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Wednesday
Jan102018

Feinstein responds to Trump tweet, denies she did anything 'illegal' in releasing transcript

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump lashed out at Sen. Dianne Feinstein Wednesday for releasing a transcript from the Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan, closed-door interview of Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson, calling her unilateral move “possibly illegal.”

Slapping the senior California Democrat with a new nickname, “Sneaky Dianne Feinstein,” Trump tweeted that the senator “who has on numerous occasions stated that collusion between Trump/Russia has not been found, would release testimony in such an underhanded and possibly illegal way, totally without authorization, is a disgrace.”

Feinstein - who has never said there was no collusion - denied that she had done anything illegal in releasing the transcript, but did express regret that she did not tell her Republican counterpart, Judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley -- beforehand. The two are close and normally work well together, according to numerous members on both sides of the aisle.

“I was looking for Grassley. I meant to tell him, but I didn’t have a chance to tell him. And that concerns me,” Feinstein said. “But that transcript has been so abused that the time has come for people to just take a look at it. I think people can make up their own minds.”

Grassley, an Iowa Republican, for his part, was lower-key about the perceived transgression by his Democratic counterpart.

“Obviously I was a little disappointed, because I had an understanding ahead of time that it would be released when we both agreed to release it,” Grassley said of the transcript publication, but he added, “I think we’re going to move forward without any glitch.”

But he steadfastly refused to comment on the portion of the President’s tough tweet that said “Republicans should finally take control!” - with the senator rejecting a reporter’s attempt to show him the tweet.

“I don’t want to get into what the President said...I don’t intend to have a discussion with the president,” Grassley said emphatically.

“I hope he doesn't call me to tell me things you said he said,” Grassley added with a grin, knowing that any such presidential interference in an investigation would be highly unusual.

And despite a rift developing in recent months between investigators for Grassley and Feinstein, with each making separate requests for interviews and documents, staff on each side worked hard Wednesday to emphasize that the panel’s bipartisan Russia investigation was not dead.

Sen Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a former long-time chairman of the Judiciary panel, called Feinstein’s unusual move “improper” but said unequivocally that what the senator did was not illegal.

“She’s a wonderful senator. I don’t have any desire to censure her,” Hatch said, adding that there are “certain approaches you abide by” that pay homage to the longstanding comity that has existed between the chairman and ranking member of the panel.

Democratic committee member Kamala Harris stood by her fellow Californian, adding, “I say, ‘Good for her’ for making the decision - to have the courage to say, ‘Listen, the American public wants to know.’ There are no rules preventing it from happening. The witness asked that it would happen...Good for her.”

Committee Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who last week joined Grassley in referring the author of the infamous Trump dossier to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, tweeted, “It’s not enough to simply release the transcript from the co-founder of #FusionGPS Glenn Simpson. I want the entire story regarding Fusion GPS, the Dossier, and the Department of Justice to be revealed.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, called the Trump tweet "absolute rubbish, reprehensible and irresponsible. The release of this transcript was fully within the authority of the ranking member."

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Wednesday
Jan102018

Bipartisan lawmakers meet to craft fix for 'Dreamers'

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Building off momentum from a bipartisan meeting hosted by President Trump, lawmakers are racing to craft a plan to protect so-called 'Dreamers' -- but Democrats and Republicans are still far apart on how to fix the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

In a news conference Wednesday, the president likely made that negotiation even harder -- by insisting again that any immigration deal must include funding for a border wall.

“We need the wall,” he said. “Any solution has to include the wall because without the wall, it all doesn’t work.”

The president's comments came as congressional leaders huddled at the Capitol to discuss immigration reform. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin attended the meeting. Cornyn told reporters lawmakers have made enough progress in negotiations to potentially announce the framework of an immigration deal by the end of next week.

Democrats want DACA protections to be tied to a spending deal as government funding is set to expire on January 19th, but Republicans insist it won’t be part of a spending bill.

