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Wednesday
Sep182019

Trump revokes California's waiver on emissions standards, setting up legal fight

MCCAIG/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday said his administration is revoking a waiver California has had for decades allowing it to impose tougher vehicle fuel efficiency and emissions standards than the federal government -- in order to cut air pollution in the state.

Traveling in California, Trump, in a series of tweets, claimed that the move would "produce far less expensive cars for the consumer, while at the same time making the cars substantially SAFER."

He also claimed "Many more cars will be produced under the new and uniform standard, meaning significantly more JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!" and warned "Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business."

Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told car manufacturers on Tuesday that the administration is moving toward a single "national standard" for vehicle fuel efficiency, an apparent swipe at California’s recent landmark agreement with four major automakers to impose stricter standards.

In a speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association, Wheeler said the administration planned to "bring clarity to the proper and improper scope and use" of a waiver in the Clean Air Act, the federal law intended to curb air pollution.

“One national standard will provide much-needed regulatory certainty to auto makers, dealers and consumers,” Wheeler said.

Trump’s tweets didn’t mention that California last July reached voluntary agreements with four automakers to reduce vehicle emissions, and that other states have embraced the new standards.

California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom called Trump’s move a “political vendetta” against the state, while environmental groups vowed to fight the plan in court.

“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” he said.

At least one environmental group has already said it will sue.

In a statement, the Environmental Defense Fund called it "unlawful" for the government to block states from choosing higher standards.

The plan "would be a reckless and unlawful attack on a great American success story," the group stated.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep182019

Trump orders increased sanctions as Saudis blame Iran for attack on oil facilities

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- The Saudi government on Wednesday publicly blamed Iran for the attack on its oil facilities over the weekend -- an accusation that will have serious consequences for a region already on edge.

The charge comes days after the U.S. already accused Iran of responsibility. Weighing how to respond, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he ordered "substantially" increased sanctions on Tehran, already struggling under a near total oil embargo and intense U.S. economic pressure.

During a news conference in Riyadh on Wednesday, the Saudi defense ministry showed what they said was surveillance footage of the missiles traveling south from Iran and displayed remnants of some of the Iranian drones it said were used in the attack.

After the large-scale attack against the two oil facilities, Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. was "locked and loaded," but waiting for the Saudis to verify Iran's culpability and provide guidance on "under what terms we would proceed!"

The main oil processing facility at Abqaiq was hit by 18 drones, according to the Saudi Defense Ministry, and the oil field at Khurais was hit by four land-based cruise missiles, with three more falling short. There were at total of 25 drones, although it's unclear what happened to the other ones.

The Defense Ministry spokesperson said that the missiles traveled north to south and could not have been launched from Yemen and that teams of investigators were working on recovering data from chips in the missiles.

A team of U.S. military forensics specialists is on the ground helping with that process and other evidence-gathering, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday. The U.S. is compiling "compelling forensic evidence" from the debris of the cruise missiles and drones, a U.S. official told ABC News Tuesday, which will help "provide a compelling case of where they came from."

The Saudis presented the evidence shortly before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Jeddah for a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to "coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region," according to his spokesperson Morgan Ortagus.

Among that response will be tighter economic pressure, according to Trump, who tweeted that he was ordering Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to increase sanctions in response to the attack.

"I have just instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to substantially increase Sanctions on the country of Iran!" he tweeted while traveling in California.

Iran is already struggling under intense U.S. sanctions that have targeted its top leaders and key industries, especially oil, metallurgy, and its financial sector. In August, the U.S. placed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, which Iran called "childish."

In June, Trump announced what he called "hard hitting" sanctions on Iran, including on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

That came just weeks after Trump authorized new sanctions on Iranian iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors, which the White House said comprise 10 percent of Iran's export economy on the one-year anniversary of Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear accord. Iran also marked the anniversary by beginning its own slow, but steady withdrawal from the deal, first expanding its enriched uranium stockpile, then enriching uranium at higher levels, and most recently, installing advanced centrifuges that could expand their enrichment capacity.

