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Wednesday
Jun122019

Illinois and Missouri are neighbors, but worlds apart on abortion

Andrei Stanescu/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Activists and concerned citizens across the country have been paying close attention to the ongoing changes to abortion laws in Missouri and Illinois in recent weeks, but two people know the differences better than most.

David Eisenberg and Erin King are married. They are both trained doctors and both perform abortions. And while they both live and practice in Missouri, King doesn't perform abortions there.

Instead, she works at two medical facilities. In Missouri, she is a general obstetrician-gynecologist at a practice in downtown St. Louis. Just across the border in Illinois, she serves as a physician and the executive director at the Hope Clinic for Women, which provides abortions.

"What my husband has to comply with as a gynecologist performing abortions, the regulations are barely insurmountable," King told ABC New. Those regulations, she said, "are the reason why I don't do abortions in Missouri."

To get an abortion in Missouri as of May 2018, patients must hear state-directed counseling in-person and then wait 72 hours to get the procedure, per the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group initially formed under Planned Parenthood that has been operating separately for years. Private insurance only covers abortion in cases of life endangerment, telemedicine abortion is banned, and a minor must receive parental consent.

To get an abortion in Illinois, per Guttmacher, the only restriction as of May 2018 is that a minor's parent must be informed.

Missouri and Illinois are the latest example of two states -- in this case, neighbors -- going in opposite direction on an issue as a result of a political dichotomy.

"Every day, we talk about the differences between Missouri and Illinois and how much we realize that in Missouri it's so much harder to provide the care that women need," Eisenberg said.

On the one hand, Illinois will soon be joining several states that moved to protect abortion rights and expand access this year as the state's new governor is expected to sign the Reproductive Health Act into law. That act would get rid of criminal penalties for doctors performing some abortions as well as restrictions on some later-term abortions.

On the other hand, Missouri joined more than half a dozen states in recent months in moving to restrict abortion rights, as the governor signed a law that would ban abortions after eight weeks.

"I believe that in the 10 years that I've been in Missouri, that the politicians that are elected to state office move further and further [to the right]," Eisenberg told ABC News.

He's not wrong: The number of Republican members in the state's House of Representatives has increased dramatically during that period, going from a nearly even split of 88 Republicans and 74 Democrats before the 2010 election to 116 Republicans and 47 Democrats after the 2018 election.

Missouri has had a state government trifecta -- where the House, Senate and governor are all controlled by or of the same party -- for three years.

But since Gov. Mike Parson took over after his predecessor, Eric Greitens, resigned a year into his term, there's been further movement on abortion.

In addition to the eight-week ban, which does not include exemptions for rape and incest, the state's department of health is battling the lone abortion clinic -- which Eisenberg runs -- in court. The abortion ban has been challenged in court and is not yet in place, and a preliminary injunction has been ordered in the case of the abortion clinic, which was allowed to remain open until June 21.

"It's not a surprise that now that these people are in power, that the legislation that's being passed and signed is anti-abortion. These were clear goals laid out in the platforms when people were running," King said.

Even the former chairman of the Missouri Republican Party, John Hancock, who currently works as a political operative, said state politicians "could be" going further than what the residents want.

"Missouri is a pro-life state," Hancock said. "Most people in Missouri are pro-life, [but] I don't think most people in Missouri support outlawing abortion in the case of rape or incest."

Hancock said that while he feels that Missouri "has been culturally conservative for a very long time," a number of residents who used to consider themselves conservative Democrats are now voting for Republicans because, he feels, "the Democratic Party has become more and more liberal."

As an example of Democrats moving "more liberal," anti-abortion advocates point to New York's signing of the Reproductive Health Act, which legalized abortion in the state after 24 weeks if the patient's health was at risk or the fetus was not viable.

Jeanne Mancini, the president of March for Life, told ABC News she believes the New York law "very much contributed to what we're seeing in different states, for example in Missouri."

Illinois, Mancini said, is following in New York's footsteps, to the point she feels anti-abortion activists are "swimming upstream in Illinois." Both states achieved Democratic trifectas in 2019.

