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Sunday
Nov112018

Incoming House Dem committee chairs say they will investigate Trump, within limits 

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Two incoming Democratic congressional committee chairs say they plan on investigating President Trump, but that there will be limits on how they use the power of their newfound majority.

Incoming House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Elijah Cummings and incoming House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that their committees’ powers should be used judiciously.

In an exclusive interview on “This Week” Sunday, Cummings said subpoena power cannot be abused.

“I'm not going to be handing out subpoenas like somebody's handing out candy on Halloween, I take this as a lawyer and as an officer of the court, I take subpoenas very seriously and I plan to, if I have to use them, they will be used in a very, in a methodical way, and it must be in the public interest,” Cummings said.

He added that the subpoenas will be used as a “method of last resort.”

With a House majority and a larger budget, Democrats on the Oversight Committee will have more flexibility to pursue their investigations.

Cummings has already drafted a list of 64 subpoenas and inquiries relating to concerns about the Trump administration’s activities. Republicans rejected the list in the most recent Congress, but Democrats have expressed an interest in revisiting those requests when they assume the majority in January.

It’s then that Democrats will be able to issue subpoenas and compel federal officials to turn over records and testify before their committees. Their powers also include the ability to ask the Internal Revenue Service to turn over individual tax records for review, including those of Trump. The incoming chairs of at least four committees -- Oversight, Judiciary, Intelligence and Ways and Means -- have expressed an interest in pursuing investigations into Trump, his administration and his personal finances.

Trump, however, has called the House’s plans to investigate him a “waste” of taxpayer money, even threatening to have the Republican Senate investigate them in return.

In another interview on “This Week,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the incoming Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said his committee will also provide oversight on the Trump administration. When it came to pushing for impeachment, however, Nadler was measured, citing his own previous opposition to the Clinton impeachment.

“You have to be very reluctant to do an impeachment,” Nadler said. “We’ll have to find out… that the president has or has not committed apparently impeachable offenses and whether those impeachable offenses rise to the gravity which would necessitate putting together, putting the country through the trauma of an impeachment process.”

Nadler added that the impeachment process depends on what comes out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. When Stephanopoulos asked Nadler what his committee’s top oversight priority would be, Nadler said it would be to ensure Mueller’s investigation can continue unimpeded.

“Our top priority is to protect the Mueller investigation, to protect the integrity of that investigation from the White House attempt to stifle it and to – to interfere with it,” Nadler said.

Amid fears that Trump will interfere with investigations into his campaign and administration, Cummings asked the president not to stand in the way of committee efforts to investigate.

Stephanopoulos followed up by asking what his response will be if the president does not cooperate and comply with subpoenas.

“We will cross that bridge when we get to it. I'm not going to deal with that hypothetical because I'm more optimistic than that,” said Cummings.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Nov112018

President Trump, first lady join world leaders to mark centennial anniversary of World War I

iStock/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- President Trump and first lady Melania Trump joined a host of world leaders at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on Sunday to mark the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I.

The two traveled separately from most of the rest of the leaders attending the ceremony, who met up first at the Elysee Palace with French President Emmanuel Macron before making their way to the ceremony.

En route to the event, French police tackled two topless protesters who were sprinting toward the president's vehicle, "The Beast," but it was unclear whether the president and first lady were able to see them.

As their motorcade pulled up to the Arc in the pouring rain, church bells chimed across the city, marking the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the time of the cessation of hostilities in World War I.

There was a series of readings and songs memorializing the end of the First World War, with more than 60 leaders from countries around the world standing together before departing for a lunch together at the Elysee Palace.

During a speech in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the base of the Arc de Triomphe, Macron delivered a direct rebuke of nationalism, warning the leaders gathered that a "fascination for withdrawal, isolationism" contributed to the events that caused the Great War.

"Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism," Macron said. "Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism."

Trump has recently brushed off criticism over identifying himself as a "nationalist," arguing that it's merely him advocating for putting "America first" in the actions he takes as president.

"By saying, ‘Our interests first, who cares about the others,’ we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great and what is essential: its moral values," Macron said.

During his first and only extensive public remarks during his two-day trip at the Suresnes American Cemetery and Memorial, President Trump did not respond to Macron's comments, instead stressing French and American unity during World War I.

