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Monday
Sep172018

Flynn ready to be sentenced in Russia probe, his lawyer and special counsel tell court 

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, is ready to be sentenced later this year for pleading guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, according to a status report his lawyer filed jointly Monday with special counsel Robert Mueller.

After months of delays, Judge Emmet Sullivan is now likely to move swiftly to schedule Flynn's sentencing date, which the parties requested for Nov. 28 or the following week.

Sullivan has said it would occur within about 60 days of the two sides agreeing they are ready to proceed with a presentencing report and court date for Flynn, the former intelligence officer who spent three decades in the military before entering the political ring.

Friends and relatives have said the former Defense Intelligence Agency director and confidant of Trump, who at 2016 campaign rallies led chants of "Lock her up!" about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is eager to face the judge and accept his fate following his dramatic guilty plea on Dec. 1.

Flynn told the first judge presiding over his case that he would fully cooperate with Mueller's investigators looking at Russian influence operations in the 2016 presidential campaign and he has kept a low profile publicly ever since.

"He's paralyzed, he can't do anything. He just wants this to go away," historian and commentator Michael Ledeen, a close confidant of Flynn, told ABC News over the weekend.

But it remains unclear the extent of his subsequent cooperation, which one knowledgeable source said occurred mostly immediately following his December court appearance.

Mueller's assessment of the value of the cooperation by Flynn -- who had at times testified in Congress as DIA director alongside Mueller when he led the FBI -- is likely to influence Sullivan's judgment at sentencing.

Under federal guidelines, Flynn could face up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period from election day in 2016 to Trump's inauguration in January 2017. But court observers say if Flynn satisfactorily cooperated with the special counsel, it will likely mean he receives little if any prison time.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Flynn ready to be sentenced in Russia probe, his lawyer and special counsel tell court

Monday
Sep172018

Outside groups dig in as allegations roil Kavanaugh nomination

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following allegations of sexual assault from a California psychology professor against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, outside groups from both sides of the aisle are readying for an intense messaging battle as Capitol Hill grapples with the political fallout.

The allegations made against Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, 51, stem from an incident that allegedly took place while they were attending high school in suburban Maryland, and became public after the contents of a letter Ford sent to California Senate Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were leaked.

In a new statement released Monday morning, Kavanaugh forcefully refuted Ford's allegations.

"This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone," Kavanaugh's statement read, "Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday."

Following the initial firestorm over the allegations, leading groups on the left and right tell ABC News they are readying major advertising buys to push key Senators to either move forward on or put a stop to Kavanaugh's confirmation.

The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), which has already spent millions to push for Kavanaugh's confirmation, is planning a new $1.5 million TV ad blitz, on cable and broadcast, featuring a 35-year friend of the nominee.

"We are not going to allow a last-minute smear campaign destroy a good and decent man who has an unblemished personal record," a conservative strategist told ABC News.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a leading GOP super PAC with links to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told ABC News that the group is "still evaluating" their options in light of the allegations against Kavanaugh.

Leading groups on the left have been pushing for a halt to Kavanaugh's nomination ever since the allegations from Dr. Ford, who spoke to the Washington Post about the incident on Sunday, were made public last week.

Demand Justice, one of the leading anti-Kavanaugh groups on the left, told ABC News Monday that they are planning a $700,000 television and digital advertising blitz in four states, Alaska, Colorado, Maine and Nevada, that will focus on Dr. Ford's allegations.

Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Demand Justice, told ABC News that this is the first time since Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement that trigger Kavanaugh's nomination, the group is targeting Colorado and Nevada in an effort to put pressure on Republican Senators Dean Heller and Cory Gardner, to halt the confirmation process.

The group has also been promoting the hashtag "#IBelieveChristine" on it's Twitter account in an effort to boost pressure on GOP lawmakers.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, another major organization on the left fighting against Kavanaugh's nomination, released two new online ads Monday targeting Heller and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a key Republican swing vote who has been at the center of the left's efforts to block the judge's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Collins on Monday called for both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath.

A vote in Judiciary Committee is slated for Thursday, but several GOP senators, including Arizona's Jeff Flake, have said that the committee should hear from Ford before they move forward on Kavanaugh's nomination.