"Sadly, if the Reproductive Health Act is signed into law, Illinois will have made themselves into the most leftward leaning state that is wide open to abortion," she said.

For Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat who entered office earlier this year, that's exactly the point.

"Illinois is making history, because our state will now be the most progressive in the nation for reproductive healthcare. In Illinois, we trust women to make the most personal and fundamental decisions of their lives -- and now, that will be the law of the land, even as it's under threat in other states," Pritzker said in a statement when the Reproductive Health Act passed on May 31. He said he plans to sign the bill.

Beyond trusting women and doctors, part of the push that drove abortion access protections in Illinois may be geographic, said Elizabeth Nash, a senior policy analyst for the Guttmacher Institute.

"I think Illinois really recognizes where it sits geographically, and it's surrounded by some really conservative states, Missouri being one of them," Nash said.

More than 5,500 women came to Illinois from other states to get abortions in 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported, although their states of origin were not specified.

"In 2017, something clicked in the Illinois legislature, really recognizing the need to protect abortion rights and access, and the appointment of [Supreme Court Justice Brett] Kavanaugh sort of further solidified the recognition that abortion needs to be protected," Nash said.

While the fate of Missouri's law banning abortions remains with the courts, the attitude towards abortion access is not something King or Eisenberg seem to think will change in the immediate future.

In the meantime, King said that even before the ban was signed into law, more than half of the patients at the Hope Clinic for Women just across the border in Granite City, Illinois, were Missouri residents. King noted that Hope Clinic is a 15-minute drive from the Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, where Eisenberg serves as medical director.

For Eisenberg, he sees his work as something of a calling.

"When I came to St. Louis, I came here with the hopes that I could help improve access to care and improve health and well-being of the people we take care of, and I feel like we have done that in spite of the state," he said. "I signed up for this job. I knew what I was getting into when I came to St. Louis."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jun122019

Illinois governor says new abortion law makes state most progressive on the issue

apCincy/iStock(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday is expected to sign into law the Reproductive Health Act, which he said would make his state the most progressive on the issue.

The measure, which lawmakers said codifies existing practices, removes restrictions on abortions later in one's pregnancy and any criminal penalties for physicians who perform them, according to ABC Chicago station WLS-TV. The new law also repeals Illinois' partial birth ban and the state's 1975 abortion act, in addition to expanding insurance coverage for procedures and for contraception.

States including Alabama recently have done the exact opposite, passing draconian laws to restrict abortion, primarily in an effort to get the issue before the Supreme Court and potentially overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that legalized the procedure at the federal level.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, on Monday signed into law a measure that declares abortion "a fundamental right," adding in a statement: "This legislation affirms what is already allowable in Vermont -- protecting reproductive rights and ensuring those decisions remain between a woman and her health care provider."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun112019

Trump lashes out at Biden as 'the weakest mentally' as both travel to Iowa

Scott Eisen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden traded blows throughout Tuesday in Iowa, as voters at dueling events in the critical caucus state heard Trump call Biden "the weakest mentally" after Biden's campaign put out his prepared remarks that called Trump "an existential threat to America."

The president ripped into the former vice president while addressing reporters before leaving for a renewable energy event in the afternoon and later a GOP fundraiser in Iowa, where Biden was campaigning.

Asked which Democratic candidate he'd most like to run against, Trump answered, "I'd rather run against Biden. I think he's the weakest mentally. He's the weakest up here. The others have much more energy."

But on Tuesday night, Trump's remarks at the Iowa GOP fundraiser, just hours after he ripped Biden, offered a stark contrast. Trump didn't even mention the former vice president during his nearly hour-long remarks, nor did he directly go after any 2020 Democratic rivals.

Trump had two Iowa stops Tuesday: a visit to a renewable energy facility in Council Bluffs and at a Republican fundraiser in West Des Moines.

Biden, however, trekked to eastern Iowa, on the heels of a weekend visit by most of the Democratic field, which Biden skipped. There, the former vice president held three community stops, in Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant and Davenport.

While the two didn't cross paths in the crucial caucus state, their visits brought heightened awareness to a split-screen view between the president and one of his potential 2020 challengers.

