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ABC News(NEW YORK) --  Democratic party officials will vote Saturday for a new chair of the Democratic National Committee, but heading into the weekend, the race is still neck-and-neck and hotly contested.

Democrats may be united against President Donald Trump, but they remain deeply divided about who is best to lead and represent them.

The crowded field of candidates vying for the job narrowed this week, but those who dropped out only solidified the fault lines in the race.

It remains to be seen whether the drawn-out campaign for this role will help the party as it looks to rebuild itself. Insiders, party staff and many voting members fear it may have hurt it. They feel they have been handicapped at the start of the new Trump administration. In conversations, they say they are anxious to have a leader in place and the organization fully operational again.

"The biggest issue I hear right now is they want to get this part over with and they want to start fighting, we are how many days into his administration already and we are still trying to decide who are leadership is," the party's current finance chair, Henry R. Muñoz, told ABC News. "Four years from now we should get this over at the end of the year."

Last weekend, New Hampshire Party chair Raymond Buckley bowed out and threw his support behind Minnesota congressman and Progressive Caucus chair Keith Ellison. Buckley praised Ellison’s commitment to investing in local parties, a promise all the candidates have made, as well as his impressive backing from large progressive organizations, including Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

 “Now, many candidates have spoken about these issues, but Keith's commitment to the states and a transparent and accountable DNC has stood out. He knows elections are not won and lost in the beltway, but on the ground across the country,” Buckley wrote in his statement. In a fundraising email a few days later for a progressive group, he wrote, that with Ellison as chair the “grassroots will be the top priority.”

Plenty of Democrats inside Washington and elsewhere fear Ellison lacks the management experience needed for the job and that picking him could send the wrong message to voters about the lessons the party needs to learn after the election in November.

Ellison is a firebrand, African-American Muslim who was one of the first to back Senator Bernie Sanders in the presidential primary. Sanders and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in turn, immediately backed Ellison’s bid for chair. He is often asked if the party is moving too far to the left and he never hesitates to emphatically say it's not. He is quick to reject the idea that he only appeals to certain fractions of the party.

“My district is 63 percent white, mostly working class people," he told ABC News. "They elect me year after year and they know what my religion is and they can look at me and see what color I am. It's not a problem. People are only a demographic until you know them, then they become people. Whether you talk to white working class voters or you talk to people of color, women, they don’t feel that either one of them was talked to well enough.”

The other front-runner for the job is President Obama’s former Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez. Thursday, in a statement closely resembling Buckley’s, the state party chair from South Carolina, Jamie Harrison, exited the race and backed Perez, adding to the long list of party officials and members of Obama’s former cabinet who have lined up behind him.

 Perez argues that his experience running a large federal agency like the Department of Labor makes him uniquely qualified to oversee the national party. "Who has a track record of turning around organizations of that scale? That’s what we need to do," he told ABC News in a recent interview. "The Department of Labor is a big organization 16,000 strong and a 45 billion dollar budget and I had a good track record of making sure it was firing on all cylinders."

Like Buckley did for Ellison, Harrison praised Perez for promising to put grassroots activism front and center and strengthening state party chapters, but also emphasized Perez’s experience in Washington.

"Tom Perez has brought integrity, passion, and tenacity to every job he’s ever had," Harrison wrote. "These qualities are why Barack Obama and Joe Biden trusted him to spearhead an economic agenda that brought us out of the recession. They are why Eric Holder trusted him to enforce our civil rights and voting rights laws so that everyone is treated equally under the law and has access to the ballot box. And they are why I trust Tom to lead the Democratic turnaround as Chair of the DNC."

Neither Perez nor Ellison will confirm whether or not they have the majority of votes needed to win right now. Only 447 people will vote Saturday and most likely, the election will continue to be an iterative process with multiple rounds of ballots and debate, which could leave room for leader to emerge.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has received endorsements from five former DNC Chairs, including Howard Dean this week. Dean said Buttigieg, who turned 35 last month, brings a young perspective the party needs.

But Buttigieg -- an openly gay former Naval officer who served in Afghanistan -- entered the race relatively recently and lacks the national profile or name recognition like Ellison or Perez. Still, with his impressive resume, members have given him a look and he is quickly developing a following.

“Most important thing he is the 'outside of the beltway’ candidate,” Dean said this week of Buttigieg. "This party is in trouble. Our strongest age group that votes for us is under 35. And they don't consider themselves Democrats. They elected Barack Obama twice. They didn't elect Hillary Clinton but voted 58 percent for her and don't come out for the midterms or down ballot candidates."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  Ivanka Trump hosted Republican members of Congress at the White House last week to discuss some of her personal legislative priorities -- a childcare tax proposal and paid maternity leave, according to a White House official and a Senate GOP aide.

News of the White House meeting was first reported by Bloomberg News.