"The American and French patriots of World War I embody the timeless virtues of our two republics: honor and courage, strength and valor love and loyalty, grace and glory," Trump said. "It is our duty to preserve the civilization they defended and to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago."

Russian President Vladimir Putin was in attendance at the lunch following the Arc de Triomphe ceremony, and Trump had said that if the two meet during their time here it would likely be for just a brief interaction at the palace.

Upon arriving at the Arc de Triomphe, Putin made his way over to Trump and the first lady and shook both of their hands. He also delivered a thumbs up before taking his spot on the risers alongside the other leaders.

Trump rankled some feathers in Paris on Friday when he decided to skip a memorial event at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial. He cited the rain grounding his helicopter as the reason for canceling the visit.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry ripped the president on Twitter, saying, "Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow - & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn’t stop them & it shouldn’t have stopped an American president."

During his speech at the Suresnes Cemetery, the president joked with several World War II veterans in attendance who were sitting under a shelter as he spoke during a light rain.

"You look so comfortable up there under cover while we are getting drenched," Trump joked. "You're very smart people."

Trump called the cemetery visit the "highlight" of his trip. He is scheduled to arrive back in Washington Sunday evening.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Nov112018

Michelle Obama on whether she thought her husband could win; bruising campaign to the White House

Chuck Kennedy for ABC(CHICAGO) -- Michelle Obama shared with "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts some key advice she'd give her pre-White House self, if she had the chance, as the two sat down to discuss her memoir, "Becoming."

"You know the hard parts were the things that I expected," Michelle Obama told Roberts in the exclusive interview.

"That it was gonna be hard, you know? Being the first black anything is gonna be hard."

"So much of this country lives in isolation and we just don't know each other. ... There were people who didn't know what a black woman was and sounded like. And, so I knew that was gonna be a challenge, that I'd have to earn my grace -- and I experienced that on the campaign trail," she said.

It was the campaign trail that tested her self-esteem.

In the summer of 2004, Barack Obama was already a rising star when he was asked to speak at the Democratic National Convention. By 2008, after a meteoric rise to fame, the senator announced his candidacy for president.

Michelle Obama said that although she'd given him her blessing to run, she didn't think he'd win.

And, when she saw him on the cover of Time magazine in October 2006 with the headline, "Why Barack Obama could be the next president," she looked away.

She didn't even want to see it.

"I think I did what a lot of black folks were doin'," she told Roberts. "We were afraid to hope because it's hard to believe that the country that oppressed you could one day be led by you, you know?"

"I mean, my grandparents, you know, lived through segregation," she continued. "My grandfather, his grandfather was a slave, you know? So this, these memories were real. And they didn't think the country was ready. And, and so my attitude was a reflection of that skepticism."

On the campaign trail, she was insulted and her patriotism was questioned.

"I write about those, you know, those nasty times where people, you know, called me Barack's 'baby mama,' you know? Accused me of not loving my country. ... Told me I was angry," she said. And, I was, like, 'This isn't me. Wait, wait, people. This isn't who I am.'"

Obama told Roberts that the criticism she endured during her husband's campaign hurt.

"I don't think we do each other a service by pretending like hurtful things don't hurt," she told Roberts.

"And, that's what I've come to. ... I need to own that hurt. I need to talk about it. I need to put it out there for myself so that I can heal from it. But at the time, oh gosh, you know? I wasn't gonna allow myself to feel victimized from it because there was no time to hurt in that role."

In her memoir, "Becoming," which is out on Tuesday, Michelle Obama writes that she will "never forgive" President Donald Trump for challenging the legitimacy of her husband's birth certificate.

In 2011, Donald Trump and other so-called "birthers" were questioning whether Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen. In her memoir, Michelle Obama described their actions as "crazy and mean-spirited. ... Its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks."

In audio from the book obtained exclusively by ABC News, Michelle Obama wonders: "What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this, I’d never forgive him."

President Trump responded Friday to Michelle Obama's comments about him in her book, pointing the finger at former President Barack Obama.

"She got paid a lot of money to write a book and they always expect a little controversy," Trump told reporters. "I'll give you a little controversy back, I'll never forgive [President Barack Obama] for what he did to our U.S. military. It was depleted, and I had to fix it."

"What he did to our military made this country very unsafe for you and you and you," Trump said.

Michelle Obama also writes about her reaction to Trump being elected president and her thoughts while she was watching his inauguration, writing, “I will always wonder about what led so many women, in particular, to reject an exceptionally qualified female candidate and instead choose a misogynist as their president.”

"It's amazing to me that we still have to tell people about the importance of voting," Obama told Roberts.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Nov102018

Florida heads to recount in razor-thin governor, senate races after counties submit unofficial results

Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images(NEW YORK) --  Florida has headed to a recount yet again — this time, in three statewide races.

With Florida's U.S. Senate, gubernatorial, and agriculture commissioner races all falling within the narrow margin that automatically triggers a recount, Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered machine recounts in all three.

The state is no stranger to recounts and extended election travails. In 2000, its presidential recount was the focus of the Bush v. Gore lawsuit that decided the presidency, and now election officials will recount ballots yet again.

Florida's U.S. Senate and governor's races have been among the most closely watched in the nation. Both races had lower than 0.5 percentage-point margins, which, in Florida, automatically qualify for an electronic recount of votes.

In the Senate race, results show Republican Gov. Rick Scott leading incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson by 33,684 votes, a 0.15 percent margin.

In the race for governor between GOP Rep. Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, current results show DeSantis leading by 33,684 votes, a 0.41 percent margin

On Saturday, Gillum tweeted before a news conference that he was walking back on his concession from the night of the election, saying, "I am replacing my earlier concession with an unapologetic and uncompromised call to count every vote."

During the press conference, Gillum called out President Donald Trump, Gov. Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio for their opposition to the recount, saying he was unsure of their excuse but that it was "not democratic and... certainly if not the American way" to end the vote count simply because they don't like the direction in which the vote totality is going.

He added that if the shoe was on his opponents' foot, "not one of them would seek a different outcome." He also noted that once the recount occurs, he's willing to accept whatever the outcome is.

Gillum's attorney Barry Richard, who represented George. W. Bush during the 2000 recount, said that the two situations were "vastly different" but called both "unprecedented" in their own right.

"We've never had this type of machine recount before, and at some point, we may have to have courts tell us what the answer is," Richard said. "My immediate reaction is that it goes back to the premise that every vote should count."

In a video posted to YouTube on Saturday, DeSantis spoke about the governorship without mentioning recounts.

"At noon today, supervisors of election from across the state submitted their election returns to the secretary of state," he said. "Those results are clear and unambiguous just as they were on election night, and I'm honored by the trust that Floridians have placed in me to serve as your next governor."

Local officials will have until 3 p.m. on Nov. 15 to complete a machine recount of votes in those races, Detzner wrote in his official recount orders. In the case of the gubernatorial race, if results show there is still a margin lower than 0.25 percentage points, a manual recount will be triggered.

Counties had faced a noon deadline to report their unofficial results to state election officials.

In the last two days, attention had turned to vote counting in Broward and Palm Beach Counties — Democratic strongholds in South Florida where counting was still underway, and where Scott's campaign had filed lawsuits against county election officials.

Broward — and its election supervisor, Brenda Snipes — had drawn the most criticism from Republicans, after reports that rejected provisional ballots had been mingled with valid ones, complicating the counting process. Around midday on Saturday, Broward's website showed that its unofficial results were "completely reported."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Nov102018

Trump threatens to pull federal funding for California wildfires over 'gross mismanagement'

Drew McNew/Getty Images (NEW YORK) -- 

President Donald Trump woke up in Paris on Saturday in the mood to make threats toward California as it deals with deadly wildfires in Northern California and hundreds of smoldering homes in Southern California. In an angry tweet, the president threatened to pull federal funding for the state if nothing is done to "remedy" the situation.

Trump is in Paris to take part in a commemoration for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. But his mind was still on the disaster unfolding out west in the U.S.

Nine people have died in a spate of wildfires that began this week. All of the deaths were as a result of the Camp Fire in the area of Paradise, California, near Chico. Almost the entire city was decimated by flames early Friday.

The president approved an emergency declaration for the state on Friday -- but warned he may not do the same in the future. Emergency declarations provide municipalities with air support, relief supplies and evacuation transport.

Fire officials said Trump's statements, and remedies, were incorrect.

