Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti says, 'I should be taken seriously' as possible presidential hopeful 

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti is flirting with the possibility of a presidential run and says there are “a number of reasons” he should be taken seriously as a potential Democratic candidate in 2020.

In an exclusive interview on "This Week" Sunday, Avenatti told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl that throughout his career he has consistently stood up for working people against powerful opponents.

"There are a number of reasons I should be taken seriously,” Avenatti said. “For over 18 years, I’ve been fighting on behalf of Davids versus Goliaths, some of the largest corporations in the world, con men, fraudsters. I’ve had great success.”

"I'm a student of the law," Avenatti said. "I’m very well-versed in a lot of issues that are at the forefront of our society right now. Environmental, issues, issues relating to the Supreme Court, issues relating to working people. And so I think that that also qualifies me."

Avenatti has drawn national media attention through his outspoken representation of adult film star Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

He is now testing the waters for a potential run in 2020, including visiting Iowa on Friday to address local Democratic officials.

Karl asked the California native, “What’s the Avenatti policy issue?”

Avenatti responded, “The truth … I deal and have dealt in 18 years with facts and evidence. That’s how you’re successful as an attorney.”

When Karl pressed for policy specifics, Avenatti said he supports calls to establish 'Medicare for all' but does not go along with proposals to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). Avenatti said the immigration enforcement agency should instead have its power curtailed.

Avenatti sided with President Trump on at least one issue, trade. “I agree with the president that there have been a number of trade deals put in place over the years that have been on one side,” he said.

The attorney has previously said he would enter the 2020 race only if he believed that none of the Democratic candidates could beat Trump. When Karl asked him his view of specific candidates, he demurred and offered instead a broad criticism of Democratic hopefuls in the past.

“I’m not going to opine as to whether I think a particular candidate can beat Donald Trump or not,” Avenatti said. “Over the years, Democrats have had a lot of very talented individuals, but they have lacked fighters."

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Ivanka Trump, administration mark anniversary of Charlottesville riot

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Several members of the Trump administration on Saturday noted the one-year anniversary of the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, that ended up with one woman dead and a reigniting of heated discussions about race in America.

Among those marking the anniversary was Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump and an adviser to his administration, who tweeted that there was "no place for white supremacy, racism and neo-nazism in our great country."

She shared a string of three tweets Saturday afternoon.

Ivanka Trump encouraged her followers to "strengthen our communities" and help other "achieve his or her full potential."

Her father was slammed last year for saying that there was "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides" in the wake of the riots, which left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead. He then backtracked on his comments in a statement that condemned the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists. Soon after, though, he said that while there were bad people in the white supremacist group, "you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."

Heyer was killed when an alleged far-right protester drove his car into a group of counterprotesters on Aug. 12, 2017.

The president tweeted earlier in the day on Saturday, saying the riots ago "resulted in senseless death and division. We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!"

Vice President Mike Pence also took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to comment on the riots from a year ago. Thousands of protesters are expected in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, with far-right groups organizing another "Unite the Right" rally and anti-fascist groups expected to respond.

Pence shared a lengthy statement, saying, "Bigotry, racism and hatred run counter to our most cherished values and have no place in American society."

"This weekend, Karen and I will pray for the victims of that tragic day and their families," Pence continued, referring to his wife. "And we will also continue to pray -- in these too-divided times -- that Americans will come together in new and renewed ways in this one nation under God with liberty and justice for all."

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Kellyanne Conway: 'None of us would be there' if Trump were racist

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, responded to allegations that President Donald Trump is a racist, saying "none of us would be" at the White House if that were true.

Conway also told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on This Week that in the two years she has worked for Trump, she has “never a single time heard him use a racial slur about anyone.”

Conway was responding to a new book by former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, who describes Trump as a racist and says she has heard him use racial slurs.

“I think that Omarosa unfortunately has undercut her own credibility,” Conway told Karl. “This is somebody who gave a glowing appraisal of Donald Trump the businessman, the star of The Apprentice, the candidate, and indeed the president of the United States."