It is unusual for the child of a president -- with no formal role in her father's administration -- to host a policy meeting with lawmakers inside the West Wing.

The White House official noted that Ivanka has been long been passionate about the issue and that it remains a priority.

 A spokesperson for Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, said the senator attended the Wednesday evening meeting in the Roosevelt Room, where the group of GOP lawmakers discussed Trump's proposed childcare tax benefit and paid leave. Fischer introduced a paid leave bill earlier this month.

Ivanka has back-channeled with members of Congress on the issues she trumpeted during her father's campaign. This fall, she met with female Republican lawmakers at the RNC for a discussion on the same topic.

Members of the Trump transition team discussed the childcare tax proposal with staff on the tax-writing House Ways and Mean Committee in a phone call last month.

Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said his committee staff has had "productive" discussions with the Trump team about the proposal.

“We've had some preliminary and very productive discussions with the Trump transition team and their desire to make child care more affordable for families," he said to reporters recently. "So we’re exploring a number of options. They’ve brought some ideas forward, and it’s early in those discussions, but we’re having them."

Asked by ABC News' Cecilia Vega about Ivanka Trump's role in the administration following her participation in several White House meetings, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the first daughter's role is "to provide input" on issues about which she has deep personal concern -- particularly as it relates to women.

"I think her role is to provide input on a variety of areas that she has deep compassion and concerns about especially women in the work force and empowering women," Spicer said. "She has as a lot of expertise and wants to offer that especially in the area of trying to help women, she understands that firsthand an I think because of the success she's had her goal is to try to figure out any understanding she has as a business woman, to help and empower women with the opportunity and success she's had."

On Thursday, Ivanka participated in several meetings at the White House with President Trump and top White House officials, as they met with business leaders. A day earlier, she met with minority business owners in the Baltimore area.

The president's eldest daughter also participated in a roundtable with female business leaders when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House earlier this month.

In an exclusive interview with ABC News last month, Ivanka Trump dismissed speculation that she would take on some of the first lady's responsibilities in the White House.

“There is one first lady, and she’ll do remarkable things,” she told ABC News’ 20/20.

Trump has also walked away from her personal businesses, while in Washington.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  Two days before the Trump administration approved an easement for the Dakota Access pipeline to cross a reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation, the U.S. Department of the Interior withdrew a legal opinion that concluded there was “ample legal justification” to deny it.

The withdrawal of the opinion was revealed in court documents filed this week by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the same agency that requested the review late last year.

“A pattern is emerging with [the Trump] administration,” said Jan Hasselman, an attorney representing the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. “They take good, thoughtful work and then just throw it in the trash and do whatever they want to do.”

The 35-page legal analysis of the pipeline’s potential environmental risks and its impact on treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous tribes was authored in December by then-Interior Department Solicitor Hilary C. Tompkins, an Obama appointee who was -- at the time -- the top lawyer in the department.

“The government-to-government relationship between the United States and the Tribes calls for enhanced engagement and sensitivity to the Tribes' concerns,” Tompkins wrote. “The Corps is accordingly justified should it choose to deny the proposed easement.”

 Tompkins’ opinion was dated Dec. 4, the same day the Obama administration announced that it was denying an easement for the controversial crossing and initiating an environmental impact statement that would explore alternative routes for the pipeline. Tompkins did not respond to a request by ABC News to discuss her analysis or the decision made to withdraw it.

On his second weekday in office, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum that directed the Army Corps of Engineers to “review and approve” the pipeline in an expedited manner, to "the extent permitted by law, and as warranted, and with such conditions as are necessary or appropriate." “I believe that construction and operation of lawfully permitted pipeline infrastructure serve the national interest,” Trump wrote in the memo.

Two weeks later, the Corps issued the easement to Dakota Access and the environmental review was canceled.

The company behind the pipeline project now estimates that oil could be flowing in the pipeline as early as March 6.

The analysis by Tompkins includes a detailed review of the tribes’ hunting, fishing and water rights to Lake Oahe, the federally controlled reservoir where the final stretch of the pipeline is currently being installed, and concludes that the Corps “must consider the possible impacts” of the pipeline on those reserved rights.

“The Tompkins memo is potentially dispositive in the legal case,” Hasselman said. "It shows that the Army Corps [under the Obama administration] made the right decision by putting the brakes on this project until the Tribe’s treaty rights, and the risk of oil spills, was fully evaluated."

Tompkins’ opinion was particularly critical of the Corps’ decision to reject another potential route for the pipeline that would have placed it just north of Bismarck, North Dakota, in part because of the pipeline’s proximity to municipal water supply wells.

“The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Reservations are the permanent and irreplaceable homelands for the Tribes,” Tompkins wrote. “Their core identity and livelihood depend upon their relationship to the land and environment -- unlike a resident of Bismarck, who could simply relocate if the [Dakota Access] pipeline fouled the municipal water supply, Tribal members do not have the luxury of moving away from an environmental disaster without also leaving their ancestral territory.”

Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the project, has said that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on local water supply are unfounded” and “multiple archaeological studies conducted with state historic preservation offices found no sacred items along the route.”

The decision to temporarily suspend Tompkins' legal opinion two days before the easement was approved was outlined in a Feb. 6 internal memorandum issued by K. Jack Haugrud, the acting secretary of the Department of the Interior. A spokeswoman for the department told ABC News today that the opinion was suspended so that it could be reviewed by the department.

The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes are continuing their legal challenges to the pipeline. A motion for a preliminary injunction will be heard on Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The Corps has maintained, throughout the litigation, that it made a good faith effort to meaningfully consult with the tribes.

The tribes contend, however, that the Trump administration’s cancellation of the environmental review and its reversal of prior agency decisions are “baldly illegal.”

“Agencies can’t simply disregard their own findings, and ‘withdrawing’ the Tompkins memo doesn’t change that,” Hasselman said. “We have challenged the legality of the Trump administration reversal and we think we have a strong case.”

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Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) --  The White House indicated Thursday that the enforcement of federal laws on recreational marijuana will increase during President Donald Trump's tenure in office.

Press secretary Sean Spicer, responding to a question at Thursday's press briefing about the Department of Justice's role when federal marijuana laws conflict with state statutes, said he believes there is a wide difference between recreational and medicinal marijuana use.

 "I do believe you will see greater enforcement of [federal restrictions on recreational use]," said Spicer.

As for the drug's medicinal benefits, Spicer explained that Trump "understands ... the comfort" that medical marijuana brings to some sufferers of terminal diseases but Spicer showed concern for "encouraging" drug use "when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming around the states in the country."

Marijuana continues to be listed as a Schedule I substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration under the Controlled Substances Act, defined by the government as "drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."

In 2012, President Barack Obama told ABC News that there were "bigger fish to fry" than recreational users of the drug in states like Colorado and Washington.

"It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal," said Obama.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  President Donald Trump on Thursday renewed his call to expand the country's nuclear weapons cache so that the U.S. is the "top of the pack," according to an interview with Reuters.

Trump's comments echoed statements he offered in December when he tweeted about "expand[ing]" the nation's "nuclear capability" and told MSNBC that he was willing to engage in an "arms race."

Trump told Reuters today he wants the country's cache of weapons to be "top of the pack," a notion expanded upon by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at his daily press briefing.

"The U.S. will not yield its supremacy in this area to anybody," said Spicer. "That’s what he made very clear [during the interview], and that if other countries have nuclear capabilities, it’ll always be the United States that [has] the supremacy and commitment to this."

On Dec. 22, Trump -- who indicated during the campaign that some nuclear proliferation might be good -- advocated in a tweet for bolstering American capabilities.

The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016

The next day, speaking by phone to Mika Brzezinski, the co-host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Trump said he'd be open to competing with other countries to accumulate weapons.

“Let it be an arms race,” said Trump. “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

In Thursday's Reuters interview, Trump brought up both Russian cruise missile usage and North Korean missile tests and told the news outlet that the U.S. "has fallen behind in its atomic weapons capacity."

The U.S. has a total of 4,571 warheads in its functional stockpile, a State Department official said. Of those, 1,367 are deployed, while Russia has 1,796 deployed. Both countries have until 2018 under the 2011 New START agreement to limit deployed nuclear weapons to 1,550.

The Pentagon has begun a modernization of the American nuclear program which former Defense Secretary Ash Carter said earlier this year will cost $350 - $450 billion to update beginning in 2021.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  With the House of Representatives out of session this week, many members have headed back to their home districts to engage with constituents and, in some cases, hold town hall meetings. Some of these events have turned contentious, drawing a response from the White House Wednesday as citizens continue to voice displeasure with their representatives.

Responding to a question from ABC News' Jonathan Karl, who quoted President Donald Trump's description of these audiences as "so-called angry crowds," White House press secretary Sean Spicer portrayed meeting-goers as a "hybrid" of two groups.

"I think some people are clearly upset, but there is a bit of professional protester manufactured base in there," said Spicer, who provided no evidence to support the claim. "Obviously, there are people that are upset, but I also think that when you look at some of these districts ... it is not a representation of a member's district or an incident."

 A number of events are still scheduled for the remainder of the week, but here's a list of notable interactions from the events:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz told to do his job

Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, attracted attention in 2015 and 2016 for his committee's investigation of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she served as secretary of state. Back in Utah, he faced a packed crowd of over 1,000 people at a high school auditorium, where he was serenaded with heckles and chants of "do your job" during a town hall on Feb. 9.