One leading California fire official on Saturday called Trump's comments "a shameful attack on California."

"The president’s assertion that California’s forest management policies are to blame for catastrophic wildfire is dangerously wrong," California Professional Firefighters President Brian K. Rice said in a statement on Saturday.

"Wildfires are sparked and spread not only in forested areas but in populated areas and open fields fueled by parched vegetation, high winds, low humidity and geography," he continued in the statement. "Moreover, nearly 60 percent of California forests are under federal management, and another two-thirds under private control. It is the federal government that has chosen to divert resources away from forest management, not California."

"Natural disasters are not “red” or “blue” – they destroy regardless of party," Rice concluded. "Right now, families are in mourning, thousands have lost homes, and a quarter-million Americans have been forced to flee. At this desperate time, we would encourage the president to offer support in word and deed, instead of recrimination and blame."

On Saturday evening, Trump changed course, tweeting support for the firefighters, the homeowners and the tragic victims of the west coast wildfires.

"God bless them all," the president tweeted.

Trump has made similar claims in the past, and fire officials have pushed back.

In August he tweeted, "California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading!"

"We have plenty of water to fight these fires," Deputy Cal Fire Chief Scott McLean said in a statement in August. Nonetheless, the Trump administration announced it would override the Endangered Species Act to provide extra water -- not needed by the fire crews.

He also criticized California's handling of forest fires at an Oct. 17 Cabinet meeting. During an exchange with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Trump called California "a mess" and "disgraceful."

"I say to the governor, or whoever is going to be the governor, of California: You better get your act together," Trump said. "Because California, we're just not going to continue to pay the kind of money that we're paying because of fires that should never be to the extent [they are]."

Trump has long feuded with current California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, who is set to be replaced by fellow Trump antagonist Gavin Newsom. The Democrat was elected to the office last week. Newsom was previously married to former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, who now dates Donald Trump Jr.

"It's costing our country hundreds of billions of dollars because of incompetence in California," Trump said in that Cabinet meeting.

It's unclear where Trump was getting the figure of "hundreds of billions of dollars." Cal Fire's operating budget for 2018-19 is $2.3 billion.

Fire Management Assistance Grants, authorized through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), refund as much as 75 percent of firefighting costs for departments. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also provided $212 million to the state of California in 2017.

Trump's tweet ironically comes while he is in Paris, the namesake of the Paris Climate Agreement, under which nearly 200 countries agreed to curb greenhouse gas emissions in order to combat climate change. The agreement was signed by the U.S. during Barack Obama's administration, but Trump pulled the country out of the agreement in June 2017.

Michael Mann, an atmospheric science professor at Penn State University, told PBS' "NewsHour" in August that he believes climate change is contributing to the increased seriousness of wildfires.

"We're not saying that climate change is literally causing the events to occur," he said. "What we can conclude with a great deal of confidence now is that climate change is making these events more extreme."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Nov102018

For House Democrats, new bosses could be same as old bosses

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINTON) -- Despite regaining control of the House with the help of a crop of candidates who campaigned on calls for a new generation of leadership, Democrats are positioned to once again elect Nancy Pelosi as speaker and tap her longtime deputies to lead the caucus when the new Congress begins in January.

While some races remain uncalled, and Pelosi faces resistance from a clutch of hardened critics on Capitol Hill and incoming members who pledged to oppose her, the California Democrat is favored to become the first member of Congress to serve nonconsecutive terms as speaker since Sam Rayburn.

In an interview with CNN, Pelosi said she’s “a hundred percent” confident in her ability to reclaim the gavel and serve a second stint as speaker, after becoming the first woman to hold the post from 2007-2011.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that Pelosi “deserves” to be speaker, adding if Democrats ‘give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes.”

“I heard the president say I deserve to be the speaker. I don't think anybody deserves anything,” Pelosi, 78, told reporters at a news conference Wednesday in the Capitol. “It's not about what you have done. It's what you can do.”

“I think I'm the best person to go forward. So I think that my case is about being the best person for how we go forward,” she said.

“Leader Pelosi is confident in her support among Members and Members-elect. Democrats don’t let Republicans choose their leaders. The election proved that the GOP attacks on Pelosi simply do not work," Drew Hammill, Pelosi spokesman and deputy chief staff, told ABC News.

