Soviet-born Donald Trump adviser Felix Sater: 'Send 'em to jail' if Robert Mueller finds collusion

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Felix Sater is a lot of things. One of them, he says, is misunderstood.

The Soviet-born American businessman, who once billed himself as a “senior advisor to Donald Trump,” has become known for his supporting role in the unfolding drama that is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. Sater is often referred to as the convicted felon and onetime stock scammer who promised to “get all of Putins team to buy in” on a proposed plan to build “Trump Tower Moscow” in the heat of the presidential campaign.

“I know how to play it, and we will get this done,” Sater wrote to Trump attorney and confidant Michael Cohen, his childhood friend, in emails published by The Washington Post and The New York Times. “Buddy, our boy can become president of the USA, and we can engineer it.”

The project was abandoned, but as federal investigators launched a wide-ranging probe of alleged Russsian interference in the 2016 election including possible connections to Trump’s campaign and personal businesses, Sater quickly found himself caught in the dragnet. Now, in an exclusive interview with George Stephanopoulos airing Friday morning on Good Morning America, Sater tells ABC News that there is much, much more to his life story.

And he’s right.

“I don’t think if a screenwriter was trying to write this movie that they could make this up,” Sater said.

Sater, 52, says that for the past two decades he has served as a high-level intelligence asset for the DIA, CIA and the FBI. As first reported this week by Buzzfeed News, Sater has helped bust mafia families, capture cybercriminals and pursue top terrorists — including Osama bin Laden — earning praise from some of the country’s top law enforcement officials.

He won’t say whether or not he’s been interviewed by the special counsel, but it’s almost certain that Mueller knows his body of work well. He served as FBI Director for much of Sater’s clandestine career.

As questions have swirled about his supposed loyalty to Russia, Sater is speaking out, recasting himself as an unheralded protector of the United States.

“I am a patriot,” Sater said. “Having the opportunity to serve my country and do anything in its defense was a no brainer. It was, ‘Where do I sign up?’”


Sater says he was recruited as an intelligence asset in perhaps the unlikeliest of places — the bathroom.

He was a young man living in Russia, where he was born, trying to rebuild a business career derailed by what he calls “a bad, stupid, drunken night in a bar.” He had been convicted of felony assault charges and spent a year in prison following a bloody bar fight in which he stabbed a man in the face with a margarita glass.

He needed money so desperately upon his release, he says, that he started working on what he calls “the dark side of Wall Street,” a reference to a so-called “pump-and-dump” stock scheme that reportedly defrauded investors of nearly $40 million.

He was at a dinner party in Moscow when he says one of the guests followed him into the bathroom and identified himself as an agent of the U.S. government. He told Sater that he had unwittingly gained access to a group of high-level Russian intelligence operatives who had valuable information about Russian defense technology.

“They seem to like you,” Sater recalls being told. “You speak Russian. You blend in there. And your country needs you.”

So began, Sater says, career in espionage. He says he developed assets in several different countries by cultivating cover as a corrupt businessman offering access to illicit schemes and passed information to U.S. agents tasked with handling a variety of threats to national security.

“They used to come to me with cases that had nothing to do with me and ask for my assistance, in which I would enthusiastically and wholeheartedly dive in and try to help,” he said.

He says he tipped off law enforcement to potential assassination attempts on Secretary of State Colin Powell and President George W. Bush; obtained information and photographs about North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear program; lured Russian cybercriminals hacking the U.S. financial system out of hidings so that they could be unmasked and captured.

And, he says, he was even tasked with hunting for Osama bin Laden and managed to turn Mullah Omar’s personal secretary into a key source that provided intelligence about al-Qaeda hideouts.

The information he had obtained was so valuable that when his past caught up with him and he finally faced his sentencing in connection with that multimillion-dollar fraud, the judge let him off with a mere $25,000 fine.