“I have never a single time heard him use a racial slur about anyone. I also never heard Omarosa complain that he had done that, and so the only thing that's changed is that she's now selling books,” Conway said.

Manigault Newman’s new book, Unhinged, is set to be released Tuesday. According to The Guardian and The Washington Post, both of which obtained advance copies, Manigault Newman writes that Trump is a “racist, bigot and misogynist.”

Manigault Newman’s title at the White House was assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison. She was the most senior African-American staff member in the West Wing.

Conway said Manigault Newman “should be taking credit" for the Trump administration's achievements that benefit African-Americans.

“I think Omarosa is a tremendous disappointment here because she should be taking credit for all the great gains that this president has made with respect to that low unemployment number among African-Americans,” Conway said.

Karl pressed Conway on who is “the most prominent, high-level African-American serving in the West Wing on President Trump’s staff” since Manigault Newman’s departure in December.

When she mentioned Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Karl reinforced that he was asking about “White House staff," or "the people the president is with every day.”

Conway mentioned Ja'Ron Smith, special assistant to the president for domestic policy, whose office is in the Executive Office of the President, Conway said.

Karl said Smith is "not in the West Wing. What does that say to have not a single senior adviser in the West Wing who’s African American?"

Conway said she "didn’t say that there wasn’t" a senior African-American adviser in the West Wing, but that the focus should be on the president's actions.

“The fact is that this president is doing well for all Americans," she said.

Karl said later in the show that none of the "55 top-paid staffers" at the White House are African-American. "There is no African-American at that top level," he said during a This Week roundtable.

Karl was responding to former White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short, who named some African-American members of the president's staff that were not mentioned by Conway.

Short said there is "Mary Elizabeth Taylor, who is an African-American staffer on our team who did more in this White House to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed than anybody else. She led all of our confirmations.”

He continued with praise for Ja'Ron Smith and for Daris Meeks, a senior member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff.

"There's a lot of focus in the media on Omarosa, but there's less focus actually on those who are doing really hard jobs and doing really good work for the president,” Short said.

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Rep. Cummings: President Trump's words against racism 'ring hollow'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A top-ranking Democratic congressman and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus said President Trump's words this weekend against racism "ring hollow" in light of his administration's actions toward immigrant children, health care and ensuring all eligible Americans are able to vote.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., was asked by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl on This Week Sunday if a tweet by Trump on Saturday denouncing "all types of racism" shows that the president has "gotten the message" about addressing race relations in the U.S.

"No," Cummings said. "He has not gone far enough. I think it’s a low bar for the president of the United States to simply say he’s against racism. He’s got to do better than that. He’s got to address the people who are spouting racist-type comments and doing racist-type acts. And 'white supremacy' -- seems like he can’t say those words. But I think he can do better."

Cummings added that in light of the Trump administration's actions on health care, voter rights and immigrant children, when he hears the president's words, they "ring hollow with me."

Trump drew widespread criticism a year ago when he said there is "blame on both sides" after a violent confrontation between white nationalist rallygoers and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

On Saturday, a day before Sunday's one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville clashes, Trump tweeted that he condemns "all types of racism" and that the nation needs to come together.

He also touted low unemployment rates among African-Americans and Hispanics.

Cummings told Karl on Sunday, "It’s one thing to say things. It’s another thing when we look at the direction that you’re going and see that the very things that you say that you stand for, you undermine through your actions."

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Trump calls Omarosa a 'low-life,' says Sessions is 'scared stiff'

Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images(BEDMINSTER, N.J.) -- President Donald Trump teed off Saturday on two of his earliest supporters with choice words for former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

As the president waited for an event at his private golf club, Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey, he tweeted his disdain for his current Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “scared stiff” and “Missing in Action.”

Later, inside his club, where he met with Bikers for Trump — who wore Make America Great Again hats and leather jackets — and other supporters, the president responded with a dramatic flourish to a question about whether he felt betrayed by the Manigault Newman -- one of the first White House hires, who once enjoyed unfettered access to him in the Oval Office.

