Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Justin Amash has become the first congressional Republican to call for the president's impeachment based on special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The self-identifying libertarian Republican and frequent Trump critic shared his "principal conclusions" on Saturday, including his assertion that "President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct" in a Twitter thread on Saturday after reading the full redacted report.
Here are my principal conclusions:— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 18, 2019
1. Attorney General Barr has deliberately misrepresented Mueller’s report.
2. President Trump has engaged in impeachable conduct.
3. Partisanship has eroded our system of checks and balances.
4. Few members of Congress have read the report.
The special counsel did not establish that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia. He also provided no conclusion on the matter of possible obstruction of justice, choosing instead to leave that decision for Congress.
Amash said that the 448-page report "identifies multiple examples" of the president's conduct "satisfying all the elements of obstruction of justice."
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stopped short of calling for impeachment but left the door open to the prospect, though Democratic leaders are reluctant to launch a divisive effort that would likely end with the president’s acquittal in the GOP-led Senate.
In his lengthy post, Amash stated that partisanship is getting in the way of our system's checks and balances.
"When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles," he said.
Our system of checks and balances relies on each branch’s jealously guarding its powers and upholding its duties under our Constitution. When loyalty to a political party or to an individual trumps loyalty to the Constitution, the Rule of Law—the foundation of liberty—crumbles.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 18, 2019
Amash has frequently been one of the few Republicans willing to call out Trump when he feels the president has crossed the line.
Amash was one of 13 Republicans to vote with Democrats against Trump’s national emergency to fund the border wall. Amash also took a different approach than his fellow Republicans in his questioning of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. He asked Cohen softer, open questions instead of trying to delegitimize Cohen’s testimony and criticize Democrats.
Another one of Amash's primary conclusions from the redacted report was that Attorney General Bill Barr "deliberately misrepresented" Mueller's findings.
"It is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings," Amash wrote.
In comparing Barr’s principal conclusions, congressional testimony, and other statements to Mueller’s report, it is clear that Barr intended to mislead the public about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s analysis and findings.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) May 18, 2019
Attorney General Barr said he had determined that a case for obstruction was not warranted. In his statement to lawmakers, Barr underscored that the report stated that “while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Amash has said as recently as last month that he hasn't ruled out seeking the Libertarian nomination for presidency in 2020.
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Ethan Miller/Getty Images(IOWA CITY, IA) -- During a town hall in Iowa City, Mayor Pete Buttigieg went beyond his normal campaign talking points to give an 11-year-old advice on how to deal with bullying. In a swipe at President Trump, Mayor Pete said it also matters that “we have a president that doesn’t show that type of behavior.”
Buttigieg drew 11-year-old Rebecca Johanns' question from a fishbowl. Johanns later told ABC News that she has been bullied and wanted to hear from the mayor about how to handle it.
Buttigieg opened up about his own experiences with bullying in front of 600 voters inside a packed Wildwood Smokehouse & Saloon.
“I had experiences with bullying when I was growing up,” Buttigieg said. “The hard part is you really want to pop the balloon and take out all the air of that bully."
“You have control over whether that bully turns you into the best part of yourself or the worst part of yourself," he said.
Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who would be the country's first openly gay president if he won, said some bullies are a product of bullying themselves.
“The person who’s bullying you probably has something a little broken in them," he added. They want to get a response out of you."
"When you show that it doesn’t get to you... they’re going to follow your lead,” he said.
The president is known to bestow unflattering nicknames and hurl insults at his adversaries, whether at campaign rallies or from his Twitter account.
Johanns said she handles bullies by walking away and notices that there are people who just stand around and watch as its happening.
She told ABC News she will try to follow the mayor's advice from now on.
“I like how he was so sincere and sympathetic," Johanns said. "It was so meaningful.“
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden made his pitch to unite the country in Philadelphia on Saturday, for the third and final phase of his presidential campaign roll out.
Biden held his first campaign rally in Eakin’s Oval near the famous "Rocky steps" of the Philadelphia Art Museum on Saturday afternoon.
The rally, which was announced the same day Biden officially entered the race in April, was intended to focus on his vision “for unifying America with respected leadership on the world stage -- and dignified leadership at home,” according to a press release from the campaign.
The event was seen as an unofficial bookend to the campaign launch.
Biden made the case for uniting America, rather than enduring another four years of what he described as the divisive leadership of the current president, referring to him early in the speech as the "divider-in-chief."
“I believe America is always better just best when America is acted as one America,” Biden said. “One America. One America maybe a simple notion, but it doesn't it doesn't make it any less profound. This nation needs to come together. It has to come together, folks. We started this campaign, and when we did, I said I was running for three reasons. The first is to restore the soul of the nation, the essence of who we are. The second is rebuild the backbone of this nation, and the third to unite this nation. One America.”
Biden defended this bipartisan approach to politics, pointing to his record of reaching consensus on big issues like the economic recovery.
“Now some of these same people are saying, you know, Biden just doesn't get it,” he continued. “You can't work with Republicans anymore. That's not the way it works anymore. Well folks, I'm gonna say something outrageous. I know how to make government work. Not, not because I've talked or tweeted about it, but because I've done it. I've worked across the aisle to reach consensus.”
“I did it when I was a senator. It's what I did is your vice president work with Barack Obama. It’s what I will do as your President, “ Biden said to cheers.
But Biden said he wouldn’t be afraid to go toe-to toe-with Republicans if that’s what it takes, as was the case with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“I know there are times there's only a bare knuckle fight will do," he said. "I know we have to take on Republicans to do what's right, without any help from them. That's what it took to pass the Affordable Care Act. That was a tough fight. And it was a big, a big deal. “
Throughout the speech, Biden directly took on President Trump, most notably on Trump on taking credit for the strong economy.
“I know President Trump likes to take credit for the economy and economic growth, and the low unemployment numbers, but just look at the facts, not the alternative facts. President Trump inherited an economy from Obama Biden administration, that was given to him, just like he inherited everything else in his life. Just like, just like everything else he's been given in his life, he's in the process of squandering that is well.”
“The single most important thing we have to accomplish is defeat Donald Trump.”
Biden spoke to a number of policy proposals he will take on in the campaign, reiterating his support for free community college, strengthening the ACA and providing a public option like Medicare, and building ‘a new green infrastructure.’
The former vice president also spoke out about his view on climate change, after coming under fire from progressive Democrats like Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez for reportedly considering a ‘middle ground’ climate change policy.
“Let's stop fighting and start fixing. And we can only do it together. We're gonna deal with the existential crisis posed by climate change. There's not much time left. We need a clean energy revolution. We need it now. We have to start now.”
But Biden said above all, defeating Trump was the first step on his climate policy:
“If you want to know what the first and most important plank in my climate proposal is: beat Trump.”
Following chants of "defeat Trump," Biden asked the crowd "are we a nation that rips kids away from their parents?" The crowd responded, "We don't....Trump does!"