Polls showed a tight race in a hypothetical match-up between Trump and Biden, which makes Iowa an important swing state.

Biden takes on Trump

Biden's swing through eastern Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday marks his second trip to the crucial state since announcing his presidential run in April, making his pitch to voters during three events.

One thing is abundantly clear about Biden's message this time around: He's taking on Trump, head on.

"It wasn't planned this way, but ... President Trump is in Iowa today," Biden said during his stop in Ottumwa. "I hope his presence here will be a clarifying event."

Biden's remarks marked some of his most pointed attacks of the president, mentioning his name dozens of times and hitting Trump for his tariff policy and the impact it has on Iowa farmers and manufacturers.

"Trump doesn't get the basics. He thinks his tariffs are being paid by China. Any beginning econ student at Iowa or Iowa State could tell you that the American people are paying his tariffs," Biden said in Davenport.

Biden also hit Trump for his denial of climate change.

"[S]till, Trump denies climate change. What did he tell Piers Morgan in that interview? 'Well the weather goes both ways,'" the former vice president said. "It reminds me of when he tweeted in the winter that since it was cold outside there was no climate warming. Or how about when he said the way to deal with California's fires was to rake the leaves? It would be funny if it wasn't so serious."

"I believe," Biden continued, "Trump is an existential threat to America" and a "genuine threat to our core values."

"I've said many times that we can overcome four years of Trump, but if we give him eight years in the White House he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation," Biden said Tuesday night.

Biden has attempted to take on Trump from the start of his candidacy, calling out the current administration in his announcement video and at his campaign's kickoff rally in Philadelphia, calling the president the "divider-in-chief."

But while Biden has been eager to take on the president in his campaign, he didn't take the bait on Trump's attacks Tuesday morning.

When asked by reporters about the president's comments about Biden's mental fitness, the former vice president brushed it off.

"I'm not going to stoop down to where he is," Biden said after his afternoon event in Mount Pleasant.

Biden has also largely stayed away from taking the bait from his 2020 rivals. He didn't attend the Iowa Hall of Fame dinner Sunday night alongside 19 other 2020 candidates, staying instead in Washington to celebrate his granddaughter's high school graduation with former President Barack Obama.

"[M]y granddaughter was graduating from high school. And her best friend is Sasha Obama," Biden explained. "So Barack and I and Jill and, and the whole family, we got together afterwards to have a little light lunch and dinner for the families that all these girls grew up together with."

While in Iowa last weekend, Biden's opponents mostly refrained from calling the former vice president out by name, instead making veiled swipes at him for his "middle ground" policies and calls for a "return to normal."

Biden addressed those comments in Iowa: "[I]t's clear that Trump is shredding what we believe in most. I believe we have to restore those basic values. I gather some people think that's a return to the past. I don't see it that way. I see it as embracing the enduring values that have made America, America. I don't think that's taking us into the past. For me, it's the only way America is going to have a future."

A new CNN/Des Moines Register poll showed Biden still leading the crowded Democratic field in Iowa, with 24 percent of likely Democratic caucus voters naming him their top choice.

But in the new poll, Biden failed to add to his lead from a statewide poll in March before he officially entered the 2020 race.

The last time Biden ran for president, in 2008, Iowa provided the final blow to the Delaware senator's campaign. Biden dropped out of the race one day after the Iowa caucus after failing to receive 1 percent of the vote.

Biden would re-enter the race a few months later, joining former President Barack Obama -- who won the Iowa caucus that year -- as his running mate.

Trump to talk farm policy

In Council Bluffs, Trump is expected to tout his plan to allow year-round sales of gasoline mixed with 15% ethanol, as well as his administration's farm policies. Later that day, he will attend a private fundraiser hosted by the Iowa GOP.

"We've got more demand than we do seats," Jeff Kaufman, Iowa's GOP chair told ABC News.

The state's Republican party, which is expecting about 800 people to attend, scrambled to prepare with seven-days notice and advertised the dinner as "intimate."

"I know Joe Biden is coming at the same time, but you know what? He's going to be drowned out," Kaufman said. "Poor Uncle Joe, I hope he finds a dinner somewhere where he can talk to three or four people."