That work, he says, continues in some unspecified capacity to this day. He said as recently as last year he was asked for “assistance in making evaluations of various foreign governments [and] foreign individuals.”

He reportedly told this story under oath when he testified recently before the House Intelligence Committee, at which point he said even “the Democratic aides who were there to question [me] regarding the Russia-Trump investigation stopped, paused and thanks me for my service to my country.”

“One of the few times in my life that I almost cried,” Sater said.


Sater says he made himself valuable to the U.S. government by knowing everything. When it comes to Trump, however, he says he knows next to nothing.

His company, Bayrock Group, began renting office space in Trump Tower. Sater says he introduced himself to Trump in 2000 and began funneling development proposals to Trump’s desk shortly thereafter.

“I would bring him deals,” Sater said.

Sater claims he has helped the Trump Organization secure financing on several major projects, but none has garnered more scrutiny than a failed proposal to build “Trump Tower Moscow” amid the launch of Trump’s controversial campaign for the presidency.

In 2015, Trump signed a non-binding letter of intent, which promised a $4 million initial payment to the Trump Organization, to build the tallest building in the world in Moscow. In emails sent to Cohen published by the Post and the Times, Sater appears to celebrate an apparent merger of Trump’s business and political fortunes.

Faced with questions about his boast that he and Cohen could “engineer” a Trump presidency using the deal to court Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support, Sater pleaded ignorance.

“I am not a political person,” Sater said. “I don't understand the implications of the politics or the various strings that get attached to it and how good or bad it may look.”

Any perceived alignment of Trump’s business and political interests, he said, was purely coincidental.

“I was trying to do a real estate transaction,” Sater told ABC News. “I clearly was not involved in the campaign, nor was I involved in any of the political end, and the hope that a large transaction like that would be built, if that was helpful to his run, that would be great.”

Asked if he knew certain key member of the Trump campaign, he claimed to have had “zero contact” with many of the Trump allies who have fallen under the spotlight. He denied knowing Michael Flynn. And Paul Manafort. And Rick Gates. And George Papadopoulos. And Carter Page.

Asked if then-candidate Trump could have softened his stance on Russia because he was simultaneously pursuing a business deal there, Sater demurred.

“I can’t speak for the president,” he said.

And asked if — given his extensive sources in the both the Russian foreign intelligence services and the Russian criminal underworld — he knew of the effort underway to influence the U.S. election, he paused before issuing a forceful denial.

“I was not aware of what they were doing,” Sater said. “I read about it, just like everyone else, in the newspapers.”

Sater called Trump’s claim that he couldn’t pick him out of a lineup “disappointing,” but says Trump has nothing to fear from his testimony to investigators. He is unaware, he said, of any Russian money in any of the Trump projects he worked on and unaware of anyone in Trump’s orbit who may have colluded with foreign powers during the campaign.

If Mueller finds any, Sater recommended stiff penalties.

“Send ‘em to jail,” he said. “Anybody who colluded with anybody-- with any other country against America -- is guilty of crimes against our country.”
But as for himself, Sater isn’t worried.

“Eventually, it will become known that I’m guilty of trying to build the world’s tallest building,” Sater said, “and that’s about it.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


House Democrats: State Department staffers not considered loyal to Trump being pushed out

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Top House Democrats are accusing the White House and State Department of forcing out administration officials not considered sufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Citing emails provided by a whistleblower, Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., the ranking members of the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, wrote to White House chief of staff John Kelly and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan raising questions about what they see as an apparent effort to target career civil servants at the State Department.

The State Department confirmed that it had received the letter Thursday afternoon and "will comply with Congress' request," according to spokesperson Heather Nauert, who said she had never heard of outside groups pressuring the department to making staffing changes. "This is the first I've heard of it in this letter," she said.

A number of emails, reviewed by ABC News, focus on former State Department official Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career official who worked on the Iran nuclear deal under President Obama at the State Department and on the White House National Security Council.