Working the rope line after his speech, Biden told ABC News Stephanie Ramos he would work to restore direct aid to three Latin American countries known collectively as the "Northern Triangle" -- El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala -- that Trump cut in March.
"Is there a crisis at the border?" Ramos asked the former vice president.
"No, I think the crisis at the border is the way they're treating people who are seeking asylum," he told ABC News. "There should be a process for them I tried to set it up and the idea that this guy is cutting 740 million dollars that I provided for those three Latin American countries to better their circumstances.... is wrong. "
During his remarks, Biden also made a pledge to not speak ill of another Democrat during his campaign.
"Our politics has become so mean, so petty, so negative," Biden said. "It is ripping this country apart at the seams."
The rally was much larger than Biden’s previous events in early voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada. A campaign official told ABC News that a crowd of 2,000 was expected at the event.
The campaign has placed a heavy focus on Philadelphia as the "birthplace of American democracy," and the rally location was chosen for that reason. But even in celebrating Philadelphia, the veteran U.S. Senator could not eschew his beloved state of Delaware.
“Everyone knows Jill's a Philadelphia girl," Biden told the crowd. "She loves this city. I do too. But to paraphrase the poet James Joyce, I have to say this folks because I’m near my state, when I die, Delaware will be written on my heart.”
Biden promised the crowd that he would outwork the other 22 candidates vying for the Democratic Nomination
“This campaign is just getting started, I promise you this," Biden vowed. "No one -- no one's gonna work longer, no one's gonna campaign harder to win your hearts your trust and your support, then the son of Katherine Eugene Finnegan from Scranton, Pennsylvania: Joseph R Biden Jr of Delaware.”
The campaign announced Thursday Philadelphia would also be home to their headquarters.
“Philadelphia is a thriving city and a testament to the American spirit, built by the ingenuity and tenacity of ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Its storied history and celebrated diversity will serve as an inspiration for Team Biden, and is the ideal setting to continue our fight for the soul of this nation,” Biden’s campaign manager Greg Shultz said in a press release announcing the headquarters.
Both Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, were born in the key swing state that will be vital for any Democrat taking on Trump to win in 2020, and a Quinnipiac poll out this week indicates Biden has strong appeal among Democrats in the Keystone State. Biden took the top spot in the poll, with 39% of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania naming the former vice president as their preferred candidate.
The poll also found Biden beat Trump in a head-to-head in a match-up in the state, 53% to 42%.
Since announcing his presidential run on April 25, Biden has focused his message on why he decided to run -- his view that the country is in a battle for the soul of America, and restoring the middle class as the backbone of the economy.
A campaign official told ABC News that following the rally Saturday, the campaign will shift to a new phase -- focusing on Biden’s policy proposals, and what he will do as president.
The rollouts will give “specifics of the policies that Vice President Biden has believed in and has fought for his entire career and will make the centerpiece of a Biden White House,” according to the official.
The former vice president plans to travel to Tennessee, Florida and Texas in the coming weeks -- three states Trump won in 2016. Biden’s full schedule for those trips has yet to be announced.
Since getting into the race, Biden has taken the top spot all polls of the Democratic field, according to FiveThirtyEight’s poll tracker.
Biden has maintained he will "not speak ill of a fellow Democrat," but his frontrunner status has put a target on his back from his fellow Democrats. Biden has faced criticism from his opponents on issues from criminal justice reform, to climate change -- a sign of what could come in the Democratic debates next month.
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Shannon Finney/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaking at a commencement ceremony in his home state of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence said he was proud of the Trump administration for standing “without a apology” for the “sanctity of human life,” but avoided any mention of the controversial anti-abortion measures approved in several states in recent weeks.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be part of an administration that stood strong on the timeless values that have made this nation great, stood without apology for the sanctity of human life,” Pence told graduating students at Taylor University.
While the vice president has expressed similar sentiments before, his comments on Saturday come as outrage builds among the Democratic field of 2020 presidential candidates over a new Alabama law that would make it a felony to perform an abortion and carry a sentence of up to 99 years in prison.
The vice president did not directly address the measure, which was signed into law by Alabama's governor but will have to survive legal challenges before it takes effect, or similarly restrictive bills approved in Georgia and Missouri.
The speech closely resembled remarks Pence has made in commencement addresses at various university’s during this graduation season.
For the most part, Pence's address at Taylor discussed what the vice president described as the difficulties in being a devout Christian in today’s society.
"You know, throughout most of our American history [it] has been pretty easy to call yourself a Christian. But things are different now," he said. "Lately it's become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs. So as you prepare to leave this place, and build your life on the Christ centered world engaging foundation poured here at Taylor University – be prepared to stand up,"
The choice of Pence as Taylor's commencement speaker stirred up a heated debate on campus of the Christian college.
Following the announcement, the Taylor faculty voted 61-49 to express their disagreement with the university's decision.
A petition circulated by students and alumni that protested Pence's visit to the campus got 8,000 signatures online.
“Inviting Vice President Pence to Taylor University and giving him a coveted platform for his political views makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration's policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear,” the petition said.
Minutes before Pence was introduced on Saturday, dozens of graduates and faculty walked out of the graduation ceremony.
At the close of his speech, the vice president received a standing ovation, according to the school’s student newspaper.
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Mark Makela/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day after the 65th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision, Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for a temporary halt to public funding directed toward nonprofit charter school expansion and an outright ban on for-profit charter institutions.
Under his plan, financial disbursements could be restored after schools are audited to probe the impact of their growth, but no public money will be directed toward new schools.
The proposal is a significant break from a signature Trump administration education policy that some critics say disproportionately impacts minority school districts.
The timing of Sanders' roll out also seeks to draw a connection between charter schools -- which receive government funding but function independently from traditional public schools -- and the racial re-segregation of the nation's schools. He will make the announcement in Orangeburg, South Carolina, a city that is home to two historically black universities within a state where African Americans made up 60% of Democratic voters in the 2016 primary.
Sanders' plan also sets baselines for per-student spending nationwide and a salary floor for teachers of $60,000, and are part of a larger set of policies Sanders, I-Vt., will announce Saturday. It comes as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has recently doubled-down on the current administration's willingness to "rethink the definition of public education," telling a convention of education writers earlier this month that "charter schools are public schools" and that "every place a student learns is ultimately of benefit to the public."
DeVos' husband, Dick, founded West Michigan Aviation Academy, a public charter school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the secretary has highlighted the institution as an example of what she sees as a model for how such institutions can help students "contribute in significant ways to our 21st-century economy.”
President Donald Trump's 2020 fiscal year budget includes $500 million in charter school grants, a $60 million increase from 2019 -- though the entire Education Department's budget was cut by $7.1 billion -- and a 50% increase from the $333 million investment the government made at the start of his tenure in the White House.
At its national convention in 2016, the NAACP passed a resolution, cited in the Sanders plan, seeking that charter school expansion be halted, noting that they "increasingly [target] low-income areas and communities of color," violate student rights via the use of "punitive and exclusionary discipline" and lack financial accountability, among other issues.