Tensions have risen throughout the Middle East since Trump's withdrawal, with Iran trying to increase the pressure on the U.S. and others in response to the American economic sanctions campaign. After the U.S. ended all waivers for its oil sanctions, forcing countries to stop purchasing Iranian crude, Iranian forces attacked commercial tankers in the Persian Gulf and seized a handful of ships and their crews.

The skirmishes, tensions, and intense rhetoric have raised fears of a clash that leads to a wider war. In June, Iran shot down an American drone, prompting Trump to order a military response before canceling it.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep182019

Democratic donor Ed Buck arrested and charged with running drug den

Rawf8/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Democratic megadonor and political activist Ed Buck was arrested Tuesday and charged with running a drug den out of his California home where prosecutors say he lured in addicted and homeless men.

Buck, 65, was charged with one felony count each of battery causing serious injury, administering methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office. He is accused of injecting a 37-year-old man with methamphetamine who prosecutors said nearly died.

Buck’s attorney, Seymour Amster, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment early Wednesday morning.

“I remain deeply concerned for the safety of people whose life circumstances may make them more vulnerable to criminal predators,” Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement Tuesday.

Buck, a former model and actor, became involved in politics in the mid-1980s. Since then, he's made big dollar donations to Democratic politicians and is a well-known figure in LGBTQ political circles.

In court documents filed Tuesday, prosecutors described Buck as a "violent, dangerous sexual predator," with "no regard for human life," who "mainly preys on men made vulnerable by addiction and homelessness." Prosecutors alleged he uses narcotics, money and shelter as bait to draw victims into his home.

"From his home, in a position of power, Buck manipulates his victims into participating in his sexual fetishes," prosecutors wrote in court documents. "These fetishes include supplying and personally administering dangerously large doses of narcotics to his victims."

Since 2017, two men have been found dead of apparent methamphetamine overdoses inside Buck's West Hollywood apartment. There were narcotics paraphernalia and sex toys at the scene in both incidents, according to court documents. However, prosecutors declined to file criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Prosecutors said Buck was undeterred by the two deaths and continued "his malevolent behavior." On or around Sept. 4, prosecutors alleged Buck "personally and deliberately administered a dangerously large dose of methamphetamine" at his apartment to a 37-year-old man, identified in court documents as Joe Doe. The man left Buck's home to seek medical attention upon becoming concerned he had overdosed.

The man returned to the residence on Sept. 11, and Buck again "personally and intentionally injected" him with "two dangerously large doses of methamphetamine," prosecutors said. As the man again began suffering symptoms of an overdose, prosecutors alleged Buck "refused to render aid" and instead "thwarted" the man's attempts to get help.

The man eventually fled Buck's apartment and called 911 from a nearby gas station. He was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to court documents.

“With this new evidence," Lacey said, "I authorized the filing of criminal charges against Ed Buck.”

During the investigation into the incident last week, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department found hundreds of photographs taken in Buck's apartment showing men in compromising positions, according to court documents. The case remains under investigation by the sheriff's department.

"The full scope of his consistent malicious behavior is unknown," prosecutors wrote in court documents. "It is only a matter of time before another one of these vulnerable young men dies of an overdose."

"His deadly behavior has not stopped," they added.

Buck is scheduled to be arraigned in court Wednesday. Prosecutors are recommending his bail be set at $4 million. If convicted as charged, Buck faces up to five years and eight months in California state prison.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Sep182019

Trump delivers 'false choice' for Latinos between country, racial identity: Experts

Official White House Photo Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump sought to woo Latino voters during a campaign swing through New Mexico Monday evening, touting his electoral appeal with that key voting demographic in the 2020 presidential election, while invoking language that sparked criticism for drawing divisions between nationality and ethnicity.

While introducing Hispanic Advisory Council member Steve Cortes -- who also works as a CNN commentator and was a Wall Street trader -- Trump asked him to choose between Hispanics or the country.