Raising a hand to his mouth, he turned to reporters in the room and called her a “low-life.”

Manigault Newman landed in Washington D.C. on Saturday to kick off a publicity tour for her soon to be released book, “Unhinged,” that is chock-full of explosive -- though unverified -- details about life in the White House.

As reports of accounts inside the book leaked out, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders slammed Manigault Newman as a “disgruntled former White House staffer” whose book is "riddled with lies and false accusations."

“It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration,” she added.

And Sanders is correct – both Manigault Newman and Trump once had a close relationship after she became a star contestant and popular villain on his hit reality TV show, “The Apprentice.”

Trump called Manigault Newman “wonderful,” “a very nice person” and a “very, very fine person” when she joined him on the campaign trail in 2016.

Manigault Newman went on to become Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

But now, Manigault Newman, who was a special liaison at the White House with the African American community, says Trump is trying to start a “race war.”

TMZ caught the former White House staffer as she arrived at a Washington, D.C. airport ahead of a publicity blitz.

Manigault told the site Trump "wants to start a race war,” and added, “he's succeeding."

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Indicted Republican Rep. Chris Collins suspends re-election campaign

Spencer Platt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Republican Rep. Chris Collins, indicted this week for alleged insider trading, has suspended his re-election campaign, and Republicans are expected to try to nominate him for a county clerkship in hopes of removing him from the ballot.

Collins, from the Buffalo area in New York state, earlier said he would stay in the race following his indictment, but announced Saturday that he is suspending his bid for re-election. He plans to serve the remainder of his term.

“After extensive discussions with my family and my friends over the last few days, I have decided that it is in the best interests of the constituents of NY-27, the Republican Party and President Trump’s agenda for me to suspend my campaign for re-election to Congress,” he said in a statement.

Collins was indicted for alleged insider trading Wednesday along with his son and his son’s future father-in-law with charges related to an Australian biotechnology company, Innate Immunotherapeutics.

Collins, who sat on the board of the company, allegedly shared nonpublic information about a failed drug trial with his son, who passed it along to his future father-in-law and others.

The test results were made public four days later and Innate stock dropped 92 percent. By then, however, Collins, his son and his son’s future father-in-law had avoided $768,000 in losses.

Collins has maintained his innocence and said he will fight the charges.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating the allegations against him.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said House Speaker Paul Ryan should call on Collins to resign.

"No person is above the law, not the president or his first supporter in Congress," Pelosi said in a statement Saturday.

While Collins was favored to win re-election, Democrats have been using the scandal to attack him and other Republicans as they seek to retake control of the House.

A Republican official told ABC News on Saturday that local GOP officials in New York will try to remove Collins from the ballot by nominating him for a county clerkship and will then select a replacement candidate for the House race.

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Confirmation hearing from Trump's SCOTUS pick, Brett Kavanaugh, set for September

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next justice on the Supreme Court –- Judge Brett Kavanaugh -– is set for a confirmation hearing on Sept. 4, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee announced Friday.

The announcement comes amid the release of a trove of documents related to Kavanaugh's time in the White House. Democrats argue that it is a "mad rush" while Republicans are saying it is time to get on with the process.

“As I said after his nomination, Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most respected jurists in the country and one of the most qualified nominees ever to be considered by the Senate for a seat on our highest court,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement Friday.

Grassley said he expects Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing will last three to four days, with opening statements by committee members set to begin Sept. 4. Questioning will begin the following day.

The committee has received the largest number of Executive Branch records ever for the consideration of a Supreme Court nominee, according to the press release sent by Grassley’s office.

Grassley said the committee has received more than 184,000 pages of records from Kavanaugh’s work as a White House lawyer and for his work for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

Kavanaugh once helped write the Starr Report, which outlined broad grounds on which to impeach President Clinton for his role in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

“With the Senate already reviewing more documents than for any other Supreme Court nominee in history, Chairman Grassley has lived up to his promise to lead an open, transparent and fair process. Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to addressing the Judiciary Committee in public hearings for the American people to view," White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement Friday following the announcement.