In a press call Monday afternoon, leaders from several progressive organizations said the allegations against Kavanaugh should force his withdrawal.

"This is a remarkable moment with echoes of the past, but also stark differences," said Nan Aaron, the founder and president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal judicial advocacy group, "I can tell you, every woman in America will be watching how this unfolds."

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL, said that the Judiciary Committee that is overseeing Kavanaugh's nomination is not in a position to obtain a credible denial from the nominee in the face of Ford's allegations.

"There is no way for the American people to be assured through any Senate Judiciary process that [Kavanaugh] can be trusted in his denials of this extraordinarily credible claim by a woman who had nothing to gain, and everything to lose by bravely coming forward and telling her story," Hogue told reporters, "It is NARAL's position and the position of our members that Brett Kavanaugh should withdraw his nomination immediately."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep172018

Congressional investigators ask FEMA head to detail use of government vehicles for personal trips

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy, has sent a letter to FEMA requesting documents and records pertaining to administrator Brock Long's use of government vehicles and staff to travel to and from North Carolina.

The request follows a report in Politico last week that the internal watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, was looking into whether Long misused government resources on weekend trips to his hometown in North Carolina.

During a news conference on Hurricane Florence last week, Long said he was aware of the article and would fully cooperate with any investigation by the DHS inspector general.

"I would never intentionally run a program incorrectly. Bottom line is, if we made mistakes on the way a program was run, then we'll work with the OIG to get those corrected. Doing something unethical is not part of my DNA and it's not part of my track record my whole entire career, so we'll work with the OIG," Long told reporters last week.

In his request, Gowdy asked Long to provide information on every time he has used a government vehicle for personal reasons, information on staffers that were with him during those trips, and any communications related to FEMA employees going with him to North Carolina. Gowdy asked for the information by October 1.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep172018

Democrats want Kavanaugh's confirmation delayed amid sexual misconduct allegation

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces an allegation of sexual assault, the Supreme Court nominee's prospects for confirmation could be in peril as Democrats pressure Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley to delay an anticipated committee vote to send his nomination to the full Senate on Thursday.

The burning question everyone from the White House to Capitol wants answered: what will Grassley do?

So far, Grassley has not agreed to postpone Thursday’s vote, though he says he is working to set up bipartisan phone calls with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Kavanaugh, and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

“Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner," Grassley, R-Iowa, announced in a statement Monday afternoon. "The standard procedure for updates to any nominee’s background investigation file is to conduct separate follow-up calls with relevant parties."

Grassley says he is "working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims" also complained that Feinstein’s office has so far "refused" to schedule the phone calls.

“Unfortunately, committee Republicans have only known this person's identity from news reports for less than 24 hours and known about her allegations for less than a week," Grassley said. "Senator Feinstein, on the other hand, has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs."

Senate Democrats are calling on Republicans to delay a Judiciary committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court this week, protesting that decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct against the nominee require a formal investigation.

“Now that her story is public, it is even more important that we give the [FBI] the time it needs to follow up,” all 10 Judiciary Democrats wrote in a letter to Grassley. “All Senators, regardless of party, should insist the FBI perform its due diligence and fully investigate the allegations as part of its review of Judge Kavanaugh’s background.”

When asked if the committee should consider delaying the vote this week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is still undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination, told CNN, "that might be something they might have to consider, at least having that discussion.”

“This is not something that came up during the hearings,” Murkowski, R-Alaska, said. “The hearings are now over, and if there is real substance to this, it demands a response. That may be something the committee needs to look into."

Sen. Susan Collins, another Republican who has not publicly committed to supporting Kavanaugh, called for both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify publicly before the committee.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said that Ford “must be heard” before a committee vote, which had been expected Thursday.

“I’ve made it clear that I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further,” Flake, a Judiciary Republican, said.

Republicans hold an 11-to-10 majority on the committee, so Flake’s disapproval could stall the nomination.

“For me, we can’t vote until we hear more,” he said.

While none of the Judiciary Democrats are expected to support Kavanaugh’s nomination, and Republicans could approve his nomination without Democratic support, other red state Senate Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp have not ruled out voting in favor of Kavanaugh.

