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Wednesday
Jun212017

Trump on Handel's win: 'Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump was quick to react to Karen Handel's win in Tuesday's special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, writing a series of tweets after it appeared she was slated to beat Democrat Jon Ossoff.

"Things are looking great for Karen H!" tweeted Trump at 10:21 p.m.

The president then proceeded to give Fox News a shout-out for a congratulatory headline.

"Thank you @FoxNews 'Huge win for President Trump and GOP in Georgia Congressional Special Election," Trump wrote.

The commander-in-chief then posted a third tweet, writing "Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!"

Trump kicked off Tuesday tweeting his support for Handel -- whom he described as a "hard worker" -- while slamming Ossoff as a candidate who would raise taxes and be weak on crime.

"Democrat Jon Ossoff, who wants to raise your taxes to the highest level and is weak on crime and security, doesn't even live in district," Trump tweeted at 5:49 a.m.

Thirteen minutes later, he followed up with a tweet supporting Handel.

"KAREN HANDEL FOR CONGRESS," he wrote. "She will fight for lower taxes, great healthcare strong security-a hard worker who will never give up! VOTE TODAY."

And in a nod to the special election in South Carolina -- in which Republican Ralph Norman won -- Trump tweeted, "Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0."

And on Monday, in a nod to the special elections in Georgia and South Carolina, Trump urged residents in those states to vote for the Republican candidate.

"Big day tomorrow in Georgia and South Carolina," he wrote. "ObamaCare is dead. Dems want to raise taxes big! They can only obstruct, no ideas. Vote 'R.'"

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun212017

Republican Karen Handel defends district in Georgia special election

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(ATLANTA) -- Fending off a serious Democratic challenger in a race widely viewed as a barometer of public opinion on President Donald Trump's presidency, Republican Karen Handel won the special election Tuesday to succeed Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price in Georgia's sixth congressional district.

At 11:31 p.m., the office of the Georgia Secretary of State confirmed that, with 100 percent of all precincts reporting, Handel had won by a 52.13 percent-47.87 percent margin. That translated to 132,459 votes for Handel, and 121,635 votes for Ossoff.

President Trump was quick to react to Handel's win, tweeting, "Things are looking great for Karen H!"

And House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., said in a statement, "Congratulations to Karen Handel on a hard-earned and well-deserved victory. Democrats from coast to coast threw everything they had at this race, and Karen would not be defeated. The people of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District are the big winners tonight because they have elected a representative who is going to tirelessly fight for them and their interests."

Ryan continued, "Karen is all business. I’ve campaigned with her and I know how eager she is to get to work. I’m excited to have her as a partner in the House of Representatives, and I look forward to working with her as we tackle our country’s most pressing problems."

Meanwhile, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., a rising star in the Democratic party who supported Nancy Pelosi's challenger in the race to lead House Democrats after the election, says the result of Tuesday's special election is a sign that "business as usual isn't working ... Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future."

At her victory celebration, Handel thanked her supporters and President Trump.

"A special thanks to the president of the United States of America," she said as her supporters chanted, "Trump! Trump! Trump!"

Handel also assured Ossoff's supporters that she will represent them. She preached a message of unity, saying, "we are part of one community, the community of the sixth district."

She also referenced her perseverance in the business and political worlds.

"It's that fighting spirit, that perseverance and tenacity that I will take to Washington," she said Tuesday night.

And in a nod to last week's shooting in Alexandria, Handel said politics has become too embittered.

"My pledge is to be part of the solution, to focus on governing," she said.

Handel told her crowd of supporters that she plans to work on tax reform with lower corporate rates, "but also lower individual rates so that our middle class can participate and our small businesses can participate."

Ossoff expressed a hopeful sentiment in the moments following his loss, while speaking to his supporters, whom he described as a "beacon of hope."

He also thanked supporters for a "hard fought" race, saying that while the outcome was not the one "many of us were hoping for," the race was is "the beginning of something much bigger than us ... the fight goes on." He closed by thanking his fiance and saying that "Hope is still alive."

Handel's defense of the district, occupying the affluent suburbs north of Atlanta, comes as a blow to Ossoff, who raised over $20 million for the race after finishing less than two percentage points shy of achieving a majority and winning the seat outright during the first round of voting April.