A 2017 Associated Press analysis found that "charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation" while the nation's public education system has become more segregated overall over the past 30 years, according to a recently released report by researchers at Penn State University and the University of California, Los Angeles.
The latter study found that in southern states such as South Carolina, "the percentage of black students attending intensely segregated schools has increased by 12 percentage points, more than any other region."
Other Democratic presidential candidates have called for increased oversight of charter schools and have been critical of DeVos' efforts to expand school choice.
Sanders is one of several candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who have released plans to increase teacher pay and reform public education as a whole.
However, one of Sanders' progressive opponents was quick to defend charter schools. Tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Andrew Yang took to Twitter and said charter schools shouldn't be attacked as a whole.
"Castigating all public schools or all charter schools does educators a massive disservice by calling into question the work they do with our kids every day," Yang wrote. "We should be looking to make all of their jobs easier by putting resources into both schools and households."
From coast-to-coast, teachers have been striking over the past few years calling for higher wages and an increase in funding to public schools -- some of the efforts proving victorious in cities like Denver where they negotiated an 11.7% raise for next year. Sanders’ plan would set the starting salary for teachers at $60,000 and would allow states to offer more based on geographic cost of living.
The plan also targets students who suffer from food insecurity by providing free breakfast, lunch and snacks through school meal programs and by expanding EBT plans when school is out for summer.
Last week, Castro rolled out his own educational reform plan which included a $150 billion investment in school technology and modernization. Castro also called for a federal tax credit to boost teacher pay of up to $10,000, targeted to those at low-income schools.
On Friday, Sanders penned an op-ed in The Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times ahead of a rally in the city, slamming the state’s low public education funding rates and citing the "61 percent increase in the number of schools segregated by race and income."
"This is Robin Hood in reverse, and it is happening on the national level too,” Sanders wrote. "After giving huge tax cuts for the very rich, President Trump is proposing to cut after-school programs that serve 34,000 North Carolina students and is proposing to eliminate funding for the major grant program for teacher development.”
North Carolina legislators have grappled over school funding in recent months. While Gov. Roy Cooper has advocated for more public-school funding, he has faced some opposition from Republicans as they’ve streamlined tax cuts for corporations.
Sanders' education plan comes on top of his much-publicized proposal to make all public colleges tuition-free -- an idea that was one of the centerpieces of his 2016 run and has since been endorsed by a number of other Democratic primary candidates. The senator's 2015 "College for All Act" called for the federal government to cover two-thirds of the $70 billion in tuition costs, offset by imposing a "speculation fee" targeting Wall Street investors.
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Scott Olson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg fired back at President Donald Trump’s recent comment about being "absolutely fine" with the mayor's gay marriage, sarcastically saying "that’s nice" while pointing out the administration’s poor record on LGBT citizens.
Buttigieg was on the campaign trail in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday evening at an event labeled as a book club discussion about "Shortest Way Home," which he released earlier this year.
But it was his comments on the Trump administration's record on LGBT rights that might spark the most interest.
"Even though they’re paying lip service to the idea of -- like the president was asked about my marriage, so he could have the opportunity to say he’s fine with it," Buttigieg said. "That’s nice."
Trump was asked in a Fox News interview on Thursday about Buttigieg appearing on stage at campaign events with his husband, Chasten.
"I think it's absolutely fine, I do," Trump responded. "I think it's great. I think that's something that perhaps some people will have a problem with; I have no problem with it whatsoever."
Buttigieg attacked the current administration on its actions against gay and transgender Americans, though. He pointed to a story reported in The Daily Beast earlier this week exposing that the adopted children of LGBT parents are now considered being born out of wedlock, even if biologically related, and the U.S. citizenship of the parents no longer grants the child the same citizenship.
"We find out this week that they changed the State Department guidance -- I don’t know if you saw this," Buttigieg told the audience Friday night. "So if you are, for example, in an international adoption scenario, and you’re a same-sex couple, as far as the United States government is concerned, you have a child born out of wedlock. Think about what that means. It means you are not a citizen of the same country as your own child at the time that they are born. And that’s discrimination."
During the campaign, Trump repeatedly told crowds he would be a friend to LGBT citizens. He tweeted in July 2016, "Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs." He offered no clarification on how this was true.
"Every policy turn we’ve seen out of this administration has been hostile to LGBTQ people," Buttigieg said.
The candidate earlier sparred with Vice President Mike Pence on religion and sexuality. Pence told CNN in April he is "a Bible-believing Christian" and "I draw my truth from God’s word."
Buttigieg rebutted the former Indiana governor on "Ellen," saying, "I’m not interested in feuding with the vice president, but if he wanted to clear this up, he could come out today and say he’s changed his mind that it shouldn’t be legal to discriminate against anybody in this country for who they are."
The 37-year-old, who came out as gay in 2015 and married Chasten in June 2018, also was critical on Friday of Trump's transgender military policy. The president announced suddenly via tweet in 2017 that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military. Two years later, in April, the policy went into place that largely disallows people from serving in the military unless they adhere to the sex they are assigned at birth.
Buttigieg will continue on his two-day trip in Iowa on Saturday with events in Iowa City and Dubuque.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Democrats have waited for weeks to hear from special counsel Robert Mueller since the release of his report – and they’re going to have to keep waiting.
On Friday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told ABC News it was unlikely that Mueller would appear before his panel by the end of next week, when the House wraps up its legislative business for the month ahead of the week-long Memorial Day recess.
Initially, the committee had hoped to hear from Mueller this past Wednesday, May 15, but that tentative hearing date came and went without an agreement.
The special counsel's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the discussions with the House Judiciary Committee.
Ongoing discussions between Democrats, the special counsel’s office and the Justice Department are centered on the timing, nature and scope of Mueller’s testimony, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The White House’s recent assertion of executive privilege over the entire report and underlying materials also looms over negotiations, and could impact Mueller’s potential testimony.
While Attorney General Bill Barr has said he has no objections to Mueller testifying -- most recently in an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week – Democrats have accused the Justice Department of slow-walking the discussions.
One complicating factor in the negotiations, according to people familiar with the talks, is Mueller’s unwillingness to enter the political fray over his findings.
President Donald Trump’s initial objection to Mueller testifying stalled discussions at first, as the special counsel sought clarification on the White House’s position on his appearance. But Trump has since said that he would let Barr decide whether Mueller would appear.
The House Intelligence Committee, led by Democratic chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is also working to schedule a subsequent hearing with Mueller that could include public and closed-door classified sessions.
“I feel very confident saying Mueller’s going to testify,” Schiff told ABC News. “There’s no way that he cannot, and the public won’t stand for it. I think the Justice Department knows they’re on the poorest of ground in trying to prevent his testimony.”
The talks have also taken place as Democrats and the Justice Department spar over access to the Mueller report and the special counsel’s underlying materials. The department has not complied with subpoenas from both panels interested in hearing from Mueller, which could prompt Democrats to hold Barr in contempt of Congress.