Chaffetz attracted continued attention afterward when he told local paper the Deseret News that he believed some of the attendees were brought in from out of state.

"Absolutely. I know there were," Chaffetz told the newspaper, classifying the commotion as "more of a paid attempt to bully and intimidate." He did not offer any evidence as to support the claim.

Russia on the mind of Rep. Tom Reed's constituency

At two different town halls on Saturday in upstate New York, Rep. Tom Reed pushed back on the suggestion that the Trump administration's connections to Russia needed to be investigated. Over a chorus of boos and objections from some members of his own party in the audience, Reed expressed his opinion that "there is no evidence" of wrongdoing in the executive branch.

In a moment that received some of the loudest cheers, a man told Reed that he hoped the lawmaker would stand up to President Trump.

"Checks and balances are crucial to the American system,” the man said. "You are the checks and balances."

Rep. Scott Taylor sees green and red in his purple district

Less than three weeks into his tenure representing Virginia's 2nd congressional district, Rep. Scott Taylor returned home Monday to a packed crowd, many of whom wore their zip codes on name tags to preemptively combat claims that they arrived from elsewhere.

As Taylor fielded questions about health care, connections between the Trump administration and Russia and his willingness to speak out against the president, some attendees held up green and red signs to show when they agreed or disagreed.

Afterward, Taylor told ABC News that he empathized with fellow legislators who chose not to hold events out of safety concerns, but said he was "not one to shy away from these things."

"I think it is important to give people a seat at the table," said Taylor. "Long term, if safety precautions are taken, I would encourage my colleagues to do the same thing.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell speaks out on the Supreme Court and Twitter

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did not hold a town hall Tuesday, rather a private, ticketed event, but it still didn't stop a crowd from showing up to protest the Kentucky Republican.

"Why are they protesting? They didn't like the results of the election … people in our state had a chance to express themselves and they did pretty overwhelmingly," said McConnell inside the event. "They had their shot at the election and they had their shot in Kentucky … winners make policy and losers go home." He added, however, that he was "proud" of protesters and that they had the right to speak out.

McConnell received a number of pointed questions, including one from a woman who said she would sit down "like Elizabeth Warren" if he could answer her question -- alluding to the Senate voting to silence Warren during a debate over Jeff Sessions' nomination for attorney general.

The majority leader mostly ignored questions he disagreed with, but didn't shy away from critiques of the new president, saying of Trump's use of Twitter, "Am I a fan of all of the tweets? ... Use your imagination."

McConnell also admitted that he "thought the next president was going to be Hillary Clinton," in defending his decision not to hold confirmation hearings on President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. Because he thought the Democrat would prevail, he said he "wasn’t necessarily achieving any particular advantage for my side."

Sen. Tom Cotton questioned about health care, public broadcasting

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton faced a passionate crowd in his deep red state Wednesday, who questioned the first-term lawmaker on a wide range of issues.

In two moments that went viral shortly afterward, Cotton heard from a woman whose husband is battling dementia and Alzheimer's, and a young boy seeking to protect his favorite television programs.

"You want to stand there with [my husband] at home, expect us to be calm, cool, and collected." said the first woman, seeking to protect her health-care coverage. "Well, what kind of insurance do you have?"

The young boy, who first explained that he and his family "like Mexicans," told the senator that Congress shouldn't divert funding from the Public Broadcasting Service to pay for reinforcement at the border. As the new administration prepares its first budget, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting could be targeted for cuts, sources familiar with the process have said.

"You shouldn't do all that stuff for just a wall," said the child.

Cotton responded by saying, "You can still have one and have the other."

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US Senate(WASHINGTON) --  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded an Obama-era memo aimed at reducing and ultimately ending the Justice Department's use of private prisons.

The memo, penned in August 2016 by former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates -- who was fired by President Trump last month after she refused to defend his immigration order -- suggested that private correctional facilities "compare poorly" to federal facilities, and instructed officials to begin "the process of reducing, and ultimately ending, our use of privately operated prisons."

Citing declining inmate numbers and an Inspector General's report showing private institutions experience more security incidents per capita than government-run prisons, Yates directed the Bureau of Prisons to decline to renew private contracts, or "substantially reduce" their scope.

In his letter to the Bureau of Prisons, however, Sessions claimed Yates' guidance "changed long-standing policy and practice, and impaired the Bureau's ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system," and directed officials to "return to its previous approach."

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MIKE THEILER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, pounced on the media during the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, repeating his attack that the press is the "opposition party" that is "always wrong" about the administration.

"I think if you look at, you know, the opposition party," said Bannon, referring to the media, during his appearance at the conference with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. "How they portrayed the campaign, how they portrayed the transition and how they're portraying the administration -- it's always wrong."