Nowrouzzadeh was the subject of a March story from a conservative outlet describing her as a “trusted Obama aide” who was “burrowing into the government under President Trump.”

She wrote to Brian Hook, her supervisor and director of the secretary’s policy planning staff, to push back on the story from the Conservative Review.

“I am and have been a career civil servant for nearly 12 years now,” she wrote in her email to Hook. “I began government service in the Bush Administration at DOD/NSA after graduating college and have focused on Iran in various capacities ever since. I’ve adapted my work to the policy priorities of every administration I have worked for.”

Nowrouzzadeh asked to meet with Hook to discuss the story and said she was worried about her safety. Hook forwarded her note to other Trump appointees, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's deputy chief of staff Christine Ciccone; his deputy, Ed Lacey; and Matt Mowers.

“I know she is, in fact, a career civil servant,” Lacey replied, adding that she served on the Obama National Security Council, and promoted and defended the Iran nuclear deal “with enthusiasm.” In another email, he refers to Nowrouzzadeh as one of a handful of "Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump's foreign policy agenda."

In a subsequent email, Julia Haller, formerly the State Department’s White House liaison, wrote that it would be “easy to get a detail suspended,” and claimed Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran and “cried when the president won.”

The Connecticut-born Nowrouzzadeh, currently a research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, was later removed from her assignment on the State Department’s policy planning staff in a manner that was “not in accordance with that which was explicitly stated in my [memorandum of understanding]," she wrote to State Department officials in an email regarding a Politico story about her reassignment.

She did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

The emails also appear to reveal that conservatives outside the administration were in touch with State Department and White House officials with concerns about career staff.

David Wurmser, a former adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, emailed the Conservative Review story about Nowrouzzadeh to Trump adviser and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who forwarded it along to Margaret Peterlin, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s chief of staff.

“I think a cleaning is in order here,” Wurmser wrote to Gingrich. “I hear Tillerson has been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind."

The emails also identify several White House officials, including Deputy White House Counsel Makan Delrahim, who were aware of the story and communicating about Nowrouzzadeh. He had received a note with the story from a judicial strategy distribution list from Barbara Leeden, a conservative activist.

Nowrouzzadeh was one of several officials viewed with suspicion in the early days of the Trump administration.

In one email to himself titled “Derek notes” -- a reference to National Security Council Senior Director Derek Harvey, according to a congressional aide -- Hook listed several other officials and notes about their loyalty, and described one as a “turncoat” who is “fully political.”

In their letter, Cummings and Engel have asked the State Department and White House for transcribed interviews with White House and State Department officials regarding Nowrouzzadeh’s detail and reassignment, along with relevant documents and communications.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. During the briefing with reporters at the State Department, Nauert defended career employees as "extremely professional" and "almost blind to politics."

"They may not always like the policy that they are asked to advance on behalf of this administration and the American people, but my personal experience has been that people have done that and handled it in a very professional matter," she said.

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Senate Republicans call for special counsel to investigate DOJ's Russia probe  

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A group of influential Republican senators on Thursday called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate how the Department of Justice and FBI conducted a probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The demand came in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, from Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley of Iowa; John Cornyn of Texas, a committee member and No. 2 in the Senate Republican leadership; and committee members Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

They requested that a special counsel assist the DOJ inspector general in digging into possible misuse of the foreign intelligence surveillance system to obtain warrants against a former Trump campaign aide, leaks of classified intelligence to the media and “potential improprieties in the FBI’s relationship with Christopher Steele.”

Grassley and Graham already made a criminal referral to the DOJ two months ago concerning former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele -- author of the so-called “Trump dossier” -- recommending that officials investigate possible false statements by Steele to federal officials.

One Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic source said, "They keep forgetting that the Russia investigation started with George Papadopoulos and his Russia-related contacts."

Buried in the list of more than 30 questions that the senators want investigated is an allegation by Grassley that former FBI Director James Comey may have lied to Congress.