Democrats could eventually seek to compel Mueller’s testimony with a subpoena, but are hoping to avoid doing to bring the special counsel to Capitol Hill voluntarily.
The special counsel found no evidence of coordination between Trump and his campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 presidential election. While his report examined a number of episodes of potential obstruction of justice, Mueller did not make a determination on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Some Democrats have said Mueller’s testimony is essential to help clarify elements of his report – both for the country, and for lawmakers contemplating potential impeachment proceedings over his conclusions.
“He needs to be pressed on the issue of obstruction,” Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., told ABC News. “Mueller didn’t do us any good and I think a lot more pressure should be brought to bear on him for being I think deliberately opaque.”
While they wait to hear from Mueller, Democrats are battling with the administration over information and documents, including President Trump’s tax returns and the full Mueller report, in more than a dozen investigations – with many of the fights expected to head to court.
Without Mueller, Democrats are left with few tools to try and tell the story of his findings, and are resorting to other strategies: On Thursday, more than two-dozen Democrats spent 12 hours reading Mueller’s public report aloud in a Capitol hearing room, in an effort to draw attention to the report.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Friday pushed back against reports of conflict between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton amid tensions between the United States and Iran -- calling sourcing cited by reporters "bull----"
“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job. Bolton is doing a great job. They make it sound like it’s a conflict," the president said in a speech to the National Association of Realtors.
The president took issue with the "confidential sources" cited in news articles.
“They say confidential sources. You ever notice they don’t write the names of the people anymore. Everything is 'a source says' ... The person doesn’t exist, the person is not alive. It’s bull----," the president said.
Ahead of his remarks, Trump, on Twitter, described reporting about his administration handling of Iran as "fraudulent.”
"At least Iran doesn’t know what to think, which at this point may very well be a good thing!" Trump said in a tweet.
The president repeated his complaint during his speech.
“They put out so many false messages and Iran is totally confused. I don’t know that might be a good thing,” Trump said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to Trump’s tweet, arguing “it is apparently the U.S. that “doesn’t know what to think.” We in Iran have actually known what to think for millennia -- and about the U.S., since 1953.”
President Trump’s statements come a year after he withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, despite concerns from U.S. allies. It also follows a the State Department earlier this week ordering all non-emergency government employees to leave the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and U.S. Consulate in Erbil amid tensions with Iran.
U.S. officials told ABC News there were "clear indications" Iran through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or forces it backs, was preparing for a possible attack against U.S. forces.
Still, the president has expressed he would be open to receiving a call from the Iranian officials – a request reportedly shut down by the regime.
"With Iran, I'd like to see them call me," the president stated last week. He called out former Secretary of State John Kerry, accusing him of speaking to Iranian leaders and "telling them what to do."
"What they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down. We can make a deal, fair deal. We just don't want them to have nuclear weapons, not too much to ask," the president said.
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SammiStock/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Friday rejected a Democratic subpoena for President Donald Trump's tax returns and the showdown appeared headed for court.
In a letter to the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mnuchin repeated his previous argument that the Justice Department had advised him that the Democratic demand had no "legitimate legislative purpose."
Earlier Friday, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., said the showdown with the Trump administration could end up in in a legal battle in just a matter of days.
Neal told reporters he anticipates “they won’t meet that deadline, and the result will be we will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week.”
The House Ways and Means Committee subpoenaed the treasury secretary and IRS commissioner on May 10 for six years of Trump's tax returns after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued to defy Democrats' request, which dates back to early April.
Neal defended his decision to issue the subpoena, saying it was on advice of House Counsel and he intends to keep following its legal advice. Asked if he sees holding Mnuchin in contempt of Congress as an option, Neal said he doesn’t see that right now, reiterated a court case is a better option and then said with a wry smile “but we have until five o’clock, who knows?”
The subpoena follows Democrats' demand for the information under an obscure 1920s-era provision of the tax code requiring that the treasury secretary "shall furnish" requested tax information to Congress.
Earlier this week, Mnuchin accused congressional Democrats of "weaponizing the IRS" by trying to obtain Trump's tax returns and suggested the battle may ultimately have to be decided by the courts.
"First of all, we haven't made a decision, but I think you can guess which way we are leaning on our subpoena," Mnuchin testified Wednesday. "To the extent that we don't and there is litigation, I take great comfort that there's a third branch of government to deal with this important issue."
As the showdown between the administration and congressional Democrats drags on, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained the prospect of inherent contempt on Thursday, though she refused to endorse a path forward for Democrats seeking to hold uncooperative administration officials accountable.
"This is one of the possibilities that is out there. I'm not saying that we're going down that path. I'm just that is not to be excluded. Nothing is off the table," Pelosi told reporters at her weekly news conference in the Capitol. "So an inherent contempt, you send the subpoena, they don't honor it, then you hold them in contempt. And if they do not comply, then you can fine them, and then you can hold them accountable for money that you fine them."
As the process drags on and a lengthy legal fight appears unavoidable, Pelosi also expressed doubt over the legality of the GOP's campaign arm covering legal expenses of uncooperative officials.
"For people who work in the federal government or in the administration who now are having to hire lawyers, who's paying for that? The Republican National Committee, the president says? Well, that's interesting. Is that even legal? I don't know," Pelosi said. "It doesn't seem to bother them whether it is or not."
But as the Democratic base clamors for action, Pelosi warned Democrats not to get ahead of the process.
"I'm just saying it is an approach," Pelosi emphasized. "We want to see what we can get respectfully. First, we ask, then we subpoena friendly, then we subpoena otherwise, and then we see what we get. Let's not leapfrog over what we think should be the path that should be taken."
The president's lawyers and the White House are expected to challenge the move and have argued that the Democrats' request does not serve a legislative purpose, an argument the administration made in its rejection of Democrats' initial request.
Neal has explained that the request was made to determine whether IRS audits and enforcement of the federal tax code of sitting presidents need to be codified into law.
Mnuchin has denied congressional Democrats' request for six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns, writing that the request "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose" and therefore the department is "not authorized" to release the returns.
The administration has already ignored three deadlines set by Neal, and the issue is likely to eventually proceed to federal court, much like the administration's lawsuit seeking relief from a congressional subpoena for the president's financial records by the House Oversight and Intelligence committees.
Neal first wrote IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig on April 3, citing his legal authority to review the documents, and then doubled down on his demand April 13. Neal has contended that he needs to review Trump's tax returns "in furtherance of consideration … of legislative proposals and oversight related to our federal tax laws, including, but not limited to, the extent to which the IRS audits and enforces the federal tax laws against a president."
Mnuchin wrote Neal on April 23, announcing he would supervise the administration's response to the committee's and that the Treasury Department was in consultations with DOJ on the issue. His letter began laying out grounds on which to refute the request, citing what he maintained are the constitutional limits on the legislative branch's authority to conduct oversight.