Bannon, who once was the head of the conservative outlet Breitbart News, took issue with descriptions of the White House as "chaotic," "disorganized" and "unprofessional," saying that the same terms were used against the ultimately-victorious campaign. Now, with Trump as president, both Bannon and Priebus made the argument that he is following through on his promises, despite distractions.

 "All President Trump does every day is hit his agenda every single day, whether it's TPP, deregulation, Neil Gorsuch, his promise is coming through every day,” Priebus said.

"[Everything] he's doing is laid out an agenda with the speeches on the promises he made and our job is get the paths of what he's executed, and he is maniacally focused on that,” Bannon added.

The setting of the conversation -- CPAC -- was a foreign one for Bannon. In past years, Breitbart sponsored discussions that ran counter to the event, called "The Uninvited." The chief strategist poked fun at his attendance at the main event Thursday.

"I want to thank you for finally inviting me to CPAC,” said Bannon, who portrayed his appearance at the convention, and his working relationship with Priebus, as the marriage of conservatism and the Republican party establishment.

Priebus, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, joined in on the media criticism when it came to his relationship with Bannon, which a number of outlets, including Breitbart, have classified as rocky.

"In regard to us two, I think the biggest misconception is everything that you're reading," said Priebus. "We share an office suite together, we're basically together from 6:30 in the morning until about 11:00 at night."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said she supports President Trump's rollback of Obama administration guidelines on transgender students' choice of bathrooms in schools.

During a Q&A at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday, DeVos said the previous president's guidance issued last year to public schools was a "very huge example of the Obama administration's overreach."

She added, however, "It's our job to protect students" and "to protect personal freedoms."

The charter school advocate was making her first in-person comments on the issue since The New York Times and Washington Post reported that she and Attorney General Jeff Sessions differed on the rollout of the new policy given disagreements on timing and language. ABC News has not independently confirmed those accounts.

In a written statement released Wednesday night, DeVos expanded on the views she expressed at CPAC, saying she has dedicated her career to protecting “all students, including LGBTQ students.”

Before DeVos addressed the new bathroom guidance onstage, she deflected several questions from ABC News and other outlets about whether or not she voiced her dissent on the issue to Sessions or President Trump.

“We’re here to say hi to the folks out the front,” she said as she entered an area reserved for speakers.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — From rural towns to big cities and at both public events and private fundraisers, lawmakers home in their districts this week have been bombarded by energized and engaged crowds demanding answers and determined to make their voices heard.

Republican members of Congress brave enough to hold public town halls have been booed, yelled at, and cornered with tough questions about story lines coming out of Washington, such as reported contacts between members of President Trump's campaign and Russia, that many from both sides of the aisle have said they find worrisome.

Frustrated crowds have found ways to catch up to some senators and representatives who have shied away from holding public events. On Wednesday in Kentucky, swarms of people protested outside ticketed events that GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attended. In Vista, California, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa did not have an open forum on the books this week, but angry protesters camped outside his office until he came out to talk to them.

Reports of these milk jugs spotted in local stores all over the 8th district #WhereIsPaulCook @RepPaulCook @VVDailyPress

— Where Is Paul Cook (@WhereIsPaulCook) February 20, 2017

In many ways, the week has been a tour de force of Democratic campaign strategy and grassroots organizing. From running 'missing-person' ads to renting billboards, organizers have used a number of creative methods to draw attention to lawmakers seen as avoiding the public. Lists were circulated detailing where Congress members would be during the week and tips distributed on how best to raise concerns at representatives' town hall meetings.

Last week, after GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz faced a particularly rambunctious crowd in his Utah district, he tried to dismiss those who came as out-of-towners. So this week, at meetings from Virginia to Colorado, attendees have worn badges with their ZIP codes or held up their driver’s licenses to prove their residency. Another common tactic: green and red signs for people to hold up when they agree or disagree with something said at an event. The colorful visual plays well for the cameras.

Everyone holding up their CO driver's license to prove that it's all Coloradans wanting to talk with @SenCoryGardner 😂

— IndivisibleNOCO (@IndivisibleNOCO) February 22, 2017

A number of concerns have come to the fore. From coast to coast, voters are asking their congressional representatives what a Republican “repeal and replace” plan for the Affordable Care Act might look like. Will young people be able to stay on their parents’ plans? Are health saving accounts helpful? How would block grants to states for Medicaid impact services?

During an interview after his town hall, GOP Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia acknowledged that a lack of specificity from Republican leadership about what they will do with Obamacare is adding to the unease.

Taylor said it could be anytime from a month to years before final health care legislation is complete. "It is extremely important and imperative that people who are working on that repeal and replacement are very deliberative … We better get it right. I think it is responsible to be methodical about it,” he told ABC News.

A few hours away in northern Virginia, another Republican representative, Dave Brat, said after his boisterous town hall that he doesn't know his own party’s plan for health care and that is a problem. He said he is frustrated by the fact that leadership sent him home, into the lion’s den, without any answers.