House Republicans have introduced their own proposal, the first piece of legislation to emerge following the president's meeting with lawmakers. The measure from Reps. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, and Martha McSally, R-Arizona, dubbed the Securing America’s Future Act, would pair border security funding with stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

For DACA recipients, the Republican measure would allow provide recipients temporary legal status that would require renewal every three years. That status would allow them to work and travel overseas freely, but would require them to “make use of existing paths to green cards,” according to a summary of the legislation. The measure would also end the diversity visa program and terminate the process that allows citizens and green-cards holders to sponsor family members for immigration – which Republicans refer to as chain migration – by allowing only those groups to sponsor spouses and minor children.

The Senate is taking a more bipartisan approach with a so-called "gang of six" – Senators Michelle Bennet, D-Colo., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Bob Menendez, D-N.J. – meeting Wednesday.

“Well, I just know that we can't wait for the House to actually draft a bill and move it in that process,” Flake said. “It's gotta start in the Senate and we'll see where it goes in the House.”

As lawmakers work to find a solution, a federal judge in San Francisco Tuesday night temporarily blocked the administration from ending the DACA program, which applies to roughly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The administration announced the drawdown of the program in September, saying it would be phased out by March.

The ruling from U.S. District Judge William Alsup said the administration must resume receiving DACA renewal applications for existing enrollees while lawsuits play out in court.

“The ruling last night in no way diminishes the urgency of solving the DACA issue,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

The president reacted to the case by calling the court system “broken and unfair.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the ruling “outrageous” and said the issue should “go through the normal legislative process."

While some lawmakers are eyeing a bipartisan deal, President Trump has acknowledged the political landmines that might exist, especially if they turn to comprehensive immigration reform.

“If we do this properly, DACA, you're not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform,” the president said Tuesday. “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care.”

Prominent conservatives have already criticized the president for his immigration comments.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Jan102018

DACA court ruling sparks outrage from WH, hope from advocates 

BrianAJackson/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  The White House is calling the federal court ruling to halt dismantlement of DACA "outrageous," but immigration advocates see it as a victory -- although not a lasting one.

On Tuesday, a federal district judge in California issued a preliminary injunction against the Trump administration's effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The program was begun under the Obama administration to offer deportation relief and work authorization to young people brought to the U.S. as children, known as "Dreamers."

On Sept. 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced it was ending the program and phasing it out over the following six months.

Since the program's initiation in 2012, nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants have been granted protection. DACA recipients will begin losing status as of March 6 in waves, though some who were unable to re-apply have already lost benefits.

Since the administration announced the end to DACA, 12,710 DACA recipients have had their status expire, but there were also a number of approvals for new, initial requests.

There are currently, 686,100 DACA recipients, according to Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS), which manages the program.

The court ruling came on the same day that the White House held a bipartisan meeting to discuss immigration reform and amidst ongoing congressional negotiations to reach a DACA deal. The president hosted more than a dozen Republican and Democratic senators for talks on immigration, which turned into a highly unusual, real-time negotiation in front of cameras.

At one point, Trump said that any legislation must be bipartisan and should be "a bill of love." It also must include, he said, funding for a wall "on a good portion" of the border."

Many Democrats oppose the wall -- a major Trump campaign promise.

The White House said that during the closed-door portion of the meeting, lawmakers "reached an agreement to negotiate legislation that accomplishes critically needed reforms in four high-priority areas: border security, chain migration, the visa lottery, and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy."

In the wake of the district court ruling, Trump said that the court system is "broken and unfair" and cited the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the appeals court for cases in California.

"We find this decision to be outrageous, especially in light of the President’s successful bipartisan meeting with House and Senate members at the White House on the same day," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. "An issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process. President Trump is committed to the rule of law, and will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution that corrects the unconstitutional actions taken by the last administration."

The Department of Justice, which will be responsible for appealing the ruling, said it doesn't change the fact that DACA "was an unlawful circumvention of Congress."

"Tonight's order doesn’t change the Department of Justice’s position on the facts: DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend these benefits to this same group of illegal aliens. As such, it was an unlawful circumvention of Congress, and was susceptible to the same legal challenges that effectively ended DAPA," said DOJ spokesman Devin O'Malley in a statement.

In July, 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court split left in place a lower court’s opinion that blocked then-President Obama’s expanded executive action from going into effect. The program, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), could have offered more than four million undocumented immigrants a chance to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

The Trump administration "acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner. Promoting and enforcing the rule of law is vital to protecting a nation, its borders, and its citizens. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation," added O'Malley.