Mnuchin contended the request was "a pretext for exposure," predicting that Neal would eventually seek to publicly release the documents, citing statements by other Democrats.
Democrats requested Trump's personal tax returns under a 1924 provision of the tax code saying the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" any individual's tax return information to the chairs of three congressional committees "upon written request."
Trump broke with modern precedent as a presidential candidate in 2016 when he refused to release his returns and has continued to do so while in office. Most presidents since Richard Nixon have voluntarily released their tax returns, but it's not required by law.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold William Barr in contempt of Congress on May 8, and Pelosi has threatened to jail Trump administration officials, including Barr, in the basement of the Capitol if they do not cooperate with the legislative branch's efforts to conduct oversight on the executive branch.
Democrats may package contempt resolutions together for multiple administration officials, including former White House counsel Don McGahn, whom the president has blocked from turning over documents, and Mnuchin over his denial of the request for the president's tax returns.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Both President Donald Trump and his attorney general, Bill Barr, on Friday questioned the legitimacy of the FBI's investigation into whether Russia secretly co-opted members of Trump's campaign ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
On Twitter, Trump was characteristically dramatic, accusing federal investigators of "treason." And in an interview with Fox News, Barr deployed the types of phrases Trump often uses, wondering whether investigators had "abused their power" or "put their thumb on the scale."
Despite using those terms, Barr insisted, "I'm not saying that happened ... It's something we have to look at."
In fact, Barr has tasked a long-serving federal prosecutor in Connecticut, John Durham, to conduct the broadest look yet into the origins of the Russia probe.
"As far as I'm aware, no one has really looked across the whole waterfront," Barr told Fox News.
According to Barr's recent statements, here are some key questions he wants answered:
-- When did the FBI first start conducting surveillance -- or "spying" -- on a member of the Trump campaign, and was it appropriate?
-- Did the FBI have enough information to warrant a wide-ranging investigation in the first place?
-- As the investigation progressed, did the FBI inappropriately use "opposition research" as a basis for more invasive investigative steps?
-- Was the investigation otherwise conducted appropriately and free of political bias?
In his interview with Fox News, Barr claimed much of what transpired during the FBI investigation has yet to be made public.
Nevrtheless, there is a significant public record reflecting the origins of the investigation.
'Very odd to me'
The story of how members of Trump's team ended up in the FBI's cross-hairs actually began several years before there even was a 2016 campaign.
In 2013, the FBI field office in New York became concerned when an American businessman, back in the United States after living in Moscow for three years, began engaging with two Russian spies, sharing with them what he later acknowledged was non-public -- but in his view relatively useless -- information.
One of the Russian spies was secretly recorded saying he wanted to recruit the American as an intelligence source, according to court documents in the case.
The businessman, Carter Page, was never charged, but he raised eyebrows again three years later when he joined Trump's foreign policy team and was then enlisted to deliver the July 2016 commencement address at a prominent graduate school in Moscow -- a school with ties to Kremlin officials.
"The last American to have that honor was Barack Obama in July 2009," the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, recently testified to Congress. "It was very odd to me that this rather obscure businessperson would be given such an honor."
Asked at the time whether Page would be meeting with Kremlin officials while in Moscow, a Kremlin spokesman insisted, "I do not know."
But as special counsel Robert Mueller recently noted in his final report, "Page's July 2016 trip to Moscow and his advocacy for pro-Russian foreign policy drew media attention."
A week after Page's commencement address, a since-outed FBI informant approached Page at a symposium on global affairs hosted by Cambridge University in London, according to Page.
The informant, Cambridge professor Stefan Halper, chatted with Page about foreign policy and politics, and they remained in contact over the next year, as reflected in correspondence later released by Page.
In his Fox News interview on Friday, Barr said he is trying to find out if July 2016 marked the FBI's earliest effort to conduct surveillance on a member of Trump's campaign.
It is still unclear whether -- at that point -- Halper approached Page at the behest of the U.S. government. The FBI officials who later launched the wide-ranging Russia probe didn't seek Halper’s help until weeks after the London symposium, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News.
'An extraordinary allegation'
By the end of July 2016, the FBI’s top counterintelligence officials had become deeply concerned over Russia's increasingly bold efforts.
The Democratic National Committee had announced a major breach of its computer systems and fingered Russia as the culprit. And then on July 22, 2016, four days before the DNC was going to officially nominate Hillary Clinton as Trump's rival for the White House, the online organization WikiLeaks posted tens of thousands of internal documents heisted from the DNC's servers.
"Was this just to stir up trouble, or was this ultimately to try to influence an election -- and of course that's a serious proposition,” James Clapper, then the nation’s top intelligence official, wondered in public after the WikiLeaks release.
The FBI then received a tip: One of Trump’s foreign policy advisers, George Papadopoulos, claimed the Russian government had sent "indications" to Trump’s staff that "it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to [Clinton]," according to Mueller’s final report.
Papadopoulos made the claim during a meeting with an Australian diplomat two months earlier, and -- in the wake of the WikiLeaks release -- the Australian government flagged the FBI, Mueller's report said.
It was "an extraordinary allegation," suggesting "there was a coordinated effort by the Government of Russia to elect somebody here in the United States," Peter Strzok, one of the FBI’s top counterintelligence agents at the time, recalled to lawmakers last year.
An investigation was officially opened on July 31, 2016.
Strzok would supervise it, and two FBI attorneys, James Baker and Lisa Page, would assist. Others inside FBI headquarters, including senior leadership, were briefed.
In his interview with Fox News on Friday, Barr said he thought the matter "wasn't [being] handled in the ordinary way that investigations or counterintelligence activities are conducted."
"This was handled in a very senior level" and "it was sort of an ad hoc small group," he said.
In fact, it was largely the same group that had just finished the counterintelligence probe of Clinton's use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. And in a report last year, the Justice Department's inspector general said "previous sensitive investigations also had been run" out of FBI headquarters so "FBI senior executives [could] exercise tighter control" over potentially explosive matters.
As described by Lisa Page, the FBI team faced two key questions at the start of the Russia probe: Was the tip tied to Papadopoulos even true, and -- if so -- who on Trump’s campaign would be in a position to receive helpful information from Russia?
As the initial source of the tip, and as someone who claimed to know about Russia’s offer of assistance, Papadopoulos was an obvious possibility. There was also Page, who was in Moscow two weeks earlier and had previously been targeted for recruitment by Russian spies.
Other campaign staffers with suspected ties to Russia came under scrutiny too.
"We were very judicious in deciding who we would open on," Lisa Page told lawmakers last year.
At the time, there was "absolutely no preconceived belief or feeling at all" that Trump himself was implicated, she said.
"[But] if there is somebody on his team who wittingly or unwittingly is working with the Russians, that is super serious," she added.
The FBI team began its investigation slowly and carefully, trying not to "tip off" the Russians, Baker testified to Congress last year.
Investigators first pored through information already in the hands of the U.S. government, Baker said. And they also turned to Halper, the FBI informant, for help, according to those familiar with the matter.
