Mark Sanford says beating Trump in potential primary run 'not necessarily the goal'

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford made waves this week after saying he's considering launching a primary challenge against President Donald Trump, but the Republican added Wednesday that beating the president wouldn't necessary be the main objective of his potential run.

"I don't think that winning necessarily has to be a goal in this kind of thing," he told ABC News political director Rick Klein and ABC News senior congressional correspondent Mary Bruce on the "Powerhouse Politics" podcast Wednesday.

"The question is: Can you win in bringing this debate forward," Sanford added. "There are ways of winning but not winning in the electoral sense. I think it would be a win if you change the debate [so] we begin to have a real serious conversation on the Republican and Democratic sides of the aisle as to what we do to avoid a financial upheaval."

Sanford, who also previously served as South Carolina's governor, said Wednesday that if he runs -- a decision he plans to make over the next 30 days -- the national debt and economy will be the main focus of his Republican primary challenge against the president.

Yet, the former governor admits that argument won't be the easiest one to make against a president presiding over a economy that includes record low unemployment numbers.

"I mean, that's why people aren't talking about it," Sanford said regarding the economy. "They're talking about his different character flaws, what they don't like about what he says, the way he is inflammatory and divisive -- go down the list."

Sanford left Congress in 2018 after losing his primary following the president endorsing his opponent, state Sen. Katie Arrington, who would go on to lose in the general election to Rep. Joe Cunningham.

In regards to the president's recent racist tweets targeting four congresswomen of color, Sanford said he wasn't surprised by Republicans' muted response.

"This is the political reality, that, you know, unless [Republicans] want to get fried by the president or have him come after them in some form or fashion they're going to keep quiet," he said.

However, Sanford would not say how he would have voted on Tuesday's historic House resolution condemning the president's "racist comments," which passed in a 240-187 vote. He said he hasn't looked at it.

"I'm not in any way dismissing the racially charged inflammatory language the president uses -- but all of us are again falling into the orbit of Donald Trump. Too much of what he talks about and does simply ensures that he'll be the center of the debate," he said.

While Sanford said he will take the next month to decide on whether or not he'll run, the prospects of his past controversies surrounding an extra-marital affair in 2009 being brought up during the campaign is already weighing on his decision.

"Am I an imperfect messenger? Absolutely. Is that part of the reason that I've held up -- as friends have suggested I do this -- for the last year? I don't want to get hit on that stuff," Sanford said. "I don't want to reopen old scabs but I got to look my poor sons in the eye."

But the former congressman said if he runs, he wouldn't be surprised if President Trump brings up those controversies. "There's nothing on- or off-limits in the world of politics," he said.

If Sanford were to get into the race, he wouldn't be the only Republican running to unseat President Trump. Fellow Republican former Gov. Bill Weld has been running since earlier this year, but has yet to catch fire in a substantial way, raising just under $700K in the second quarter for his long-shot campaign.

And like Sanford, Weld, a libertarian who ran in 2016 on on a third party ticket with Gary Johnson, has made the debt and spending a key issue on the campaign trail.

"They're not serious about cutting spending or cutting the deficit. I don't think this president is an economic conservative at all," Weld said in a recent interview.

Besides Weld, other top Republicans long-rumored for primary bids against the president, including former Gov. John Kasich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, have signaled they are not eager to challenge the president, who remains popular within the party.

Hogan, a vocal critic of the president, announced in June that he would "not be a candidate" in 2020 and would remain governor of Maryland.

Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Man who lost entire family in 737 Max crash testifies before Congress as Boeing dedicates $50 million

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On March 10, Paul Njoroge woke up to the "horrible nightmare" that the Ethiopian Airlines flight carrying his wife, three children and mother-in-law crashed six minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 passengers and crew members on board -- the second fatal crash involving the Boeing 737 Max aircraft in five months.

On Wednesday, Njoroge testified before the House aviation subcommittee to discuss aviation safety, and he brought with him blown-up pictures of the loved ones he had lost.

"I stay up nights thinking of the horror that they must have endured," Njoroge told lawmakers. "As pilots struggled to keep the plane flying for six minutes - the terror that my wife must have experienced with little Rubi on her lap, our two children beside her crying for their daddy, and my mother-in-law feeling helpless beside her. The six minutes will forever be embedded in my mind."

It was the third house hearing on aviation safety since the Boeing 737 Max crashes that killed a total of 346 people.

The 737 Max jets have been grounded since March, and Boeing is currently working on updates to its 737 MAX software, which will then go to the Federal Aviation Authority for certification.

Preliminary reports suggested there were problems with an automated anti-stall system called MCAS.

On June 26, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilots found a new potential issue with the 737 Max aircraft during a simulated flight that affected pilots' abilities to quickly and easily follow the required recovery procedures for the runaway stabilizer.

FAA officials have said the agency will lift the aircraft's prohibition order "when they deem it safe to do so."

"The tragic loss of life in both accidents continues to weigh heavily on all of us at Boeing, and we have the utmost sympathy for the loved ones of those on board," Boeing chief executive officer Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement.

Njoroge, whose family was traveling from Toronto, Canada, to Nairobi, Kenya, to visit extended family, said he hopes putting a face to the tragedies will ensure "that no lives are lost again because of the negligence of plane manufacturers and aviation regulators."