In light of the allegations against Kavanaugh, all three urged further investigation of the matter.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep172018

Chuck Schumer doubles down on call to postpone Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., renewed his call to postpone the confirmation vote on Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh after an explosive report revealed a California professor, Christine Blasey Ford, accused the nominee of attempted sexual assault in the 1980s.

“I think the allegations by Professor Ford are extremely credible,” Schumer said on ABC’s The View on Monday. "She didn't do it on a whim. I don't think she did it for political reasons," he added.

Schumer, who said he first found out about the accusations last week when Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., informed the Senate Judiciary Committee, doubled down on his assertion that the confirmation vote on Thursday should be postponed.

He said the FBI should do a second background check –including an interview with Ford – and both Kavanaugh and Ford should testify publicly in Congress.

Colleagues, including Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins echoed similar sentiments on Monday.

On Sunday, Schumer called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to postpone a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until the sexual misconduct accusation against him is investigated.

“For too long, when women have made serious allegations of abuse, they have been ignored. That cannot happen in this case," Schumer said in a written statement.

Christine Blasey Ford, now a 51-year-old psychology professor, told the Washington Post on the record Sunday that Kavanaugh pinned her down during a party when she was 15, groped her, and attempted to silence her screams for help with his hand, all while he was under the influence of alcohol. Kavanaugh has repeatedly "categorically and unequivocally" denied the accusation. "I did not do this back in high school or at any time," he added.

Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, told Good Morning America Monday morning that her client is willing to cooperate with lawmakers. The White House has indicated that it is open to her doing so.

In a statement released via the White House Monday morning, Kavanaugh said he is willing to “talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation.”

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Monday
Sep172018

Five states will vote without paper ballots; experts want that to change

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When voters go to the polls in five states, a verified paper trail will not follow them.

At a time of heightened concerns over election interference, election-security experts have called for that to change, suggesting paper results – visually confirmed by voters – would help state officials recover in the event of meddling or simple mistakes.

"That presents a greater risk because there's no way to detect if things have gone wrong," said Marian Schneider, former deputy secretary of voting and administration in Pennsylvania and the president of the group Verified Voting.

Paper ballots – or, at least, auditable paper trails, in which voters can see their choices recorded on a printed roll of paper – have been recommended by experts from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to the Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program to the Defending Digital Democracy Project at Harvard's Belfer Center.

A large swath of Americans, however, will vote without them.

Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina will all vote without such paper trails. That's in addition to eight other states that use paperless voting machines in some, but not all, counties. Those range from Pennsylvania, where three-fourths of the state's 67 counties use paperless machines, to Arkansas, where the state has been upgrading its final handful of paperless-voting counties and expects all but one to have voter-verified paper trails by Election Day.

In some cases, as in Delaware and South Carolina, the electronic machines do print vote totals internally, for comparison with results stored electronically on cartridges. In others, as in Georgia, they can print images of ballots. Election-security experts, however, call for paper records of each vote, which voters can actually see, to make sure their choices are recorded accurately.

Officials in the five exclusively paperless-voting states say their results are safe from hacking -- and that voters should not be concerned.

"Our machines have never been connected to the Internet," Delaware Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove told ABC News. "We take every security precaution that there is."

Nor are voting machines connected to each other.

"You would have to hack into each machine individually, in all 64 parishes without being seen," said Tyler Brey, spokesman for Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. "We are very confident in a safe, secure, and complete election."

Hackable Machines?

At this year’s DEFCON hacker conference, where hackers test their skills on out-of-use voting machines brought in by conference organizers, hackers succeeded in cracking -- to various extents -- several models currently in use, conference organizer Harri Hursti told ABC News.

One hacker, already familiar with the machine, gained full administrative-level access to a Premier (formerly Diebold) AccuVote TSX in about 30 seconds. That model is used in Georgia. In a video from last year’s conference, cybersecurity professional Rachel Tobac demonstrated a similar hack in about as much time.

This year, hackers turned a Dominion (formerly Sequoia) AVC Edge -- used in some New Jersey counties -- into a Pac-Man game, Hursti said. They manipulated a piece of equipment used in tallying votes from Election Systems & Software iVotronic machines, used statewide in South Carolina and in parts of New Jersey.

"The voting machines themselves are horrifically insecure," Ryan Kalember, senior vice president of cybersecurity strategy at cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, told ABC.

In each state except New Jersey, where the Election Division did not respond to requests for comment about its voting machines and potential vulnerabilities, officials insisted that voting machines are not connected to the Internet -- rendering a widespread hack virtually impossible. Machines are protected by seals that would show any evidence of tampering, officials say.

Security experts have focused their worries mainly on other possible threats -- such as hacking of voter-registration databases, which could wreak havoc on checking in voters and cause longer lines at the polls -- but experts also voice concerns that results could be vulnerable nonetheless, if gaps in the system go unanticipated.

"There really is risk in using an electronic-only system, in that it's not only about the machines, but it's about the machines that program the machines -- it's about the machines that tally the votes," McAfee Chief Technology Officer Steve Grobman told ABC.

"If somebody tells you that their risk is zero, that's not true. We know that," said Verified Voting's Scheider.

State officials say their vote-tabulation systems are similarly connected only to closed networks cut off from the Internet -- and DEFCON's results should be taken with a large grain of salt, the National Association of Secretaries of State cautioned, as unfettered access to voting machines "does not replicate physical and cyber protections" in place on Election Day.

Electronic-voting states have taken other cybersecurity precautions after 2016 saw interference attempts including hacks of Democratic groups and attempted intrusions into state voter-registration systems -- but not any hacking of actual votes.

State precautions have included training for employees, multi-step verification when logging into vote-related systems, in at least one case hiring cybersecurity firms, and tapping the Department of Homeland Security -- which has offered cybersecurity assistance to states -- to monitor threats and scan for vulnerabilities.

A Slow Change to Paper

Electronic voting was once all the rage, Delaware's Manlove said.

"I got a lot of phone calls from people saying, 'Gosh, I'm looking at Florida on TV, and they have butterfly ballots, and they're talking about hanging chads, and Delaware's so advanced,'" Manlove told ABC, referencing Florida's paper-ballot count in 2000 that ended up in the Supreme Court. "Now I'm getting calls saying, 'Why don't we use paper?'"

The pendulum has swung back -- but change takes time.

A group of Georgians has sued Secretary of State Brian Kemp to force an end to Georgia's paperless machines, but Kemp's office has pushed back, insisting elections are secure and that a wholesale change would cause problems if undertaken too quickly. Georgia solicited information on new equipment this year, and Kemp has stipulated new machines should have a paper trail.

Other states are buying new machines but won't roll them out by the 2018 midterm elections. Congress appropriated $380 million for election upgrades this spring, but unless states began buying new machines before 2018, November has not been a realistic deadline, officials in these states and others have said.

In Louisiana, the state approved a bid for new machines, but the losing bidder challenged, and the buying process is on hold. Despite the current limbo, the state expects new machines -- with paper records voters can see -- to be in place in 2019. Delaware expects to have paper-verified machines next year, too, and South Carolina expects to have them by 2020. New Jersey will begin trying out new, paper-verified machines under a pilot program, but not before November.

For state officials, cybersecurity isn't the problem -- even if a paper trail might provide greater peace of mind. Instead, it's simply about outdated technology. For instance, in Delaware, where voters press a plastic-shielded, paper ballot to record their choices through buttons underneath, the paper ballots are designed on Windows XP computers, and the Elections Commission worries it won't be able to buy new ones.

For those concerned with paperless machines on a nationwide Election Day, they will have to wait until 2020 for larger-scale change.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep172018

Kavanaugh accuser wants to cooperate on probe but doesn't want to be part of 'bloodletting': Attorney

Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A California psychology professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school wants to cooperate with federal lawmakers considering the nomination, but doesn't want to be part of a Washington "bloodletting," her attorney said on Good Morning America Monday.

Christine Blasey Ford wants to speak to investigators about her allegations, but she doesn't want to become the next Anita Hill, her attorney, Debra Katz, told ABC News Chief Anchor George George Stephanopoulos on GMA.

"It's not clear what the Republicans are saying," said Katz. "I was listening to some reporting this morning saying that they're going to fight this tooth and nail, that they're going to grill her. That's hardly an effort to get into a fair and thorough investigation of what has occurred. That's a very intimidating statement and it really is designed to scare her and make her not want to come forward.

Katz added: "She's willing to cooperate. What she's not willing to do is to be part of this bloodletting that happens in Washington."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep172018

Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn, who has been laying low, makes rare public speech

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- During Donald Trump's presidential campaign, his friend and adviser Michael Flynn enjoyed the spotlight in a way few other retired generals have. But these days, after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, he speaks only rarely and cautiously in public as he prepares to be sentenced.

"I want to make sure that I'm very precise because I know there will be a lot of people -- especially in the back row there -- who will pay attention to whatever the heck I say, and I want to make sure that they get the words that I say right," Flynn told an audience of conservative activists in St. Louis on Friday night.

"The back row" was an apparent reference to news media at the event organized by the Gateway Pundit website and conservative stalwart Phyllis Schlafly. Flynn was honored with the Gen. Jack Singlaub Award for Service to America.

Flynn's remarks on Friday were notable for what they left out. He did not mention President Trump, who fired him as national security adviser three weeks into the presidency. He said nothing about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, in which Flynn became ensnared for misleading FBI agents about his contacts with Russia's ambassador during the presidential transition in late 2016.

He also made no reference to the news Friday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort made a plea deal with Mueller and agreed to be a cooperating witness.

Flynn's friends say his failing to generate headlines means mission accomplished.

"He's paralyzed, he can't do anything. He just wants this to go away. So I'm sure he wants to not make news," historian and commentator Michael Ledeen, a close confidant of Flynn, told ABC News over the weekend.

Flynn's lawyer and Mueller are expected to inform U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan in a status report today whether both sides are finally ready to schedule Flynn’s sentencing after its being delayed three times. If so, he could be sentenced as soon as mid-November. The judge will decide the sentencing date with the special counsel and Flynn's lawyer based on the status report.

It remains a mystery whether the special counsel will agree to set the sentencing date now.

Flynn's loyalists say he is hopeful that his pre-sentencing limbo that began more than nine months ago may soon come to a close.

He pleaded guilty in a dramatic court appearance in December to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with authorities, which, a source said, he did soon afterward.

How the special counsel’s office views the quality and extent of that cooperation is not clear, nor why his sentencing was delayed.

The retired three-star Army lieutenant general won fame and widespread respect inside the military as an innovative intelligence officer and Defense Intelligence Agency director before he retired and stunned many former colleagues by leading "lock her up" chants about Hillary Clinton at Trump campaign appearances.

He has been mostly out of the public view since his guilty plea, but broke his silence in March with a brief speech in support of California congressional candidate Omar Navarro, a Republican vying for Maxine Waters' seat.

"What I'm not here to do, is I'm not here to complain about who has done me wrong, or how unfair I've been treated or how unfair the entire process has been," Flynn said while introducing Navarro. "You know what it is."

Flynn, who sources say has since received many such invites to campaign for conservative candidates, has turned them all down on the advice that such public appearances will not help him ahead of sentencing.

"He felt he needed to act as a soldier and has kept his mouth shut," a source close to Flynn told ABC News over the summer. Flynn didn't want to be seen as a "whiner" or complicate his deal with Mueller, a former intelligence community peer of Flynn's, the source said. Mueller was FBI director when Flynn led the Defense Intelligence Agency, and they sat on the same panel as co-equals during worldwide-threat congressional hearings.

Two other witnesses have also pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller's agents: Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwann were sentenced to 14 days and 30 days, respectively, in federal prison.

Flynn could under federal guidelines face up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period from the Nov. 8, 2016, election to the Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration. His cooperation with the special counsel would likely mean he receives little if any prison time.

Judge Sullivan has said once the prosecution and defense are both prepared to proceed with sentencing, he will request a pre-sentencing report, which is generally an investigation into the history of the person convicted and whether there are extenuating circumstances.

The judge also said he would set sentencing for 60 days after Mueller's team says they're prepared to move forward.

Joe Flynn told ABC News he saw his brother getting mobbed by conservative supporters before his speech in St. Louis. Many asked him to sign copies of his 2016 book, co-authored with Ledeen, "The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies," the brother said.