Halper still knew how to get in touch with Carter Page. And in early September 2016, Halper sent an unsolicited email to another Trump campaign member: George Papadopoulos.
In the email, Halper asked Papadopoulos if he would be interested in working with him on energy-related projects in the Middle East, Papadopoulos told Congress last year.
The two had never met, but Halper’s outreach -- and a promise of a free flight and five-star stay overseas -- soon led to several meetings in London, according to Papadopolous.
First, there was the meeting with Halper's “assistant” -- a "young lady named Azra Turk, which I [now] think is a fake name," Papadopoulos said.
In fact, according to the New York Times, the FBI sent "Azra Turk" to London “to help oversee the politically sensitive operation.”
Then, there was a meeting between just Halper and Papodopoulos over drinks at London’s Sofitel.
"[Halper] starts talking about Russia and hacking and if I'm involved, if the campaign is involved," Papadopoulos recalled. "And I think I pushed back, and I told him, 'I don't know what the hell you're talking about. ... I don't know anyone in the campaign who's involved.'"
Halper "was quite disappointed" because he "was expecting something else," Papadopoulos testified.
Just as Halper was meeting with Papadopoulos, the FBI team in Washington received a set of new allegations -- allegations that were highly alarming but hardly verified.
In several reports compiled over many months, a longtime source for the U.S. government, former British spy Christopher Steele, laid out salacious claims about Trump himself and alleged an "extensive conspiracy" between the Kremlin and members of Trump's campaign, including Carter Page.
One of the reports alleged that Page held "secret meetings in Moscow" with two associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and that Page was told the Kremlin might be willing to share damaging information about Clinton.
All of the allegations -- recorded in what is now known as “the dossier” -- were based on what Steele's own sources were telling him.
Steele first relayed the allegations to an FBI agent overseas two months earlier in July 2016, but the claims didn't reach the team in Washington until September 2016, several former officials have testified.
Neither Strzok nor Lisa Page had even heard of Steele before then.
"Immediately" the FBI team "set about trying to prove or disprove every single factual statement in the dossier," Page later recalled to Congress.
The FBI team tried to identify and contact Steele’s sources, to independently vet their information. And, according to testimony from Lisa Page, sometime in September 2016 the team started to talk about whether they should use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- or FISA -- to secretly intercept Carter Page's communications.
A federal judge would have to approve the move.
On Oct. 21, 2016, weeks after Page was pushed out of Trump's campaign, the FBI submitted a FISA application to U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer, a Republican nominee.
The application -- much of which is still classified -- noted the cyber-theft of DNC emails, recounted Trump's overtures to Russia, cited Papadopoulos by name, described Page's previous interactions with Russian spies, and detailed Steele’s allegations about Page.
It described Steele as a "reliable" FBI source whose previous "reporting has been corroborated and used in criminal proceedings." But, the application said in a footnote, Steele conducted his latest research "likely looking for information that could be used to discredit" Trump.
The application did not disclose that Steele's work was being funded by pro-Clinton operatives and the DNC, who hired the research firm Fusion GPS to dig into Trump's connections around the world.
Collyer approved the secret surveillance, and it would be approved by a federal judge three more times over the next year, even after Steele was cut off from the FBI for speaking with a reporter about his work for the FBI.
In the end, Mueller's report said the FBI and special counsel investigations "identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, [but] the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges."
Specifically, "the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election," the report said.
However, the report said Mueller's office “was unable to obtain [complete] evidence or testimony about who Page may have met or communicated with in Moscow; thus, Page's activities in Russia ... were not fully explained.”
Page has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
'I need to explore that'
Barr has recently expressed several possible concerns related to "the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign during 2016," as he put it.
In particular, Barr said he is "concerned" by the virulently anti-Trump text messages between Strzok and Lisa Page in the run-up to the Russia probe and in the midst of it. Those messages ultimately got Strzok fired from the FBI last year, weeks after Page resigned.
Barr also said it is not "entirely speculative" to question whether the information provided to Steele and then included in FISA applications was part of a larger effort by Russia to spread false information and sow discord in America ahead of the 2016 election.
"That is one of the areas that I am reviewing," he recently told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
And Barr said he wants to look at how the FBI handled the "dossier" and FISA applications more broadly.
"It's a very unusual situation to have opposition research like that ... [used] to conduct counter-intelligence against an American political campaign," Barr said in his Fox News interview on Friday.
He called Steele's analysis "somewhat jejune," or simplistic.
Republicans, meanwhile, have specifically raised concerns over sections of the FISA applications that recount media reports about Carter Page, even though some of those media reports likely originated from Steele, whose information was already detailed elsewhere in the applications.
"I think spying did occur," Barr infamously told a House panel last month. "The question is whether it was adequately predicated. And I'm not suggesting it wasn't adequately predicated, but I need to explore that."
The Justice Department’s inspector general has been exploring the same question for more than a year, and the findings are expected to be released in the next few months.
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iStock/Luka Banda(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives on Friday passed the Equality Act -– sweeping legislation that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace, housing, service, and public accommodations.
It’s the first time a chamber of Congress has approved a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill that would provide clear, nationwide protections for LGBTQ people throughout daily life, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
BREAKING: The House of Representatives has passed the historic #EqualityAct.— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) May 17, 2019
It’s the first time a chamber of Congress has approved a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill that would finally provide clear, nationwide protections for LGBTQ people throughout daily life. pic.twitter.com/ObFmVv3woE
The bill was a top priority of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said it will bring the nation "closer to equal liberty and justice for all."
“It was exciting. It’s historic. It’s not only about what it means in the personal lives of people – and that would be a sufficient reason to do it, but what it means for America – the ever expanding freedoms in our country. And that’s the history of our country – to ever expand freedom,” Pelosi told ABC News Friday afternoon following the vote.
“We just had an historic victory,” she added. “Some of us have been working 30 years to get this done.”
The bill, which passed 236-173, amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations, and the use of federal funds.
“Despite significant advances, LGBT people across the country remain vulnerable to discrimination on a daily basis and too often have little recourse,” said Rep.David Cicilline, D-R.I., the lead sponsor of the bill. “It is past time for the Equality Act to be written into law.”
The bill passed on a bipartisan basis, with eight Republicans voting alongside Democrats, but some Republican critics adamantly opposed the legislation, and said it would harm religious freedoms.
"It’s vague and circular definition of gender identity will lead only to uncertainty, litigation, and harm to individuals and organizations that will be forced to comply with a law the authors don’t even seem to understand," Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said on the House floor Friday. "This is a classic example of passing something now and figuring out what it actually means later ... If the devil is in the details, we’re in for a lot of devilish surprises."
A trio of Senate Democrats have introduced a similar bill in the upper chamber, however it's unclear if the Republican-led Senate will consider it.
ABC News has reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office for comment.
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iStock/Viktorcvetkovic(NEW YORK) -- The law signed in Alabama banning most abortions has been seen by many opponents as an attack on women's bodies. But experts say there is a certain subset of people who are being further impacted: lower income individuals.
