Trump says he signed $1.3 trillion spending bill

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump says he signed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill Friday afternoon after earlier issuing a surprise veto threat of the legislation via tweet raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

 In his remarks, the president said there is a lot to be unhappy about and vowed to "never sign another bill like this again" but cast his final decision in terms of homeland security. As he took to the podium in the Diplomatic Room he called it a “ridiculous situation”.

Trump was flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The president vented about his distaste for the 2200-page bill and the ways it runs counter to his agenda.

The president also repeated talking points about reversing deep cuts to military spending and giving a pay increase to troops.

"My highest duty is to keep Americans safe," he said.

 As for the border wall, he says the administration will be "getting to work on Monday" with repairing and bolstering border wall. "We have $1.6 billion for the wall starting immediately. It's short term funding but it's immediately."

Republican leaders spent the past 24 hours selling the bill as a win on border security, despite the fact that it fails to give the president the wall he promised.

The announcement comes after Trump had lunch with Defense Secretary James Mattis who has been a strong proponent of the omnibus and its funding for the military — the largest increase in defense spending in 15 years.

The president tweeted earlier Friday morning that he had been considering a veto.

Democrats blasted the president for what they see as his hypocrisy on a solution for the fate of some 700,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients – young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

“Mr. President, you terminated protections for DACA recipients, you cynically held them hostage for your costly boondoggle of a wall, and you have undercut every bipartisan attempt to fix the mess you created,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said. “You can fix this. Or at the very least, don’t unilaterally make things worse, yet again.”

Sen. Tim Kaine accused the president of being asleep at the wheel.

"Seriously though, Rip Van Winkle, did you just awake from a long slumber? We gave you a deal last month that offered all the border funding you wanted AND a path to citizenship for Dreamers. YOU (or your minions) tanked it and turned us down. Art of the Deal-Wrecker!" Kaine tweeted.

After Trump tweeted Friday morning some members of Congress like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, encouraged him to veto the measure.

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Environmentalists relieved spending bill not as extreme as feared

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Environmental groups breathed a slight sigh of relief on Thursday.

The sweeping spending bill being voted on Capitol Hill at the end of the week did not include the deep and potentially devastating cuts to clean air, clean water and wildlife protection programs that conservationists had feared.

“It could have been a lot worse, and we were expecting a lot worse,” Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program, told ABC News.

Earthjustice Vice President Martin Hayden wrote that the bill heeded “the outrage of millions of Americans” and “soundly rejected the draconian budget cuts President Trump proposed for the departments and agencies charged with protecting public health and the environment.”

For example, the president’s budget proposed cutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund by almost 80 percent, but members of Congress rejected that entirely and the final bill instead slightly increased money for the fund.

Similarly, the White House suggested a 30 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency. Instead, lawmakers not only didn't adopt the drastic cuts, but instead maintained the agency’s funding at close to last year’s levels.

The leading Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for Interior and Environment, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, agreed with Manuel and said, in a “divisive time,” he was pleased the two parties were able to work together to keep government funding for environmental protections.

“Together, we rejected the Trump administration’s proposal to make massive and dangerous budget cuts,” Udall wrote in a statement. “My colleagues and I worked hard to block a long list of anti-environment provisions that have no place in an appropriations bill.”

In addition to possible funding cuts, conservation groups feared Republicans might try to include policy changes that could impact conservation work inside the massive, 2,000-page spending bill. There had been talk of possible changes to rules safeguarding the Tongass National Forest in Alaska and provisions dealing with endangered species, for example, but most of the changes did not make it into the final text.

The spending bill, in fact, preserved money for endangered species programs, which administration budget proposals had zeroed out or cut significantly.

Environmental activists and especially lawmakers from the western part of the country celebrated one policy change in the bill that will give the Forest Service more flexibility to plan for and pay to fight wildfires.

“It allows the Forest Service to use more of its funds on timber management, forest management and recreation programs, rather than fire suppression," Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, said.

Scientific groups also said they were "over the moon" about increased funding to research programs in multiple departments, especially after fears about the administration's proposed cuts to programs that research climate change.

“We applaud congressional leaders -- on both sides of the aisle -- for recognizing that funding science and technology continues to be a sound investment that benefits our nation and leads to economic growth," Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said in a statement.

According to the association, the bill would provide the largest research and development increase in nearly a decade, especially at agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy.