Democrats nationwide viewed the special election as an opportunity to mobilize anti-Trump sentiment early in the president's tenure. Though two previous opportunities to flip house seats in special elections in Kansas and Montana fell short this year, Georgia's sixth was thought to be within reach after Hillary Clinton nearly turned the district blue in November.

Clinton fell short of Trump by less than two percentage points in the presidential election, four years after Republican Mitt Romney triumphed over President Barack Obama by a 61-38 percent margin in 2012. No Democrat has represented the district in Congress since 1979.

Donors from across the country showed an outpouring of support for the photogenic 30-year-old Ossoff in his first political race, banking on an influx of younger voters and the changing demographics of the region to carry the documentary film producer to Washington.

The widespread external interest in the candidate -- who lives beyond the borders of the sixth himself -- became a point of contention for Republicans, who decried that over 95 percent of his donations came from outside Georgia. The race ultimately became the most expensive congressional election in U.S. history.

Handel, 55, a former Georgia secretary of state, won the election after falling short in Republican primaries for governor and U.S. senator in 2010 and 2014, respectively. After receiving nearly 20 percent of the vote to finish a distant second to Ossoff in April's jungle primary -- the top finisher in a field of 11 Republicans -- Handel received the backing of the White House, with Trump attending an Atlanta fundraiser in late April and tweeting his support in recent days.

Fundraising for the Republican paled in comparison to the Democrat's total, but Handel was boosted heavily by outside groups. Super PACs and the National Republican Congressional Committee contributed a combined $18.2 million to defend the seat once occupied by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun212017

Rep. Kinzinger shares 'hateful' messages he received after Alexandria shooting

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- Illinois Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger shared on Tuesday a few of the "hateful, vitriolic" messages he received following the June 14 congressional baseball practice shooting at a Virginia park that left his GOP colleague Rep. Steve Scalise in critical condition.

The House Majority Whip's condition has since been upgraded to serious.

Kinzinger, who serves Illinois' 16th Congressional District, posted on Facebook some messages he said he received from the public, writing, "We must rise above the angry rhetoric coming from all sides. Below are just a few of the hateful, vitriolic messages I received AFTER the #AlexandriaShooting. I know this is not the worst of it, and that I’ll get even more comments on this post itself, but it’s shocking and disturbing nonetheless."

Some messages he shared unabashedly embraced violence, while others were a bit tamer.

One tweet, making reference to the shooting taking place at a baseball diamond, reads, "@RepKinzinger Too bad you weren't on second base!!"

Another tweet reads, "GOP IS NASTY VIOLENT PARTY; YOU DESERVE TO SUFFER & DIE!"

"You and GOP responsible for vile/violent actions since you are not working for the people," reads one of the tamer tweets Kinzinger posted.

Another message reads, "I hate you. I want to vote you out of office. That doesn't make me bad. It makes me quite smart."

"For the sake of our democracy, for the sake of future generations watching, listening, and reading these comments, we must do better to restore our civility," wrote Kinzinger, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, adding that he is also looking inward, as well. "As I said last week, that includes me -– I am committed to changing my tone and will encourage others in debate to disagree without being disagreeable. It’s time to #RestoreCivility."

Following the shooting in Alexandria by gunman James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Illinois -- who was killed in a shootout with police -- Kinzinger said in a statement, "What happened today was a targeted act of senseless violence from a disturbed individual. This hate will not divide us; it will unite us."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Trump calls Otto Warmbier’s death ‘disgrace,’ says he should have been rescued from North Korea sooner

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump called the death of Otto Warmbier, American student freed from North Korea, a “disgrace,” Tuesday.

“I think it’s a disgrace what happened to Otto,” Trump said during a pool spray alongside Ukraine’s president, adding that Warmbier should have been brought home sooner.

Many other politicians and public figures have also expressed dismay and outrage.

Warmbier, 22, passed away just days after he was returned home, following 17 months of detainment in North Korea. Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center examined Warmbier last week upon his return to Ohio and reported that he had severe brain damage and was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness."