Trump, shouting at Cortes, asked, "Who do you like more, the country or the Hispanics?"

"He says, the country," the president said.

Trump also said of Cortes, "He happens to be Hispanic, but I have never quite figured it out because he looks more like a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) than I do."

While the GOP has remained mostly silent, the awkward scene before his spirited base prompted flak from those who saw the comments as offensive, including Republican presidential primary challenger Joe Walsh, as well as Democratic contender Julián Castro.

One Republican political consultant and outspoken Trump critic, Mike Madrid, called the remarks "troubling," since Trump made "a caricature of what a Hispanic 'looks like'" and drew "a distinction between Hispanics and true Americans."

Trump suggested that "Cortes must choose his true allegiance. Hispanics are demonstrably second-class citizens in the eyes of this president. These are both textbook definitions of racism," Madrid said.

The terms Hispanic and Latino both cover a wide range of people with multi-national origins, across different geographic regions and among a broad number of dialects. Several official U.S. government documents acknowledge the difference, separating out a question of race from a question of Hispanic/non-Hispanic, including on census forms.

Cortes defended the president on Twitter, saying that Trump used "awkward phrasing" but was trying to point out how much Cortes loves both the country and Hispanics, and "joking" that he couldn't tell which he loves more.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

At the rally, Trump attempted to thread overtures to the Hispanic community throughout his speech, arguing that he has "the best numbers" across the board -- but particularly among Hispanic Americans despite his anti-immigrant agenda.

"They understand they do not want criminals coming across the border," he claimed. "They do not want people taking their jobs. They want to have that security. They want the wall. They want the wall."

Trump even said his administration is "working night and day to deliver a future of limitless opportunities for our nation's Hispanic American citizens, including millions and millions of extraordinary Mexican-Americans who enrich our society, and strengthen our country, serve in our military and contribute immensely to other shared American family."

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump's approval rating among Hispanics stood at 25%, far below the 50% approval among whites.

Trump's comments resonate with a sharply narrow audience -- even as he gears up for a tough re-election fight against a Democratic field eager to take his place -- political experts said.

In this particular instance, he offered a "false choice" to Hispanics, according to Melissa Michelson, a political scientist at Menlo College in California and president of the Latino caucus of the American Political Science Association.

"A vast majority of Latinos in the United States have strong identities both as Americans, and as Latinos or as Hispanics," she said, arguing that the president's "double-meaning message" was for both his core white supporters, with racial undertones that he has been "peddling since 2015," and for a minority group of Latinos who likely voted for him in 2016.

For his white supporters, Michelson said Trump delivered "the same message as always, which is that the loyalty to America of people of color is questionable. Latinos are perpetual foreigners and therefore, perpetual potential enemies."

"It's an anti-immigrant, anti-Latino message, implying that folks who are Latino are not as loyal or are not as loyal or not as proud to be Americans as white people," she continued.

The second, she said, is for a "minority group of the Latino population ... who do value loyalty and patriotism to the United States and their identity as Americans more highly."

His message is for those who are "predisposed" to supporting Trump, who are seeking to confirm their Republican identity, Michelson told ABC News.

"What they're saying is they don't want to be considered Hispanic, they don't want to be considered Latinos, they just want to be considered American," she said, adding that they seek to disassociate themselves from an "undesirable segment" of Latinos.

Matt Barreto, a political science professor at UCLA and the co-founder of Latino Decisions, sees Trump's comments as being predicated on an effort to evoke "racial anxiety" solely among his white supporters. He also told ABC News that he thinks the Trump campaign's strategy could still be politically effective for a very specific Latino sect.

"I think they have a plan to try and win over Cubans and South Americans in (South) Florida," he said. "Rick Scott did a reasonable job in his Senate run against (Bill) Nelson. He sort of did better than the typical Republican in winning over some of those. ... Outside of that, I do not believe he is going to make any inroads at all with Latino voters, and I don't think he's going to try."