Still, many said the bill is far from a wish list for scientists and environmentalists. “This bill only looks good when you compare it to something as bad as what President Trump put on the table,” Manuel told ABC News. He argued that several federal conservation programs and agencies are already strapped for cash, and this bill simply did not slash funding further.

“EPA is probably where there has been the most hits and biggest cuts,” he said. He listed other programs struggling to work within their designated budgets too.

“The Park Service has a multibillion-dollar maintenance backlog. The Fish and Wildlife Service will tell you they are down 10,000 staff," he said. "They are 10,000 people below where they should be in order to adequately monitor wildlife refuges and maintain habitat for endangered species.”

The Sierra Club also pointed to part of the bill released Thursday that would allow for some increased barriers along the Texas-Mexico border, which, they said could impact animal migration and the National Butterfly Center.

Though Congress ignored many of the president's requests and did not reduce federal spending as much as he would have preferred, the White House said Thursday that he will sign the spending bill.

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Trump's proposed ban on transgender troops uncertain at Friday deadline

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's proposed ban on military service by transgender individuals is supposed to go into effect Friday but it’s unclear if the White House will announce any new policy.

Trump tweeted last July that he wanted to ban all transgender service members because the military "must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory."

Defense Secretary James Mattis sent his private recommendation to the White House a month ago but it hasn't been revealed.

After the president's tweets, March 23 was the date set in the presidential memorandum submitted to the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

 In legalese, the memorandum states, "Sections 1(b) and 2(b) of this memorandum shall take effect on March 23, 2018."

Section 1(b) directed DoD and DHS to revert to the policy toward transgender individuals prior to June 2016, when the Obama administration allowed transgender service members to serve openly for the first time. Section 2(b) halted DoD and DHS resources to fund "sex reassignment surgical procedures" for service members.

But the timeline provided in the memo has not always been followed.

Mattis was supposed to send his private recommendation to the White House Feb. 21, but actually sent it a few days later on Feb. 23. Defense officials have not said what it was.

Since Trump's tweets, federal courts have rejected portions of the proposed ban.

Most notably, beginning Jan. 1, the Pentagon complied with a court order that allowed transgender individuals to join the military if they met strict criteria, including certifications from a medical provider about the status of their health.

Two transgender individuals are already under contract to serve in the U.S. military since that court ruling.

Whatever policy the president announces will be subject to and restrained by existing court orders, unless the Department of Justice has judges dissolve preliminary injunctions.

What do we know about transgender service members?

Last year, defense officials estimated there were about 200 transgender individuals in the U.S. military who had self-reported to their services a desire for some form of medical treatment related to their gender identity.

However, the actual number of transgender service members is still unknown, primarily because military personnel records do not currently track transgender individuals.

A 2016 Rand study, which was referenced by former defense secretary Ash Carter, estimated that 2,450 active duty service members might be transgender, with 1,510 in reserve units.

The same Rand study said the "little research" on transgender service members showed "little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness."

"Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force," the study said.

At the time of the study, 18 countries, including the United Kingdom, Israel, Canada, and Australia, allowed transgender personnel to serve openly.

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Rand Paul wants to read entire 2,000-page spending bill and that could shut down the government

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is working against a midnight Friday deadline to pass a $1.3. trillion spending bill to keep the government from running out of money – but as he's done before – Kentucky Republican Rand Paul is threatening delays that could cause another shutdown.

Paul has said he wanted to read each of the bill's 2,200-plus pages before voting on it, and as of Thursday evening was tweeting excerpts that he found especially objectionable.

After House and Senate leaders reached a deal, the House approved the bill midday Thursday.

Thursday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to end debate on the bill, triggering a 30-hour window senators can use to discuss it.

The debate time could be shortened if Paul and other senators unanimously agree to do so but it was unclear how far Paul would go to press his point.

If the whole 30-hour time is used, the earliest the Senate could vote to advance the so-called "omnibus" bill would be 1 a.m. Saturday morning.

The Senate would then have to wait even longer before taking any final vote to pass it.

The measure would fund the government through September 30, with Republicans hailing its large increase in military spending, $1.6 billion for border security and $600 million for election security resources.

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney says President Donald Trump will sign the bill despite not getting more of what he wanted - including more money for a border wall.

"In order to get the defense spending primarily, (and) all the rest of our priorities funded, we had to give away a lot of stuff that we didn't want to give away," Mulvaney said.

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Parkland students join lawmakers and gun safety advocates to call for change ahead of Saturday march

ABC News(PARKLAND, Fla.) -- Students who survived the Parkland shooting last month joined with teachers, lawmakers and other stakeholders for a press conference on Capitol Hill today as part of their buildup to this weekend’s March for Our Lives on the National Mall.

