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Win McNamee/Getty ImagesBy QUINN SCANLAN, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- The senior Maine senator has represented the state in the upper chamber since 1997, and she’s pursuing a fifth term in a vastly different political environment, one where her disposition is increasingly out of step with elected leaders and voters, and her vote in favor of President Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court justice nominee continues to be weaponized against her.

“The big picture is that she's in a fight for her electoral life here that she's really never seen before since she was first elected to the seat,” said Mark Brewer, a professor of political science at the University of Maine.

New England used to be a stronghold for Republicans, but the party “was changing underneath Susan Collins' feet before Donald Trump even became a possible reality as an elected official,” Brewer said. When Trump entered the political arena, and then won the presidency, that move to the right only accelerated.

“Today’s GOP… is Trump’s GOP – and she doesn’t fit in that party,” he told ABC News.

All three major race raters – Inside Politics, Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball – rate Collins’ race as a toss-up, meaning it’s basically anyone’s guess at this point whether she’ll be able to hold onto her seat, or lose to her Democratic challenger.

"This is an atmosphere like nobody has never seen in Maine before. Everything is so polarized. Everything you see happening in the country, you see in Maine," the Collins campaign told ABC News. "You've got Democrats and Republicans at each other's throats, and you have Senator Collins’ opponents flooding Maine with $20 million worth of false attack ads in an attempt to try to make this Senate race a referendum on Donald Trump. Senator Collins is going to run her own race, like she always does, on her own impressive legislative record."

The state will hold its primary election on Tuesday, and the winner is widely expected to be Sara Gideon, the two-term speaker of Maine’s House of Representatives, who’s been a state lawmaker since 2014. Gideon must first beat two other candidates – attorney Bre Kidman and businesswoman Betsy Sweet – but during the primary, she’s basically been running a general election campaign, contrasting herself with the sitting senator rather than her primary competitors.

The DSCC, national Democrats’ Senate campaign arm, backed Gideon early, just one day after she announced she was running in June 2019. She’s out-fundraised Collins by millions of dollars. According to the most recent pre-primary Federal Election Commission filings, which cover the entirety of the campaign through June 24, Gideon raised nearly $22 million while Collins had raised about $15 million.

“She's got a lot of things going for her, and Collins has a lot of things going against her,” said Brewer.

But the race is less about Gideon than it is about other prominent political figures.

“I'd say it's about Donald Trump, and second would be Collins, and third would be (Justice Brett) Kavanaugh, and fourth would be Sara Gideon,” said Larry Sabato, the director of University of Virginia’s Center for Politics who serves as the editor-in-chief for Crystal Ball’s race ratings analysis.

Sabato said that Collins’ “fate is tied to Donald Trump’s,” and right now, the president’s electoral fate is not looking good. According to FiveThirtyEight’s general election poll tracker, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading Trump nationally by an average of nearly 10 percentage points.

But right now is not November, and as exhibited by everything that’s happened with a global pandemic and national reckoning over race in the last four months, a lot can change in a short amount of time.

Trump’s base of supporters aren’t Collins’ base of supporters, but that’s not necessarily her problem this election, said Brewer. Trump supporters will still back her because she’s supported the president on some big votes, like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 and to give then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh a seat on the nation’s highest court. Plus, she’s running unopposed.

But the voters Collins – and any Maine politician – really needs to win over are the ones who aren’t registered as Republicans or Democrats. According to the Maine secretary of state’s office, of the over 1 million active registered voters as of early March, nearly a third are unaffiliated.

For a lot of these moderate voters, especially among women, Collins – one of just a few pro-choice Republicans in Congress – voting to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is a thorn in her reelection campaign’s side.

“The Kavanaugh vote clearly is one that has landed… he was not especially popular, and he certainly wasn't in moderate to liberal states,” Sabato said. “That hasn't faded, and it's being used daily out there in one way or another, and will continue to be through November.”