"I think that their strategy is to use Latinos, and now it seems that it's not just immigrants," said Barreto. "It's a sort of racialization and antagonization of Latinos in general that appears to be part of their strategy."

This is also not the first time the president appeared to be creating a dividing line between national and ethnic identity -- particularly with the Hispanic population.

Trump began his presidential bid in 2015 by accusing Mexico of sending "rapists" across the border, he attacked an Indiana-born judge as being "biased" in a lawsuit against the president because he was "Mexican," and he closed out the 2018 midterm elections by stoking fear of a "caravan" of migrants on the stump.

At Monday's rally in New Mexico, a border state Trump lost in 2016 by eight percentage points and that houses the highest percentage of Hispanics as a population in the country, Trump refuted the frequent criticism that his rhetoric and policies inflame racial tensions across the country.

"They went to race," he said of his opponents. "Do you believe that one, race? I am the least racist person in this room."

Barreto contended that Trump's language on Monday is "further racializing Latinos" and feeds into a "long trope" about "good" versus "bad" immigrants.

"This feeds into the other comment about picking between racial ethnicity and if you're American," he said. "[It's] the hard working, light-skinned business owner is the good immigrant and the farm workers who pick all the food that we eat, and the construction workers who build all of the houses, those are sort of like the poor, bad immigrants."

"He is then sending a signal to his supporters, he's reminding them what Hispanics look like," he continued.

Barreto also thinks it might continue Republicans' downward trend with the Latino vote, even as Hispanics are poised to comprise the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate for the first time in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center.

"This is the prime reason that Texas went from 16-point margin for (Mitt) Romney to only a nine-point margin for Trump. He lost seven points in Texas, which was almost entirely in the Rio Grande Valley," he said, describing a majority Hispanic area. "It was like the worst presidential run that Republicans ever had."

As Trump attempts the same strategy on the campaign trail in 2020 as he did in 2016, Barreto noted that this cycle comes after public outrage over the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy that led to family separations and children being held in cages.

"He overplayed his hand," Barreto said. "He didn't build a wall. He didn't stop any of these things."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep172019

Trump's EPA sets stage for legal fight with California on fuel emissions standards

US Environmental Protection Agency(WASHINGTON) -- Andrew Wheeler, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, told car manufacturers on Tuesday that the administration is moving toward a single "national standard" for vehicle fuel efficiency, an apparent swipe at California’s recent landmark agreement with four major automakers to impose stricter standards.

In a speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association, Wheeler said the administration planned to "bring clarity to the proper and improper scope and use" of a waiver in the Clean Air Act, the federal law intended to curb air pollution.

“One national standard will provide much-needed regulatory certainty to auto makers, dealers and consumers,” Wheeler said.

This is an extraordinary position for a GOP administration. Republicans have traditionally sought to curb federal authority -- particularly in environmental regulation -- in favor of states’ rights. The matter escalated in recent weeks when the Justice Department launched an antitrust investigation into four automakers – Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen.

"We embrace federalism and the role of the states, but federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation," Wheeler said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested that President Donald Trump was out of step with what California residents want.

"Let me break it down in simple terms for you...," Newsom tweeted. "Reducing emissions:

-Protects our air & health
-Is good for the economy
-Allows families to pay less at the pump

We’re here in the 21st century. Let us know when you decide to join us."

Wheeler made clear he was referring to California, joking that the fuel efficiency standards known as "CAFE" does "not stand for California Assumes Federal Empowerment."

Several news outlets reported that the plan specifically would revoke California’s ability to use the waiver to set its own emissions standards.

The EPA declined to provide specifics, although an announcement was expected as early as Wednesday.

At least one environmental group has already said it will sue.

In a statement, the Environmental Defense Fund called it "unlawful" for the government to block states from choosing higher standards.

The plan "would be a reckless and unlawful attack on a great American success story," the group stated.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep172019

Mike Pompeo heading to Saudi Arabia to 'coordinate' response to Saudi oil attack

US Department of State(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the recent attack on Saudi oil facilities that has rattled world markets and left the region on edge.