"His acceptance speech about service to America was met with a standing ovation, and he was happy to meet and chat with hundreds of patriotic Americans," Joe Flynn said.

Michael Flynn focused his remarks at the event on fighting for freedom and praised the namesake for his award.

Ret. Maj. Gen. Singlaub, a famed World War II spy who turned special operations into a major arm of U.S. foreign policy in the Vietnam War, was relieved of his military command in 1977 after publicly criticizing President Carter’s foreign policy.

"General Flynn was humbled and honored to receive the inaugural General Singlaub award for service to America from the Gateway Eagle Council," Joe Flynn said. "General Singlaub has long been one of his heroes as they share similar backgrounds and careers in military intelligence."

In his speech, Michael Flynn quoted Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln and implored his audience to be "champions of freedom" and "soldiers of liberty who are on the right side of history," declaring that they are in a fight for the "heart and soul" of America against opponents he didn't identify.

"Our enemies will try to destroy us, and we cannot fail," he said to applause.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep162018

Woman accusing Brett Kavanaugh of assault says she feared he ‘might inadvertently kill me’: Report

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A California psychology professor who claims Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her when they were in high school identified herself in a story published Sunday in the Washington Post, saying, "I thought he might inadvertently kill me." Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University who teaches in consortium with Stanford University, said she was also spurred to speak out due to inaccuracies about her story that she has heard repeated, according to the report.

"These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid," she told the Washington Post. "Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation."

Christine Blasey Ford, 51, told the newspaper she decided to speak out after the contents of a letter she sent to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was leaked, prompting Kavanaugh to issue a blanket denial of the allegations.

Ford's letter to Feinstein was first reported on Friday by the New Yorker magazine, but the article did not reveal her identity.

Ford said the incident occurred in the 1980s when the 53-year-old Kavanaugh was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland, and she was a 15-year-old sophomore at Holton-Arms School, an all-girls school in Bethesda, Maryland.

She told the Post she believes the incident occurred in 1982 when Kavanaugh would have been a 17-year-old junior at Georgetown Prep.

Ford said she was at a teen house party in Montgomery County, Maryland, when Kavanaugh and one of his male classmates -- both "stumbling drunk" -- cornered her in a bedroom and Kavanaugh pinned her on her back on a bed, the paper reported.

She said Kavanaugh's friend watched as Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and attempted to remove her clothes and the one-piece bathing suit she was wearing underneath, according to the story.

Ford told the Post that when she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford said in the story. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

She said she managed to escape when Kavanaugh's friend, whom she identified as conservative writer Mark Judge, jumped on top of them on the bed and sent all three of them tumbling, according to the Post. She told the paper she ran to a bathroom and locked herself inside before fleeing the house.

When the allegations first surfaced last week, Kavanaugh issued a statement, saying, "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."

In a statement to ABC News on Sunday, White House spokesman Raj Shah said, "As the story notes, we are standing with Judge Kavanaugh's denial."

The White House referred ABC News to Kavanaugh's earlier statement on the allegations.

Judge also denied the incident ever occurred.

"It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way," Judge said in an interview with The Weekly Standard.

ABC News could not immediately reach Ford to comment on the allegations.

President Donald Trump announced on July 9 that he was nominating Kavanaugh to fill the seat on the high court vacated by retiring justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh's Senate Confirmation hearing began on Sept. 4 over objections from many Democrats and protesters in the hearing room.

A vote by the Senate on whether to confirm Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court has yet to be scheduled.

A simple majority of 51 votes is all that is needed to confirm Kavanaugh. Vice President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote.

Ford said she never told anyone about being allegedly attacked by Kavanaugh until 2012 when she and her husband, Russell Ford, sought couples therapy, the Post reported.

"I think it derailed me substantially for four or five years," Ford told the Post.

She said in the story that she struggled, both academically and socially, and for a long time failed to have healthy relationships with men.

"I was very ill-equipped to forge those kinds of relationships," she said in the story.

"My biggest fear was, do I look like someone just attacked me?" Ford told the paper.

She said that at the time, she recalled thinking, "I'm not ever telling anyone this. This is nothing, it didn't happen, and he didn't rape me."