“People are saying I am not giving the full story,” he said.

There is also notable concern and confusion about the Trump administration's relationship with Russia. At Taylor’s event, a woman stood and said she voted for him but that she was disappointed he had stood by during what she saw as Trump’s efforts to play nice with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Russia was just implicated, by all 17 of our U.S. intelligence agencies, as having interfered in our elections,” Lulani Gillikin, a nonprofit worker who lives in Taylor’s district, stood and said to the congressman. “Why would you even consider being any type of frenemy with Russia when they are continuing to have this type of misinformation and disinformation, which is sad, and it looks like there is a probable link with the campaign of our current president?”

Taylor answered saying that he thought Russia should be held accountable for some of its leaders' actions and that he supports a Senate investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. election.

“The reality is in the international community that there are things that historically we have worked together with them on even though they are enemies and it has to happen sometimes for international order,” the congressman added.

Many questions posed to Republican lawmakers also centered around the idea of if, when and how they might be willing to stand up against the White House or break party lines.

“What can you say to me and the people in your district to ensure us that you will support all the needs of the people and, when necessary, you will speak out against policies that are wrong, no matter if it comes from the president or one of your colleagues," James Harvey, a constituent of Taylor's asked the congressman after thanking him for hosting the event. "That you will not be a 'go-along to get along' representative. You say you are 'Republican leaning,' but there is also right and wrong.”

Taylor, newly elected in November, said he agreed it is important to work across the aisle and highlighted relationships he is building with some of his Democratic colleagues. He said he is impressed by all of his fellow “freshmen” representatives on the Hill and proud that they have signed a pledge to be civil and work together across party lines.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Just last month the White House said Donald Trump is "respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights," but following Wednesday's reversal of Obama-era guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, the president's alleged affinity for such rights has been questioned.

In fact, it's a bit of a turnaround for the president, who has spoken relatively positively about the LGBT community in recent months.

"President Donald J. Trump is determined to protect the rights of all Americans, including the LGBTQ community," the White House said in a statement in late January, to assure the LGBT community that he would continue to enforce an Obama-era executive order protecting the rights of LGBT federal employees and contractors. "President Trump continues to be respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights, just as he was throughout the election.

The statement added, "The President is proud to have been the first ever GOP nominee to mention the LGBTQ community in his nomination acceptance speech, pledging then to protect the community from violence and oppression."

And Trump was also relatively supportive of the LGBT community during the campaign.

When asked during a TV interview in April if Olympian-turned-reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner would be free to use any bathroom at Trump Tower, the then-presidential candidate said, "That is correct."

Those comments came while North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill — that banned people from using bathrooms didn’t match the sex indicated on their birth certificate — was being hotly debated.

During the same aforementioned interview, Trump said transgender individuals in North Carolina should be able to "use the bathroom they feel is appropriate." He added that state lawmakers should "leave it the way it is."

A couple of months later, at a rally in June in Dallas, Trump proclaimed "the LGBT community is starting to like Donald Trump very, very much lately."

As for his position on same-sex marriage, Trump has been a bit contradictory. During an interview with "60 Minutes" last November, Trump said he was "fine" with same-sex marriage as the law of the land.

"These cases have gone to the Supreme Court," he said. "They've been settled. And I'm fine with that. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean, it’s done."

But during the Republican presidential primaries, he said the gay marriage issue should have been left to the states and that he would consider appointing judges to overrule the Supreme Court’s marriage decisions.

"I would strongly consider that, yes," he said in a January 2016 Fox News interview.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — After the Trump administration issued its decision Wednesday evening to rescind guidance allowing transgender students to use school restrooms that align with their gender identity, a protest against the action was held just outside the White House and a number of lawmakers and other high-profile Americans spoke out.

The decision says that the Obama administration guidance caused legal confusion and sparked lawsuits and said the matter should be determined by the states instead. But it did not affect other safeguards against harassment and bullying.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender teenager who sued the Gloucester County, Virginia school board in 2015 to use the male bathroom at his school -- a case that will be heard by the Supreme Court in March -- spoke to the gathering in Washington, saying his story "is the story of many young people around the nation."

"I struggled to come to terms with who I am and who I’m meant to be," said Grimm. But unlike many young people, my local school board stepped in to complicate my ability to be myself and to enjoy the same rights as my peers."

"I’ve faced my share of adversaries in rural Virginia, but I never imagined that my government would be one of them," he added, referencing the night's news.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization that advocates for the LGBTQ community, also spoke at the gathering, calling Trump a "bully" and delivering a message to the country's transgender youth: "You are valued, you are important and you are loved."

The Human Rights Campaign later released a statement, classifying the White House's action as "a blind and cruel attack on young children."