While Pelosi, who officially kicked off her bid in a letter to members and winning candidates Wednesday night, does not currently face a declared challenger, she doesn’t enjoy the unanimous support of Democrats as she did more than a decade ago, which could complicate her bid.


Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, who ran against Pelosi two years ago for Democratic leader and received 63 votes within the caucus, said in an interview that he hasn’t ruled out a challenge, and urged party leaders to “listen to newer members and see what leadership needs to look like and what they need to get re-elected.”

At least nine sitting Democrats plan to vote against her for speaker, joined by at least five incoming Democrats who have reaffirmed their campaign pledges to support new leadership and not back Pelosi: Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, Jason Crow of Colorado, Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, Max Rose of New York, and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.

“I declared I will not be voting for Nancy Pelosi, under any circumstances,” Rose, who unseated Staten Island Rep. Dan Donovan, said in an interview with WABC’s “Up Close with Bill Ritter” program. “Nothing has changed besides the fact that I got elected. I will not be breaking that promise.”

Another two sitting House Democrats -- Reps. Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Jim Cooper of Tennessee -- voted against Pelosi for Democratic leader in 2016, but haven’t said if they will vote against her second bid for speaker.

And a score of additional incoming House Democrats have either called for new leadership, avoided commenting on the leadership race, or are waiting to see if any other candidates emerge.

While she only needs a majority of Democrats’ support in a closed-door caucus vote later this month, Pelosi will need 218 votes -- or a majority of all members present and voting on the House floor -- on Jan. 3.

With Democrats currently holding 225 seats, according to ABC News projections, Pelosi can afford to lose only seven votes, or as many as 16, if Democrats win the nine outstanding races yet to be called by ABC News.

Still, lawmakers and aides across the caucus said this week that Tuesday night’s victory -- and Pelosi’s prominent role supporting candidates across the country with the help of her fundraising prowess -- fortified her position as the clear frontrunner for speaker.

“Coming off the victory that we just had, that the leadership as it is -- the speaker, the majority leader, and the whip, should remain,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told ABC News.

In recent days, some former critics -- including Reps. Albio Sires of New Jersey, and Sean Patrick Maloney of New York -- have also announced plans to back Pelosi, shoring up her support.

Beyond Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who is 79, and Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina, who is 78, plan to seek the majority leader and majority whip posts, after holding both the last time Democrats controlled the House.

All three -- along with their allies -- are making the case to Democrats that their experience best positions them to lead at this moment, and would allow them to corral a diverse caucus and conduct vigorous oversight, all while keeping Democrats in position to protect their gains in two years.

“Why would we throw out experience?” Rep. Jackie Speier of California, a Pelosi supporter, told ABC News. “There’s something very appealing about seeing President Trump have to deal with Nancy Pelosi -- Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”

Pelosi and other leaders have also indicated that they’re receptive to concerns of their critics, who worry that the three septuagenarians have crowded out the party’s future leaders. They have worked to highlight their work encouraging and elevating younger members, and have suggested they would serve as leaders for a limited period of time.

“I see myself as a transitional figure,” Pelosi told the LA Times last month before the election. “I have things to do. Books to write; places to go; grandchildren, first and foremost, to love.”

Neither Pelosi nor Hoyer face challengers ahead of the caucus leadership elections later this month, though Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado, the chief deputy whip, has announced plans to challenge Clyburn.

Instead, the battle over the next generation of Democratic leaders will likely take place in the races for lower-level leadership posts.

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, who successfully led House Democrats’ campaign committee in the midterm elections, is running for assistant majority leader, the fourth-ranking position in the Democratic caucus.

He’ll face Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, a progressive member of the House Judiciary Committee, after Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, who represents a district won by President Trump in 2016, left the race to run for Lujan’s old position unopposed.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who was encouraged by colleagues to seek a leadership and even challenge Pelosi if Democrats lost the House, declared he is running for caucus chair, a prominent position now held by outgoing Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, who lost in his primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Republicans will hold their elections next week, while Democrats are expected to gather on Nov. 28 to begin their leadership elections -- giving Pelosi time to count votes, use the tools at her disposal to minimize opposition and win the support of uncommitted Democrats looking for concessions -- like Tom Malinowski, the former Obama administration who defeated GOP Rep. Leonard Lance in New Jersey.