The chairman said the committee still expects to receive hundreds of thousands of additional pages of documents.

“He’s a mainstream judge. He has a record of judicial independence and applying the law as it is written. He’s met with dozens of senators who have nothing but positive things to say. At this current pace, we have plenty of time to review the rest of emails and other records that we will receive from President Bush and the National Archives. It’s time for the American people to hear directly from Judge Kavanaugh at his public hearing,” Grassley said in his statement.

Kavanaugh’s lengthy paper trail has become a part of a tit-for-tat between Republicans and Democrats in an increasingly tense political battle over his confirmation.

Democrats, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, have held off on meeting with Kavanaugh over the document dispute.

On Friday, Schumer blasted Grassley's decision to announce a confirmation hearing as a "mad rush" amid the ongoing dispute over Kavanaugh's records.

"Republicans’ mad rush to hold this hearing after unilaterally deciding to block nearly all of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from public release is further evidence that they are hiding important information from the American people, and continues to raise the question, ‘What are they hiding?’" Schumer said in a statement.

“Republican efforts to make this the least transparent, most secretive Supreme Court nomination in history continue," Schumer said. "They seem to be more frightened of this nominee’s record and history than any we’ve ever considered.”

Schumer and Feinstein announced last week they plan to meet with Kavanaugh after the Senate returns from its shortened recess on August 15, and urge him to ask the National Archives and President George W. Bush to support the release of “all of his files” from his time spent working in the Bush White House.

Grassley has previously said Kavanaugh’s vetting process is probably the “deepest dive” ever conducted on a Supreme Court nominee.

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White House slams Omarosa Manigault Newman's new book as 'riddled with lies and false accusations'

Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Omarosa Manigault Newman became a household name playing the villain on Donald Trump’s hit reality television show, “The Apprentice.”

And after being fired by President Trump's White House, she is now once again back in the spotlight and drawing their ire with her new book, "Unhinged."

As details of the book have emerged ahead of its release next week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a scathing statement calling Manigault Newman a “disgruntled former White House staffer” whose book is "riddled with lies and false accusations."

“Instead of telling the truth about all the good President Trump and his administration are doing to make America safe and prosperous, this book is riddled with lies and false accusations,” Sanders said.

“It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration,” she added.

According to The Guardian and the Washington Post, which both reviewed copies of the book, Manigault Newman accuses the president of being a “racist,” using the N-word, and in one situation, makes the claim that she saw Trump eat a piece of paper after privately consulting with his personal attorney Michael Cohen in the Oval Office.

“I saw him put a note in his mouth. Since Trump was ever the germaphobe, I was shocked he appeared to be chewing and swallowing the paper. It must have been something very, very sensitive,” Manigault Newman speculates in the book, according to the Washington Post.

Manigault Newman, who was famously known to have tried to have her wedding photos shot at the White House and enjoyed relatively unfettered access to Trump as his high paid assistant and a liaison to the African American community, is raising eyebrows with her insider –- yet unverified -- accounts of life in the Trump White House.

After she left the White House, Manigault Newman said on "Good Morning America": “As the only African American woman in this White House, as a senior staff and assistant to the president, I have seen things that have made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people.”

According to the Washington Post, Manigault Newman taped many of her private conversations at the White House, and in her book directly quotes from those tapings.

Manigault Newman claims the existence of recordings of Trump using racist terms like the N-word on the set of "The Apprentice," according to the Guardian, though she says she did not hear Trump use that word herself.

She later told NPR, however, that she had heard the president say that word.

"Hearing it changed everything for me," she told NPR, according to the story, which was published on Friday.

She also she has heard the president use racist words against George Conway, the husband of counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway.

“The allegation is not credible, and indeed is ridiculous, particularly in light of the timing of her departure from the White House—December 12, 2017," Conway tweeted. "It’s absurd all around.”

Another person quoted in the book, pollster Frank Luntz, also debunked her claim that he heard Trump use the N-word.