“Chairman Grassley wrote to former Director Comey nearly a year ago requesting him to resolve apparent material discrepancies between information he provided in a closed briefing and information contained in classified documents,” the letter reads. “Specifically, what Mr. Comey disclosed in a private briefing to the Chairman and Ranking Member Feinstein about the timeline of the FBI’s interactions with Mr. Steele appeared inconsistent with information contained in FISA applications the chairman and ranking member later reviewed.”

Grassley goes on to say, “It’s unclear whether this was a deliberate attempt to mislead the Oversight Committee about whether the FBI’s communications with Mr. Steele about the Trump allegations began before or after the FBI opened the investigation.”

“No explanation for the inconsistencies has ever been provided,” the letter states.

The four GOP Judiciary Committee members also want to know more about the nature of the FBI’s interview of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser who is now cooperating in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal agents.

Republicans on Capitol Hill have frequently lambasted Rosenstein, Mueller and the Russia investigation more broadly. Disagreements on the Senate Judiciary Committee have so fractured its own Russia investigation that Republicans and Democrats have been operating on separate tracks, with some members privately grousing that the whole thing is a waste of time.

Democrats often said Republicans, in attacking the Russia investigation, are merely trying to protect the president.

The DOJ inspector general is already investigating how the department and the FBI handled its probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. The inspector general is expected to issue its report on that matter in April, according to sources.

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Trump Organization subpoenaed by special counsel for Russia-related documents 

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed the Trump Organization for Russia-related documents, ABC News has confirmed.

The scope of the subpoena was not immediately clear, but it represents the latest indication of the breadth of the special counsel’s nearly yearlong, wide-ranging probe into possible collusion between Russian agents and members of the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. The New York Times first reported news of the subpoenas.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders referred questions about the matter on Thursday to the Trump Organization.

Alan S. Futerfas, attorney for the Trump Organization, said they have sought to cooperate with the special counsel.

“Since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel, and is responding to their requests," he said in a statement. "This is old news, and our assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”

The special counsel's investigation has already been looking at other aspects of the Trump Organization's business dealings for months, but this latest sign shows the attention is now turning to Russia-related matters.

As ABC News has previously reported, four months into his campaign for president, then candidate-Trump signed a letter of intent to pursue a Trump Tower-style building development in Moscow, according to a statement from the Trump Organization’s then-chief counsel, Michael Cohen. The proposal would have involved the construction of the world’s tallest building in Moscow, according to developers of the project.

The disclosure from Cohen, who has described himself as Trump’s personal lawyer, came as Cohen’s attorney gave congressional investigators scores of documents and emails from the campaign, including several pertaining to the Moscow development idea.

“Certain documents in the production reference a proposal for ‘Trump Tower Moscow,’ which contemplated a private real estate development in Russia,” Cohen’s statement read. “The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it, was unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign.”

In a separate statement texted to ABC News at the time, Cohen said, “The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected.”

Last year, President Trump told the New York Times that Mueller's team would be crossing a "red line" if it started investigating the Trump Organization or the Trump family businesses for matters beyond Russia.

“I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo -- who knows? I don’t make money from Russia,” Trump told the Times during the interview last year.

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Lamb, Saccone to run again in November in new, different congressional districts

iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) -- Just days after the still too-close-to-call special election for Pennsylvania's 18th Congressional District, it appears that Democrat Conor Lamb will seek re-election in the state's new 17th Congressional District this fall, setting up a likely match with GOP Rep. Keith Rothfus.

Republican Rick Saccone, who competed against Lamb on Tuesday night, is gathering petitions to run in the new 14th Congressional District in November, he tweeted.

If they win their respective races, Saccone and Lamb could serve together representing Pennsylvania in Congress next year.

There is still no official winner in the contest between the two men for Tuesday’s special election in the 18th Congressional District, but both parties were competing heavily in part to set them up for a strong run in November.