"These transgender students simply want to go to school in the morning without fear of discrimination or harassment," reads the statement. "The policies included in the rescinded guidance have existed in cities, states, and school districts... for years, seamlessly and successfully affirming and welcoming transgender students in thousands of classrooms throughout the country."

On Twitter, both the Senate and House Minority Leaders, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, issued messages in opposition to the move.

"Trump admin decision to roll back protections for transgender Americans is just plain wrong & cuts directly across the drive for equality," wrote Schumer.

Trump admin decision to roll back protections for transgender Americans is just plain wrong & cuts directly across the drive for equality.

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 23, 2017

"Civil rights are not confusing. No student should face discrimination because of who they are. #ProtectTransKids," added Pelosi.

Civil rights are not confusing. No student should face discrimination because of who they are. #ProtectTransKids

— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) February 23, 2017

Republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who introduced a bipartisan bill with Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colorado, in 2015 “prohibiting schools from discriminating against students based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,” and whose son is transgender released a statement Wednesday night.

"This lamentable decision can lead to hostile treatment of transgender students and studies have shown that bullying and harassment can be detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of teenagers," said Ros-Lehtinen.

Senators Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin; Kamala Harris, D-California; Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts; and Representatives Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Florida; Adam Schiff, D-California and Polis, were just a few of the fellow lawmakers who also tweeted about the action.

Celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Brie Larson and Lance Bass also spoke out, as well as singer Jackie Evancho, who notably sang the national anthem at Trump's inauguration last month.

Tweeting to the president's @realDonaldTrump account, Evancho wrote: "u gave me the honor 2 sing at your inauguration. Pls give me & my sis the honor 2 meet with u 2 talk #transgender rghts."

. @realDonaldTrump u gave me the honor 2 sing at your inauguration. Pls give me & my sis the honor 2 meet with u 2 talk #transgender rghts ❤

— jackie evancho (@jackieevancho) February 23, 2017

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  A friend and confidante of President Donald Trump says he believes that the administration has “been doing too much,” and that “they’ve got to slow down” and tone down its confrontation with the media.

Chris Ruddy, CEO of conservative outlet Newsmax Media, has been a friend of Trump’s for nearly 20 years, much of that time as a member of the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach. He told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein on the "Powerhouse Politics” podcast that the administration has been experiencing “messaging problems” during the first month in office, but calling those issues chaos “overstates it.”

Ruddy said that all of the cabinet members are “A or A people,” but that Trump’s inexperience as a politician means he’s on a “learning curve.”

“He is used to being very reactive, shooting from the hip and just telling people what he thinks,” Ruddy said. “I think there’s a view within the inside that they’ve been doing too much, that they’re stepping all over themselves.”

 Ruddy said he believes Trump is still in “campaign mode,” and that more people with the president’s ear will begin pushing back on his use of Twitter.

Ruddy also thinks that Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law, will likely be key to maintaining an “even-keeled pace” in the White House, but that “[Secretary of Defense James Mattis] is the most influential person in the government right now.”

As for Trump's ongoing battle with the press, Ruddy said he does not believe it is a reflection of his ability to handle criticism and that the press is “baiting” the president. However, he thinks the White House’s continued complaints about what they perceive as media antagonism are a bad idea.

“I think it’s a mistake on the administration’s part to be so confrontational with the media,” Ruddy said. “They know he’s very reactive and he gets angry, so they are just enjoying this rising of the tension.”

He said he think it’s in Trump’s best interests to return to policies that will garner bipartisan public support, such as banning lobbyists in government.

“I personally have encouraged him to be more consensus and populist driven,” Ruddy said. “Everybody agrees people that work for the government, it shouldn’t be a revolving door… and nobody knows about it because they did the Muslim ban roll out.”

His biggest words of advice to Trump: use his speech at the joint session of Congress on Feb. 28 to reach across the aisle and work to get major legislation passed.

“Trump has all these things he wants to do,” Ruddy said. “It seems to me he had an opportunity to really reach out to the Democrats and create a consensus-driven administration, and they are losing that as each day goes by.”

As for Mar-a-Lago serving as the “Winter White House,” Ruddy said he doesn’t think that’s a conflict of interest, adding that “it’s a myth” that membership at the club means automatic access to Trump.

“There’s a virtual security area around him when he’s sitting at his table, you can’t just walk up to him,” Ruddy said. “Where in the past he used to talk business, I don’t ever see him talking about business at all.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration on Wednesday night rescinded an Obama-era directive instructing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

In a letter sent to schools on Wednesday, the Justice and Education Departments said the Obama administration's guidance -- which cited Title IX -- did not explain how it was consistent with the law.

The letter claimed that the directive caused confusion and lawsuits over its enforcement. Anti-bullying safeguards will not be affected, according to the letter.

"All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment," the letter reads.