"It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died," his parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier wrote Monday.

"Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible."

The family added that they are also "at peace" and "at home."

Many politicians and public figures have responded to his parents’ announcement, offering their sympathies and condemning the actions of North Korea.

President Trump offered his “deepest” condolences to the family and condemned the “brutality” of the North Korean regime Monday. In comments at the start of a meeting with top tech CEOs.

"A lot of bad things happened but at least we got him home to be with his parents," Trump said. "It’s a brutal regime and we’ll be able to handle it."

In an interview with CBS News, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that while it’s not clear if North Korea killed Warmbier, they have "heavy responsibility."

"This had happened while Mr. Warmbier was in the detention of North Korean authorities," Moon Jae-in said Tuesday. "But I believe it is quite clear that they have a heavy responsibility in the process that led to Mr. Warmbier’s death."

Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., took a different approach to the news, calling for a tourist travel ban to North Korea.

"Travel propaganda lures far too many people to North Korea," Royce said. "The United States should ban tourist travel to North Korea."

Reactions from politicians came quickly. Secretary Tillerson said in a statement that the U.S. holds North Korea accountable for Warmbier’s "unjust imprisonment."

Vice President Pence


Sen. John McCain


House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

 


Sen. Marco Rubio


The University of Virginia, the school Warmbier attended and would have graduated from this May, issued a statement Monday.

"It is with great sadness that we learned of Otto’s passing this afternoon," University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan wrote. "Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family and friends during what has been an incredibly difficult time. He will be missed by all those who knew and loved him."

Gov. of Ohio John Kasich


Lt. Governor Ralph Northam

 

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Majority of Americans from both parties believe Comey more than Trump, CBS poll finds

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump’s approval rating has fallen to 36 percent, according to a new poll from CBS News. Americans from both parties question his response to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and 57 percent are more inclined to believe former FBI Director James Comey than the commander-in-chief, the poll found.

The poll was conducted via landlines and cell phones from June 15 to June 18, with a random sample of 1,117 adults from around the country. The results have a margin of error of 4 percent.

This approval rating is the lowest recorded in CBS News Polls since he became president. Past CBS polling showed that Trump had a 39 percent approval rating when he took office in January and a 43 percent approval rating in April.

Only 9 percent of Democrats now approve of Trump, a number that has dropped one percentage point since Trump passed the 100-day mark in April.

The president has also lost ground in this own party: 72 percent of Republicans approve of Trump now, as compared to 83 percent at the 100-day mark, a notable eleven percent drop.

According to Gallup data, President Obama’s lowest approval rate among his own party during his eight years in office was also 72 percent, three years into his presidency in October 2011.

An ABC News/Washington Post poll about Trump’s first 100 days released in April showed a 53 percent disapproval, 42 percent approval rate.

The CBS poll found that 63 percent of Americans disapprove of how Trump has handled the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. A vast majority of Americans from both parties -- 81 percent -- think Trump should not try to stop Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and 56 percent of respondents said they think the investigation will be impartial.

Only one out of every five Republicans believe the investigation is a critical security matter, and more than half think the investigations are a political distraction. But on the other side of the aisle, only 32 percent see the investigations as a distraction, while 27 percent see it was a serious issue, and 39 percent view it as a critical issue of national security.

When it comes to Trump’s handling of the investigation into Russian interference, 60 percent of the those polled said it does not affect their view of him, while 35 percent of Americans said they it makes them think worse of him, according to CBS. Trump's response to the investigation has a greater effect than his stance on the economy or his response to the recent Congressional shooting in Virginia.

The percentage of those polled who now believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 election increased four points, from 40 percent in March to 44 percent in June, according to CBS. Now, 31 percent of people think there was no Russian interference, down from 37 percent. 18 percent of Americans think Russia did interfere, but not in Trump’s favor, up from 10 percent in the March poll.

Nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed by CBS agree that Trump is more interested in protecting himself than protecting the U.S. from Russian interference, which only 30 percent believe he values more. This includes one-third of Republican voters who now think that Trump is prioritizing his own administration over the nation in this regard.