The race was seen as a critical test of the GOP's political strength ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Democrats saw the contest as a way to measure their base's enthusiasm and prove they can run good candidates in tough districts.

Beaver County Democratic Chairman Stephen Dupree said the Lamb campaign reached out to him on Wednesday.

The county is located entirely in the 17th district. None of it was in the district Lamb competed in on Tuesday.

“I have talked to Conor’s campaign and was told he wanted Beaver County’s endorsement,” Dupree told ABC News.

The endorsement requires a written request from the candidate, which Dupree said they received on Wednesday. The party will vote on their endorsement on March 22.

Meanwhile, Saccone tweeted on Thursday that he is running in the new 14th, but noted he is still going “through the process to ensure the integrity of the special election.”

For Lamb, running as an incumbent would come with advantages, such as dedicated support from the party and franking privileges from Congress, which allows lawmakers ways to tout their accomplishments to their constituents.

Lamb and the Democrats have declared him the winner of Tuesday’s contest, where he leads by 627 votes, according to current vote totals.

But Republicans have brought a lawsuit to impound the ballots and have started an ad campaign to ask voters if they experienced any irregularities on Tuesday night, according to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Lamb and Saccone were faced with a choice of which new district to run in regardless of the outcome this past Tuesday night.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in January that the congressional map enacted in 2011 violated the state constitution's provisions on partisan gerrymandering.

National and Pennsylvania Republicans have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate the state court's ruling, but no decision has been made on that request thus far.

The race in the new 17th Congressional District would be considered highly competitive, and Rothfus would likely get serious support from Republican outside spending groups, which spent more than $10 million against Lamb in the special election and would likely relish the chance to go after him again.

The GOP incumbent is in good shape with his own fundraising. He has $1,215,217 in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

It won’t be known for a few weeks how much cash Lamb has on hand after Tuesday’s election, but he proved himself a strong fundraiser, raising more than $4 million for his special election bid.

It’s also unknown if he will face a Democratic primary in the new district. He was selected by a special committee for the Democratic nomination for the special election, in accordance with state rules.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has already named Lamb to its Frontline Program, which is its incumbent protection program.

“Congressman-elect Conor Lamb embodies toughness, hard work and service, and represents the very best of his community and our country,” said DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján in Thursday’s announcement. “Conor’s record of service, combined with a deep connection to labor and the grassroots community, puts him in a very strong position to be re-elected in November.”

Lamb showed a strong performance in Tuesday’s special election.

President Trump won the old 18th Congressional District by 19.6 percent in 2016. Under the new lines, President Trump won the 17th Congressional District by just 2.5 percent, mostly due to the greater inclusion of the Democratic areas in Allegheny County -- Pittsburgh suburbs -- in the district.

The new 14th Congressional District has no sitting incumbent. Its area mainly consists of the seat that former Rep. Tim Murphy held before he resigned after a report that he allegedly asked an extramarital lover to end her pregnancy.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Republican Rep. Ryan Costello considering retirement 

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(PHILADELPHIA) -- Republican Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania is considering retirement, several state and national officials in GOP politics have told ABC News, a move that would boost Democratic hopes in their quest to retake control of the House.

Costello’s district was one that was most deeply affected when the state Supreme Court redrew the congressional map.

His 6th Congressional District was transformed from one that Hillary Clinton won by one point in 2016 to one she would have won by nine points under the new lines.

The boundaries shifted to include all of Chester County and the city of Reading, which could add to the Democratic voting base.

“It’s difficult in 2018 to win Chester County,” one local Republican official said of the new map.

Republicans have speculated that Costello, a 41-year-old attorney, could preserve his future political options by retiring and returning to elected office in a year more favorable to the GOP, sources tell ABC News.

Costello has not said he is retiring, and his office and campaign did not respond to ABC News' multiple requests for comment. The lawmaker has held several signing events for his candidate petition, including one on Monday night in his district.

