immigrants from Haiti and Africa rather than places like Norway. In May, he proposed a plan to move toward a merit-based immigration system, moving the U.S. away from favoring family connections.

Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), pushed back against allegations that the administration was purposefully trying to limit access by poorer immigrants. He said Monday morning that the latest rule, expected to take effect in October, would focus on whether a person is "self-sufficient."

"Through the public charge rule, President Trump's administration is reinforcing the ideals of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, ensuring that immigrants are able to support themselves and become successful here in America," he said.

Diane Yentel, head of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, countered that the rule would target immigrants of color and widen racial disparities.

"Immigrants already face significant barriers to securing affordable homes, from racism and discrimination to language or education barriers," Yentel said. "The public charge rule will exacerbate these challenges and put affordable homes further out of reach."

The announcement comes just a week after the Trump administration announced sweeping immigration raids in Mississippi. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it arrested 680 individuals at seven different worksites across the state, in what officials called the largest single-state immigration enforcement action in history. This rule, in additional to last week's operations could signal an increased effort to target immigrants who are already in the United States.

The new rule, according to USCIS, will now take into account whether a person qualifies for certain forms of Medicaid, Social Security Income, and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) -- or food stamps -- are all considered as public benefits under the new rule, among other things. The use of Medicaid and SNAP were not disqualifying factors under the Clinton, Bush or Obama administrations.

Following the announcement of the final rule, the National Immigrant Law Center has announced it will file a lawsuit against the policy.

"As a leading national organization fighting to advance and defend the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants, we will fight with every tool we have available to ensure that everyone in our communities has the freedom to thrive and the necessary resources to do so," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, in a statement.

"We look forward to seeing Trump in court -- again -- and to seeing justice prevail as we defend immigrant families and our democracy," Hincapié added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug122019

Scaramucci breaks with Trump, no longer backs president’s re-election bid 

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Anthony Scaramucci, who served a record 11 days as the White House communications director, is now calling for President Donald Trump's tenure to be limited to four years.

"He goes after individuals as the president of the United States on his Twitter account, which incites hate, which incites death threats," Scaramucci said of the president on CNN's New Day. "At some point the people in my party will have to look at all this stuff and stop being anesthetized to it and say 'hey, what are we doing?'"

Previously a Trump loyalist, Scaramucci has recently been critical of the president's controversial tweets attacking Democratic lawmakers and called Trump's visit to an El Paso, Texas, hospital in the wake of a mass shooting "a catastrophe."

Over the weekend, Axios reported that Scaramucci escalated his criticism by saying Republicans may need to find another candidate to top the ticket in 2020.

"Sound and reasonably minded men and women in the Republican party will say wait a minute, we can't do this. He is giving people a license to hate," Scaramucci said on CNN.

While Scaramucci said he didn't support Trump's reelection and called on Republicans to consider changing the ticket, he has yet to publicly name any potential replacements.

Trump targeted Scaramucci on Twitter over the weekend, writing that he was "totally incapable" of handling the position of White House communications director. "Anthony, who would do anything to come back in, should remember the only reason he is on TV, and it's not for being the Mooch!" Trump added.

In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Scaramucci, "worked at the White House for less than two weeks and is certainly no expert on this president. This is all so self-serving on his part and the media plays right into it. It's embarrassing to watch."

Scaramucci explained in a series of tweets that he had previously stayed loyal to the president "based on private interactions and select policy alignment. But his increasingly divisive rhetoric -- and damage it's doing to fabric of our society -- outweighs any short-term economic gain."

"He started attacking me personally because I started calling him out even more loudly and directly," Scaramucci added. "It only got attention because most of my fellow Republicans are too scared to stand up to him in public even though in private they're saying the same things as me."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio