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Saturday
Apr212018

Sessions told White House counsel he would consider resigning if Rosenstein were fired, sources say

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a phone conversation with White House counsel Don McGahn he would consider resigning if President Donald Trump were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, sources familiar with the matter confirms to ABC News.

The conversation happened a week ago and just days after a meeting at the White House between Roseinstein and Trump. Sources said at the time the meeting was focused on congressional requests for documents from the Justice Department.

Sessions' phone conversation was first reported by the Washington Post.

Amid speculation that Trump was considering firing both Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he declared earlier this week: "They've been saying I'm going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they're still here."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Apr212018

EPA chief recorded a single, one-hour meeting on day 1 of Morocco trip

Jason Andrew/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) --  The Environmental Protection Agency has released new details about Administrator Scott Pruitt's schedule in Morocco last year that show he was scheduled for only one meeting on the first day of the costly trip.

The new details about Pruitt’s schedule came in an updated response to a records request from ABC News and other news organizations on the Morocco trip, which generated controversy both about his spending habits and his justification for being there. Earlier this month, the EPA released the six-page schedule from Pruitt's 47-hour North Africa trip with four pages blacked out.

On Friday the EPA made public an un-redacted version of the schedule after criticism from government watchdog groups about the agency’s lack of transparency.

The newly released version of the calendar showed the four previously blacked out pages of his calendar did not include any additional meetings beyond those already released.

“The four-page redaction to the Morocco schedule is simply a calendar entry for a Senior Staff Meeting at EPA Headquarters in DC, which the Administrator did not attend because he was in Morocco," EPA Spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement. “The entry includes all attendees invited to the meeting, which is the reason for the extensive redaction.”

Wilcox said Saturday that Pruitt originally had more meetings scheduled that first day in Morocco but his plans changed after weather delayed his flight out of Dulles International Airport on Dec. 9. He did not immediately respond to a request for details about those meetings.

“Due to snow in Washington, Administrator Pruitt’s outbound flight was delayed, he missed his connection in Paris, spent the night there and flew out the next morning," Wilcox said in a statement.

The document release, however, did not address questions from Democratic lawmakers about the number and nature of Pruitt’s meetings.

"For a trip … that included at least 10 EPA staff, your official business consisted of one full working day, and two days each with one, one-hour meeting," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., a top Democratic on the committee with oversight of EPA, wrote in recent letter to Pruitt.

Adam Marshall, an attorney with the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, told ABC News on Friday the EPA should not have blacked out the staff meeting in its initial response. The agency’s explanation for the redaction – citing it as part of its “deliberative process” privilege – was improper.

"There have certainly been lots of questions raised as to how the EPA is handling FOIA requests under the current administration and I think that this adds to that growing list of questions as to what is going on when it comes to EPA and FOIA," he told ABC News.

The trip is already under review by the EPA’s inspector general as part of an ongoing audit of Pruitt's travel costs. Multiple Democrats have asked for more information on what prompted the Morocco trip and what Pruitt discussed with Moroccan officials, including the ranking member of the Senate committee with oversight of EPA, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.

In a letter to the EPA inspector general, Carper wrote that he was especially concerned that the EPA listed promoting U.S. exports of natural gas as one of the topics on the trip. Carper wrote in the letter that natural gas is not part of the agency's mission "to protect human health and the environment."

In response to questions about those allegations, an EPA spokesman told ABC News that two career EPA officials traveled with Pruitt on the trip, not only political staff, and that liquid natural gas was not the only topic on the agenda, as described in an EPA press release. 

After spending two days in Paris due to travel delays, Pruitt arrived in Rabat, Morocco on December 11, with one meeting listed on his schedule for that day. The next day he held several meetings and toured an energy park before traveling to Marrakesh and having breakfast with the director of the Moroccan renewable energy agency. He then flew back to Washington on December 13.

Congressional sources conservatively estimated the trip cost at least $40,000, including a first-class flight that cost nearly $17,000 for Pruitt alone. Federal guidelines allow officials to fly first-class on international trips but the expense caught the attention of investigators who were already looking into the cost of Pruitt's international and domestic travel.

The EPA did not publicly announce the trip to Morocco ahead of time but said in a press release after the trip that Pruitt met with Moroccan leaders on U.S. environmental priorities, the U.S.-Morocco Free Trade Agreement, and the benefit of liquid natural gas imports for the country. Pruitt also toured a green energy facility during the visit.

The EPA's inspector general agreed to review Pruitt's personal travel this week, according to Whitehouse's office, in addition to ongoing audits of the cost of his official travel and security detail.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Apr212018

In memos, Comey describes Trump's reactions to dossier, concerns over Flynn

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In newly released copies of memos written by James Comey, the former FBI director describes what he says were Donald Trump's strenuous and repeated objections to claims that prostitutes visited his Moscow hotel room in 2013 as well as the president's "serious reservations" about his embattled national security adviser.

"There were no prostitutes; there were never prostitutes," Comey recalled Trump saying in one of the memos.

ABC News obtained copies of the memos, which are partially redacted, on Thursday after the Justice Department turned over 15 pages of declassified material to Congress. Top House Republicans had requested the documents and threatened to subpoena for them. DOJ plans to transmit unredacted copies of the memos on Friday.

The memos, which emerged as a flashpoint in the ongoing Trump-Russia probe, detail Comey’s recollections of exchanges with the president about Russian campaign interference and the broader Russia investigation. They include notes of conversations about the Trump Tower briefing on the Russia allegations, on a private White House dinner, and on controversial meetings during which Comey says Trump asked for his loyalty and for him to end the Flynn investigation. Trump has denied making those requests.

Flynn’s lawyer declined to comment for this story.

Some of Comey's notes closely mirror the account of the interactions with Trump he has provided in congressional testimony, in his new book and in recent television interviews. But the newly released memos also feature previously unreported details and exchanges, including Trump's complaints about retired Gen. Michael Flynn's judgment. He expressed concern that Flynn, who served briefly as his national security adviser, did not alert him about a congratulatory call from a head of state whose name is redacted in the memo released Thursday. A knowledgeable source confirmed to ABC News it was Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Comey said Trump pointed to his head when describing Flynn, and said, "The guy has serious judgment issues."

"I did not comment at any point during this topic and there was no mention or acknowledgement of any FBI interest in or contact with General Flynn," Comey wrote.

In a meeting several days later, then-chief of staff Reince Priebus asked Comey, "Do you have a FISA order on Michael Flynn?" according to Comey's memo. Comey said he responded to Priebus and explained how Priebus should ask similar questions in the future through established White House-Justice Department channels.

The question from Priebus came after former acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned the White House that Flynn was susceptible to blackmail regarding his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

Flynn later became one of the most senior Trump aides to cut a deal with prosecutors and agree to assist in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into meddling in the 2016 election. He pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

Other memos from Comey shed light on Trump's reactions to allegations, some of them salacious, in the so-called dossier -- an unverified, opposition-research document prepared by a former British intelligence officer, and paid for by Trump's political rivals.

One memo describes a meeting in which Comey says Trump remarked that Russian President Vladimir Putin had told him that Russia has "some of the most beautiful hookers in the world," without explaining when the conversation took place, according to Comey’s notes.

In a joint statement, Reps. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the chairmen who requested declassified versions of the memos last week, described the documents as "Defense Exhibit A" in a criminal case for obstruction of justice, arguing that they show Comey was motivated by animus, and did not feel that Trump was attempting to obstruct the Russia investigation in real time.

"While former Director Comey went to great lengths to set dining room scenes, discuss height requirements, describe the multiple times he felt complimented, and myriad other extraneous facts, he never once mentioned the most relevant fact of all, which was whether he felt obstructed in his investigation," they wrote.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said the memos are "strong corroborating evidence" of Comey’s claims that Trump "wanted his personal loyalty, that he wanted to end the Russia investigation, and that he wanted Michael Flynn to walk."

"President Trump’s interference was a blatant effort to deny justice, and Director Comey was right to document it as it happened -- in real time," Cummings said.

Comey said in a CNN interview Thursday he was "fine" with his memos being released to the public.

Trump again lashed out at Comey on Twitter late Friday night. The president said Comey illegally leaked documents to the press and that the special counsel's investigation was "based on an illegal act." He also spelled "counsel" wrong twice in the tweet.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Apr212018

'The next generation is us': Chicago teen hopes to change community, gun policy through voting

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Arieyanna Williams remembers being 9 years old and staring at the two bloody handprints on a wall near the front door of her aunt’s home in Chicago.

She pressed one of her small palms against the blood-stained concrete wall as a final goodbye to her father.

The night before, Williams was watching classic television shows with her mother while her four younger sisters were sound asleep. She was drifting to sleep when her mother received that frantic phone call from her aunt that forever changed all of their lives.

Her aunt told them the bad news: Williams’ father had been shot and killed.

“We cried all night long,” Williams said.

After being shot, Williams’ father tried to seek help from his sister and walked a block to her home where he collapsed at her front door, leaving the bloody handprints behind.

He later died in an ambulance from his wounds.

“It felt very unreal,” Williams told ABC News after she placed her hand on her father’s handprints.

Now 17 years old, Williams remembers her father, not as a man gunned down in a gang-related conflict, but as a man who loved her deeply.

“He would always tell me he loved me,” Williams said. “He spent time with me and he’d always make sure I had everything I needed.”

And his death and those of her two uncles and others in her community have inspired her to advocate for peaceful solutions to conflict and for what she sees as the need for gun policy reform.

She turns 18 in a few months and is eager to vote for the first time in Illinois’ general election in November.

“The only time you have a voice is when you get to vote,” Williams said.

Life after death

For a while, she thought she had lost her voice, lost herself.

“After my father’s death, I became angry,” Williams told ABC News. “I got into fights -- I felt alone.”

Williams also wrote poetry as a way to give voice to her pain.

 “I often wrote about my father ... how he didn’t get to see me grow up to what I wanted to be,” Williams said. “I’d also write about my future.”

Writing was also an activity she could do indoors -- it was often far too dangerous to play outside in her inner-city Chicago neighborhood where sometimes innocent bystanders were shot and killed in random acts of crime-related violence.

So she would stay safe within the walls of her home and play video games with her four sisters, sing karaoke and listen to her favorite boy band, One Direction.

As a freshman at North Lawndale High School, Williams wouldn’t say much to anyone.

“I would separate myself from everyone,” Williams said. “I didn’t want to be there.”

It wasn’t until sophomore year that Williams’ life began to get better. She met the man she calls her “guardian angel,” Gerald Smith.

In his leadership development class, Smith took notice of the introverted, articulate teen who he praises as an "outstanding writer."

 “I recognized she had the ability to be a leader,” Smith told ABC News. “I’ve been blessed with a gift to recognize leadership. I recognize it even when students don’t see it themselves.”

“He introduced the Peace Warriors to me,” Williams told ABC News of the group of minority students from Chicago who for a decade have been addressing issues of gun violence. “I thought this isn’t going to change anything for me, but Mr. Smith was persistent. He told me it could help me not forget about situations but help resolve my anger.”

Smith eventually broke down all the walls Williams tried to subtly build and she joined the Peace Warriors.

Life as a Peace Warrior

“After joining, I wanted to make friends,” Williams said. “We all bonded over our hurt and it made us family...that’s the thing about Peace Warriors, we’re a family.”

The Peace Warriors are a student based organization that seeks peaceful resolutions to conflicts using Dr. Martin Luther King’s non-violence philosophies. They work to serve as examples to peers in the hopes of decreasing violence in their community.

There are currently a total of 120 Peace Warriors at North Lawndale College Prep High School.

After joining the organization, Williams says she’s seen a change in herself. She devotes her time teaching principles of peaceful conflict resolution in her school and surrounding schools in the Chicago area.

And through that work, she has found her voice.

“I’ve seen a difference in myself,” Williams said. “I feel like I was born to be a leader, but I didn’t see it until joining the Peace Warriors.”

Williams sees herself as a role model to the younger generation, including her four younger sisters -- one, a freshman at the same school is set to become a future Peace Warrior, according to Smith.

Smith also has seen a tremendous change in his once quiet student.

“She’s quiet, but when she talks everyone listens," Smith said. "If you walk into a room you may not even notice her, but she is the heart of the Peace Warriors.”

She and her fellow Peace Warriors found common ground with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students who faced tragedy in February after a gunman went on a shooting rampage, killing 17 people.

Williams said she walked into that March 3 meeting with the Parkland students, observed her surroundings and introduced herself. She didn’t want to insert herself into conversation immediately but listened.

“At first the conversation was tense,” Williams said. “They shared their stories and I sat there thinking we’re from two different worlds. We see this kind of stuff every day.”

One Parkland student admitted she recognized her "white privilege" and wanted to use her platform to give the Peace Warriors representing Chicago and all inner cities across America a voice on a national platform.

Williams along with her Peace Warrior companions attended the March for Our Lives Rally in Washington, D.C. later that month. Williams did not take the stage but felt as though she was solidly represented by her friends.

“I felt like they were speaking for me because we share the same story,” Williams said. “It’s like we could cry because we finally got to say what we wanted to say - we were finally heard.”

In response to the Parkland High School shooting, Illinois House members pushed measures for gun reform including setting the minimum age to possess a semiautomatic assault weapon at 21, a ban on bump stocks and setting a 72-hour waiting period for the sale of any assault weapon.

Amid her journey calling for peace against gun violence in her community and meeting with the students of the Parkland High School shooting, Smith took heed to Williams’ interest in policies.

“I see her as a social activist and having a career in politics,” Williams told ABC News. “I see her ability to affect policy.”

‘18 for 18’

Williams will turn 18 on June 4 and she plans to use her platform to encourage other 18-year-olds in her community to get to the polls to vote.

“What do they support? Stricter gun laws? Do they believe in nonviolent neighborhoods? Are they going to provide more jobs for the community to help decrease gang activity? Can they use the titles they hold to better our communities?” Williams said. “I want whoever I vote for to have the ability to listen and not be so influenced by money.”

Williams has ideas stashed away on how lawmakers can improve their communities like more after-school programs, increased social media involvement, and more peace rallies and marches. 

She also has a strong message for whoever will be voted in office.

“If you don’t see and hear us, you won’t be running in the next election,” Williams said. “The next generation is us.”

In the meantime, Williams is focusing on walking across the stage to get her hands on her high school diploma. She has Michigan State set on her mind as the college of her choice. There, she will study education in preparation to become a teacher.

She hopes to one day teach at North Lawndale.

“It’s all about going back where I came from and not forgetting where I came from.”

Although graduation is not too far away, Williams' work as a Peace Warrior will continue.

“Arieyanna is going to go places I can’t even fathom,” Smith told ABC News. “She left a legacy here.”

For Williams' the mission is unfinished and she is determined to see it through.

“Students say Chicago will never see change, but I believe we will,” Williams said. “It takes one step at a time.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr202018

DNC files federal lawsuit against Russia, Trump campaign and associates

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Democratic National Committee named the Russian government, the Trump campaign, Trump family members, WikiLeaks and others Friday in a sweeping lawsuit making a detailed case for collusion between the Russians and Trump campaign operatives.

“No one is above the law and the perpetrators of this attack must be held accountable,” Tom Perez, the DNC chairman said in a statement. “They successfully hacked the Democratic Party in 2016 and they will be back. We must prevent future attacks on our democracy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing today. This is not partisan, it’s patriotic.”

The DNC alleges a wide-ranging “Russia-Trump conspiracy” and relies on the same racketeering statutes have been employed in taking down the mob.

“The conspiracy constituted an act of previously unimaginable treachery: the campaign of the presidential nominee of a major party in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the Presidency,” the lawsuit alleges.

The defendants in the case include both Russian nationals and prominent figures in the Trump campaign, including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Several of those named, like Manafort, have been charged by special counsel Robert Mueller. Democrats said they have written a first draft of what they undoubtedly hope criminal prosecutors will find.

The president is not named personally, but his campaign is one of the defendants.

“This is a sham lawsuit about a bogus Russian collusion claim filed by a desperate, dysfunctional, and nearly insolvent Democratic Party,” Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign manager, who in a statement described the lawsuit as a ploy to grab attention and raise money. “They’ve sunk to a new low to raise money, especially among small donors who have abandoned them,” he said.

Representatives for Trump Jr. have not responded to request for comment.

A spokesperson for Manafort declined to comment as did a spokesman for Kushner.

ABC News has reached out to the other individuals named in the suit for whom the network has contacts and many either declined to comment or did not immediately respond.

Scott Balber, an attorney for a billionaire Russian developer and his son, Aras and Emin Agalarov, both named in the suit, called it “plainly frivolous.”

“My clients had absolutely nothing to do with any alleged hacking of DNC computer networks or any effort to influence the US election,” Balber said. “The complaint appears to be nothing more than a publicity stunt.”

The Democratic party, which is seeking both financial damages and an admission of responsibility in the case, alleged widespread harm caused by the hack. That included disruption of the party’s activities during the height of the campaign, and also gave rise to “frightening and sometimes life-threatening harassment.”

“On July 23, 2016, multiple DNC employees received an email stating: ‘I hope all your children get raped and murdered. I hope your family knows nothing but suffering, torture, and death,’” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit opens the door to discovery and depositions of many of the central players from the Trump campaign who have been alleged to be involved in attempting to make maximum political use of hacked DNC emails.

The complaint alleges that the Russia federation along with WikiLeaks and senior Trump campaign officials worked to disseminate hacked material to disrupt the DNC’s efforts to campaign and ultimately undermine the American public’s ability to receive their message. The suit specifically names Roger Stone, a longtime partisan operative and close friend of Trump’s, as someone who knew about the Russian hack of the Clinton campaign chairman before the public.

Stone, who has not responded for calls seeking comment, denied that allegation directly in an interview with ABC News last week.

“I had no advance notice of the source or the content or the exact timing of the WikiLeaks disclosures,” he said. “I never received anything from Assange or WikiLeaks or the Russians or anyone else, including allegedly hacked e-mails and therefore never passed anything onto Donald Trump or the Trump campaign. Those are the facts.”

The DNC case appears to rely almost exclusively on publicly available information, painting a portrait of the extent of the connections between Russians and Trump associates.

"Russia hacked our democracy. This is not some tin hat conspiracy,” said Jane Kleeb, a DNC member and Chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party.

The suit names the Russian intelligence services as a defendant. Cohen, Milstein, Sellers and Toll, the law firm handling the matter for the DNC has a background in suing foreign countries.

The DNC and its legal team have not been in touch with Mueller’s team, but sources with the party told ABC News they believe their civil case can proceed on a parallel track to the Special Counsel’s.

“I do believe this lawsuit has the potential for more discovery in terms of how they went about the hacking, about how they went spreading the information,” said Donna Brazile, who led the Democratic party in the latter stages of the 2016 campaign.

Brazile said she had urged Perez to file the case and was relieved that he moved forward with it, saying she wanted the courts to “make sure those involved in the hacking are brought to justice.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr202018

Missouri Gov. Greitens charged with second felony

Cristina M. Fletes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS via Getty Images(ST. LOUIS) -- Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has been charged with felony computer tampering related to his alleged use of a donor list from his veterans’ charity for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign, according to the state's attorney general.

It’s the second felony charge the Missouri Republican is facing. Greitens also faces a felony charge related to accusations from his former mistress who alleges he bound her hands with tape, put a blindfold on her, took a partially nude photo of her and then threated to release the photo if she mentioned his name, according to a Missouri House committee report.

That charge is for invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a partially or fully nude photo and "subsequently transmitted the image contained in the photograph in a manner that allowed access to that image via a computer."

He faces a criminal trial on that charge on May 14.

Greitens’ attorneys had made a motion to get those charges dismissed but a judge ruled on Thursday that case can proceed.

The latest charge alleges Greitens obtained an electronic donor list without permission from The Mission Continues charity he founded and then used that list for political fundraising as he was preparing to run for the governorship.

Greitens started the organization in 2007 but left it in 2014, before he ran for governor.

The governor has denied all the allegations but he did pay a fine to the state ethics commission for not reporting the list as an in-kind contribution on campaign disclosure forms.

Friday night Greitens put out a statement lashing out at St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.

"By now, everyone knows what this is: this prosecutor will use any charge she can to smear me. Thank goodness for the Constitution and our court system. In the United States of America, you’re innocent until proven guilty," the statement said. "In the United States of America, you get your day in court. And when I have my day in court, I will clear my name. People will know the truth."

Multiple elected officials in the state, including the GOP leaders in both chambers of the state legislature. Additionally both Senate candidates – incumbent Democratic Sen. Clarie McCaskill and her GOP opponent, Attorney General Josh Hawley – have called on Greitens to resign from office.

The controversy around Greitens, once seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, has consumed Missouri politics.

On Tuesday, Greitens tweeted that he would not be resigning the governorship and said he will be proven innocent in court.

Hawley’s office announced Tuesday that his office may have found evidence of a felony by Greitens in an investigation involving the veterans charity. He turned it over to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who has jurisdiction in the matter. It was her decision to charge Greitens.

Hawley said in a statement on Friday that his office is ready to assist as needed.

“St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner reviewed the evidence turned over to her by my office and determined that there is probable cause to file criminal charges against the Governor. The Office stands ready to assist the Circuit Attorney’s Office where appropriate and if needed. These are serious charges—and an important reminder that no one is above the law in Missouri. Like all criminal defendants, Governor Greitens is presumed innocent under the law until proven guilty,” he said.

The governor is fighting for his political life.

But a Missouri state house committee released a bombshell investigative report last week detailing an alleged nonconsensual sexual encounter with his former hairdresser.

Greitens has admitted to the affair but said it was consensual. He claims he is the victim of a “witch hunt.”

That bipartisan investigative committee – comprised of five Republicans and two Democrats – is expected to release a second report next week focused on the charity.

Statehouse officials have also said they could hold a special session after the regular legislative session ends in May to focus on the impeachment of the governor.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr202018

Coons announces opposition to Pompeo, cuts off path to favorable committee vote

Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, announced Friday that he will not vote to support the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state, officially closing the door on Pompeo’s chances of being favorably recommended out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee ahead of a full Senate floor vote.

Coons, the last Democrat on the panel to announce his position, said in a statement that he was encouraged by Pompeo's commitment to the diplomatic corps that he laid out in his confirmation hearing but concluded that the current CIA director and former congressman would embolden rather than temper President Donald Trump's most bellicose instincts.

“I do not make this decision lightly or without reservations," Coons said in a statement. "I remain concerned that Director Pompeo will not challenge the President in critical moments. On vital decisions facing our country, Director Pompeo seems less concerned with rule of law and partnership with our allies and more inclined to emphasize unilateral action and the use of force."

Coons also said he was concerned with some of Pompeo's past statements made over his political career on "a range of issues."

Republicans on the 21-person committee hold a slim one-seat majority over Democrats. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., also opposes Pompeo's nomination to be the nation’s top diplomat. That meant Pompeo needed the support of at least one Democrat on the committee to get the simple majority needed for a favorable recommendation.

But with Coons’ announcement, all ten Democrats on the committee have now announced that they would not support Pompeo.

Coons’ position is not a surprise. He had said as late as Thursday afternoon that he was “leaning against” Pompeo's nomination and he also voted against him to serve as CIA director last year.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on Pompeo’s nomination Monday.

With the option of a favorable recommendation off the table, they can still report the nomination to the Senate floor with an unfavorable recommendation or simply take no action. And the full Senate will still vote on his confirmation, which is likely to succeed.

But the fact that Pompeo’s confirmation will not be referred favorably to the full Senate is an almost unprecedented rebuke from the committee of jurisdiction. The last time any cabinet-level nominee who was reported unfavorably by a committee but went on to be confirmed by the full Senate was 73 years ago when Henry Wallace was confirmed to be the secretary of commerce on March 1, 1945.

Past secretaries of state, including Condoleezza Rice, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton have breezed through their respective confirmations, receiving strong tallies from both sides of the aisle.

While Pompeo will not receive the support of any of the ten Senate Foreign Committee Democrats, at least one member of the caucus has announced she will vote for him: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is facing a tough re-election fight in a state that voted heavily for President Donald Trump in 2016.

If no other Republican besides Paul opposes Pompeo in the Senate floor vote, Heitkamp’s support means he will have just enough votes to be confirmed, including Vice President Mike Pence’s tie-breaking vote.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr202018

Strong fundraising numbers boost Senate Democrats in battle to control upper chamber

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Most Democratic Senate candidates brought in strong fundraising hauls for the first quarter of 2018, the latest reports show, a positive sign for a party defending multiple seats and leaving some Republicans playing catch up in the race for campaign cash.

Democrats are defending more seats on the map in November than the GOP in their uphill battle to win control of the Senate. They need a treasure trove of dollars to defend their seats plus pick up the two they need to control the upper chamber.

Adding to the financial pressures are the number of seats the party is defending, meaning as the election gets closer, resources will get tighter and, if the candidates don’t have the cash to get themselves across the finish line, they may not be able to count on the party to bail them out.

But several Democratic contenders in competitive contests were in good financial shape in the first quarter of this year, especially those Democrats running for reelection in red states won by Donald Trump in 2016. There are, however, three quarters left to go.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly and Montana Sen. Jon Tester all outraised their GOP rivals.

And two Democratic challengers – Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Jacky Rosen in Nevada – outraised the GOP incumbents they are challenging.

“Senate Democrats’ strong fundraising reflects the wave of grassroots support and enthusiasm that will help propel our campaigns to victory in November,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Congressional Committee, in a statement.

Republicans acknowledge the political climate across the country makes it tougher on them to fundraise.

“Most of the incumbents that are running are Democrats and normally incumbents have a much easier time raising money,” said Republican strategist Alex Conant. “They have some natural advantages in terms of fundraising that way. Secondly, it’s no secret that there’s a lot of enthusiasm on the Democratic side and I think that’s reflected in fundraising numbers.”

He added: “The Democrats are raising a lot of money but they’re going to need a lot of money.”

But other Democrats didn’t do as well as some of their brethren, falling behind in the money race, in seats the party will need to put in the win column in November.

In West Virginia, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was outraised by one of his GOP rivals – former coal industry executive Don Blankenship – by around half a million dollars. The other two Republican contenders haven't released their fundraising data.

Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was outraised by GOP Rep. Jim Renacci by a little more than $1 million.

In Arizona, Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema was outraised by one of the Republican candidates – Martha McSally – by about $25,000.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson raised $3.2 million but his GOP rival, Gov. Rick Scott, entered the race on April 9 so he didn’t have to file a first-quarter fundraising report.

This could end up being a $100 million race given the state’s expensive media market and the fact Scott has the personal wealth to invest in the contest. He put $83 million of his own money into his two gubernatorial campaigns, according to local newspapers, meaning Democrats are going to need a lot of cash to stay competitive.

In other races, not all the fundraising information was available.

And not all Senate campaign data is available on the Federal Election Commission website at this time. Some campaigns have released their fundraising numbers and local media has reported on others.

Republicans have a two-vote advantage in the upper chamber. They are defending eight seats this year, while Democrats are defending 24 plus the two independents who caucus with them.

Here’s a look at where the numbers are at in some of key races that will decide which party controls the Senate.

Missouri: McCaskill outraised her GOP rival, state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

Hawley raised $1.29 million in the first quarter of 2018, the Kansas City Star reported, with $2.12 million cash on hand.

McCaskill, in contrast, raised $3.9 million and has $11.5 million cash on hand, according to FEC reports.

Florida: Nelson raised $3.2 million and has $10.5 million cash on hand, according to his campaign. Scott did not have to file a report.

West Virginia: Manchin raised $949,000 in the first quarter and has $5.4 million in the bank, according to FEC reports.

GOP candidate Don Blankenship, raised $1.6 million and had $214,000 cash on hand. The other two GOP candidates haven't released their first quarter numbers.

Pennsylvania: Casey raised $2.2 million and has $10 million cash on hand, according to his campaign. And Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, raised $1.26 million and has $1.63 million cash on hand, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

North Dakota: Heitkamp raised $1.6 million and $5.3 million cash on hand while her GOP rival Kevin Cramer raised $1.13 million and has $1.86 million cash on hand, according to a local newspaper.

Nevada: Heller reportedly raised about $1.1 million. Rosen raised $2.57 million and has $3.5 million cash on hand, according to her FEC report.

Indiana: Donnelly raised $1.6 million and $6.4 million cash on hand, according to his FEC report.

Republican Rep. Luke Messer raised $389,000 and has $1.867 million cash on hand while GOP Rep. Todd Rokita raised $426,000 and had $1.86 million cash on hand, according to FEC reports.

Arizona: Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema raised $2.5 million and has $6.69 cash on hand, according to FEC reports.

Republican candidate Martha McSally raised $2.75 million and has $3.18 million cash on hand, according to her campaign.

Of the other two GOP primary candidates, former state Sen. Kelli Ward raised $467,000 for her campaign and KelliPAC, an independent super PAC supporting her, raised another $500,000, according to her campaign.

And Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio raised more than $500,000 with $250,000 cash on hand, according to a local news report.

Texas: Cruz raised $3.2 million across three fundraising committees and has $8.2 million cash on hand, according to the Texas Tribune.

O’Rourke raised $6.7 million and has around $8 million in the bank, according to his campaign.

Wisconsin: Baldwin raised $3.7 million and has $7.8 million cash on hand. And in the GOP primary, Kevin Nicholson raised $1 million and has $800,000.00 cash on hand, while state Sen. Leah Vukmir raised nearly $600,000 and had around $650,000 cash on hand, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Montana: Tester raised $2 million and had $6.8 million cash on hand, according to FEC reports. He easily outraised his four GOP rivals, none of whom raised over 500,000, according to their FEC reports.

Ohio: Brown raised $3.3 million and had $11.8 million cash on hand, according to local reports.

Renacci raised about $4.5 million through his various fundraising committees and had $4.2 million in the bank, according to a campaign statement.

Tennessee:
Former Gov. Phil Bredesen reported $3.2 million in the first quarter, which included a $1.4 million loan from himself. He has $1.7 million cash on hand, according to FEC reports.

GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn raised $2 million and has $6 million cash on hand, according to her FEC filings.

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Friday
Apr202018

DHS confirms agreement with California on Guard troops despite Trump objections

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- The Trump administration and California have reached an agreement that the state's National Guard will deploy only in support of the U.S. Border Patrol, according to a Homeland Security official, despite President Donald Trump complaining that the troops will "do nothing" and the federal government won't pay.

California National Guard troops will support the Border Patrol with radio communications, motor transport operations, training administration operations, paralegal administration, planning, intelligence analysis, and surveillance camera operations and will not be involved in law enforcement, according to DHS, as is similar for all the state Guard troops being deployed.

This specific mission was agreed to on Thursday, according to the DHS official.

This comes after Trump slammed California's Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, tweeting on Thursday that the federal government "will not be paying for Governor Brown's charade," even though a press release from Brown Wednesday night had said he secured "the federal government's commitment to fund the mission."

"Governor Jerry Brown announced he will deploy “up to 400 National Guard Troops” to do nothing. The crime rate in California is high enough, and the Federal Government will not be paying for Governor Brown’s charade. We need border security and action, not words!," tweeted Trump on Thursday.

The head of the National Guard, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, testified on Tuesday before the Senate Appropriations Committee that the National Guard's 2018 budget will not cover the costs for these troops, so the Department of Defense is looking within its own department for that funding.

The cost of Guardsmen at the southwest border is about the same as that of Guardsmen serving elsewhere in the state, he added.

On Thursday afternoon, the California National Guard tweeted that it had “received written confirmation from the Pentagon" that it will continue to fund the mission and personnel consistent with the order issued by Brown.

And followed up with, “In short, nothing has changed today.”

Brown's office re-tweeted the California National Guard's confirmation of funding.

And on Wednesday, DHS Secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen thanked Brown and tweeted that the "final details" were being worked out.

National Guard support is intended to free up Border Patrol Agents so they can conduct law enforcement activities at the border, including more agents, investigators, and prosecutors, as part of a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money, according to a DHS official.

The request for assistance that was signed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis a few weeks ago and authorizes states to deploy under what is known as Title 32 statues, according to DHS.

Guardsmen across all border states will not perform any federal, state, local or tribal enforcement functions and will not be employed in Border Patrol missions that place them in direct contact with personnel on the border nor will they be required to be armed to perform their assigned their CBP missions,” said Lieutenant General Daniel Hokanson on Monday.

While the Guardsmen won’t be required to be armed, it will be up the states on whether or not they will be armed for protection.

The California governor's office has not yet responded to request for comment on the latest development.

ABC News has also requested comment from the White House.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr202018

Read Former FBI Director James Comey's memos

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Justice Department on Thursday turned over to Congress declassified copies of former FBI director James Comey's memos - his contemporaneous notes about his conversations and encounters with President Donald Trump before he was fired last year.

The 15-page disclosure includes Comey's account of the briefing he gave Trump at Trump Tower about some of the allegations about his contacts with Russia, as well as his later meetings with Trump at the White House, during one in which Comey said that the president asked him for his loyalty and in another in which Comey says Trump told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”

Comey says he took that as the president wanting him to end the investigation into retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s fired former national security adviser.

Comey also said that then-chief of staff Reince Priebus asked him whether Flynn was under government surveillance and that Trump claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin told him Russia had "some of the most beautiful hookers in the world."

Trump, who has previously dismissed the memos as "fake," claimed on Thursday night that the memos exonerated him in the ongoing Russia investigation while criticizing Comey's conduct.

You can read the declassified and partially redacted memos HERE.

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