Democrats were already excited about this race and their candidate, Chrissy Houlahan, an Air Force veteran who was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Costello’s retirement could significantly boost their chances of taking this district and putting them on their way to winning the 24 seats they need to take control of the lower chamber.

The new Pennsylvania map is expected to give Democrats a chance to capture three to five House seats in their quest to retake the chamber. State Republicans have challenged the map in court in order to keep the old lines, but no final legal decision has been rendered.

Republicans face a ticking clock. The petition deadline to run for the seat is March 20, which is less than a week away and doesn’t give a candidate a lot of time to gather the necessary signatures to run.

But the GOP seems to be hedging their bets.

One local Republican in Chester County told ABC News that they were approached to run for the seat. They declined to do so.

One name that has come up among local Republicans as a possible candidate is Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline.

Ironically, Kichline replaced Costello in the county commissioner’s office in 2014. The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, she also served on Tredyffrin Township’s board of supervisors.

Kichline’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

During Tuesday's special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, Democrat Conor Lamb performed strongly in the deep-red district that Donald Trump won by 20 points in 2016.

Many saw Lamb’s strong performance as a warning to Republicans in tough races that Democratic enthusiasm is higher and voter turnout is expected to be huge.

Republican leaders in a meeting with GOP House members on Wednesday warned the party faithful that it was time to get serious about their re-election campaigns.

Pennsylvania’s GOP House delegation is losing a lot of incumbents this year. Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after a scandal. Rep. Lou Barletta is running for Senate. Reps. Bill Shuster, Charlie Dent and Patrick Meehan are retiring.

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President Trump says 'it certainly looks' like Russia was behind spy attack

Mike Theiler/Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump said it "certainly looks like" Russia is responsible for the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.

“It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it, something that should never ever happen. And we’re taking it very seriously, as I think are many others,” Trump said in the Oval Office when asked by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl if Russian President Vladimir Putin was to blame.

Earlier in the day, the White House released a rare joint statement from the leaders of the U.S., France, Germany and the U.K. blaming Russia for the chemical attack on former Russian intelligence agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter in southern England last week.

"The U.K. thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack,” the statement said. “We share the U.K.'s assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia´s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the U.K. further underlines Russia's responsibility."

The president’s assessment, which occurred shortly after his administration announced new sanctions against Russian entities for interference in the 2016 election, comes after the administration initially hedged on blaming Russia for the attack.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of perpetrating the attack and announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. The White House would not say if it shared in that assessment.

“We’ve been monitoring the situation very closely, take it very seriously,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday. “We are standing with our U.K. ally. I think they're still working through, even, some of the details of that.”

Later that evening, after speaking with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the nerve agent “clearly came from Russia,” but said it was unknown to him whether it was directed by the Russian government.

After Trump spoke with May on Tuesday, the White House said the president agreed with her that Russia “must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the U.K.”

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency briefing on the chemical weapons attack. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley expressed solidarity with the U.K. and agreed with the assessment that Russia was responsible.

“The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the U.K. using a military-grade nerve agent,” she said. “If we don’t take immediate, concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York or in cities of any country that sits on this council.”

The White House released a strong statement Wednesday saying the U.S. shares in the U.K.’s assessment.

"This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes,” Sanders said.

Russia has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack and promised retaliatory measures against May’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats from the U.K.

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Former FBI deputy director makes case to keep job for three more days

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- Embattled former deputy director of the FBI, Andy McCabe will have, at most, just a few hours on Thursday to encapsulate a 22-year career in public service and make the case to keep his job until he is officially eligible for his retirement benefits in a few days.

Federal officials concluded he should be fired for allegedly misleading internal investigators, according to a source familiar with a planned meeting at the Justice Department.

At the White House on Thursday, press secretary Sarah Sanders said the decision on McCabe was up to the Justice Department -- not mentioning Sessions by name -- but said it was "well-documented" that McCabe had a history of "troubling behavior" and was "by most accounts a bad actor."