The federal court ruling blocks the Trump administration’s termination of DACA while the underlying case, brought by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, attorneys general for Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, as well as the University of California, individual Dreamers and other plaintiffs, continues.

Those plaintiffs obtained the preliminary injunction against the Trump Administration over its decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).

The court wrote that the plaintiffs "have clearly demonstrated that they are likely to suffer serious irreparable harm absent an injunction."

"Dreamers’ lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump Administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law," said Becerra in a statement. The "ruling is a huge step in the right direction. America is and has been home to Dreamers who courageously came forward, applied for DACA and did everything the federal government asked of them.

Roughly a quarter of all DACA grantees, more than 200,000 young people, live in California, according to Becerra's office.

On Wednesday, immigration advocates said that despite the victory in court, only Congress can deliver a permanent solution for DACA recipients-- and "Dreamers" took to Capitol Hill again to ask for legislative protection.

"This court decision which is a victory, is just another step demonstrating the relentless nature of the cause," said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. "This issue isn’t going to go away until we resolve it."

There will likely be appeals and additional legal hurdles before the court's decision has any impact on young undocumented people covered under Obama's executive action.

Adrian Reyna, Campaign Director at United We Dream and a potential Dream Act beneficiary, said "living life with this level of highs and lows is incredibly difficult.”

He said his sister, also a potential beneficiary of DACA legislation, called him last night to ask if "everything was fixed."

"Devil is in the details, of course not everything is fixed," he said.



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Wednesday
Jan102018

Trump displayed 'rare genius' in listening, being flexible at immigration meeting: GOP senator

US Senate(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Thom Tillis had high praise for President Donald Trump's leadership during a bipartisan immigration reform meeting at the White House Tuesday, commending his willingness to be flexible on key issues in the negotiation and for allowing the press to observe the proceedings for nearly an hour -- a grant of access unprecedented under the Trump administration.

"There was genius displayed yesterday in the meeting. It's sort of a rare genius up here -- it was actually listening and being flexible," said Tillis, R-N.C., in a Wednesday interview on the Powerhouse Politics podcast with ABC News' Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and Political Director Rick Klein.

Tuesday's summit included spirited debate between Democratic senators advocating for protections for so-called "Dreamers" -- the young, undocumented immigrants previously protected by the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy- and Republican legislators who largely want to pair new immigration laws with guarantees for increased border security, potentially including funding for Trump's controversial border wall proposal.

While Trump has been steadfast since the early days of his presidential campaign about his desire for a wall, Tillis said that at the White House Tuesday, Trump told him he would abide by whatever deal the senators could strike among themselves.

"Probably the most compelling statement that he made to me yesterday was, 'I will honor what you all decide you can agree on. I will accept something and sign in to law something that's short of what I would prefer, in the interest of solving the problem,'" the senator relayed.

Yet in a news conference at the White House Wednesday afternoon, Trump made clear that he won’t defer to Congress on all matters when he was asked about the possibility of being presented with a bill that does not include funding for a border wall.

"No. No," the president said. "It's got to include the wall. We need the wall for security. We need the wall for safety. We need the wall for stopping the drugs from pouring in... Any solution has to include the wall, because without the wall it all doesn't work."

Describing himself as "a silver lining kind of guy," Tillis named a number of positive developments from the discussions, among them, Trump "saying it's not going to be a monolithic wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico" and "showing that he's willing to accept something maybe less than what he started out with." He further praised the decision to allow reporters to document the conversation for 55 full minutes.

"I thought it was a great idea," Tillis said, adding, "One thing that was funny, I think it was about 30 minutes into it, I looked up at all the journalists and they're all looking around like, 'Do they know we're still in here?'"

The North Carolina Republican, who introduced legislation in September to prevent a president from removing a special counsel, additionally commented on the status of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, which Trump again called a "witch hunt" in a tweet Wednesday morning. Tillis said he thinks that he and his colleagues should "step back, let the investigations play out and let them be as broad or as narrow as the special counsel and the Department of Justice think they need to be."

His proposal, he said, was not a indictment of the actions of Trump or Mueller in this specific instance, but a protectionary measure he hopes could have an "enduring impact for future administrations" as well.