"It was up to Boeing and others in charge to save them," Njoroge said. "We paid for a safe flight. Instead, my family and others in that plane have suffered a profound loss that can never be mended. I never knew it would be the last time I would ever see them."

"No more birthdays, no more anniversaries, no more holidays. No weddings for my children, no grandchildren," Njoroge said. His 9-month-old daughter Rubi, believed to be the youngest person to die in the crash, never met her grandparents.

On Wednesday, just minutes before Njoroge's testimony began, Boeing announced that they will dedicate $50 million of pledged $100 million for relief to the families of the two crashes. Njoroge, who has filed a lawsuit against Boeing accusing them of negligence, called Boeing's apologies and pledge "a press relations strategy to apologize to cameras."

"Boeing has never reached out to families about the impossible sorrow and grief we will carry for our entire lives," Njoroge said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Construction fences going up around White House for a long-planned renovation project

lucky-photographer/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House will begin new construction this month to build a taller fence -- part of a long-planned renovation project for increased security.

The existing fence will be replaced by an approximately 13-foot-tall barrier -- almost double the current size -- with wider and stronger fence posts. The new design will incorporate anti-climb intrusion detection technology, according to a National Park Service news release.

This project will cover the 18-acre White House complex and use more than 3,500 feet of steel fencing.

In June, a man was arrested after he allegedly assaulted a police officer and tried to jump over the fence outside the White House. The person was quickly arrested. A week earlier, the White House announced it was raising the fence height from 6 feet, 6 inches as part of $64 million construction project.

Construction began on July 8, with an approval by both the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capital Planning Commission two years ago. The work should be completed by 2021.

Workers will begin construction in the northwest corner of the White House, along Pennsylvania Avenue, and then they will tackle the northeast corner of the White House complex.

The White House will remain visible for the public throughout the renovation, but pedestrians and cyclists should expect occasional, temporary closures in certain areas.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Beto O'Rourke hires Aisha McClendon as director of African American outreach

Josh Brasted/FilmMagic(WASHINGTON) -- Beto O'Rourke's campaign announced on Tuesday that it's hired Aisha McClendon as national director of African American outreach amid increased efforts to reach out to the pivotal minority voting bloc.

The fellow Texas native is a seasoned Democratic political strategist who worked in the Clinton White House and has more than two decades of experience. McClendon stepped down as chief of staff to Rep. Toni Rose, D-Texas, to join O'Rourke's 2020 presidential bid.

"I totally believe that Beto is the best candidate and the best person to be the next president of the United States," McClendon said. "As a Texan, I've watched him with my own eyes, and I totally believe in him. The things that he's aligned with are things that I believe in."

Black women are increasingly at the center of O'Rourke's presidential bid -- now with five of them in prominent positions in his campaign, working at the helm of influence, leading his political strategy.

The movements come in a year where issues of diversity and inclusion come to the forefront.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 55% of eligible black women voters cast ballots in November 2018, with the demographic group proving to be one of the largest in terms of turnout.

O'Rourke's campaign joins a number of other presidential candidates who are leaning on the expertise of African American women to guide their campaigns, as diversity plays a significant role in voter outreach after exit polls in the 2018 midterms revealed black women to be a key voting bloc.

"Beto O'Rourke is not the only campaign who recognizes that they won't have momentum without black women and that they need people on high level staff to connect them and be bridges to [them]," said Aimee Allison, founder of She The People. "[Candidates] need to know how to reach them. What's the language? What are the policies? How are they reaching that core constituency."

Presidential front-runners like former Vice President Joe Biden enlisted the expertise of black women very early in their campaign, hiring prominent African American senior strategist Symone Sanders as his senior adviser. Bernie Sanders hired Nina Turner as a national campaign co-chair. Kamala Harris, the only black woman running in 2020, enlisted her sister, Maya Harris, as her campaign chair, and often connects with members of the historically black sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, which she joined while she attended Howard University, the renowned HBCU.

McClendon is directing African American outreach, Ofirah Yheskel is working as deputy communications director of states, Chrystian Woods is national director of outreach and Lauren Harper, the state director for South Carolina, works alongside Robyn Patterson, the campaign's communications director in the Palmetto State.

At a moment when four high-profile minority politicians are at the center of political conversation, these women are working behind the scenes in a presidential campaign that's seeking to push that conversation forward.

"The campaigns are trying to figure out how to reach the key networks that have been crucial in terms of reaching black voters -- the Deltas, or other kinds of sororities or HBCUs. I think that's why you've seen a number of the candidates, including Sanders and Warren speaking at HBCUs. That's a critical network, a network that Kamala Harris already knew," Allison said.

"My observation is that the campaigns who started much earlier, with a set of detailed policy, speaking to the highest priority issues for black women are the one who are have seen a lot of growth in the polls," said Allison, pointing to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's steady rise in the polls brought on, in part, by her specific policies that target issues concerning black women.

Currently, Biden leads the pack with 41% support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning black voters, according to the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll. Sen. Bernie Sanders sat at 23%.

Harris and Warren are making up ground with black voters, according to the poll, seeing support at 11% and 4%, respectively.

McClendon's announcement comes as O'Rourke fine tunes his message to African American voters, having more and more nuanced discussions about racial and economic disparities on the trail, all of which could reflect an acute awareness of the concerns from minorities on the ground in key states.

Over the last three months, O'Rourke has visited historically black communities, hosting roundtables often led by black female voices on the issues of criminal justice reform, climate change and voter suppression in communities --- infusing what he learns about the disparities plaguing the black communities into his larger campaign message.

Voters in South Carolina saw this first hand in North Charleston, South Carolina, when O'Rourke sat down with black affinity group leaders at a criminal justice roundtable hours before BET's Black Economic Alliance Presidential Forum where he was scheduled to speak. The former Texas Congressman took notes as he received insight from men and women about their oppressive experiences as it relates to gun violence and police brutality.

"Safety is something that is not just given to people in this community nowadays," a female roundtable speaker explained to O'Rourke. "The feeling of safety, feeling as though that you will be okay and that you will be able to live once you walk out of a space is not something that is privileged to this community on a day to day basis."

O'Rourke took that insight shared from that roundtable conversation and repurposed it in an attempt to speak directly to black voters during his time on stage at the Black Economics Alliance Presidential Forum.

"We were just at a roundtable in North Charleston, a young woman talked about organizing safe spaces for black men to congregate to have conversations, and then to make sure that they're safe on their way home, safe from police violence, safe from a criminal justice system that has incarcerated more people here than any country on the face of the planet -- safe when it comes to environmental justice," O'Rourke said on stage to moderator Soledad O'Brien.

In Beaufort, South Carolina, he leaned on the insight of preservationist Marquetta Goodwine, also known as Queen Quet, the elected chieftess of the Gullah Geechee Nation, who gave him a tour of the church where Harriet Tubman lived, just before he held a community roundtable discussion on climate change, voting rights and economic mobility.

"White Americans do not know this story," O'Rourke admitted, explaining how stories of Tubman were not taught to him in his El Paso high school.

Goodwine told ABC News O'Rourke reached out to her directly, which is part of why she made it a priority for them to meet.

"We really focused on the culture of Gullah Geechee, and we did in a more intimate setting so he could really hear us and we could really hear him," she said.

O'Rourke's campaign stops are coupled with rhetoric that speaks to black female issues, from deep disparities in equal pay and the disproportionate African American maternal mortality rates, to the rise in murder rate among black transgender women.

Amid his stubborn lag in national polls, and a noticeable loss of momentum proven in his underwhelming fundraising in the second fiscal quarter of the campaign season raising only $3.7 million compared to the $6 million he raised in the first day of his bid, O'Rourke's outreach to African American women could be crucial to regaining traction in the 2020 race.

"My goal is to get him out of in front of women of color. Once people get to know him, they definitely love him so that what we plan to do," McClendon said. "I want America to meet the person that I know, and I want them to see him for the person that I see, and that's just doing what he does best, which is getting him out in front of people and having conversations."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Five takeaways from recent 2020 fundraising figures

NoDerog/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Between President Donald Trump posting record-shattering fundraising numbers, a formerly little-known mayor setting a high bar for the Democratic field and a swath of campaigns making significant investments in digital operations in the early stages, the Federal Election Commission reports filed on Monday offered a glimpse at the shifting fates for the campaigns as they prepare for the long race ahead.

This early, a strong showing in a single quarter does not always translate to early-state votes or even define viability -- and the uncertainty of it all will continue to loom over the competition as they presidential hopefuls seek to go the distance.

Here are five takeaways from the most recent FEC reports:

The top earners secure front-runner status in race

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg kicked off the second-quarter fundraising race amid fanfare earlier this month. No other 2020 Democrats were able to top the $25 million he raised between April and June.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who launched his campaign a little later than other candidates, came in second, raising a total of $22 million in the first 66 days of his bid. Biden's campaign has emphasized that he's not accepting any donations that would be transferred to the general election fund, unlike other candidates, including Buttigieg. But only a small portion of the general election fund made up Buttigieg's total this quarter.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., pulled herself into the top tier by bringing in $19 million from grassroots donations, more than three times the amount she raised in the first quarter. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., the two biggest fundraisers last quarter, finished behind their rivals, as they raised about the same amount as the previous quarter, $18 million and $12 million, respectively.

But Sanders is stocked up against the crowded Democratic presidential field, with more than $27 million cash on hand, with help from a $7.6 million transfer from his prior campaign. Buttigieg, Warren and Harris are also gearing up for a competitive second half of 2019, with $22.6 million, $19.8 million and $13.3 million cash on hand. Biden, despite his big fundraising sum this quarter, will have some catching up to do as he enters the third quarter with $10.9 million in his bank.

These early fundraising numbers come before another batch of 20 candidates take the stage at the second Democratic debates in Detroit next week, but the hauls are setting up a splintered field between these five well-funded candidates and the rest of the field. The top candidates all earned over $10 million in the second quarter, but then there is a steep gap, with the next top raiser being Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who brought in only $4.5 million.

Lower tier candidates are outspending their wallets

In a steep fall from his last quarter haul, former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke raised only $3.7 million in three months -- less than the nearly $6 million he raked in during the first 24 hours of his presidential bid.

O'Rourke first entered the Democratic primary in March, with lofty expectations following his unsuccessful Senate run against Sen. Ted Cruz despite his fundraising prowess -- he raised $80 million during that race. But his campaign has struggled in recent months to pick up much-needed traction amid the crowded field.

O'Rourke is finding himself among a tier of candidates whose second-quarter fundraising sums are far less than the top five contenders who set a high bar on fundraising. With six months until the Iowa caucuses, when the first voters will head to the polls in the nominating contest, O'Rourke, along with nearly half of the Democratic field, burned through their cash -- spending more than they raised throughout the second quarter.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., entrepreneur Andrew Yang, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, author Marianne Williamson, former Gov. John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., former congressman John Delaney, D-Md., and Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam all blazed through their war chests -- at a time when they should be stocking up.

As concerns rise over how much longer their long-shot campaigns can last, the tiers appear even more hierarchical when it comes to cash in the bank.

While the top tier of fundraisers reports double-digit numbers for cash on hand, which allows candidates to build up their campaign apparatus with more staff and resources in the early-voting states, others are resorting to prior campaign committees and their own dollars to navigate rough waters.

After spending nearly double the $2.3 million she raised this quarter, Gillibrand still has more than $8 million in her pocket after she transferred money from her Senate campaign fund last quarter. Delaney, who had the worst burn rate this cycle after spending more than $2 million despite raising just over $284,000, secured more than $7.4 million in his fund by the end of this quarter thanks to a $7 million loan from himself dropped just two days before the close of books.

Small-dollar donations dominate second-quarter finances

In the sprawling Democratic primary, a central theme this cycle continues to be the candidates' emphasis on small-dollar donors financing their campaigns -- as both a signal of their grassroots strength and engagement with regular people across the country and a key benchmark to land on a debate stage.

The grassroots push in the 2020 contest is also echoed in the rules for the Democratic debates -- which includes a new grassroots qualifying rule implemented by the Democratic National Committee after the 2016 presidential primary in an effort to prioritize inclusion.

Among the front-runners in fundraising, both progressive stalwarts, Sanders and Warren, who broadly share a vision for economic equality, are shunning high-dollar fundraisers and relying on a powerful base of small donors.

Not all campaigns released the number of individual donors, but in the second quarter, Sanders is once again the leader of the pack, garnering the most grassroots support with his $14 million coming from one million unique donations. Small dollar donors composed 84% of his contributions, according to ProPublica.

Warren falls behind him and Yang, with her $19.8 million coming from 384,000 donors and 70% of small-dollar donors making up her fundraising total. About 81% of Yang's second-quarter total came from donations of $200 or less. Buttigieg's campaign claimed more than 294,000 donors who contributed to his staggering $24.9 million haul, and Harris received her $11.8 million from 279,000 donors, according to her campaign.

According to FEC filings, only eight of the 25 campaigns raised a majority of their money from donors who gave $200 or less.

The bottom five contenders who reported less than 25% of their donations coming from people who gave $200 or less are Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (22%), Delaney (20%, Booker (16%), Hickenlooper (15%) and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (9%), according to ProPublica.

Democrats are dishing out digital ad dollars

The 2020 Democrats are making it loud and clear, the battle is no longer on-air -- it's online.

Many of the candidates have been aggressively targeting voters with digital advertising campaigns, so much so that some of them are burning through much of their campaign funds on digital operations.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., for instance, spent more than $737,000 on digital ads out of the total of $1.3 million he spent throughout the whole quarter, while former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro spent more than $1 million on digital advertising out of the total $2.3 million he spent. Gillibrand, too, spent nearly $1 million out of her total of $4 million on digital ads.

In the month leading up to the first Democratic debates, which took place on June 26-27, Castro spent roughly $373,000 on debate-related digital advertising from May 25 to June 29, according to data from Facebook and Google's political ad transparency reports, aggregated by Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic digital communications firm.

Both Bennet and Gillibrand spent most of their digital dollars on debate-related advertising throughout the second quarter, with over $409,000 and nearly $228,000 respectively.

Inslee spent nearly $1 million of the $3 million he raised this quarter on online advertising.

Of that $1 million, he has spent a little under half a million dollars since March 30, almost a month after Inslee announced his presidential bid, through June 30 on digital advertising related to climate change, an issue around which he's centered his campaign.

Inslee's spending dwarfed the rest of the field and was 12 times more than Klobuchar, the next closest candidate, whose ad totals are around $38,000, according to the data.

Meanwhile, among candidates who've filed in the second quarter, those sticking to the traditional means of television ads include Delaney and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Delaney reported spending at least $713,000 on television ad buys, while Gabbard reported spending nearly $550,000 on on-air ads. She has also been double dipping with digital ads, spending at least $457,000.

Shortly after the second-quarter ended, Gillibrand launched a television ad and billionaire activist Tom Steyer launched his presidential campaign, and has been spending millions on ad buys since.

Trump looms in the distance with massive war chest

Trump, unlike his Democratic rivals, has been aggressively campaigning for reelection with the backing of the Republican National Committee since immediately after his inauguration in 2017. And in the second quarter of 2019, the Trump campaign and its two joint fundraising committees with the RNC spent more than $25 million in support of the president.

At least $2.8 million of that went to the campaign's online and digital operation, including more than $1 million to campaign manager Brad Parscale's digital firm Parscale Strategy. It is unclear how much of this money goes to buying ad placement. The Trump campaign didn't spend any money on on-air campaigns in the second quarter, and only a small amount overall so far this year.

The Trump campaign and his committees also spent more than $1.5 million in legal fees this quarter, with almost $993,000 of that still going to former White House Counsel Don McGahn's firm, Jones Day, after reports that the campaign was looking for a new in-house legal team.

The Trump campaign and its affiliated committees spent nearly $323,000 at various Trump properties between April and June, including more than $131,000 at the Mar-a-Lago club, $105,000 at the Trump hotel in Washington, and $75,083 rent for the Trump campaign office at the New York Trump Tower.

According to the campaign, the Trump campaign and its joint fundraising committees raised a total of $56.7 million this quarter, and the RNC raised an additional $51 million in support of Trump, bringing the total amount raised for Trump's reelection efforts to $108 million. The Trump campaign and the joint fundraising committees have $80 million cash on hand and the RNC has $43 million cash on hand, according to the campaign.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Trump condemned by House for Twitter attacks against congresswomen

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- The House of Representatives voted largely along party lines Tuesday to formally condemn President Donald Trump's Twitter attacks against four Democratic congresswoman of color, with just four House Republicans and one independent lawmaker siding with Democrats to adopt the measure.

The resolution rebuking Trump's attacks against four House Democrats passed in a 240-187 vote on Tuesday evening after raucous debate on the House floor. Republicans argued House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's criticisms of Trump's comments ran afoul of House rules prohibiting lawmakers from saying the president made a "bigoted or racist" statement, prompting a parliamentary ruling and a series of procedural votes, including one allowing her to continue speaking on the floor.

In a series of tweets over the weekend, Trump first criticized the progressive Democratic congresswomen for what he characterized as "horrible and disgusting actions," telling them to stop criticizing the government and "go back" to where they came from.

Three of the four Democrats targeted by Trump -- Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan -- were born in the United States. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim lawmaker representing Minnesota who Trump falsely accused of praising al-Qaeda, was born in Somalia. All four are U.S. citizens.

The measure, introduced by Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., who was born in Poland, is titled "Condemning President Trump's racist comments directed at Members of Congress."

It unfavorably compares Trump's comments to those of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who praised the impact of immigrants on the United States, and "strongly condemns" Trump's language, stating that it has "legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color."

"This is an affront to 22 million naturalized citizens who were born in another country," Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a cosponsor of the measure, said of Trump's tweets on the floor Tuesday. "It's an affront to the hundreds of millions of Americans who understand and love how American democracy works."

The targeted group of freshmen women, known as "the squad" on Capitol Hill, responded to the president's attacks in a news conference on Monday afternoon, and urged Democrats and supporters to focus on their agenda.

"This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people," Pressley said.

Omar and Tlaib both cited Trump's comments as justification to launch impeachment proceedings against the president.

Trump stood by his initial attacks on Monday and Tuesday.

Roughly 42 Republicans in Congress criticized Trump's attacks against their Democratic colleagues, according to an ABC News survey of 254 congressional Republicans, with a handful saying that they believed the comments were racist.

"Political rhetoric has really gotten way, way over-heated all across the political spectrum," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. "From the president to the speaker, to the freshmen members of the house, all of us have a responsibility to elevate the public discourse. Our words do matter, we all know politics is a contact support. But it's about time we lowered the temperature all across the board. All of us ought to contribute to a better level of discourse."

Pressed when he stopped short of calling the president’s attacks racist, McConnell said, "The president is not a racist. I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country."

In response, Ocasio-Cortez told ABC News that McConnell is "complicit in advancing racism in America" for not criticizing Trump."

"When you tell American citizens to go back to their country ... that has everything to do with race," she said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that he didn't consider Trump's comments to be racist, and accused Democrats of trying to play politics against Trump with the resolution on the floor.

"Let's not be false about what is happening here today," he said. "This is all about politics and beliefs of ideologies."

House GOP leaders encouraged Republicans to vote against the measure. Only four -- Reps. Susan Brooks of Indiana, Fred Upton of Michigan, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Will Hurd of Texas -- voted with Democrats. Independent Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, who recently left the Republican Party, also voted for the resolution. Others, including some Republicans who initially condemned Trump's comments, opposed the measure, and accused Democrats of rushing to embarrass Trump with a vote on a partisan resolution.

Trump's attacks managed to unify House Democrats after weeks of infighting over the caucus response to the migrant crisis at the border, and the Trump administration's immigration policies.

"These are our sisters," Pelosi said of the four Democrats targeted by Trump in a meeting Tuesday morning, according to an aide in the room.

"The fact is, as offended as we are, and we are offended by what he said about our sisters. He says that about people every day and they feel as hurt as we do about somebody in our family having this offence against them," she said.

"This is, I hope, one where we will get Republican support. If they can't support condemning the words of the President, well that's a message in and of itself," she added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died at the age of 99

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla.) -- Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died at the age of 99, ABC News has confirmed.

"Retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, John Paul Stevens, died this evening at Holy Cross Hospital in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, of complications following a stroke he suffered on July 15. He passed away peacefully with his daughters by his side. He was 99 years old," the Supreme Court confirmed.

Stevens was nominated to the high court by Republican President Gerald Ford in 1975 and retired in 2010 after serving more than 34 years on the court.

He is survived by his children, Elizabeth Jane Sesemann and Susan Roberta Mullen, nine grandchildren: Kathryn, Christine, Edward, Susan, Lauren, John, Madison, Hannah, Haley, and 13 great grandchildren. His first wife Elizabeth Jane, his second wife, Maryan Mulholland, his son, John Joseph, and his daughter, Kathryn, preceded him in death.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. released a statement through the Supreme Court following the death announcement.