A team of U.S. military forensics specialists is already on the ground to gather evidence from the sites of the attacks, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him in London.

The U.S. is gathering "compelling forensic evidence" from the debris of the cruise missiles and drones at the two oil facilities attacked this weekend, said a U.S. official. That evidence "will provide a compelling case of where they came from," the official said.

Another U.S. official said there was enough information to show that the cruise missiles and drones were launched from southwestern Iran.

A third U.S. official had previously told ABC News that a cruise missile and drone targeting the two facilities had been found mostly intact.

President Donald Trump and his top advisers have said that Iran was likely responsible for the attack, but the president said he was not in a rush to respond as the U.S. continues to assess the strike.

Instead, U.S. officials told ABC News that the president wants Saudi Arabia to point the finger at Iran -- a move the kingdom has yet to take. Saudi Arabia's Energy Minister said on Tuesday that it did not yet know who carried out the attack, although they have determined the weapons themselves were Iranian.

Still, the region remains on edge, weighing the gravity of a potential attack on one country by another and what kind of retaliation may come next.

The U.S. investigators on site have been sifting through a significant amount of debris from the drones and missiles launched on Saturday. An American official told ABC News that the U.S. believes some 20 drones and nearly a dozen cruise missiles were used in the attacks.

The U.S. is working to declassify intelligence that administration officials hope will prove to the public that Iran was behind the attack.

Dunford expressed confidence that the Houthi rebels in Yemen were not responsible for the attack, as the group had originally claimed.

"Without prejudging intelligence, this looked like a very complex, precise attack, not consistent with previous Houthi attacks," Dunford said, according to reporters traveling with him. "We can say that now -- that this attack was not consistent with previous Houthi attacks."

In Jeddah, Pompeo will meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to "coordinate efforts to counter Iranian aggression in the region," according to his spokesperson Morgan Ortagus. Pompeo will then travel on to the United Arab Emirates to meet the country's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.

Trump said the U.S. was "locked and loaded" on Sunday night, but was waiting for the Saudis to verify Iran's culpability and provide guidance on "under what terms we would proceed!"

"The president has made it clear he is not looking to go to war," Dunford said Tuesday. "Having said that, what we saw was an unacceptable act of aggression. There are a number of ways to deal with that."

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence echoed that sentiment, but added that the U.S. is "prepared" to respond.

"We're locked and loaded," Pence said, echoing the president. "We're ready to defend our interests and our allies in the region, make no mistake about it."

Despite the high tensions in the aftermath of the Saudi oil facilities attack, the Trump administration doesn't fear a wider conflict and believes Iran will "come back down."

"Iran has a long history of testing its strength. But they never climb too high up the escalation ladder. At a certain point, when the world says enough, they come back down," a senior administration official told ABC News on Tuesday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep172019

2020 census confidential, not shared with law enforcement, says Census Bureau

liveslow/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The 2020 census is on track, government officials told reporters on Tuesday, and they sought to reassure the American public that any information collected in the population count will never be shared with local or federal law enforcement.

In a news conference in Philadelphia tied to Constitution Day – the Constitution mandates the count be done every 10 years -- Census Bureau officials also said workers have walked some 821,000 neighborhood blocks to ensure addresses in its system are correct.

The massive undertaking has taken on new relevance this year, after President Donald Trump declared that the 2020 census should include a question about U.S. citizenship.

Critics, arguing the census is meant to measure the entire population, not just citizens, called Trump's move an effort to find and track illegal immigrants with the goal of deporting them. They said that could cause some to avoid answering the survey, leading to an undercount that could affect government aid programs, especially in congressional districts represented by Democrats.

The Supreme Court blocked the move, and Census officials said the question will not be included in the 2020 questionnaire meant to measure the population, not just citizens.

But there may be continued anxiety about confidentially, considering the Census Bureau still sends out 3.5 million surveys every year called the American Community Survey (ACS), inquiring about citizenship status and employment.