Those close to McCabe say he believes he did nothing wrong; there was a misunderstanding, they insist, and he acted quickly to clear it up.

McCabe is expected to impress that message upon career Justice Department officials when he sits down with them this afternoon inside the department’s Robert F. Kennedy building, a Pennsylvania Avenue landmark sandwiched between Capitol Hill and the White House.

McCabe’s pending departure has been fraught with political pressures from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, as Republicans claim his wife’s failed Democratic run for state senate in Virginia means McCabe harbors political bias. McCabe, however, has always identified himself as a Republican, according to those who know him.

When news reports surfaced in December that McCabe was planning to retire four months later, President Donald Trump took to Twitter, alleging McCabe had ties to “Clinton Puppets” and accusing him of “racing the clock to retire with full benefits.” A month later, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. piled on, saying American taxpayers would be “stuck paying [McCabe] for the rest of his life.”

Now Attorney General Jeff Sessions — hoping to hold onto his own job in the midst of tensions with Trump — must ultimately decide McCabe’s fate.

The FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended that McCabe be fired, after an internal report by the Justice Department’s inspector general accused the FBI veteran of misleading investigators looking into how FBI and Justice Department officials handled an array of matters connected to the 2016 presidential campaign, a source briefed on the recommendation told ABC News.

McCabe is worried that if he were to be fired in the next few days, before he is officially eligible for his retirement benefits, he could lose a full pension, according to sources familiar with McCabe’s thinking.

McCabe is not facing any charges for his conduct, and even some of those who have pleaded guilty to federal charges and admitted to lying to federal authorities have been able to retain their pensions.

Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to lying to authorities about his contacts with a Russian official, has been able to retain the pension he accrued from 33 years of military service.

Similarly, in 2015, after former CIA director Gen. David Petraeus admitted to giving his mistress classified information and then lying to FBI agents about it, Petraeus was able to retain his pension, which reportedly pays him $208,000 a year.

Federal law states that government employees can lose their pension and benefits if convicted of a federal crime.

Addressing McCabe’s case on Wednesday, a Justice Department spokeswoman said the department was following “a prescribed process by which an employee may be terminated.”

“That process includes recommendations from career employees and no termination decision is final until the conclusion of that process,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

For more than a year, the Justice Department’s inspector general has been looking into whether McCabe should have done more to shield certain investigations from potential conflicts of interest, and the inspector general’s office recently completed a draft report on McCabe.

In the draft report, internal investigators conclude McCabe went too far in trying to push back against media reports questioning whether family ties to Democrats could impact his work, particularly when he authorized FBI officials to speak with a reporter about the agency’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation, according to a source familiar with the findings.

But the draft report takes particular issue with how forthcoming McCabe was when Justice Department officials asked him questions about his actions, according to the source. Those close to McCabe insist he has been forthcoming with investigators. McCabe “tried at every juncture to be as accurate and of course truthful” as he could, and he even “proactively reached out” to investigators to clarify any misunderstandings and make sure they had the most complete information from him, according to one source speaking in defense of McCabe.

The source insisted that McCabe never authorized “a leak” to a reporter and that discussions with a reporter about the Clinton Foundation probe were coordinated by an agency spokesman and an FBI attorney.

“It took place over the course of several days,” the source said. “So to be kind of retrospectively misrepresented as sort of a clandestine secretive leak is sort of … an unfair portrayal.”

McCabe first joined the FBI in 1996, investigating organized crime cases in New York. Over the next several years, he shifted his focus to rooting out international terrorists, and in 2012 he became the head of the FBI’s counterterrorism division at headquarters in Washington.

In October 2013, McCabe took over the FBI’s entire national security branch, and the next year he moved to become the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. He then rejoined the ranks at FBI headquarters, becoming the deputy director in February 2016. Over the past year, McCabe has become a frequent target of criticism from Trump and Republican lawmakers, who allege that McCabe’s time at the top of the FBI was emblematic of political bias in the FBI’s law enforcement work.