“I’m not going to give anybody my vote unless they can promise me that they’ll help me deliver for New Jersey,” Malinowski said in an interview ahead of the election, adding that he wants a vote to restore the state and local tax deductions capped by the tax overhaul signed into law by Trump last year.



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Nov102018

Trump hits back at claims by 'Mr. Kellyanne Conway' that acting attorney general appointment is 'unconstitutional'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Friday mocked "Mr. Kellyanne Conway," George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and his concerns that Matthew Whitaker's appointment as acting attorney general is unconstitutional.

"You mean Mr. Kellyanne Conway?" Trump responded when asked by a reporter about the criticism. "He’s just trying to get publicity for himself. Why don't you do this, why don't you ask Kellyanne that question, all right? She might know him better than me. I really don't know the guy."

The president went on to claim that though Whitaker is "very, very highly thought of," he does not know the man.

"This only comes up because anybody who works for me, they do a number on them, but Matt Whitaker is a very smart man," Trump said. "He is a very respected man in the law enforcement community. Very respected. At the top of the line."

Trump's claim of not knowing Whitaker came under immediate scrutiny due to an interview with Fox News' "Fox and Friends" from Oct. 11 when he said, "I can tell you Matt Whitaker’s a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker."

The president tried to clarify the comments in a tweet sent soon after landing in France early Saturday, instead saying in the past tense he "did not know Mr. Whitaker" and had "no social contact."

George Conway co-wrote an op-ed in the New York Times published Thursday arguing that President Trump's appointment of Whitaker as acting attorney general is unconstitutional because he wasn't confirmed by the Senate.

"It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid," Conway, a lawyer, and Neal Katyal, also a Washington lawyer and former acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama, wrote in the New York Times.

"Because Mr. Whitaker has not undergone the process of Senate confirmation, there has been no mechanism for scrutinizing whether he has the character and ability to evenhandedly enforce the law in a position of such grave responsibility. The public is entitled to that assurance, especially since Mr. Whitaker’s only supervisor is Mr. Trump himself, and the president is hopelessly compromised by the Mueller investigation," Conway and Katyal wrote.

It's not the first time Conway has publicly shared views opposing those of his wife's boss. Conway and Katyal recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that Trump's proposal to end birthright citizenship is unconstitutional.

Whitaker was appointed to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned Wednesday "at the president's request," Sessions said. Whitaker was confirmed by the Senate as a federal prosecutor in Iowa in 2004, but did not undergo Senate confirmation for his current position.

"We cannot tolerate such an evasion of the Constitution’s very explicit, textually precise design. Senate confirmation exists for a simple, and good, reason. Constitutionally, Matthew Whitaker is a nobody. His job as Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff did not require Senate confirmation," they wrote.

"For the president to install Mr. Whitaker as our chief law enforcement officer is to betray the entire structure of our charter document."

Conway and Katyal also argued that Whitaker's appointment is particularly significant given the investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, which Whitaker has publicly criticized. Sessions' relationship with the president devolved over his recusal from the probe.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov092018

Michelle Obama will never forgive Trump, in her own words: Exclusive audio from memoir 'Becoming'

Chuck Kennedy for ABC(WASHINGTON) --  In her own voice and in her own words, Michelle Obama reads from her memoir, "Becoming," detailing just why she will never forgive President Donald Trump for his birther claims about her husband.

In her memoir, Michelle Obama writes about the fear she felt a few years back as she, President Barack Obama and their family moved into the White House.

In 2011, Donald Trump and other so-called "birthers" were questioning whether Barack Obama was a U.S. citizen. In her memoir, Michelle Obama described their actions as "crazy and mean-spirited. ... Its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks."

In audio from the book obtained exclusively by ABC News, Michelle Obama says: "What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this, I’d never forgive him."

"Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts' candid conversation with Michelle Obama on a range of topics including "Becoming" will air during a primetime ABC News special, “Becoming Michelle: A First Lady’s Journey with Robin Roberts,” on Sunday, Nov. 11, at 9 p.m. ET.

President Donald Trump responded Friday to Michelle Obama's comments about him in her book, pointing the finger at former President Barack Obama.

"She talked about safety. What he did to our military made this country very unsafe for you and you and you," Trump told reporters.