“She claims to have heard from someone who heard from me that I heard Trump use the N-word. Not only is this flat-out false (I’ve never heard such a thing), but Omarosa didn’t even make an effort to call or email me to verify. Very shoddy work,” Luntz wrote.

Manigault Newman is expected to appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday to discuss her book ahead of a national book tour.

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Trump puts pressure on Turkey by doubling down on tariffs

Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images(BEDMINSTER, N.J.) -- President Donald Trump announced Friday that he is doubling tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey amid heightened tensions between the two nations.

Trump made his unexpected announcement on Twitter from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, as the Turkish currency, the lira, fell to all-time lows against the U.S. dollar.

“I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%,” Trump said in a tweet.

Earlier this week U.S. and Turkish officials met in Washington to discuss issues that have pitted the two NATO allies against each other.

Despite Trump’s insistence, Turkey has not budged in freeing American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained by Turkey for almost two years on charges that he was working with a terrorist organization and was a spy. The Treasury Department announced fresh sanctions on two Turkish government officials in response to Turkey’s refusal to let Brunson go.

The president is “not happy with Turkey's decision not to release Pastor [Brunson],” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

In a statement, the White House said the president had authorized the preparation of documents to raise tariffs, citing national security concerns.

“Section 232 tariffs are imposed on imports from particular countries whose exports threaten to impair national security as defined in Section 232, independent of negotiations on trade or any other matter,” White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.

But it’s unclear exactly how Turkey is threatening national security. A Republican ally of the president, Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, said Trump’s decision was retaliation against Turkey for not releasing Brunson. Graham called Turkey’s case against Brunson a “sham.”

“It’s very unfortunate that the Trump administration had to retaliate against Turkey for their continued refusal to release Pastor Brunson and other Americans being held in Turkish custody,” Graham said.

In what appeared to be a diplomatic slight, Turkey announced soon after Trump’s tweet that Erdogan had held a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin about “strengthening economic and trade ties.”

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‘Manhattan Madam’ expected to appear before Mueller grand jury

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Kristin Davis, a former upscale-prostitution-ring operator once known as the "Manhattan Madam," is expected to testify before a grand jury in Washington, D.C., Friday in connection to special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Three sources confirmed to ABC News that Davis was asked to interview with special counsel investigators last month, and her spokesperson said she completed an "informal" interview with members of Mueller's team last week.

Davis has close ties to Roger Stone, a longtime political campaign operative whose resume dates back to the Nixon administration. He also served as an adviser to Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, but left amid controversy in 2015.

An associate of Stone’s, Andrew Miller, was supposed to testify before the grand jury but failed to appear and was held in contempt.

Miller’s attorney, Paul Kamenar, confirmed to ABC News his client is appealing a ruling that required him to comply with the special counsel’s subpoena.

For procedural reasons, Kamenar said, Miller needed to be held in contempt in order to initiate the appeal.

Sources told ABC News last month that Mueller's team was pushing for more information on whether Stone communicated with hackers who targeted DNC computers. At least nine people associated with Stone have been contacted by the special counsel.

Following Davis' previous meeting with investigators, Stone said in a statement: "Kristin Davis is a longtime friend and associate of mine. She is a brilliant businesswoman who paid her debt to society and remade her life. I am the Godfather to her 2 year old son."

Stone added, "[Davis] knows nothing about alleged Russian Collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration, or any other impropriety related to the 2016 election which I though was the subject of this probe. I understand to she appeared voluntarily. I am highly confident she will testify truthfully is called to do so."

Davis made headlines in 2008 when she was arrested as part of an investigation into former New York governor Elliot Spitzer's solicitation of prostitutes. Davis claimed Spitzer was one of her numerous high-profile clients, which he denied. Davis pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution, and spent about four months in New York's Rikers Island prison complex. Following her release, she ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York.

In 2014, Davis ran into trouble with the law again. She pleaded guilty to selling prescription drugs in 2014 and was sentenced to two years in prison. She was released in 2016, after Stone had left the Trump campaign.

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