Angela Ferrell-Zabala, the national director of strategic partnerships at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said restrictive bans are particularly "devastating" for lower-income individuals.
"People of color and LGBTQ people are disproportionately likely to be low income and depend on federally-funded insurance like Medicaid, so it's pretty hard to ignore the impact that these bans will have on these communities in particular," she said.
Ferrell-Zabala added that Planned Parenthood has heard how women end up having to "divert money" that may be earmarked for rent, groceries or utility bills towards paying for an abortion.
Yamani Hernandez, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said the cost of a first term abortion can range from $300 to $600.
"For some people, that's a whole week's worth of wages or a half a month's worth of wages," Hernandez said.
Additionally, Ferrell-Zabala said, "If you're struggling to make ends meet, you might not be able to afford to get an abortion until later in your pregnancy."
While there is more variability on the price of a second term abortion, where the cost depends more on what week in the pregnancy the procedure is performed, Hernandez said it can cost between $5,000 and $10,000.
Additionally, the decreasing number of abortion clinics throughout the country mean some women have to add the costs of traveling.
If bans like the one passed in Alabama this week, which is facing legal challenges already, go into effect, more women would need to travel further when seeking an abortion.
These factors are well known to abortion funds, which are groups that give grants to women who call in asking for help paying for a procedure.
"The complexity of the calls is increasing and the logistics are becoming more onerous and expensive because folks have to travel further and they need more," Hernandez said. "It's not just the cost of the abortion. It's the plane ticket, it's multiple nights in a hotel. It's food while they're waiting."
Ferrell-Zabala said she also thinks anti-abortion lawmakers are consciously using the cost as well as bans on abortion after a certain week in a pregnancy as a way to make abortion inaccessible for some individuals: Because it takes time to come up with the money, patients may be pushed past the week limit in their states.
"This makes it less likely that they're able to access abortion at all," she said, adding, "I think this is part of their plan."
The uproar over the controversial ban in Alabama as well as the recently signed law in Georgia banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy, have prompted an outpouring of financial support for those working to help counter the measures from across the country.
As of Thursday, the National Network of Abortion Funds received 13,000 donations totaling $300,000 over the past few days while the Alabama ban was in the news, Hernandez said. That marked a major uptick for the organization, as she said that they normally receive 9,500 donations, totaling $800,000, over an entire year.
Abortion funds receive about 150,000 calls for help annually, she said, 29,000 of which they are able to support and grant money to the callers.
"These are the decisions that we hear people make on the help lines: to buy food or pay for an abortion? To pay rent or pay for an abortion? To take out a predatory loan to pay for an abortion?" Hernandez said.
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iStock/Belyay(ST. LOUIS) -- Missouri became the latest state to push anti-abortion legislation forward, with a series of sweeping abortion restrictions, including an 8-week ban, passed Friday.
The bill passed the state's Senate and went back to the state's House of Representatives for final sign off.
ABC affiliate KMIZ-TV reports that the House passed the bill Friday afternoon with a vote of 110-44 and it has been sent to Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, who has the option to sign it into law.
The movement in Missouri comes two days after the governor of Alabama passed a near-total ban on abortions in the state. Neither the Alabama law nor the proposed Missouri bill have exemptions for instances of rape or incest, meaning that if the laws go into effect, abortions will not be allowed in those cases as well as any other pregnancies.
The only exception in the Alabama law is in cases where the mother’s health is at risk. The Missouri bill has a similar exemption, allowing abortions only in cases of medical emergencies.
The Alabama law, like each so-called "heartbeat" bill, which bans abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, is being challenged in the courts and is not in effect.
The original sponsor of the Alabama law has explicitly said the bill was drafted in an effort to have it challenged and potentially reach the Supreme Court, which the bill's supporters hope could lead to the overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which declared abortion a right federally.
The Missouri bill stipulates a few additional elements not included in the Alabama bill, like a specific ban on abortions done on the basis of race or sex of the fetus or a diagnosis or screening indication of Down Syndrome.
The Missouri bill, HB 126, would also change the state’s parental notification requirements so that rather than needing written consent from one parent in order for a minor to have an abortion, both parents would need to be notified.
It also includes a so-called "trigger" function, meaning that if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, abortion will automatically become illegal in Missouri.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the 2020 Democratic candidate from Minnesota, said she was “extremely concerned” that Roe vs. Wade was at risk of being overturned by recent laws passed to challenge and overturn the Supreme Court precedent on ABC’s “The View” Friday morning.
"What these guys are doing is unbelievable – I say guys because the guys in the state senate in Alabama it was all men," Klobuchar said. "They're taking us backward."
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed the state's controversial abortion ban into law this week, though it is expected to face near-immediate legal challenges.
The ban makes it a felony for doctors in the state to perform abortions in all cases, with the only exception being when the life of the mother is threatened. It does not include exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
"These guys are setting us up, using women as political pawns to set this up for a case to go to the Supreme Court, and it makes it more important for anyone listening out there that cares about families rights to make their own decisions," Klobuchar said.
Klobuchar is one of four women senators running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
In recent days, Klobuchar has been outspoken on the new abortion laws in Georgia, Alabama and Missouri, all of which are some of the most restrictive in the nation and passed within a few days of each other, calling them a “coordinated attack on women’s health care” and an “attempt to turn back the clock.”
Klobuchar was also asked about allegations that she mistreated her staff, which surfaced in February in reports by Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.
Klobuchar answered by talking about the high standards she holds herself and her staff to, while also giving them credit for many of her accomplishments.
As a woman, Klobuchar said, “you can't be likable in every moment” when you have a high-powered job.
“I think one of the things that I have seen here is that oftentimes when you're a woman candidate, people underestimate you,” Klobuchar said.
“They think, oh, maybe you're not going to do the job, put you into a box of what they think you're going to be, and I think every woman in this audience right now and out there watching knows what it's like to be underestimated,” Klobuchar said.
“You get underestimated and you get criticized and you have to rise above it,” she said.
The senator from Minnesota is seeking to appeal to moderate voters through her record as a purple-state leader. Though Klobuchar hails from a state that just narrowly voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, she has done well in counties across Minnesota that voted for Trump.
Two of her primary platforms have been focused on advancements for the middle class, including a hefty investment in infrastructure and a substance abuse and mental health plan.
Klobuchar, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was also asked to respond to claims of stonewalling from the Department of Justice on attempts from Democrats to get more materials surrounding the redacted report from special counsel Robert Mueller.
“The answer is to hold them accountable, continue to push the subpoenas, to go to court and get the information,” Klobuchar said. “Why? You want to get the truth, but you also want to get to the bottom of what happened when a foreign country invaded our election,” she said.
On whether or not Mueller will testify himself, as top Democrats have requested, Klobuchar suggested that could happen when Mueller becomes a private citizen and is off the government payroll.