"I think it has less to do with influencing this investigation and more to do with the Senate and the Congress asserting some influence over the handling of the special counsel, which obviously was created under Congressional action," Tillis said.

The senator did have a suggestion for a separate inquiry however, one related to The Washington Post's December decision to list the fried chicken chain Bojangles -- which was founded in the Tar Heel State -- second-to-last in a ranking of fast food biscuits. A tweet from Tillis lambasting the newspaper's verdict went viral at the time.

"I think it was an egregious decision," he said Wednesday. "That alone may be subject to a special investigation."

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Wednesday
Jan102018

Trump on prospect of meeting with Mueller: 'It seems unlikely'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump would not commit Wednesday to being interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as part of the Russia investigation and called the prospect "unlikely," despite saying last year that he would be willing to speak with him.

"We'll see what happens," Trump said when asked if he would be open to such a meeting. "Certainly I'll see what happens, but when they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview."

Trump's position, stated during a news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the White House, came in the wake of reports this week that Mueller and his team raised the possibility of an interview with the president during a meeting with his attorneys.

A source with knowledge of the meeting, which occurred last month, said that it was not the first instance in which Mueller expressed a desire to meet with Trump as he continues to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign.

Last June, the president provided a different answer when asked by ABC News' Jonathan Karl whether he would open to speaking with Mueller. At the time Trump was refuting congressional testimony by former FBI director James Comey in which Comey claimed that the president had asked for Comey's loyalty.

Trump said he would "100 percent" be willing to share his version of the encounter with Comey under oath. When Karl followed up to ask if he would do so with the special counsel, the president said he "would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you."

As has become routine, Trump fervently denied Wednesday that any collusion took place and described such a suggestion as "a phony cloud" that has hung "over this administration and our government."

"It has hurt our government," he added. "It does hurt our government."



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Wednesday
Jan102018

Cyber veteran joins Special Counsel Mueller’s team

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A longtime federal prosecutor who specializes in cyber crimes and fraud has joined Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election and alleged collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives.

Ryan Dickey, who has worked for the Justice Department for several years, was added to the team in November, Mueller spokesman Peter Carr confirmed to ABC News. He recently served in the criminal division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section.

The move was first reported by The Washington Post. Dickey is now working with about two dozen lawyers, investigators and administrative staffers who comprise Mueller’s office.

It’s unclear exactly why Mueller wanted a prosecutor with Dickey’s experience in cyber-related crimes, but it’s not unusual in such a wide-ranging investigation.

In 2016, Dickey helped prosecute the Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer,” who pleaded guilty to hacking into the emails and social media accounts of numerous high-profile victims.

“Guccifer” previously made headlines when he told reporters he had hacked into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server, but he later admitted to the FBI that he was lying.

His true victims, however, included former Secretary of State Colin Powell and family members of former President George W. Bush. According to prosecutors, Guccifer, whose real name is Marcel Lehel Lazar, hacked into the computers and social media accounts of about 100 Americans and then publicly released some of the information, including private email correspondence, medical and financial information and personal photographs.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized access to a protected computer and one count of aggravated identity theft. He was sentenced to 52 months in prison.

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Wednesday
Jan102018

White House memo: Kelly orders West Wing staff no personal phones, no smart watches 

Vacclav/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- With an eye on bolstering cyber security protocols and cracking down on leaks to the media, Chief of Staff John Kelly issued a memo to staff on Wednesday outlining the administration's new ban on personal cell phones within the West Wing complex of the White House.

In the internal memo obtained by ABC News and verified by a senior White House official Kelly said the policy — set to take effect January 16 — is intended "to protect White House information technology infrastructure from compromise and sensitive or classified information from unauthorized access to dissemination."

The policy goes further than originally expected and is not just limited to personal cell phones. It also includes laptops, smartwatches and "devices with WiFi, Bluetooth, radio, or cellular capabilities" and "any portable device that emits an electric signal and was not issued by the White House Communications Agency," according to the memo.

Staff has previously been warned against using personal cell phones for official business but this memo appears to take the first formal steps outlining disciplinary actions for staffers who skirt the rules.

"Violations of this policy by EOP staff are security incidents that may indicate knowing, willful, or negligent conduct in violation of security policy and may therefore result in disciplinary action and, for other Federal employees and visitors, may include being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex," the memo reads.