She said on the advice of her attorney she took a polygraph test, administered by a retired FBI agent. The results came back that she was truthful, according to the Post story.

Ford said she told her husband after they were married in 2002 that she had been the victim of physical abuse. But Russell Ford didn't learn details of the incident.

Russell Ford told the Washington Post that he disagrees with people who say the more than 30-year-old allegations made by his wife have no bearing on Kavanaugh's fitness for the Supreme Court.

"I think you look to judges to be the arbiters of right and wrong," Russell Ford said. "If they don't have a moral code of their own to determine right from wrong, then that's a problem. So I think it's relevant. Supreme Court nominees should be held to a higher standard."

Feinstein released a statement saying she has forwarded Ford's letter to "federal investigative authorities.”

In a statement on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an Iowa Republican, should postpone the vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation until Ford's allegations can be thoroughly investigated.

"For too long, when woman have made serious allegations of abuse, they have been ignored. That cannot happen in this case," Schumer said. "To railroad a vote now would be an insult to the women of America and the integrity of the Supreme Court.”

A spokesperson for Grassley said in a statement that the senator was working to set up follow-up calls with Kavanaugh and Ford.

"The Chairman and Ranking Member routinely hold bipartisan staff calls with nominees when updates are made to nominees’ background files," the statement read. "Given the late addendum to the background file and revelations of Dr. Ford’s identity, Chairman Grassley is actively working to set up such follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a statement he would "gladly listen" to Ford if she wanted to tell her story to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I agree with the concerns expressed in the Judiciary Committee’s statement about the substance and process regarding the allegations in this latest claim against Judge Kavanaugh," he said. "However, if Ms. Ford wishes to provide information to the committee, I would gladly listen to what she has to say and compare that against all other information we have received about Judge Kavanaugh."

He added that if Ford is to speak to the committee, "it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep162018

FEMA administrator defends President Trump's comments about Puerto Rico death toll

Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- FEMA Administrator Brock Long defended President Trump’s controversial claims which doubt new estimates on the Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico and said that the new numbers included "indirect" deaths due to stress, accidents due to failed infrastructure, and spousal abuse.

Long argued on Sunday morning that a study by George Washington University, which estimated the death toll in Puerto Rico at 2,975 people, considered additional causes of death that did not result from the hurricane itself.

"You might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people might have heart attacks due to stress, they fall off their house trying to fix their roof, they die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the stoplights aren't working," Long said on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

Long said there is a difference between "indirect and direct" deaths, and death toll numbers from recent studies are "all over the place."

"Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can't blame spousal abuse after a disaster on anybody," Long added.

"I think what we're trying to do, in my opinion, is just figure out why people died from direct deaths, which is the wind, the water, and the waves, buildings collapsing," Long said.

The George Washington University study looked at "excess" deaths in the six months following Hurricane Maria, taking into account the expected number of deaths in Puerto Rico each month based on historic data, and noting how many additional people actually died. That number – 2,975 – was accepted by the Puerto Rican government as the official death toll for Hurricane Maria on the island.

In a pair of late night tweets on Friday night, Trump said George Washington University's conclusion there were almost 3,000 deaths was “like magic.”

“‘When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria.’ The Washington Post. This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, ‘3000 PEOPLE KILLED.’” Trump tweeted on Friday.

“They hired … GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?) This method was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER - NO WAY!” Trump continued.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted that the high death toll in Puerto Rico was part of an effort by Democrats to make him look “as bad as possible.” He went on to question how researchers conducted the study.

“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list,” Trump said.

Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello defended the George Washington University study in his own series of tweets.

“I’d very much be willing to walk you through the scientific process of the study and how @Gwtweets arrived at the excess mortality number estimate. There is no reason to underscore the tragedy

“In the meantime, I hope you consider sending a message of support to show you stand with all of the US Citizens in Puerto Rico that lost loved ones. It would certainly be an act of respect and empathy.”

Admiral Karl Schultz, the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, did not dispute the official death toll.

“I’m not calling any numbers into doubt,” Schultz said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We were very much supported and powered to get down there and try to be helpful.” we have suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Rossello wrote on Friday.

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