Klobuchar has not called for the House to call for impeachment proceedings to begin, as Democratic candidates like Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California, but said Friday “it’s not off the table at all.”
The question, Klobuchar said, is what would happen if the vote went to the Senate, which is controlled by Republicans.
After Attorney General William Barr testified before the committee in early May, Klobuchar wrote Barr and special counsel Robert Mueller letters about the report and obstruction of justice involving President Donald Trump, asserting that there were more questions left unanswered.
In 2018, she introduced bipartisan legislation to secure the country’s elections against Russian interference.
The Secure Elections Act would mandate paper ballot backups in certain states and require audited election results but was stopped in its tracks by calls from the White House.
“We know Russia interfered in the 2016 election, and we know they’re trying to do it again in 2020. Protecting our democracy shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Congress must pass my bipartisan election security legislation now,” Klobuchar tweeted on Thursday.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In his first television interview, Attorney General William Barr said his initial review of the origins of the Russia probe has produced more questions than adequate answers.
"It wasn't handled in the ordinary way that investigations or counter intelligence activities are conducted. It was sort of an ad hoc small group. Most of these people are no longer with the FBI or the CIA, or the other agencies involved," Barr told Fox News' Bill Hemmer in the interview that aired Friday morning..
The attorney general said that he wouldn't "speculate" if there was "spying" on the Trump campaign as President Donald Trump, who nominated him, has said repeatedly, including in a tweet Friday morning.
Barr told Congress last month he believed "spying did occur."
"I don't want to speculate," Barr said. "What I will say is I've been trying to get answers to questions and I found that a lot of the answers have been inadequate and I have also found that some of the explanations I've gotten don't hang together. In a sense I have more questions today than I did when I first started," he continued.
"The fact of the matter is [special counsel] Bob Mueller did not look at the government's activities. He was looking t whether or not the Trump campaign had conspired with the Russians. He was not going back and looking at the counter intelligence program.," Barr said. "And we have a number of investigations underway that touch upon it. The main one being the office of inspector general that's looking at the FISA warrants. But as far as I'm aware, no one has really looked across the whole waterfront," he continued.
He said it's important to look into what the government was doing at the time.
"I think people have to find out what the government was doing during that period. If we're worried about foreign influence for the very same reason we should be worried about whether government officials abused their power and put their thumb on the scale and so I'm not saying that happened. But I'm saying that we have to look at that."
The review that the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut is doing is not a criminal investigation.
Barr also called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's charge he lied under oath to Congress and committed a crime 'laughable.'
"I think it's a laughable charge and I think it's largely being made to try to discredit me partly because they may be concerned about the outcome of a review of what happened during the election. But obviously you can look at the face of my testimony and see on its face there is nothing inaccurate about it," Barr said.
He said that he was ready to be the new target for Democrats. "I thought I was in a position where this kind of criticism really wouldn't bother me very much."
Barr called the contempt charge recommendation passed by the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee "part of the circus."
"It's part of the usual political circus that's being played out. It doesn't surprise me," he said, adding he doesn't feel threatened.
Barr also said he was surprised that Robert Mueller didn't come to conclusion on whether President Trump committed obstruction of justice .
"The function of a prosecutor is to make a call one way or the other," he said, adding they discussed it before Barr released his initial conclusions about the Mueller report. He made similar comments in his Senate testimony.
Barr said the witness tampering allegation against the president was based on a "misconception" about his conversation with then White House counsel Donald McGahn.
"He was not asked to change his testimony. That was a reaction to a press story in The New York Times that claimed that Trump had told him to fire Mueller. And Trump -- I'm going by what the report said, I'm not arguing the case. But Trump was mad at the word fire and claimed he never directed McGahn to fire Mueller," Barr said.
"And in fact elsewhere the report does say that McGahn was told by Trump to talk to [then-Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein to complain about conflicts of interest that Mueller had and have Mueller removed for conflicts of interest. There is a difference. If you remove someone for conflict of interest presumably someone else will be put in to continue the investigation. And what Trump was being accused of in the "New York Times" was outright directing the firing of Mueller."
On the Steel dossier, Barr says that it was 'unusual' for that to be the basis of an investigation.
"Well, that' s one of the questions that were going to have to look at, it's unusual to have opposition research like that one that on its face had a number of clear mistakes and jejune analysis and to use that to conduct counterintelligence against an American political campaign - I'm not sure what role it played but that's something we have to look at," he continued.
The review being conducted by the U.S. Attorney of Connecticut is not a criminal probe.
Barr said there were some "very strange developments" between election day and inauguration day that the Department of Justice wants to look into those, but wouldn't go into specifics. He did highlight a Jan. 6, 2017 meeting between the president and intelligence chiefs and "the leaking of information subsequent to that meeting."
The attorney general responded to criticism of his claims that the Trump White House had cooperated with Mueller given that Trump did not do an interview with the special counsel, saying it was "more than satisfactory."
"Mueller decided not to force the issue with the president, so he made that judgment. And I did say the White House cooperated. What I was referring to was the truly unprecedented delivery of information in the form of millions of pages of documents and the ability to interview white house staff including the president's White House counsel with no holds barred. No privileged claimed at point or anything. So, that was unprecedented and that's what I was referring to when I said the white house," Barr said.
When asked about the president's use of the term "witch hunt," he said he was comfortable with it.
"Because at the time he was saying he was innocent and that he was being falsely accused. And if you're falsely accused, you would think that something was a witch hunt. I have to say when you step back and look at this, two-and-a-half years of his administration -- three years of the Trump campaign and first part of his administration -- he has been hammered for something -- for allegedly conspiring with the Russians. We now know that was simply false," Barr said.
"I use what words I use and it was an investigation. But I think if I had been falsely accused, I would be comfortable saying it was a witch hunt."
Both Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray have rejected that term, saying the investigation was legitimate.
Democrats "don't know what they're talking about" when they accuse him of being Trump's lawyer, he said. Asked if he thought other attorneys general had acted as the president's lawyer, Barr responded, "I think at times [Eric Holder] did act that way but attorneys general are frequently accused of that," Barr said.
"Attorneys general are accused of being that way. I don't know what they're referring to. When I was up for confirmation, I promised that I was going to make the report available, I didn't have to, the report was supposed to be confidential. I said I would air on the side of transparency I got it out. Minimal redactions, every American can read it until their heart's content and make up their mind about it."
When asked about former FBI Director James Comey criticizing him, Barr didn't answer directly.
"I've noticed the talking point. Barr's legacy is being upset because of his service in this administration,' he said, referring to himself in the third person. "I don't think those people are really concerned about my legacy," he said.
Barr did the Fox interview in El Salvador where he was scheduled to promote what he says is the success of the partnership the government there has with the United States in fighting gang violence both in El Salvador and in the U.S.
"We've been able to charge over 7,000 members of MS-13 and the 18th Street gang. It is a great partnership we have with them and it is helping us in the United States because MS-13 gang members that we can get down here are not going to be coming up to the United States," he continued.
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