Kelly advises staff working in the West Wing to leave the prohibited devices at home, in their vehicles or their non West Wing offices. There are also lockers available for storing the devices.

The policy isn’t without precedent in federal buildings. For example, due to security concerns, personal cell phones are not permitted on the seventh floor of the State Department where the senior executive offices are located.

A former senior White House official familiar with the decision tells ABC News that this has been a discussion since the early stages of the administration with a focus on protecting national security.

“I know that there are other reasons like the leaking, but this does come out of a concern with national security issues. The Chinese and Russians using personal cell phones and compromising them as listening devices,” the former official said, predicting that the ban will not stop the leaking as staffers will be able to use their devices outside the West Wing facility.

“For the purposes of this memorandum, the West Wing means the facility generally located between the President’s Executive Residence and West Executive Drive,” a footnote of the memo reads. “For purposes of this policy, the West Wing does not include the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, any White House Press Corps work spaces, or any outdoor common area, such as the Rose Garden or the North Lawn media positions.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said last week that the new ban has nothing to do with leaks to the press or the revelations in Michael Wolff’s book Fire & Fury.

“Absolutely not. That’s a ridiculous characterization. This is about the security and the integrity of the technology systems here at the White House,” Sanders said.

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Wednesday
Jan102018

"Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff claims responsibility for Bannon's fall

(Credit: Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC) Michael Wolff spoke to "The View" about his book the 'Fire and Fury.'(NEW YORK) -- A day after Steve Bannon unceremoniously stepped down from Breitbart News, Michael Wolff, author of the politically-disruptive book on the Trump White House that publicized many of Bannon’s frustrations, claimed responsibility for the former chief strategist's ousting.

“It certainly wasn't something I expected," Wolff said on ABC's The View Wednesday. "It's certainly not something I feel good about,”

Bannon was a key source in Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, and offered sharp criticism of the president and others, including his adult children.

“Shortly after arriving in this White House, [Bannon] began to understand that … Trumpism and Donald Trump were at a significant distance from each other,” Wolff said. “I think Steve wrestled with that in very, very tough ways. Ultimately, I was the recipient of his enormous frustration.”

“So you're the reason he's out?” Joy Behar, one of the hosts on The View, asked.

“I'm the reason he's out,” Wolff responded.

But the tense White House dynamics went far beyond Bannon and the president, Wolff said. From his time sitting on a couch in the West Wing waiting for appointments with different members of the administration -- a position he said he got because he “slipped through the cracks” -- Wolff said he noticed three "factions."

One of the factions was "Jarvanka," the disparaging term Bannon sued for Jared and Ivanka Trump. The other competing ideas came from Bannon himself and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.

“They regarded -- each of these factions, the 'Jarvanka' side, the Bannon side and Priebus side -- regarded the others as assassins,” he said.

Wolff has been on the television circuit promoting the book and an explosive excerpt in New York Magazine since they were published. The book currently sits at No. 1 on the Amazon books best-sellers list.

He has faced a number of questions about his reporting in the wake of the salacious details that have emerged from the book, but has steadfastly stood by his work. White House officials have disputed his claim that he held "something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing," and have called the book "fiction."

Meghan McCain, co-anchor on The View, raised the credibility question to Wolff.

“Traditionally, in situations like this, it’s the disgruntled staffers who aren’t loyal to their principal that give interviews like this. So I’m curious, when you talk about staff, you didn’t talk to his cabinet? Did you ever interview Jared and Ivanka?” McCain asked.

She also expressed skepticism about the quotes attributed to Tony Blair, Tom Barrack, Kate Walsh, Anna Wintour, all of whom denied their quotes and attribution in the book.

“I think you have to look at the other people who aren't denying, a great number of people,” Wolff responded.

Last week, the book prompted a cease-and-desist letter from one of Trump’s lawyer. In the days following, the president released a Tweet-storm about the credibility of the book and the questions it raised over the president’s own mental stability.

Charles Harder, the Trump lawyer who called for the cease-and-desist, wrote that he was "investigating numerous false and/or baseless statements" about the president contained within the book. He also said it included defamatory statements and could be considered an "invasion of privacy."