A majority of Americans say they believe Comey’s testimony over Trump’s statements, with 57 percent believing Comey and 31 percent believing Trump. Of those who identify as Republican, 24 percent believe Comey and 64 percent believe the president more. That credibility gap is much more pronounced among Democrats: 84 percent believe Comey and only 8 percent believe Trump. Most people polled by CBS think something improper occurred during Trump's meetings with Comey, but only a little more than one in four people think what happened was illegal.

A large majority -- 71 percent of people -- believe that Trump is criticized more than other recent presidents, but 50 percent say that criticism doesn't affect their view of him. When looking only at Republicans, 85 percent think he is critiqued more than previous presidents, and 34 percent are more likely to support him as a result. Some 65 percent of Democrats think Trump is criticized more than other recent presidents, and 44 percent believe that this makes them more likely to question him.

In the same poll, Americans were asked about their views of the Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare.

According to CBS, Congress is not doing much better in the eyes of its constituents: the majority of Americans would like more transparency about Republican efforts to replace the Affordable Healthcare Act, and hold negative views overall of the capabilities of both parties.

Overall, 73 percent of those polled -- 56 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats -- think that Senate Republicans should discuss their plan publicly as they develop the bill. Some 41 percent of Republicans think the plans should be discussed privately, compared to 18 percent of Democrats. Only 23 percent of Americans polled by CBS think they have a good understanding of what the Republican healthcare plan will do.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Sen. Al Franken: 'I don't want to be president'

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- “A wise man once said that healthcare is complicated. And of course, that wise man was quoting President Trump.”

Appearing Tuesday on ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast, Sen. Al Franken didn’t pull any punches during a wide-ranging interview that covered health care, the special counsel’s investigation and his potential political ambitions. “This is a sham,” said the Minnesota Democrat, in regards to Senate Republicans’ attempts to pass their version of the American Health Care Act. “It's not just Democrats that haven't seen this. Most Republicans haven't seen it either.”

Ever the comedian, the former "Saturday Night Live" cast member then jabbed President Trump and House Republicans for their post-AHCA passage celebration in the White House Rose Garden last month, calling it, sardonically, the “unprecedented celebrating of one house passing a bill.”

While Franken has always embraced humor, he has been reluctant to reveal his funny side in the Senate. But after he secured re-election by a big margin, jokes worked themselves back into his repertoire. “So now I'm a workhorse, but I'm a workhorse that allows myself to be funny too,” Franken said.

Regarding the ongoing investigations into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign, Franken said “All the Trump people are acting in a way that -- they aren't acting like people who have nothing to hide.”

Not resisting a joke, he added, “There are some very suspicious things there and we may get to the point where we're asking what did the President know, and when did his son-in-law tell him?”

Franken’s name has been (seriously) floated as a potential challenger for the presidency in 2020. But when asked on Tuesday to respond to speculation in Washington fashion, the Senator shot down rumors.

In the cliché answer -– the senator displayed classic Washington-speak, “Right now, what I am doing and what I enjoy doing more than anything in the world is serving the people of my state. And I can't even think about what's going on that far into the future, but I certainly have no intention, no plans to run. Yeah, I have no plans."

"Scratch the intention thing," said Franken. "I didn't know what I was saying. I have no plans to run for president in 2020," said Franken.

Then, when given the opportunity to provide a more honest assessment of his political future, Franken laughed and said, “I don't want to be president. It looks like it's too much work, it's too hard. I've seen what the presidency is from a little closer than I thought I'd ever see it when I was a comedian. And it is an incredibly demanding job.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Senators call meeting with Ivanka Trump a 'good start'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- After a rare appearance on Capitol Hill by first daughter Ivanka Trump on Tuesday, senators emerged from their closed-door get-together calling it “a great start” and a “first step” in paving the way ahead for legislation that will help Americans receive paid family leave and affordable child care.

“I think it’s encouraging the White House has made the concept, the idea of paid leave a priority,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, told reporters.

Rubio said he “emceed” the meeting and said he’s hoping paid family leave and child care tax credits are negotiated as part of the long-anticipated tax reform plan. He invited a few of his Republican colleagues to attend so that they could openly discuss ways to make the tax code more family-friendly.