 Parkland student Aalayah Eastmond, who attended with her mother Stacey-Ann, urged lawmakers to take action, noting it’s been more than a month since the shooting.

“It's been 36 days and nothing's happened! We have to move fast,” she said.

Congress was on track to pass the FIX NICS bill, which will strengthen existing background checks on gun purchases, as part of a sweeping government funding measure, but Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called that effort “baby steps when we need real reform.”

The activists at the event called on Congress to ban assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, require universal background checks including at gun shows and online, and pass a “red flag” law that empowers law enforcement to remove guns from the possession of a person if he or she is deemed a danger to self or others.

U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., Rand Paul, R-Fla., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., introduced such a bill Thursday.

Parkland librarian Diana Haneski, who protected students during the shooting, said she was compelled to join the students in Washington given what happened to them.

“If this were any other Thursday, I'd be back in the library, helping students, helping them learn, and I can't be silent when there are solutions right in front of us,” she said.

Eastmond and David Hogg, another Parkland student and gun safety activist, said Saturday’s march was a kickoff, not a culmination, for their efforts.

“The march is just the start. We will fight for this until change happens. If you guys don't want to hear about it anymore, fix it so we don't have to keep repeating ourselves,” Eastmond said.

Hogg said the Parkland students and their supporters will seek to establish clubs across America that will organize students of all backgrounds to lobby their state capitals in favor of gun legislation they want to see passed.

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EPA chief Scott Pruitt defends Italy trip after increased scrutiny of travel costs

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt pushed back against criticism of his Italy trip in a radio interview on Thursday.

Pruitt said he took official meetings during the entire four-day trip to Italy for the G7 environmental summit in June of last year.

"These are very important meetings that take place, it's an obligation I have to participate and so I'm a little bit dumbfounded by the kind of media narrative that these things are somehow not the focus, they've always been the focus," Pruitt told a host on CBS radio in St. Louis on Thursday.

Documents released earlier this week show that the cost of the trip was $30,000 more than previously reported, bringing the total to around $120,000. An EPA document showed that the cost of travel for Pruitt's security detail was $30,559 the week of the trip.

Previously released travel documents show that the EPA paid almost $90,000 for Pruitt and his staff to travel to Italy for meetings around the summit. The cost includes $36,000 for Pruitt and his staff to take a military jet from Cincinnati to New York so he could make his flight to Rome. The military flight was requested by the White House so Pruitt could join President Donald Trump at an event in Cincinnati, according to an ethics waiver.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog group the Environmental Integrity Project obtained both sets of documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and subsequent lawsuit, which were reviewed by ABC News.

ABC News has exclusively obtained a photo of Pruitt disembarking a military jet at New York City's John F. Kennedy International Airport in June 2017.

After the meetings and the first day of the summit, Pruitt returned to Washington, D.C., to attend a cabinet meeting at the White House.

"This was a four-day exercise of focused efforts on decisions the United States had made on an international agreement that had a significant impact on this country," Pruitt said in the interview Thursday.

Audio of the KMOX interview was provided to ABC News by the Sierra Club.

The cost of Pruitt's travel for all of last year is under investigation by the EPA inspector general. The EPA has previously confirmed that Pruitt and his security detail fly first class for security reasons, citing the need to evacuate him quickly in the case of a threat.

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General H.R. McMaster resigning as national security adviser

Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster mutually agreed that the three-star general and Iraq war veteran will leave the Trump administration, the White House confirmed on Thursday.

He will be replaced by former United Nations ambassador John Bolton — the third person to take on the role during the current administration.

“After thirty-four years of service to our nation, I am requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service. Throughout my career it has been my greatest privilege to serve alongside extraordinary servicemembers and dedicated civilians," McMaster said in a statement adding. "I am thankful to President Donald J. Trump for the opportunity to serve him and our nation as national security advisor.”

Trump lauded McMaster's service saying "I thank General McMaster and his family for their service and wish them the very best.”

McMaster's departure in early 2018 had been planned and expected, especially as Trump re-tools his team ahead of historic talks with North Korea, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News.

He was seen as adding a steady and intellectual voice to Trump’s security team, but the president chafed at his style and disposition in Oval Office briefings, the sources said. He also clashed with former Trump advisor Steve Bannon and other top military brass, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

He was also reportedly unable to keep the president's attention in complex briefings, correcting him when he doesn't want to be corrected, and seen as a lecturer, the sources said.