Instead, the letter suggests that the states should take a "primary role" in establishing policy.

"As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level," the White House said in a statement, adding that today's letter "paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators."

Democrats and some celebrities wasted little time criticizing the move.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted, "Trump admin decision to roll back protections for transgender Americans is just plain wrong & cuts directly across the drive for equality.  Equal rights & equal protection under the law arent issues that should be left to the states, they should be guaranteed for every American."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted, "Civil rights are not confusing. No student should face discrimination because of who they are. #ProtectTransKids."  Ellen DeGeneres tweeted as well, writing, "This isn’t about politics. It’s about human rights, and it’s not okay."

One of the more interesting responses was from singer Jackie Evancho, who performed the national anthem at President Trump's inauguration.  Evancho has a transgender sister named Juliet.  After tweeting Wednesday night that she was "obviously disappointed" by Trump's decision, she asked Trump to meet with her and Juliet: "@realDonaldTrump u gave me the honor 2 sing at your inauguration. Pls give me & my sis the honor 2 meet with u 2 talk #transgender rights."

Last April, Trump weighed in on the North Carolina "bathroom law" -- HB2 -- that banned people from using public bathrooms or locker rooms that don't match the sex on their birth certificate.

State lawmakers should “leave it the way it is,” Trump said in an interview with NBC, adding that people should "use the bathroom they feel is appropriate."

"We have a responsibility to protect every student in America and ensure that they have the freedom to learn and thrive in a safe and trusted environment. This is not merely a federal mandate, but a moral obligation," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos -- who has supported accommodations for transgender people in the past -- said in a statement Wednesday.

"Congress, state legislatures, and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies or laws addressing this issue," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement Wednesday. " The Department of Justice remains committed to the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and to its protections for all students, including LGBTQ students, from discrimination, bullying, and harassment."

Responding to early reports in the media about the Trump administration reversing those rules regarding transgender bathrooms, the Human Rights Campaign released a statement on Monday.

Transgender young people face tragically high rates of discrimination and bullying, and they need a government that will stand up for them -- not attack them," HRC President Chad Griffin said in the statement.

He added, "It's shocking that this kind of harm would even be a subject of debate for the president. We call on Trump to immediately and permanently affirm the Obama Administration’s guidance and protect transgender students."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  The White House is preparing its first budget with an eye on conservative budget outlines authored by the Republican Study Committee and Heritage Foundation, according to sources familiar with the process.

Both the RSC and Heritage Foundation's most recent blueprints aim to balance the budget in less than 10 years, balancing domestic cuts with entitlement reform.

Both take aim at frequent conservative targets like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps and the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. They also limit funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development partnership between the federal and local governments in Appalachia, along with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Asked about the details of the upcoming budget and whether the same programs could be targeted in the White House budget, Office of Management and Budget spokesman John Baker said nothing has been "predetermined."

"While crafting the budget, we use our own internal expertise and that process is ongoing," he said in an email.

The New York Times reported last week that OMB could eliminate the domestic programs. The savings from those domestic programs -- a few hundred million dollars each -- would do little to curb government spending in a $4 trillion annual budget.

"The actual spending in those programs is fairly small compared to the whole budget picture," said Romina Boccia, who studies federal spending at the Heritage Foundation.

A common frustration among many conservatives is the apparent hypocrisy that Republicans only care about the debt during Democratic administrations, but spending is good during Republican administrations. Republican aides stress that lawmakers must tackle entitlement reform in order to successfully address the annual budget deficit and produce a balanced blueprint.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters today that the administration will release its budget plan around mid-March. According to an administration official, the initial plan will be a slimmed-down budget blueprint that would be followed by a larger, more detailed budget proposal.

Another GOP aide on Capitol Hill said lawmakers have been told to expect the proposal around March 14.

OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman tasked with preparing the budget proposal to present to Congress, was confirmed only last week.

Ed Lorenzen, a senior adviser for the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said the "really big question" for the administration is "how they balance all their initiatives and priorities with the goal of decreasing the debt."

Trump's campaign-trail promises of a border wall with Mexico and a massive infrastructure spending bill will be tough to square with longstanding GOP principles of balancing the budget, Lorenzen said. Trump has said he wants to increase military spending as well.

"A balanced budget is fine, but sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going," Trump recently told Fox News. "I want a balanced budget eventually, but I want to have a strong military."

"The challenge is showing how he can make all his campaign promises fit together in a budget that adds up," Lorenzen said.

The White House is also considering relying on "rosy" economic growth projections to pay for their initiatives, a controversial budgeting practice first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, frustration is mounting among congressional Republicans who believe their leadership is deferring too much to the administration -- leaving Congress without any meaningful votes through two months of legislative activity while waiting for President Trump to specify what he wants to accomplish.

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