According to the Census Bureau, this information also is confidential and is collected to “measure the changing social and economic characteristics of the U.S. population.”

The ACS, in addition to the decennial census, is conducted under federal law that protects all information collected.

Because this is the first year the Census Bureau will conduct the census in three ways -- phone, online and mail -- the Census Bureau addressed its commitment to the privacy of the information collected, regardless of how it is collected.

“Even though we are using technical options that we didn’t have before, the commitment to confidentiality, the commitment to protect people’s information hasn’t changed,” said Armstrong.

Steven Dillingham, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, also explained that every household will receive a paper ballot if residents do not answer the census by internet or phone.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep172019

US sues Edward Snowden and publishers over new memoir

YinYang/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. government has filed a civil lawsuit against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the publishers of his new memoir, demanding they hand over profits for failing to submit the book to intelligence agencies for pre-publication review.

The lawsuit, filed by U.S. Attorney Zachary Terwilliger in the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Snowden violated non-disclosure agreements signed with the N.S.A. and C.I.A. during his employment by not turning over the manuscript for Permanent Record, which was released on Tuesday.

Snowden, who fled the U.S. in 2013 and has been living in Russia, reacted to the lawsuit on Twitter by posting a link promoting his book's release and a statement from an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Had Mr. Snowden believed that the government would review his book in good faith, he would have submitted it for review," said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, who is representing Snowden. "But the government continues to insist that facts that are known and discussed throughout the world are still somehow classified."

“Mr. Snowden wrote this book to continue a global conversation about mass surveillance and free societies that his actions helped inspire," Wizner added. "He hopes that today’s lawsuit by the United States government will bring the book to the attention of more readers throughout the world.”

The publisher Macmillan and its parent company Holtzbrinck Publishing Group did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ABC News on Tuesday.

Snowden still faces charges of espionage and theft of government secrets following his leak of thousands of highly classified government documents that detailed extensively the operations of several United States' surveillance programs in 2013.

Long vilified by current and former members of the intelligence community, Snowden has continued his advocacy for government transparency and pro-whistleblower measures from his home in Moscow. But in the civil suit filed Tuesday, federal prosecutors say public remarks where he has discussed his tenure with the C.I.A. and N.S.A. amount to a violation of his employment agreements.

“The United States’ ability to protect sensitive national security information depends on employees’ and contractors’ compliance with their non-disclosure agreements," Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division said Tuesday. "We will not permit individuals to enrich themselves, at the expense of the United States, without complying with their pre-publication review obligations.”

The government has had some success in the past when demanding profits from employees, including military officials, who they say have violated their signed non-disclosure agreements.

In 2016, former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonette was forced to pay more than $6.6 million and any future royalties to the U.S. government for his book No Easy Day, detailing his experience in the Osama bin Laden raid.

Bissonnette acknowledged in a settlement that the book, which was found to have contained some classified information, was never submitted for a pre-publication review.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Sep172019

Reporters behind new Kavanaugh book address controversy on 'The View'

(Giovanni Rufino/Walt Disney Television) New York Times journalists Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly talk with the hosts of "The View," on ABC, Sept. 17, 2019.(NEW YORK) -- The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation hit bookstands Tuesday, but it’s already stirred up plenty of controversy for both the Supreme Court justice and the book's authors, New York Times reporters Kate Kelly and Robin Pogrebin.

On ABC’s The View, Kelly and Pogrebin addressed criticism surrounding the rollout of their book. Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a report in its Sunday Review Section adapted from their work; both the book and Times article include a previously unreported account of alleged sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh during his freshmen year at Yale University. Kelly and Pogrebin write that a former classmate alleges he saw Kavanaugh "with his pants down” at a drunken dormitory party “where friends pushed [Kavanaugh’s] penis into the hand of a female student.”