"Becoming" is due out Tuesday.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Nov092018

President Trump arrives in Paris, fires off angry tweet directed at French President Macron

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron appeared to mend fences Saturday just hours after Trump fired off an angry tweet toward his host upon arriving in Paris over recent comments Macron made about propping up a "European Army" to counter international threats.

"President Macron of France has just suggested that Europe build its own military in order to protect itself from the U.S., China and Russia," Trump tweeted just minutes after he and first lady Melania Trump arrived in France Friday night. "Very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidizes greatly!"

The president appeared to be referring to comments made by Macron in a radio interview earlier in the week, in which he called for a "true European army" intended to "protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America."

Macron cited Trump's recent announcement that he planned to pull the U.S. out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear forces treaty with Russia as evidence that Europeans should direct more focus on protecting their own security interests.

"We need a Europe which defends itself better alone, without just depending on the United States, in a more sovereign matter," Macron said.

The position doesn't exactly conflict with Trump's repeated past demands for U.S. allies to share more of the cost burden for their defense, which Macron sought to remind Trump of in their one-on-one meeting at the Elysee Palace on Saturday.

"We do share views that we need much better European burden sharing in NATO, in order to take our part of the burden," Macron said.

Trump responded by agreeing with that idea, saying, "I very much appreciate what you're saying about burden sharing, we want a very strong Europe."

A reporter then asked Trump about his tweet and whether he was "insulted" by Macron's comments, and Trump answered the two are "getting along from the standpoint of fairness."

"We want to help Europe but it has to be fair," Trump said. "We just want to absolutely be there, we want to help, we want to be a part of it but different countries also have to help."

The trip comes as the White House looks to grapple with a new political reality of Democrats taking the House in Tuesday's midterm elections and the fallout from the president's sudden firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

While the president will hold meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday they do not anticipate the president scheduling any additional meetings with world leaders invited to Paris, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The president told reporters Wednesday that he would not be holding an extended meeting with Putin before the G-20 summit later this month in South America, though said he won’t be surprised if the two interact during the leaders’ luncheon at the Elysee Palace on Sunday.

The primary purpose of the president's visit, according to the administration official, will be attending ceremonies around the centennial commemoration of the end of World War I.

"This is a historic opportunity to honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives for our freedom in that struggle," the official said.

But upon leaving Washington, the president seemed eager to renew focus on the controversies ignited over the past week, lashing out at reporters as they pressed him on stories like his firing of Sessions, the suspension of a CNN correspondent's press pass, and the Florida Senate and gubernatorial races now both likely heading to recounts.

Once on board Air Force One, the president shot out a tweet threatening to send a team of lawyers to Florida to counter what he claimed were partisan efforts by Democratic lawyers to change the vote counts.

Trump also sought to parallel the controversy to Russia's efforts to meddle in the 2016 election, saying sarcastically, "Let's blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!"

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Friday
Nov092018

Amid Broward County protests, several midterm races still up in the air

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Ongoing protests in Broward County and Florida's pending recount battle highlight twists and turns seen across the country in outstanding midterm races.

The delays nationwide, partially due to overwhelming voter turnout, have sparked a conversation about the efficiency of the nation’s voting mechanics.

Here are the states where constituents are still waiting to find out who will represent them.

Senate races to watch

Florida

In Florida, a razor-thin margin has the divided state gearing up for recounts in more than one race, including for senate. Incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat has refused to concede to Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican challenger, who currently leads by less than 0.2 percent with ballots across the state still uncounted.

State rules mandate a recount if the margin is less than 0.5 percent, which looks entirely possible, especially because two Democratic-leaning counties haven’t completed counting mail-in ballots — and one of them hasn’t finished counting early ballots, either. Many more counties continue to count provisional ballots. A recount could come as early as Saturday.

Scott carried a larger lead Tuesday night, but continues to see it dissipate as more votes come in. Scott has responded by accusing county election supervisors of corruption and filing lawsuits against them.

Scott is backed by support from the president, the GOP and Florida’s current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

A win for Republicans in Florida’s senate race would only add to the stinging loss of three key senate seats on Tuesday night in Indiana, North Dakota and Missouri, which are all states where Democratic senators faced re-election in states Trump won in 2016. But in Florida, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is awaiting results against Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott, Trump narrowly won the state by less than 1.5 percentage points.