Three months on the job, the New York Times reported that Trump described McMaster as "a pain" and complained he talked too much.

Just last month, following new indictments targeting Russian cyber operatives, Trump publicly rebuked McMaster, tweeting the general forgot to mention that results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians - something the indictment never said.

McMaster also broke with Trump on several issues.

He has urged continuation of the Iran nuclear deal; opposes the label “radical Islamic terrorism;” supports free trade deals with key allies like South Korea, and forcefully protested the racially charged violence in Charlottesville.

After reports surfaced that Trump revealed highly classified info to the Russians in an Oval Office meeting in May 2017, McMaster vigorously defended the president in an ad hoc press conference outside the West Wing.

He remains on active duty as a Lieutenant General in the US Army (3-star). The Pentagon has considered giving McMaster a fourth star and new assignment in the military.

McMaster's resignation comes on the heels of other high profile departures including deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, staff secretary Rob Porter, and senior adviser Hope Hicks.

By appointing John Bolton to the role of national security adviser, President Trump has just inserted one of Washington's most vocal war hawks to work beside him in the West Wing.

This worries some congressional Democrats who took to social media to decry Bolton's appointment.

he move comes less than a week the president fired Rex Tillerson, whom he had clashed with over their approach to confronting Iran.

Bolton does not mince words on Iran.

“Our goal should be regime change in Iran," he said earlier this year.

He has advocated for preemptive strikes in both Iran and North Korea.

Just last month he wrote an article in the Wall Street Journal making the case for striking North Korea, and in March of 2015, he made a similar case for Iran in an editorial in The New York Times.

With McMaster and Tillerson out and Bolton in, the future of the Iran deal seems more questionable. Trump has until May 12 to decide if he will again sign sanctions waivers.

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Stormy Daniels' lawyer demands Trump Organization and 2 banks preserve payoff documents

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- An attorney for the adult-film star known as Stormy Daniels today sent letters to two banks and to the Trump Organization, putting the companies on notice that he intends to subpoena them - and demanding they preserve all documents related to a $130,000 payment made to Daniels shortly before Donald Trump was elected president.

"We intend on using all legal means at our disposal to uncover the truth about the cover-up and what happened,” the lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said in a statement to ABC News. “And this is but one of many tools we will use. When we are done, the truth will be laid bare for the American people."

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges she had a consensual affair with Trump that began in 2006 after they met at a celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.

She filed suit in California state court earlier this month seeking to nullify the non-disclosure agreement she signed less than two weeks before the election – alleging that the contract is void because it lacked Trump’s signature.

An interview with Clifford is scheduled to air on Sunday on the CBS News program, 60 Minutes.

In the letter to the Trump Organization, Avenatti cites “the unmistakable links” between the President’s family business and Michael Cohen - Trump’s longtime personal lawyer - who has acknowledged making the payment to Clifford through a limited-liability company he formed in Delaware.

Avenatti’s letter also notes the involvement of another Trump Organization lawyer, Jill Martin, in an arbitration proceeding last month that resulted in a temporary restraining order against Clifford. The Trump Organization said last week that Martin was acting in her “individual capacity” and not on behalf of the company.

The letter demands that the Trump Organization preserve all documents - including emails, text messages, photos and videos – related to Trump’s relationship with Clifford and any “all emails, text messages, and other contacts exchanged between you and third parties regarding intimidations tactics directed” to Clifford from 2011 to the present.

Avenatti has recently alleged that Clifford was threatened to keep silent, though he has declined to say by whom or when.

President Trump – through his representatives – has denied Clifford’s allegations of an affair. Cohen has insisted that the agreement with Clifford was legal and that the $130,000 came from his personal funds. He says he was not reimbursed by the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization.

Avenatti’s letters to the two banks reportedly involved in the transaction – First Republic Bank and City National Bank - request that the institutions maintain all financial records and any correspondence with federal law enforcement agencies related to the payment. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that First Republic Bank had flagged the transaction as suspicious and reported it to the Treasury Department.

Last week – Cohen moved Clifford’s lawsuit to federal court in Los Angeles – and said in court papers that he intends to seek damages of up to $20 million for her alleged breaches, or threatened breaches, of the non-disclosure agreement.

He told Vanity Fair – in an interview published this week – that he has never threatened Clifford. He told the magazine that if he recovers money from her, it will go to his lawyers and to charity. But then added, “You know what? The more I’m thinking about it, I might even take an extended vacation on her dime.”