In the book, Kelly and Pogrebin name the female student and provide additional information, noting that the friends of the woman allegedly involved in the incident say she does not remember it and that she declined to be interviewed by the reporters. However, the piece that originally ran in the Times did not include these details, leading many to question why it had been omitted.

“There was no desire to withhold important information from our readers. We have all of it in the book and the essay is an adaptation of the book that of course we had to edit for length and clarity,” Kelly said. “During the editing process there was an oversight and this key detail about the fact that the woman herself has told friends she doesn't remember it and has not wanted to talk about it got cut and it was an oversight and the Times adjusted it and we're very sorry that it happened.”

“We're a team at the New York Times. We have processes in place. We wrote this. It was edited. There was back and forth as there always is. It's kind of a team effort frankly to make sure that everybody's comfortable with the final product, and there was just an oversight here.” The article was later edited to include the line “the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say she does not recall the episode,” Kelly said.

Kelly also explained that while the New York Times typically does not name alleged victims without their consent, the authors felt it was important to include it in the book. “We think it's relevant information and we think it's accurate and we know that her name was provided to members of the Senate and the FBI,” Kelly said.

ABC News is not naming the unidentified female student in the report at this time, but she told ABC News on Sunday she “can’t do it again,” referring to speaking about the alleged incident. When asked if there were other sources who could speak to her story, she responded “All I can say is, ask Brett.”

The former classmate who says he saw the incident, named in the Times as Max Stier, now runs a non-profit, nonpartisan organization in Washington called Partnership for Public Service. He declined to comment to ABC News. Through a court spokeswoman, Kavanaugh also declined comment to ABC News on the allegations reported in the New York Times and in Kelly and Pogrebin’s book.

Kelly and Pogrebin say the primary focus of the article adapted from their book was Debra Ramirez, another Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s and the second woman to publicly accuse him of sexual misconduct, after Christine Blasey Ford whose accusation dated back to their high school days. Ramirez told The New Yorker last year that during the 1983-84 school year, Kavanaugh “thrust his penis in her face" at a party, causing her "to touch it without her consent."

Because the allegations linked to the unnamed female student are similar to Ramirez’s account, Kelly and Pogrebin said, they chose to include it in the Times' article. “We thought it was germane. It was a similar type of situation to the Ramirez one,” Kelly said.

Kavanaugh has flatly denied Ramirez’s accusations. “This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen," he said in statement soon after the New Yorker report was published. "The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple."

The authors also addressed a tweet linking to the article that has received blowback. The tweet, sent from the New York Times Opinion account, said “Having a penis thrust in your face at a drunken dorm party may seem like harmless fun. But when Brett Kavanaugh did it to her, Deborah Ramirez says, it confirmed that she didn't belong at Yale in the first place." It was later deleted.

Pogrebin said she was the one who originally drafted the tweet, calling it “misworded.” The New York Times also apologized for the tweet, saying it was “offensive.”

“What happens at the Times is the reporters are asked to draft tweets and we're also asked to draft headlines,” Pogrebin said. “I drafted this with this in mind to have actually the opposite effect, which is to anticipate those who would say a guy pulling down his pants at a party when they're drunk is low on the spectrum of sexual misconduct.”

Pogrebin went on to explain she was trying to allude to the impact the alleged incident had on Ramirez. “For those who minimize it and dismiss it, I was trying to help them understand that. It had the opposite effect and seemed to undermine her,” Pogrebin said.

Since the article was first published, President Donald Trump has taken to Twitter multiple times to defend Kavanaugh and attack the New York Times, tweeting Monday “I call for the Resignation of everybody at The New York Times involved in the Kavanaugh SMEAR story.”

“We appreciate that the president of the United States is paying attention to our book,” Pogrebin said. “But I think what's been lost in all this discussion is that what we try to do is kind of what we always do as reporters which is seek the facts and put them out there and let people come to their own conclusion."