Iowa, known for its first-in-the-nation caucus, will still hold a GOP caucus in 2020 -- giving Republican voters an opportunity to vote against the president.

"I don't really expect [the president] is going to have any competition in Iowa but we still have to have our caucuses," Kaufman said.

Kaufman said the caucus is a way for the Republican state party to build their infrastructure, especially as they gear up for a statewide Senate race and four competitive Congressional seats.

"People have asked me if he doesn't have any competition why have the caucus? And I say, well, 2024. We have [to be] ready in 2024 when there will be competition and we can't take a cycle off," he said.

But the state GOP did not hold a caucus for the last three Republican incumbents.

For Republicans, the winner of the Iowa caucuses has only clinched the presidency, since 1980, just once: George W. Bush in 2000. Trump placed second, behind Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2016.

It's set to be busy week for the Republican Party, with not only a stop from the president but also former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who will also be in town for a fundraiser for Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

"I'll take Nikki Haley and the president of the United States any day over 27 of these left-wing Democrats," said Kaufman, who will emcee Ernst's event later in the week.

Ernst has cautioned against some of the president's decisions, most recently his strategy of threatening tariffs on Mexico. Still Kaufman said the party is strong and united.

"She is able to voice her concerns. She is able to disagree with this president and he listens and he still respects her. No, we're not a monolithic machine here where we all say the same thing ... we actually can disagree and can debate," he said.

A reversal and a rejoice

The former vice president will have to get past his 22 other opponents before facing off with the current president but Biden's recent shift to the left on an anti-abortion measure has raised questions on Biden's primary strategy, and have the Trump campaign ready to pounce.

In recent days, the Biden campaign has been on the defensive after the former vice president said he no longer supported the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or where the mother's life is at risk. The switch came just one day after his campaign said he did support the measure.

Biden's initial support drew a wave of criticism from his 2020 opponents, because it largely affects patients who are on Medicaid, meaning low-income patients have to pay for an abortion out-of-pocket

The reversal marked a leftward shift for Biden, who has been viewed as a moderate candidate and has campaigned on his ability to work across the aisle. The shift also raised questions about Biden's ability to withstand attacks from progressive challengers and grassroots movements.

And following his reversal, the Trump campaign -- bolstered by pro-Trump groups -- also piled on the criticisms, dinging the Democrat for what appeared to be a critical shift to the left.

"He's just not very good at this. Joe Biden is an existential threat to Joe Biden," Tim Murtaugh, Trump's campaign communications director, told ABC News in a statement.

America First Action Super PAC and America Rising PAC, both major pro-Trump groups, flooded Twitter with messages calling out Biden's reversal just minutes after news broke regarding his new comments.

A senior adviser for the Biden campaign told ABC News that the political pressure from other 2020 candidates did not have an impact on Biden's decision, saying, "there were spirited discussions about the Hyde Amendment over the last couple of weeks" but that ultimately the decision came to a head last week and Biden decided to address it in Atlanta.

The former vice president's reversal on the Hyde Amendment is exactly the kind of shift to the left that the Trump campaign and these pro-Trump groups have been waiting for, according to conversations with those groups. Many who are working to re-elect the president have been betting that Biden would need to limp further and further toward progressive policies just to escape the primary, and the former vice president's reversal on the Hyde amendment is the best example of that so far.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun112019

An angry Jon Stewart demands Congress compensate 9/11 responders

Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- First responders from 9/11 and their advocates, including comedian Jon Stewart, made an emotional appeal to Congress on Tuesday to make a victim compensation fund permanent.

Stewart did not hold back, ripping Congress for failing to fully fund a program to support sick and dying 9/11 first responders and choking back tears.

“They responded in five seconds, they did their jobs. With courage grace, tenacity, humility. Eighteen years later, do yours!" he shouted.

"I'm awfully tired of hearing that it's a 9/11 New York issue. Al-Qaeda didn't shout death to Tribeca. They attacked America and these men and women ... brought our country back," he said.