“On behalf of the Court and retired Justices, I am saddened to report that our colleague Justice John Paul Stevens has passed away. A son of the Midwest heartland and a veteran of World War II, Justice Stevens devoted his long life to public service, including 35 years on the Supreme Court. He brought to our bench an inimitable blend of kindness, humility, wisdom, and independence. His unrelenting commitment to justice has left us a better nation. We extend our deepest condolences to his children Elizabeth and Susan, and to his extended family," the statement read.

Despite being put on the bench by a Republican, Stevens became a hero to liberals voting to limit the use of the death penalty, uphold affirmative action, broaden the core holding of Roe v. Wade and argue for a strict separation of church and state.

But Stevens might be best known for his dissent in Bush v. Gore, the controversial Supreme Court decision that halted a recount of Florida ballots and cleared the way for George W. Bush to take the presidency.

"Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear," Stevens wrote at the time. "It is the nation's confidence in the judge as the impartial guardian of the rule of law."

Stevens was active in legal and political discourse to the very end.

In May, he gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, giving this assessment of our politics today: "I think there are things we should be concerned about, there’s no doubt about that,” he says, parrying requests for specifics. Eventually, he allows, “The president is exercising powers that do not really belong to him. I mean, he has to comply with subpoenas and things like that.”

Stevens also penned an op-ed published in The New York Times in March 2018 calling for action to end gun violence. Stevens called for a repeal of the Second Amendment to the Constitution in order to weaken the National Rifle Association’s ability to "stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation."

President Donald Trump dismissed Stevens' call to repeal the Second Amendment. "The second amendment will never be repealed," Trump tweeted at the time. "As much as Democrats would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens."

Speaking at Washington University School of Law in 2016, Stevens was asked what about his legacy. His reply: "I did the best I could."

Earlier this year he released his third book - an autobiography - "The Making of a Justice, Reflections on My First 94 Years."

Reflecting in the book on the 2000 Bush v Gore decision, he writes, “I remain of the view that the Court has not fully recovered from the damage it inflicted on itself."

Stevens was known as a keen tactician on the court. Because he was the senior justice on the liberal side of the bench, he had the authority to assign cases when the chief justice was voting on the other side.

Stevens used this authority strategically, sometimes assigning himself the big decisions, but other times working with an undecided justice hoping to bring him or her to his side of the argument.

He once told law professor Jeffrey Rosen, "In all candor, if you think somebody might not be might be wiser to let that person write the opinion."
Stevens' rise to the High Court

Shortly after graduating from the University of Chicago in 1941, Stevens joined the Navy and served as a code-breaker in WWII, for which he was awarded a bronze star.

After the war, Stevens attended Northwestern Law School with funds from the G.I. Bill, after which he served as law clerk to Justice Wiley Rutledge of the Supreme Court during the 1947 term, the court said in a statement.

Stevens was admitted to practice law in Illinois in 1949.

From 1970-1975, Stevens served as a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Upon his retirement from the Supreme Court in April 2010, then-President Barack Obama hailed Stevens as an "impartial guardian of the law."

"Justice Stevens has courageously served his country from the moment he enlisted the day before Pearl Harbor to his long and distinguished tenure on the Supreme Court," the president said. "During that tenure he has stood as an impartial guardian of the law. He's worn the judicial robe with honor and humility. He has applied the Constitution and the laws of the land with fidelity and restraint."

Abortion: Stevens was not yet on the court when Roe v. Wade, the opinion that legalized abortion, was decided, but he later voted to reaffirm its core holding in Casey v. Pennsylvania.

Affirmative Action: In 2003, he voted to uphold the admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School which took race into consideration in its admissions process. Stevens told an audience at Fordham College in 2006, "With respect to the constitutionality of affirmative action, we have learned that justifications based on past sins may be less persuasive than those predicated on anticipated future benefits."

Death Penalty: During his career on the high court, Stevens came full circle on the issue of the death penalty. In 1976, he voted to reinstate the use of the death penalty but 32 years later, he dropped a bombshell: he had come to believe the death penalty was unconstitutional.

In Baze v. Rees (2008) he wrote: "I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes."

Before this revelation, he wrote Atkins v. Virginia (2002), which ended the death penalty for mentally retarded criminals, and voted to strike down the death penalty for juvenile offenders.

Campaign Finance: Stevens authored a withering dissent in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 5-4 decision that invalidated decades old federal legislation restricting corporate spending in political campaigns. Stevens read his dissent from the bench shredding the majority's reasoning, saying "at bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt."

Gay rights: In 2003, Stevens assigned Justice Anthony Kennedy to write Lawrence v. Taylor, the landmark gay rights case striking down a criminal ban on gay consensual sex. In his opinion, Kennedy relied heavily on a dissent Stevens had written years earlier in an opinion upholding an anti-gay law.

Internet: In Sony v. Universal Studios, he wrote the decision that found consumers do not violate federal copyright law when they tape TV programs with their video cassette recorders.

Flag Burning: Stevens didn't always express a liberal view in his opinions. In 1989, Stevens, who won a Bronze Star in World War II, wrote a strong dissent in a decision that upheld a protester's right to burn the American flag. Stevens said, "Sanctioning the public desecration of the flag will tarnish its value -- both for those who cherish the ideas for which it waves and for those who desire to don the robes of martyrdom by burning it."