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic,” Rubio said. “Whether it’s this year or early next year, the time frame will depend on the general course of tax reform ... right now we’re in the input stage,” he said.

But “we should be prepared to move independently if it's not” a part of the overall tax reform bill, Rubio added.

Rubio said Trump was in “receive mode” and that their meeting was the first of many. He also said Trump showed a “strong interest” in tax reform that included child care tax credits.

Rubio is no stranger to calling for a paid family leave -- he campaigned on it during his bid for president last year.

“I think I was the only person running for president that supported a paid leave proposal,” Rubio said.

He acknowledged that these issues are not always something his Republican colleagues have cared about in the past.

“For the Republican Party, some of these issues have not traditionally been a part of our agenda,” Rubio said. “So I think we need to spend some time changing that dynamic for no other reason then I think part of it is generational.

“What I can tell you is there’s a growing desire within the Republican conference in the Senate and the House to address the fundamental fact that there are people in America who have decided that they can’t afford to have children because they can’t take a month off of work and they may not be paid. There is a growing number of people returning to work within days of having a child because they can't afford not to,” Rubio said.

“It’s been a goal of mine for a long time and it’s been a goal of Ms. Trump too, and obviously the president to ensure that our tax code recognizes the challenges for families today,” Rubio said. “The cost of child care, the cost of long-term care for an elderly parent, the cost of everyday life, the challenges that parents face on a regular basis, the cost of living and unfortunately ... the people who get the most help oftentimes are the people that can afford it the most. And the families who could really need the help don’t really have the vehicle by which to access it.”

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, said the meeting with Trump was about making the administration aware of what House and Senate members are already working on with regards to paid family leave so that they can “coordinate” and “put forward some good ideas” together.

Fischer reintroduced a bill in the Senate this year that would offer a tax credit to businesses who offer paid family leave to employees.

Trump is calling for a mandate on businesses. Her father President Donald Trump's budget includes a provision she championed, which would require six weeks of parental leave, paid for by state unemployment insurance primarily.

“In order to do public policy right, it takes a little bit of time and a lot of input to make sure you have answers to every question and understand how it all works together. So I would encourage patience. I know we’re all operating on 30-minute news cycle, but tax policy of this sort and broader policy of this sort takes a little bit of time,” Rubio said.

“We’re truly going to be a nation of opportunity for all then everyone’s gonna have to have an equal opportunity,” Rubio said.

“Sounds like a good presidential platform.” a reporter said.

“Yeah I tried it,” Rubio said, laughing as he walked away.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Paul Ryan foe touts blue-collar upbringing in campaign ad

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Randy Bryce, a longtime union ironworker and cancer survivor, announced this week that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for Wisconsin's first district, a congressional seat currently held by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Bryce, a Wisconsin native and Army veteran, launched an emotional campaign ad that highlights his working-class background.

In the 2-minute TV ad, Bryce says he has been employed as an ironworker for 20 years and is seen engaging with local community members and co-workers.

The ad includes images of Ryan, who is portrayed as an enemy of big government and the Affordable Care Act. At one point Ryan can be heard saying, “This is repealing and replacing ObamaCare. Everybody doesn’t get what they want.”

The ad then cuts to Bryce’s mother, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

"I’m on 20 drugs and if I don’t take the one that costs thousands of dollars, I don’t know what would happen," she says, holding back tears.

Bryce launched two unsuccessful Wisconsin state legislature campaigns in 2012 and 2014. Before he can take on Ryan, who secured 65 percent of the vote in the 2016 general election, he must defeat self-proclaimed “regular guy” David Yankovich, who announced his candidacy on May 30 for the Democratic Party. An open primary will be held on Aug. 14, 2018.

Republican Paul Nehlen, who lost to Ryan in the 2016 primary, announced his attention to challenge the speaker again next year.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Georgia special election stokes raw emotions in the final stretch

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- One of the most expensive and highly publicized congressional races in U.S. history is reaching its conclusion, with voters in Georgia's sixth congressional district heading to the polls to choose a replacement for Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price's vacant House seat. The field was first narrowed to two candidates -- Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff -- in an April primary.