The former “Daily Show” host and dozens of 9/11 first responders demanded Congress fully fund the 9/11 victims compensation fund that supports ailing first responders who worked at Ground Zero.

The September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which Stewart and others have battled to protect for years, is set to run out of money in December 2020. A new bill, which the House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on Wednesday, would permanently authorize funding for the program.

Stewart was in the same position four years ago, but the money in the fund has dried up as the number of cancer cases continues to grow. The 2015 compromise only added an additional 5 years of funding.

Stewart was joined not only by 9/11 survivors and first responders, but also the widow of a construction worker who responded at Ground Zero, clutching a photo of her late husband to her chest as she spoke.

But his testimony was the most searing and visceral of the morning, as he accused lawmakers of negligence and of treating first responders lobbying for more relief money “like children trick-or-treating, rather than the heroes they are and they will always be.”

“I'm sorry if I sound angry and undiplomatic, but I'm angry, and you should be, too, and they're all angry as well and they have every justification to be that way,” he said.

Noting that behind him was a hearing room full of aging first responders who had made another trip to Washington to fight for health care funding, Stewart said, “This hearing should be flipped. These men and women should be up on this stage, Congress should be down here answering their questions as to why this is so damn hard and take so damn long.”

The room erupted in applause when he finished his remarks.

“I cried through all of it, most of us did,” Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., told Stewart.

The Louisiana Republican then predicted the bill would sail through the committee and pass nearly-unanimously through the House.

The proposal’s fate in the Senate is unclear. The bill was held up by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, only to be passed as part of last-minute negotiations over the year-end spending deal in 2015.

Stewart is already taking aim at McConnell, promising that advocates won’t allow a “certain someone” in the Senate to use the program as a “political football” in spending negotiations.

"Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity: time," Stewart said at one point.

Stewart was preceded by Luis Alvarez, a retired New York City detective, who will go through his 69th round of chemotherapy due to complications from being at Ground Zero.

“We are not here for anything for ourselves,” said Alvarez. “I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero. We showed the world we would never back down and that we can all work together."



Alvarez explained he was there so the victims who come after him are taken care of.

“My life isn't worth more than the next responder to get cancer. This fund is not a ticket to paradise, it's there to provide to our families when we aren't there,” he said.

 

Judiciary Committee Chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., ended the hearing by assuring the room that "we will get this done as quickly as possible, and I do think we will get this done."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun112019

House Democrats vote to take Barr, McGahn to court to enforce subpoenas

drnadig/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats on Tuesday took their most forceful action to date against the Trump administration's refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations in a vote to take subpoena fights with Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn to federal court in hopes of getting a judge to enforce them.

In a straight party-line vote, 229-191, House Democrats approved a measure that would allow committee chairmen, in an unprecedented fast-track fashion, to go to federal court to seek enforcement of their subpoenas, including those the Judiciary Committee sent to Barr and McGahn in relation to the Mueller report.

But the vote was not on holding them in contempt of Congress.

What was initially meant to be the Democrats' toughest step yet against Barr was muted following a tentative deal Monday with the attorney general.

While Barr has largely rejected the House Judiciary Committee's subpoena for access to an unredacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report and underlying materials, he reached the agreement with the committee on Monday to provide access to "key evidence" in Mueller's obstruction inquiry, according to Chairman Jerry Nadler. That agreement could stop the committee from heading to court immediately following the House's vote to enforce its subpoena, Nadler said.

"If the Department proceeds in good faith and we are able to obtain everything that we need, then there will be no need to take further steps," Nadler said in a statement. "If important information is held back, then we will have no choice but to enforce our subpoena in court and consider other remedies."

Separately, McGahn has not turned over documents requested by the committee or provided testimony to lawmakers, after the White House directed him not to comply with the committee's subpoena.

While Democratic leaders have spent weeks vowing to hold both men in contempt of Congress, the resolution on the floor Tuesday -- unlike the criminal measure House Republicans brought forward against Attorney General Eric Holder in 2012 -- would not do so.

A criminal contempt citation would refer the matter to the Justice Department to take up -- a highly unlikely scenario given Barr's role as attorney general -- and Democrats opted to advance a proposal to speed up their legal disputes.

On this path, both Barr and McGahn could find themselves in contempt of court should they eventually refuse any court orders to cooperate with Congress.

Tuesday's resolution will also allow House committees to go to court to seek the enforcement of subpoenas, with a simple vote of a committee of House leaders, rather than a full floor vote. The move is expected to speed up plans to sue the Trump administration for defying a subpoena for the president's tax returns, among other inquiries.

This week the House Oversight Committee is also expected to vote to hold Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress over documents and information in the panel's investigation into the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Democrats will take the vote as they launch a larger effort to draw attention to Mueller's report and findings.

On Monday, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing titled "Lessons from the Mueller Report: Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes" featuring former President Richard Nixon's White House counsel John Dean.

Democrats used the session -- featuring several legal experts who appear frequently on television -- to drill down on the special counsel's conclusions regarding obstruction of justice. While Mueller made no judgement as to whether Trump did obstruct justice, he explored nearly a dozen potential episodes, which Democrats revisited on Monday.

Republicans accused Democrats of putting together a mock-impeachment inquiry and of using Dean as a prop to criticize the president.

At one point, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., called Dean "the Ghost of Christmas Past," brought back by Democrats to attack the president. He also accused Dean of creating a "cottage-industry out of accusing presidents of acting like Richard Nixon."

In response, Dean quipped that Gaetz, 37, wasn't alive during Watergate, but noted "remarkable parallels" between Trump and Nixon.

"I learned about obstruction of justice the hard way, by finding myself on the wrong side of the law," said Dean, who in the Watergate investigation pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to obstruct justice in exchange for his cooperation with the special prosecutor.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun112019

Trump repeatedly flashes piece of paper he claims is part of secret Mexico deal

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump continued to insist Tuesday that there is a secret component of his migration deal with Mexico, even flashing a piece of paper to reporters that he claimed spelled out the undisclosed portion.

"In here is the agreement," Trump said, pulling the paper from a coat pocket and repeatedly holding it up as he spoke to reporters. "Right here is the agreement, it's very simple. In here is everything you want to talk about, it's right here," he said, without opening it up.

"This is one page. This is one page of a very long and very good agreement for both Mexico and the United States," Trump said.

"Without the tariffs, we would have had nothing," the president said.

"Two weeks ago, I'll tell you what we had: We had nothing. And the reason we had nothing is because Mexico felt that they didn't have to give us anything. I don't blame them. But this is actually ultimately going to be good for Mexico, too. And it's good for the relationship of Mexico with us," he continued.

Trump said he couldn't show reporters what was on the paper. "I would love to do it, but you will freeze action it. You will stop it. You will analyze it, every single letter. You'll see. But in here is the agreement."

The president said that it's his "option" as to whether the undisclosed agreement will go into effect.

"It's not Mexico's, but it will go into effect when Mexico tells me it's okay to release," Trump said, adding that first Mexico has to ratify whatever agreement they've made. "It goes into effect at my option."

Washington Post photographer Jabin Botsford captured and tweeted a photo of the piece of paper, a portion of which can be read to say “the Government of Mexico will take all necessary steps under domestic law to bring the agreement into force with a view to ensuring that the agreement will enter into force within 45 days.”



Despite the president’s insistence that there is a secret deal, the Mexican government has denied that there are any undisclosed parts of the U.S.- Mexico deal.

"Outside of what I have just explained, there is no agreement," Mexico's Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Monday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun112019

Government to use Army post in Oklahoma as emergency shelter for migrant kids

mj0007/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Facing an unprecedented surge of refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Trump administration will open an emergency shelter at the Army's Fort Sill in Oklahoma for migrant children traveling without their parents.

The military post -- about 90 miles southwest from Oklahoma City and better known as the home of the Army's artillery branch and training -- will receive as many as 1,400 minors as early as next month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday.

The use a military base isn't unprecedented. In 2014, the agency used installations in Texas, Oklahoma and California to house 7,000 unaccompanied migrant children after other shelters hit capacity. But officials say the latest influx of families and children arriving at the southern border has taxed the program once again and forced some 2,000 kids to wait at Border Patrol stations beyond the 72-hour limit before they are transferred to a children's shelter.

Last week, HHS announced it planned to turn an apartment complex, once used by oil field workers in south Texas called "The Studios" at Carrizo Springs, Texas, into an emergency shelter for 1,600 children.

The new emergency shelters come amid record-high levels of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, including some 11,000 kids who arrived at the border in the month of May without their parents. These "unaccompanied alien children," or UACs, are typically older children or teens, but can sometimes include younger children traveling as part of a group, who travel in the hopes of meeting up with parents and other relatives already inside the U.S. The kids often spend several weeks or even months in temporary shelters before they can be placed with a sponsor.

There are currently some 13,350 minors in HHS custody.

The agency's program also has come under severe financial strain in recent weeks, as Congress has yet to fulfill the Trump administration's request for $2.9 billion in emergency money to pay for the shelters. As a result of the influx and lack of money, HHS said last week it was canceling education and recreational services for the kids. The program is expected to run out of money later this month, unless Congress approves the money.

Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan has urged Congress to act on the spending request, noting the 2,000 kids waiting at Border Patrol stations. HHS has said previously that shelter capacity was tight but not maxed out and that no child would be turned away if transported to its shelters.

On Tuesday, HHS spokeswoman Evelyn Stauffer confirmed that capacity for the program in recent days has topped 90 percent, and at one point went as high as 97 percent. The number fluctuates by the day as kids are placed with sponsors and are moved out of the program while others are processed upon arrival. One particular problem, she said, has been that certain shelters might have space but aren't a good fit for the age or gender of the child in need. Some shelters are designated for teen boys, for example, whereas others are better equipped to care for younger children.

Democrats have criticized the facilities, which are often not subject to state child welfare licensing requirements because they are temporary emergency shelters. One such shelter, tent-like facilities in Tornillo, Texas, shuttered amid political pressure and protests. Many of those kids were shuttled to Homestead, Florida.

All children sent to Carrizo Springs and Fort Sill will reside in "hard-sided" facilities. Tent-like structures will only be used for support operations if necessary. Fort Sill will rely on existing infrastructure to house the children, officials said.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun112019

3 Republican former EPA chiefs accuse Trump of 'undermining of science'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Three Republican former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency accuse the agency's current leadership of supporting the "undermining of science" and a potentially "catastrophic" approach to climate change.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News Live, before a rare joint appearance on Capitol Hill, former EPA administrators William Reilly, Lee Thomas and Christine Whitman warned that recent gains in cleaner air and water in the U.S. are beginning to "backslide."

"If we continue business as usual, it's catastrophic," said Reilly, who led the agency under President George H.W. Bush. "We're the number two emitter in the world after China."

Whitman, a former New Jersey governor who ran the EPA under President George W. Bush, raised concerns about "the disrespecting of science in the administration and the undermining of science and the importance of science."

Thomas said his old boss, President Ronald Reagan, would have wanted the agency to recommit to its central purpose.

"Change the direction, change the management and go back to the mission of the agency. That's what I think President Reagan would say, 'That's not how I want this agency to operate,'" Thomas said.

The trio spoke with ABC News before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing Tuesday on the direction of the EPA, which was created in 1970 by Republican President Richard Nixon to protect the human health and the environment. Former Obama administration EPA chief Gina McCarthy also testified.

Asked to grade the performance of the current EPA leadership, led by Administrator Andrew Wheeler, the three Republicans agreed on "D" or "a little lower."

"You need an agency that is credible, has consistency in its rule making and is science-based," said Thomas, who lamented a steady exodus of career employees from the EPA because of disillusionment with its current direction.

When ABC News Live spoke with Wheeler earlier this year, he insisted that the agency remains focused on its core purpose but is balancing other economic priorities. He said he does not believe climate change is a "hoax," as President Donald Trump has insisted, but also does not think it's the "crisis" many environmentalists make it out to be.

"That's an unfair characterization," said Reilly of Wheeler's position, noting that the agency's own National Climate Assessment has painted a dire picture of the situation.

"The Green New Deal did something really wonderful," he said. "I am told by so many Republican members of Congress that they are never asked about climate when they go on the stump. And now, they're asked. That is marvelous. It's put it on the agenda."

Whitman agreed.

"For the first time in my memory, an environmental issue is going to be a major part of a political campaign for the presidency," she said. "I haven't seen that before, and it's not going to go away, and that's good."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Jun112019

'I'm done with him': Pelosi on whether she'll respond to latest Trump attacks

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday that she won’t comment on whether she wants to see President Donald Trump "in prison" as she was reported to have said last week behind closed doors, but she did say that she is "done with" spending time talking about the president and his recent criticism of her during his overseas trip to France.

“I'm done with him,” Pelosi said while being interviewed on stage at the 2019 Fiscal Policy event hosted by Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

Trump attacked Pelosi in an interview with Fox News during his overseas trip in France last Thursday commemorating the 75th anniversary of D-Day calling her a “nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”

“I think she’s a disgrace,” Trump said “I actually don’t think she’s a talented person, I’ve tried to be nice to her because I would have liked to have gotten some deals done. She’s incapable of doing deals, she’s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person, the Mueller report came out, it was a disaster for them.”

Pelosi said on Tuesday she has decided not to fire back at the president and instead said she “doesn’t even want to talk about him.”

"My stock goes up every time he attacks me, so what can I say, but let's not spend too much time on that because that's his victory, the diverter-in-chief, the diverter-of-attention-in-chief."

Pelosi repeated her previously expressed view that impeachment of Trump is "not off the table," but stopped short of saying whether she has an obligation to mount an impeachment inquiry.

“I think the Mueller report very clearly spells out at least ten or 11 instances of obstruction of justice," Pelosi said. "But I'm not here to have that discussion. That's for the committees.”

During a closed door meeting on Capitol Hill last Tuesday, Pelosi told key Democratic committee leaders "I want to see him in prison" rather see Trump be impeached, according to officials familiar with the conversation.

While she did not confirm on Tuesday whether she did in fact express that sentiment to her caucus, she did not deny it either.

“When we have conversations in our caucus they stay in our caucus,” Pelosi said. “Do people think there's some impeachable offenses that the President committed? Yes. How serious are they? Are they criminal? Many people think they are."

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Tuesday
Jun112019

Republican Rep. Justin Amash leaves conservative House Freedom Caucus after calling for Trump's impeachment

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Justin Amash, the first Republican to call for President Donald Trump's impeachment following the release of the Mueller report, has left the conservative House Freedom Caucus and its board, a source close to Amash confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday.

"I have the highest regard for them and they're my close friends," Amash told CNN on Monday. "I didn't want to be a further distraction for the group."

Amash publicly condemned President Trump on Twitter in May saying that after reading the Mueller report he believes that the president engaged in “impeachable conduct.” He also took aim at Attorney General William Barr for “deliberately misrepresenting” the findings of the report.

The caucus was officially founded by conservatives in 2015 at the House Republican retreat in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and now includes more than 30 members. It's chaired by Rep. Mark Meadows, a third-term Republican from North Carolina. Beyond Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., were all founding members and still serve in the House of Representatives.

Following Amash's remarks about Trump's impeachment, the House Freedom Caucus came out strongly against him.

“We had a good discussion and every single member, I think now based on who was there and our board meeting was probably over 30 members, every single member disagrees and strongly with the position Justin took over the week, and we're focused on the now,” Jordan said to reporters.

The Michigan lawmaker opposed Trump’s primary campaign and in the past couple years close observers believe he has grown frustrated with the caucus’s leadership, including Trump loyalist Meadows and Jordan.

While Amash has not signed on to any existing impeachment resolutions proposed by Democrats, in a town hall in Grand Rapids he said it is appropriate for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to proceed with impeachment inquiries and hearings. Ultimately, he says, the ball is in Pelosi's court regarding how to go forward.

"I think it's really important that we do our job as a Congress, that we do not allow misconduct to go undeterred, that we not just say someone can violate the public trust and that there are no consequences to it," Amash said.

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