In response Monday, a lawyer for Henry Holt & Company, which published the book, responded to Harder, saying there is "no reason to doubt...that Mr. Wolff's book is an accurate report on events of vital public importance" and that Harder's letter "provides no reason to change this conclusion."

"Though your letter provides a basic summary of New York libel law, tellingly, it stops short of identifying a single statement in the book that is factually false or defamatory," the letter, sent on Monday, read. "Instead, the letter appears to be designed to silence legitimate criticism. This is the antithesis of an actionable libel claim."

Henry Holt and Company moved up its original Jan. 9 publication date to last Friday and the book quickly became a best-seller.



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Wednesday
Jan102018

Trump expresses 'openness to holding talks' with North Korea

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- In a significant reversal of the hostile rhetoric he has engaged with North Korea over the first year of his presidency, President Donald Trump signaled a willingness to take part in diplomatic negotiations with the rogue Asian nation during a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Wednesday.

A readout of the call from the White House said that Trump "expressed his openness to holding talks between the United States and North Korea at the appropriate time, under the right circumstances." The two leaders additionally "underscored the importance of continuing the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea," according to the White House.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported similar details about the conversation, writing that Moon's office issued a press release in which it said that Moon and Trump "agreed to closely consult on the direction of talks between the South and North Korea in the future.

The conversation between Trump and Moon came as representatives from South Korea and North Korea met on Tuesday for diplomatic discussions for the first time in more than two years. Moon credited Trump for facilitating those talks, saying in an address Wednesday prior to his call with the U.S. president that Trump played a "big" role.

"I extend my gratitude to President Trump," Moon said.

The relationship between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has featured persistent threats and personal attacks over the course of the past year as North Korea has continued to engage in missile tests.

Most recently, in response to Kim's claim that a "nuclear button" sits on his desk, Trump tweeted a request that, "someone from [Kim's] depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

Prior to Wednesday's call between Trump and Moon, the U.S. president has been inconsistent in his position about whether diplomatic action could be successful in curtailing North Korean aggression.

In October, he tweeted that he told Secretary of State Rex Tillerson -- whom he described as "wonderful" -- "that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," using his nickname for Kim.

He added in a subsequent tweet, "Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!"



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Trump expresses 'openness to holding talks' with North Korea

Wednesday
Jan102018

California Rep. Darrell Issa not seeking re-election in 2018

Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(LOS ANGELES) -- Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., will not seek re-election to his Orange County congressional seat, he announced Wednesday, the latest in a string of retirements from Republican House members in recent weeks.

Issa was first elected to the House in 2000, and served as chairman of the House Oversight Committee from 2011 to 2015.

“I am forever grateful to the people of San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties for their support and affording me the honor of serving them all these years,” Issa wrote in a statement Wednesday.

“While my service to California's 49th District will be coming to an end, I will continue advocating on behalf of the causes that are most important to me, advancing public policy where I believe I can make a true and lasting difference, and continuing the fight to make our incredible nation an even better place to call home," he added.

Issa’s announcement comes just a day after another high-profile Orange County Republican congressman, Ed Royce, announced that he too was retiring in 2018.

Issa’s decision makes him the 30th Republican House member to not seek re-election this year, a number that has steadily grown in the last several months.

Of those 30, 11 are seeking a U.S. Senate seat or the governor’s mansion in their respective state.

Districts like Issa’s are key for Democrats to take back the House in 2018, and the party was quick to capitalize on the news of his departure.

“Secretary Clinton won this district by a huge margin in 2016, and the cohort of strong Democratic challengers, unprecedented grassroots activism, and historic investment by the DCCC in Southern California means we are in a strong position to elect a Democrat to the 49th District this fall,” Drew Godinich, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), wrote in a statement Wednesday.

The National Republican Congressional Committee expressed optimism that the seat will remain red.

“As evidenced by his work as Oversight Chairman, Congressman Darrell Issa is a fearless protector of integrity in government. His retirement is a great loss for the institution and the American people. We are truly grateful for his service," said Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the NRCC. "In the 49th district, Democrats are locked in what is fast becoming one of the bloodiest primaries in America. While Democrats fight with each other, Republicans will focus on fighting Democrats – and that's how we plan to win.”

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