At the time his wife was running for election in Virginia, McCabe was the head of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.

Emails and correspondence released by the FBI show McCabe recused himself from any public corruption cases tied to Virginia. He became deputy director in February 2016, giving him an oversight role in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state. McCabe’s wife had lost her election bid three months earlier.

Still, in October 2016, the Wall Street Journal published at least one article that called into question McCabe’s ability to fairly oversee the federal probe of the Clinton Foundation. Ahead of the story’s publication, McCabe authorized an FBI spokesman to speak with the Wall Street Journal about efforts to keep the Clinton Foundation investigation moving forward, the source familiar with the inspector general’s findings told ABC News.

Days after the Wall Street Journal story was published, McCabe recused himself from the Clinton matter.

In December, FBI director Chris Wray defended McCabe, telling lawmakers he would “quarrel” with suggestions that McCabe has expressed any sort of political bias.

“I'm not aware of any senior FBI executives who are allowing improper political considerations to affect their work with me right now,” Wray told the House Judiciary Committee.

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NRA tweets picture of an AR-15 amid the National Student Walkout -- By 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, students and teachers across the country were settling back into the school day after morning walkouts in honor of the 17 people killed last month by a Florida gunman wielding an AR-15-style rifle.

A minute later, at 11:31 a.m., the National Rifle Association tweeted out a picture of such a weapon.

The gun rights advocacy group has been vocal in its support of the Second Amendment in the wake of the Parkland shooting, and it used the social media post to reiterate that message.

"I'll control my own guns, thank you," the tweet reads, followed by hashtags for the Second Amendment and the NRA, along with a picture of an AR-15-style weapon and the same caption alongside it.

Tens of thousands of students across the country walked out of class Wednesday, a month after the shooting in Parkland massacre.

Starting largely at 10 a.m. local time, many of the walkout participants stayed out of class for 17 minutes, in honor of the victims, and others participated in larger ceremonies or marches.

The NRA posted another tweet in what would have been the heart of the demonstrations, at 10:14 a.m., which included a video of Chris Cox, the chief lobbyist for the NRA's legislative arm.

"All of us, gun owners and non-gun owners alike want to live in safe communities and send out kids to safe schools. No one disagrees with that," Cox says in the video.

"Passing new gun control laws won't protect our kids because criminals willing to commit murder will never obey the law.”

Later that day, the NRA also tweeted a congratulatory message for the passage of the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, which the House of Representatives passed Wednesday with bipartisan support.

The bill authorizes $50 million a year for grants to fund training and other initiatives intended to enhance school safety, and $25 million annually for physical improvements such as metal detectors, stronger locks and emergency notifications.

The bill now heads to the Senate for possible consideration.

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Trump administration sanctions Russians for 2016 election interference, other cyber attacks

iStock / Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration is hitting five Russian entities and 19 Russian citizens with sanctions for cyber activity, including their interference in the 2016 election.

The sanctions represent some of the most significant actions by the Trump administration against Russia for their attempts to "malign... cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions target the Internet Research Agency, two of its affiliate companies, and 13 Russians who worked at the organization that allegedly spread disinformation online in the U.S., including through the use of fake personas posing as real Americans and American political groups.

All 13 of the individuals were indicted by the office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia's interference in the election. The announcement from the Treasury Department mirrors much of what Mueller's office laid out in indictments, but it does not name any new individuals.

The administration also employed the authorities it was given by Congress last August in a sweeping sanctions bill that some critics say the Trump administration has not properly utilized.

Under the law, known as CAATSA, the administration announced Thursday it is sanctioning Russia's spy organization and military intelligence organization -- both of which are already under sanctions. The sanctions also target six Russians who worked for the military intelligence organization, four of whom are already sanctioned.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back in for updates.

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