Arizona

The Arizona Senate race to replace outgoing GOP Senator and Trump-critic Jeff Flake between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally was always going to be one of the closests contests of 2018, and it did not disappoint.

The most recent raw vote has Sinema with a lead of just under 2,000 votes over McSally, a shift from the post-election count that showed a nearly 1 percentage point lead for McSally. With talk of numerous lawsuits swirling, it could be weeks before we find out who the first woman to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate will be.

 Gubernatorial races to watch

Florida

Unlike the ongoing battle in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, the Democrat in the state’s gubernatorial race, Andrew Gillum, did concede to his Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, on Election Night.

Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum: "We didn't win it tonight. We didn't win this transaction. But I want you all to know that is just it, a transaction, that what we believe in still holds true today," Gillum said Tuesday.

But as the margin between Gillum and DeSantis continued to shrink, now to the point where an automatic machine recount is expected to be triggered, the Democrat’s new mantra is “Count every vote.” DeSantis holds a significant lead of over 36,000 votes, a margin that will be difficult for Gillum to overcome, but with multiple recounts in the works and Florida’s long history of unpredictable elections, this continues to be a race we are tracking very closely.

Georgia

In Georgia, there are also doubts that Democrat Stacey Abrams can overcome the current margin between her and her opponent, the state’s now-former Secretary of State Brian Kemp, but the race is too close to call.

That didn’t stop Kemp from declaring himself the winner on Thursday — a victory Abrams’ camp rejected.

"All the votes haven't been counted. How can anybody claim a victory when there are enough votes that have not been counted that could cause a run-off here?" John Chandler, a member of Abrams' legal team, asked at a press conference Thursday.

In Georgia, the winner needs 50 percent of the vote or a runoff is automatically triggered. Kemp says there aren’t enough ballots left uncounted to close his narrow lead. As of Friday morning, Abrams had 48.72 percent of the vote compared to Kemp’s 50.33 percent.

But Abrams’ campaign has vowed to staunchly moderate the incoming vote tallies and make sure every vote is counted — an unsurprising move in a race where her opponent has been shrouded in allegations of voter suppression, beginning with reports that millions of voters were unknowingly purged from registration systems under his tenure, many of whom were African American voters.

House races to watch

New Jersey's 3rd

The tight race in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District has yet to be called by ABC News, despite a declared victory from Democrat Andy Kim Wednesday night. Kim, a former Obama administration official, faced incumbent Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur, who caught flack in the state when he stood by Trump and voted for the tax cut.

Democrats have already flipped three of the five New Jersey House seats held by Republicans — and a Kim victory would bring that number to four. It would also mean Democrats seize 11 seats of the 12 seats in the New Jersey House delegation.

California's 39th

In the open race for a formerly Republican-held seat in California’s 39th, Republican Young Kim has a slight lead over Democrat Gil Cisneros in a race that’s still too close to call.

If Kim wins, she would be the first Korean-American woman elected to the U.S. House.

The traditionally Republican area was revealed to be a split district in 2016, fueling Democrats’ hopes for an inroad, when Hillary Clinton won it the 2016 presidential election by 8 points.

California's 48th

Republican incumbent Dana Rohrabacher has represented this Orange County district since the late 1980’s, but it appears his time in Congress may come to an end in 2018.

While California still has a significant number of mail-in ballots to count, Rohrabacher currently trails his Democratic opponent Harley Rouda by just under 5,000 votes. Dubbed “Putin’s favorite Congressman” by his critics for his Russia-friendly policy views, Democrats will undoubtedly trumpet a Rohrabacher loss that could further signal that the area that birthed former President Richard Nixon is continuing its leftward shift in the era of President Donald Trump.

Utah's 4th

Rep. Mia Love is currently the only African-American woman among the House Republican ranks, but she is in serious danger of losing her Salt Lake City-area seat to local mayor and Democrat Ben McAdams.

McAdams currently holds a lead of over 6,700 votes over Love, who was called out individually by President Trump at his post-election press conference over her tepid embrace of the Commander-in-Chief. 

Democrats had held this seat since 2000 before Love flipped it in 2014, but it appears it will be back in their control when the 116th Congress is sworn in next year.

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