National Security: In Rasul v. Bush, Stevens struck a blow to the Bush administration's take on executive power when he said that federal courts have the jurisdiction to hear challenges to foreign nationals being held in Guantanamo Bay. "In national security cases under the second Bush administration, Guantanamo-type cases, he was very strong in ruling against what he said were excessive uses of presidential power and in expanding judicial power in the national security area," said National Journal columnist Stuart Taylor.

In the few interviews the justice has granted over the years, he has steadfastly maintained that he is a judicial conservative, despite his liberal votes. He suggests that he hasn't changed, but the court became more conservative.

"I see myself as a conservative, to tell you the truth," he told ABC in 2007, just after the death of Gerald R. Ford, the president who nominated him.

In that interview, Stevens expressed his admiration for Ford, saying, "I have to tell you I was amazed to find how intelligent he was; right away, I realized I was talking to a very sound, good lawyer, which is kind of contrary to the image he portrayed to the press as sort of being a klutz or something. He was anything but. He was a charming, decent guy."

As for Ford, until his death, he maintained how proud he was of his decision to name Stevens to the court. In 2005, Ford sent a letter to the Fordham Law School which said, in part, that Stevens, "served his nation well, at all times carrying out his judicial duties with dignity, intellect and without partisan political concerns.

"Justice Stevens has made me, and our fellow citizens, proud of my three-decade-old decision to appoint him to the Supreme Court," Ford wrote. Stevens has the letter framed in his chambers.

Stevens was born in Chicago in April 1920 to a wealthy South Side family. His father owned the famed Stevens Hotel, which is now the Chicago Hilton. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1941 and then served as a Navy intelligence officer. He graduated from Northwestern University Law School in 1947.

Stevens was just a few years away from breaking the record for the longest serving member of the court held by William O. Douglas who stepped down after 36 years on the bench. But former Stevens clerks say their boss had no interest in breaking records.

Unlike most other justices, he wrote the first draft of his opinions himself, he continues to play tennis and commutes to his home in Florida. He told Joan Biskupic of USA Today that he was surprised at the frenzy of speculation over his retirement. "That can't be news," he said in October, declining to reveal his plans. "I'm not exactly a kid."

Asked about his legacy in the 2007 interview with ABC, Stevens said he wanted to be remembered on the basis of the opinions he's written. "There's an awful lot of them. They'd have to pick and choose among them," he said. "But you leave -- you know, you leave your record on what you had to say over the years.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


House Judiciary subcommittee meets to discuss growing population of women behind bars 

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Like 80% of women incarcerated in the U.S., Cynthia Shank was a mother when she went to prison.

Shank was pregnant when she was indicted and like many incarcerated women, she served time for nonviolent offenses -- in her case, she was sentenced to 15-years for federal conspiracy charges related to crimes committed by her deceased ex-boyfriend. Nearly 150,000 women are pregnant when they are admitted into prison.

Shank, along with other prison reform advocates, appeared in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee for a hearing on women in the criminal justice system to discuss ways to make sure women are not overlooked in the conversation on criminal justice reform.

"Prison destroyed my small young family," Shank said. "Prison is set up to separate and destroy bonds."

She shared harrowing stories with the subcommittee, detailing what it was like being a mother in prison and what she saw other mothers go through during their imprisonment.

"I had to witness and hear the cries of mothers at night who just had to sign over custody of their children because they could no longer be there for them and they were taken away from them," Shank said.

Piper Kerman, author of the novel turned Netflix series "Orange is the New Black," also shared what her experience was like while imprisoned and why there needs to be a shift in policy to directly impact the growing number of women in prison.

"Policies, not crime, drive incarceration," Kerman said.

Women are now the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population and initiatives to slow and even reverse the growth of the prison population have had disproportionately less effect on women, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. The total number of men incarcerated in state prisons fell more than 5% between 2009 and 2015, while the number of women in state prisons fell only a fraction of a percent, 0.29%

"In a number of states, women’s prison populations are growing faster than men’s, and in others, they are going up while men’s are actually declining," said Aleks Kajstura, legal director of the Prison Policy Initiative.

The war on drugs is what many of the panelists and lawmakers pointed to as part of the reason there are such high rates of women incarcerated.

"Much of the growth of women in prisons can be attributed to the war on drugs," said Jesselyn McCurdy, deputy director of the Washington legislative office for the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Addressing this unfair issue is important because the war on drugs appears to be a large driver of the incarceration rates of women, as illustrated by the fact that the proportion of women in prison for a drug offense has increased from 12% in 1986 to 25% in more recent years." Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said.

An estimated 61% of women are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, according to The Sentencing Project.

McCurdy touched on what many women, including Shank, fall victim to in the criminal justice system --conspiracy charges as they relate to a significant other, also known as the "Girlfriend problem."

"You don’t have to necessarily have dealt drugs, you have to have some role in a conspiracy and that role is very little," McCurdy said. "You can pick up the phone in your house that you live in with your partner and that’s enough to implicate you in a conspiracy."

Family trauma was also a major focal point of the hearing, as lawmakers turned to the panel to seek their insight on the best ways to address the trauma of family separation. Shank told the subcommittee members that while she was incarcerated in a federal prison in Florida, she was only able to see her children once a year and that her children would beg her not to hang up the phone when they spoke.