Though the district has not had a Democratic representative since 1979, supporters of Ossoff are hoping the 30-year-old first-time candidate can build on the momentum of Hillary Clinton's near miss in the district in November. Observers widely view Tuesday's election as a referendum on President Donald Trump's first five months in office.

In addition to Ossoff's youth and relative inexperience, healthcare and campaign finance reform have become major issues in the district.

Here's a look at the story lines in the final day of the campaign:

Ossoff keeps his cool as pressure builds

After Ossoff finished strong in April's primary and narrowly missed the 50-percent threshold needed to win the seat outright and avoid a runoff, Democrats saw a real opening and poured in money and resources to help the young Democrat see his race through.

After their surprising defeat in the presidential race last November, Democrats have been looking for a win but also arguing about the best way to appeal to voters moving forward. Win or lose, some Democrats will try to spin Ossoff's race as model for what may or may not work across the county.

Despite his age, Ossoff has maintained his composure and stayed on message even under the intense pressure of the national spotlight.

"For all the attention to the national frame here, what folks want is representation that delivers a higher quality of life," said Ossoff. "This gridlock, dysfunction, scandal in Washington doesn't."

With criticism of the president building among Democrats, he also noticeably steers away from about questions about Trump and, unlike his would-be colleagues on Capitol Hill, avoids mentioning the president's name. He acknowledges though that the man in the White House has galvanized his volunteers and helped bring in cash.

"It’s a big race, the stakes are high but it is about doing what is right for the people I hope to have the honor of representing," said Ossoff over the weekend.

High intensity, raw emotions and security issues

Constituents in the district say the race has been more intense than anything they have seen in recent memory. There's is voter fatigue creeping in too as phones lines and airwaves continue to be flooded with ads from both sides for weeks. One attack ads was so over-the-top that both candidates said it needed to be taken off the air.

 There has been an underlining narrative from Republicans here that the left is nearly out of control or militant. Greg Williams, a local GOP county chair and Handel volunteer told ABC he thought some "alt-left supporters" were doing "damage to the democratic brand."

Last week, a threatening letter was mailed to Handel's home containing a suspicious substance -- later determined to be baking soda. She told reporters Monday the incident only made her more “determined to not be intimidated by anyone.”

Asked by ABC News if the tight race in the traditionally Republican stronghold made her rethink her hometown, Handel said emphatically, "No."

"The Democrats put a lot of money into this -- not for nothing," Handel said Monday. "A squirrel is going to get a pretty decent percentage of the vote if he has $30 million dollars behind him."

Williams said he was optimistic about the path ahead for Republicans. "I think by the time the midterms come around the Donald Trump presidency will be well on its way to reelection," he said.

Where the candidates come down on hot-button issues

One of the two candidates will head to Washington and the issues debated now in the halls of Congress are on the minds of Georgia voters as well.

On health care, NARAL Pro-Choice America launched a six-figure television push attacking Handel, joining Planned Parenthood, which has spent more than $500,000 in the race.

In January 2012, Handel was senior vice president of public policy at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the largest breast cancer advocacy organization in the U.S., when the organization announced it would cut its funding for Planned Parenthood. At the time, ABC News reported that Komen contributed about $680,000 per year to Planned Parenthood to cover affordable breast cancer screenings.

Komen’s decision was thought to be propelled by a 2011 Congressional investigation into Planned Parenthood’s use of federal funding; critics blamed Handel for the organization’s action. Handel resigned a month after the funding decision and denied any involvement with the defunding, but women's reproductive health advocates see her as an extremist and are backing Ossoff with cash and get-out-the-vote efforts. They want to send a message to more moderate Republicans that they can help flip a district.

"Karen Handel is a clear extremist," Keauna Gregory, a regional campaign director for Planned Parenthood, told ABC News this past weekend. "She has done a lot in her career to defund us. Women know that. People of the sixth [Congressional district] know that."

According to Gregory, Planned Parenthood staffers and volunteers will have knocked on 80,000 doors in support of Ossoff by the end of the election.