“I don't think we even anticipated to this degree is that people have seized on certain things and magnified them for their own purposes. Frankly, it's fine to have a series of democratic candidates calling for impeachment but that was before the book came out which is today. And you also have Trump kind of jumping on things as if we had an agenda which that was not our intent. Our intent is to revisit these facts with detail and depth and then kind of have people open their minds,” Pogrebin continued.

However, Kelly and Pogrebin say it was the partisan divide that characterized Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing that inspired them to write the book in the first place.

“This was such an incredibly polarizing event in our country's history. Everyone saw in it what they wanted to see.” Pogrebin said. “Everybody can kind of demonize [Kavanaugh] and everyone can kind of demonize these victims and the reality is somewhere in between, considerably more complicated, considerably more nuanced and that's what we're trying to portray in this book.”

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Tuesday
Sep172019

Corey Lewandowski testifies he can't talk about conversations with Trump 

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski battled with Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday over his refusal to answer questions about his conversations with President Donald Trump, saying he was only able to speak about what was in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., dismissed the White House claim that the conversations between the two were privileged, noting Lewandowski had never worked in the executive branch.

He also rejected the White House argument made on Monday blocking two former senior aides to the president from testifying before the committee -- former White House staff secretary Rob Porter and former deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn -- claiming they had "absolute immunity."

"The White House is intent on preventing the American people from hearing the details, so it is no surprise that the White House blocked two of our witnesses, Mr. Porter and Mr. Dearborn, from showing up at all today," Nadler said.

"I think we should call this what it is, an absolute cover up by the White House," he said.

The hearing was the first under the committee's new rules Democrats say are designed to facilitate an impeachment inquiry that could lead to articles of impeachment on possible obstruction of justice.

After Lewandowski was sworn in, the hearing took on a circus-like atmosphere as Republicans interrupted with multiple points of order and Democrats did the same.

In his opening statement, Lewandowski told the committee the hearing was a waste of time since he's already testified before Congress three separate times.

"Throughout it all, and to the best of my recollection, I don't recall ever having any conversations with foreign entities -- let alone, any who were offering help to manipulate the outcome of the election," Lewandowski said, praising the president's 2016 victory throughout the statement.

"We as a nation would be better served if elected officials like you concentrated your efforts to combat the true crisis facing out country as opposed to going down rabbit holes like this hearing," Lewandowski said.

Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat from Georgia, was able to get Lewandowski to confirm some conversations with the president about a key point Democrats are pursuing: Trump telling him, according to the Mueller report, to deliver a message to then-Attorney General Jeff Session to fire Mueller.

When asked by Johnson why he didn't deliver the message. Lewandowski said he was out of town and at the beach with his kids and denied that he was "squeamish" about delivering it. When asked if the president followed up and pressured him to deliver the message, Lewandowski said that was inaccurate.

The Mueller report says Lewandowski eventually asked former deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn to deliver the message.

"You chickened out," Rep. Johnson said.

"I went on vacation," Lewandowski said, telling Johnson he took his kids to the beach and that his kids were the priority.

Lewandowski, who served as Trump's first campaign manager until he was fired in June 2016, has remained close to Trump and others in the West Wing, serving as an outside adviser to Trump since his election but never served in Trump’s administration.

The White House had said Lewandowski could only testify about his time working for Trump on the campaign.

"... Mr. Lewandowski’s conversations with the President and with senior advisers to the President are protected from disclosure by long-settled principles protecting Executive Branch confidentiality interests and, as a result, the White House has directed Mr. Lewandowski not to provide information about such communications beyond the information provided in the portions of the [Mueller] Report that have already been disclosed to the Committee."

Just as Lewandowski testified before Congress, amid reports he might run for U.S. Senate in his home state of New Hampshire, a new PAC supporting him was registered with the Federal Election Commission. The committee, named Stand with Corey, is not an official campaign committee but is instead an outside political action committee.

Lewandowski himself does not appear to have filed his candidacy with the FEC yet.

The new pro-Lewandowski PAC listed Republican operative Cabell Hobbs as its treasurer, who is also treasures the John Bolton PAC and the John Bolton Super PAC.

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