"I'm an adult, I accepted the consequences of my sentencing, but my children were the innocent victims of this," Shank said.

The committee also spent time discussing the relationship between male prison guards and female inmates, with both Shank and Kerman saying that there needs to be more attention on the safety of women who are behind bars with male guards.

"I never felt safe changing," Shank said. "Guards know your schedule, and if they want to single you out they will."

Panelists were also asked to speak on the need of bail reform for women behind bars, as 1 in 4 women who are incarcerated have not been convicted and over 60% of women who could not make bail are parents of minor children, according to the Prison Policy Initiative. Kerman said that there needs to be primary care consideration in the courts that require judges to consider the impact on families in both pre-trial hearings and sentencing.

"Women will no longer be overlooked in the criminal justice conversation," Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., said. "We must have an overall approach to criminal justice reform that specifically considers women.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Judge finds longtime Trump confidante Roger Stone in violation of gag order

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A federal judge has banned Roger Stone, the longtime confidant to President Donald Trump, from using social media after finding him in violation of a court-issued gag order on Tuesday.

In doing so, U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Stone not to "post or communicate on Instagram Twitter or Facebook in any way or any subject."

"It seems as if once again I am wrestling with behavior that has to do more with middle school than a court of law," Jackson said Tuesday. "Whether the problem is that you can't follow simple orders or you won't, I need to help you out."

Tuesday's hearing reflected an ongoing dispute over Stone's rabble-rousing presence on social media.

In February, Stone targeted Jackson in an inflammatory Instagram post that resulted in her putting him under a gag order, officially preventing him from speaking publicly about the case. In March, after Stone's publisher re-released one of his books with fresh criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller, Jackson warned him of the "cost and consequences" of violating her order.

Mueller indicted Stone in January on five counts of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Stone has pleaded not guilty to all seven counts, and his trial is expected to begin in November. The charges brought by Mueller's office largely revolve around false statements Stone is accused of making to the House Intelligence Committee regarding his communications with associates about WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.

During a lengthy dressing-down of the political provocateur and his legal team on Tuesday, Jackson walked through several instances in which Stone made comments to reporters and posted to social media about matters surrounding his case. The judge cited specific images Stone posted to Instagram, including a photo of Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., with the label, "Bull Schiff."

Last month, government prosecutors filed court documents asking the judge to reconsider the terms of Stone's release as a result of those social media posts, which "risk tainting the jury pool," prosecutors wrote at the time.

On Tuesday, federal prosecutor Jonathan Kravis argued that Stone's social media posts "clearly violate" the court's gag order.

"These most recent posts are based on what we believe are factual misrepresentations in a defense filing about a subject that is not actually relevant to the trial," Kravis argued, "but that threatens to contaminate the jury pool."

Kravis proposed that the court revoke Stone's access to social media, but stopped short of asking Jackson to send Stone to pre-trial detention.

Jackson considered prosecutors' accusations from the bench on Tuesday, probing Stone's legal team to explain how the posts do not violate the gag order.

"Was there anything unclear about my order?" she asked repeatedly of Stone's attorney, Bruce Rogow.

Meanwhile, defense counsel for Stone sought to tamp down Jackson's visible frustration while defending their client.

"From the tone of your questions, I get the sense that you are not happy with Mr. Stone," Rogow said, but argued that "this is not a violation of the court order."

Rogow said he planned to formally submit a request to have the judge dismiss his gag order entirely, arguing that "the whole underlying premise, I think, is a false premise to begin with."

A skeptical Judge Jackson warned Rogow, "You’ve got a tough road to go there."

After court adjourned, ABC News asked Stone for his reaction to the expanded gag order preventing his social media use.

"I'm sorry, I can't speak to that on the court house property," Stone replied.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Trump refuses to walk back attacks on freshmen Democrats as calls for impeachment grow

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is not backing down from his attacks on several female lawmakers as House Democrats call for his impeachment.

“The Democrat Congresswomen have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate, & yet they get a free pass and a big embrace from the Democrat Party. Horrible anti-Israel, anti-USA, pro-terrorist & public shouting of the F...word, among many other terrible things, and the petrified Dems run for the hills. Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.

He later added that his original tweets "were NOT Racist. I don't have a racist bone in my body!"

Trump has been criticizing the "squad" of freshman lawmakers -- Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. -- for what he characterized as “horrible and disgusting actions.”

"When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!" Trump said in a tweet.

Omar appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show Monday night, calling for the president’s impeachment and asserting that his agenda “is the agenda of white nationalists.”

“We are suggesting he committed high crimes and misdemeanors and it's about time we start the process and impeach this president,” Omar said.

Trump’s attacks on the freshman lawmakers of color have sparked intense debate with critics referring to them as xenophobic and racist.

Democratic Rep. Al Green announced Monday at a press conference that he plans to introduce articles of impeachment this month due to Trump's “bigotry.”

"This is not about the Mueller report," he said. "This is not about obstruction. We can impeach this president for his bigotry in policy that is harming our society."

"This is about the president's statement that they should go back,” Green added. “That statement in and of itself is a racist, bigoted statement."

A Pew Research poll from April found that 56% of Americans polled believe Trump has made race relations in the U.S. worse.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ABC News Radio