Ossoff has kept Planned Parenthood and women’s healthcare at the center of his campaign. His website reads, "Jon will defend women’s access to contraception and a woman’s right to choose and fight any legislation or executive action that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against women." Ossoff has also run campaign ads specifically addressing Handel’s purported role in the Planned Parenthood defunding.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Lawmakers intensify negotiations in pursuit of key Trump-related banking records

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Senate investigators have been locked in a quiet showdown with the Trump administration over records that they believe could help expose possible hidden dealings between Trump campaign insiders and wealthy Russian or Eastern European business partners.

The stand-off over records from the Treasury Department’s financial intelligence section led Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden to hold up the nomination of President Trump’s pick for Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, New York attorney Sigal Mandelker, until investigators have access to the federal banking records detailing suspicious financial transactions around the globe. A vote on her nomination is on the calendar for this week, suggesting the two sides are close to a deal.

“We’re in talks right now,” Wyden told ABC News on Monday. “I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get what we need.”

Senate investigators have been in talks with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, since May over access to the banking records.

“I have stated repeatedly that we have to follow the money if we are going to get to the bottom of how Russia has attacked our democracy,” he said in May. “That means thoroughly review any information that relates to financial connections between Russia and President Trump and his associates, whether direct or laundered through hidden or illicit transactions. The office which Ms. Mandelker has been nominated to head is responsible for much of this information.”

A spokesman for FinCen declined to comment, citing a policy “to never confirm or deny, or comment on any investigations.”

FinCEN, the Treasury agency responsible for tracking the illegal movement of money, maintains a database of millions of transactions that have been flagged by banks as unusual or problematic, known as Suspicious Activity Reports, or SARs. Law enforcement agencies around the country have access to the information, but so far congressional investigators have not.

“SARs have proven to be useful to criminal investigators in understanding financial relationships, identifying or confirming links between various parties, identifying patterns of illicit conduct, and establishing new leads to be explored,” said Daniel Glaser, who served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Obama Administration.

 In addition to tracking bank transactions, FinCEN also monitors the suspicious movement of money through real estate and casinos – two sectors that were prominent aspects of Trump’s business empire for many years. In February of 2015, Trump Taj Mahal Associates agreed to pay a $10 million civil penalty to FinCEN and admitted to having willfully violated reporting and record-keeping requirements under the federal Bank Secrecy Act from 2010 to 2012. Trump relinquished most of his interest in the casino in 2009, before it declared bankruptcy. The casino had been hit with an earlier civil penalty of $477,000 in 1998 for similar reporting violations that dated as far back as 1991, according to records obtained by ABC News through the Freedom of Information Act.

Senate investigators have been looking for financial ties linking top Trump campaign aides to Russian and Eastern European businessmen, in part to determine whether any of their dealings have involved criminals or those subject to U.S. financial sanctions. One of several areas of interest, sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News, has been the pool of investors who helped finance construction of the Trump SoHo building in New York City. Several names associated with the financing effort have alleged ties to money laundering or Russian organized crime.

ABC News previously reported on the role in the Trump SoHo project of Felix Sater, a twice-convicted felon who served prison time and had documented Russian mafia connections. Trump Organization attorneys dismissed Sater’s role as minor and short-lived. Sater resurfaced earlier this year, however, at a meeting with Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and a Ukrainian official, purportedly to discuss a Ukrainian peace proposal. Documents promoting the SoHo project also identified one investor as Alexander Machkevich, a prominent Kazakh businessman who in 2011 was charged in Belgium with money laundering – a case that was eventually dropped. The Financial Times reported that the case was closed after Machkevich and two other defendants paid a fine, while making no admission of guilt.

Among the suspicious transactions tracked by FinCEN are filings from banks required any time they engage in a transaction involving more than $10,000 in cash. Many millions of these reports are filed each year. “As illicit financial activity is often conducted in cash, [the reports] are a valuable source of leads for criminal investigators,” Glaser said.

“SARs and CTRs have proven highly useful to criminal investigators,” Glaser said. “They are not, however, a magic bullet.”

During a recent hearing, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, ripped officials for taking too long to comply with the request.

“We've received a preliminary response from Treasury that they're quote unquote ‘working on it,’” Warner said. “Well, I've got to tell you, that's not good enough.”

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