Responding on Twitter, Avenatti wrote that “Mr. Cohen should ensure he makes refundable reservations for that extended vacation he is planning on my client’s dime…”

A spokesman for First Republic Bank declined to comment for this story. City National Bank and the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Trump's advice to 25-year-old self: 'Don't run for president'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At a forum with millennials Thursday, when asked what advice he’d give his 25-year-old self, President Donald Trump said he’d tell him to avoid the road to the White House.

“Don't run for president,” Trump said, apparently in jest, as he went on to complain about the media coverage he’s gotten since becoming a candidate.

“All my life, I've gotten really — look, we all get a knock. But I got the greatest publicity. I was getting such great until I ran for office,” he said.

But the president added that he is heartened by having “exposed” the media for what he sees as unfair bias.

“There's a lot of fake news out there. Nobody had any idea. I'm proud of the fact that I exposed it to a large extent. We exposed it. It's an achievement,” Trump said, even as he qualified that he has respect for some journalists.

The president made the remarks during a discussion with Charlie Kirk, a millennial rising star in conservative media who is the founder of the grassroots conservative youth group Turning Point USA.

He also commented on his own political popularity in the context of the midterm elections, saying he hopes his political appeal is transferable to other Republicans even as he admitted it may not be, noting the energy in the room for the recent rally he held in Pennsylvania for Rick Saccone, who lost in spite of the president’s support.

“I don't know if it's transferrable. They say a lot of it is not transferable. They may not like me. They all say I'm going to do great in 2020. You know, let's see what happens. Right? They don't know if it's transferrable. I hope it's transferrable. We have to do our agenda. We have to win in '18. We have to get the agenda. We need more Republicans,” he said.

He also predicted as he had before, that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's "crumbs" comment will become the 2018 equivalent of Hillary Clinton's 2016 "deplorables" comment.

In January, referring to Republican claims about the benefits of their tax plan, Pelosi called them “the bonus that corporate America received, versus the crumbs that they are giving to workers.”

In September 2016, Clinton famously said half of Trump supporters "are what I would call the deplorables — you know, the racists and the haters and the people who are drawn because they think somehow he’s going to restore an America that no longer exists.”

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Facebook senior staff brief Congress amid backlash over how users’ data was used

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On the heels of a rare series of public interviews by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - the social media giant is sending senior staff to Capitol Hill on Thursday to brief aides to key committees on the controversy over its role in the exposure of as many as 50 million of its users’ private information to a data-science firm linked to the Trump campaign.

 Members want additional detail on why Facebook permitted a Russian-American professor to collect data on more than 200,000 of its users, with consent, and then how that then mushroomed into up to 50 million users having their private information end up in the hands of a data mining firm, Cambridge Analytica. The data firm was financially backed in part by conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer.

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon served as vice president up until he stepped down in 2016 to join the Trump campaign.

Senators also are demanding to know when and if that data was destroyed - as Cambridge Analytica certified to Facebook. The social media company is investigating whether that information was indeed deleted.

Facebook says it became aware of the potential unauthorized use of data in 2015.

ABC News has learned that Facebook deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby and deputy privacy officer Rob Sherman are expected to sit down with staff of the House Judiciary Committee and both the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees as bipartisan demand grows for Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, as well as, Chief Product Officer Chris Cox to testify in public.

One congressional aide said Thursday’s briefings are a precursor to formal testimony from the senior executives.

A Facebook official said that - as of Thursday morning - no formal testimony before Congress has yet been requested.

"We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can't then we don't deserve to serve you," Zuckerberg announced in an online statement Wednesday, his first since the controversy erupted late last week. "I've been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Zuckerberg announced that his company would make changes to the way it shares data with third-party apps.

But while the billionaire CEO apologized for the “breach of trust” in a CNN interview Wednesday evening, some members of Congress were angered by his noncommittal answer on testifying. Democratic Sen. Ed Markey on Facebook wrote: "You need to come to Congress and testify to this under oath."

Zuckerberg said he would gladly oblige if required.

“What we try to do is send the person at Facebook who will have the most knowledge about what Congress is trying to learn. So if that’s me, then I am happy to go,” Zuckerberg said.

Cambridge Analytica, for its part, tweeted Thursday, “We're committed to being responsible, fair and secure with data. We'll be working with everyone – Facebook, independent auditors, and the ICO – as their investigations continue.”

Members of Congress on multiple committees have also called for Cambridge executives to testify.

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