“The Kavanaugh vote is the one thing that she just can’t get away from,” echoed Brewer, bringing up the Court’s recent ruling on an abortion case out of Louisiana.

On June 29, in a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that a Louisiana law that essentially outlawed abortion by requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital was unconstitutional. Kavanaugh sided with the minority dissenting, and wrote his own opinion.

"While a welcome victory, this decision does not undo years of systematic attacks on reproductive rights by the Trump administration and Republicans across the country. Senator Collins has consistently enabled those efforts by voting to confirm anti-choice nominees like Justice Kavanaugh," Gideon said in a statement the day of the ruling.

In Collins' nearly hour-long October 2018 speech on the Senate floor announcing she’d vote for Kavanaugh, whose nomination was marred by a decades-old allegation of sexual misconduct, Collins directly addressed the issue of abortion, and how she believed Kavanaugh would respect the precedent that a woman has a right to a safe and accessible abortion, which was established in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade, and held up more recently in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, in 1992.

“Protecting this right is important to me,” Collins said. “(Kavanaugh) believes that precedent is not just a judicial policy, it is constitutionally dictated to pay attention and pay heed to rules of precedent. In other words, precedent isn’t a goal or an aspiration. It is a constitutional tenet that has to be followed except in the most extraordinary circumstances.”

The Louisiana case was not a case of the same caliber as Roe v. Wade, but any abortion case Kavanaugh votes on shores up that ghost of Collins’s recent past. The senator has maintained that she does not regret voting for Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

Fortunately for Collins, there won’t be any more opinions from the Supreme Court before the election.

But unfortunately for her, while the country may be living in daily uncertainty, Trump will be a constant presence throughout the rest of this campaign.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a full-circle moment for Collins. In her 1996 Senate campaign, she pushed a pro-small business platform and won. Small businesses are essential to her home state’s economy, and when the virus outbreak hit the United States, Collins co-authored the bipartisan Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a forgivable loan program that incentivizes businesses to retain their employees and prevent layoffs.

While the initiative got off to a rocky start, it has ultimately been successful, even needing a financial refuel in May, and now having approved nearly 5 million loans, including to more than 27,000 Maine companies totaling $2.2 billion, according to an analysis of the loan data done by Maine Public Radio.

Meanwhile, back in Maine, the House of Representatives adjourned its session on March 17, and Gideon, her likely Democratic competitor, has not called lawmakers back to take up any coronavirus-related legislation. While the legislature is out of session, there still have been committee discussions, work sessions and public hearings.

Gideon had been critical of the loan program and Collins’ role in crafting it.

“While Maine’s small businesses struggle to stay afloat, the Paycheck Protection Program has allowed big corporations like Ruth’s Chris and the Los Angeles Lakers to step to the front of the line and secure millions of dollars in loans,” an early May campaign email from Gideon’s team read. “Meanwhile, many small businesses in Maine’s hard-hit restaurant and hospitality industry have been left behind by a program that doesn’t offer enough flexibility to be helpful to them.”

Maeve Coyle, a spokesperson for Gideon's campaign, provided ABC News with this statement about the loan: "The firm where Sara’s husband works is one of more than 450 firms in Maine that received assistance from the program following the closure of courts in Maine. From when this crisis began, Sara has been clear that this is a time when Washington needs to put politics aside and do what’s best for workers and small businesses, not large corporations and the special interests. Unfortunately, as we’re still seeing today, that’s not what Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans have done."

Brewer, the University of Maine professor, told ABC News he thinks the pandemic has helped Collins.

"She’s been very active… she's been out there, and people have seen her trying to get stuff done in Washington," he said.

As for her competitor, Brewer said that Gideon, along with state Senate President Troy Jackson, has gotten “a lot of heat” in Maine for not calling back the legislature, and blasting a program her husband’s place of work benefited from was “a pretty big error that should have been easily avoided.”

But even with that potential win for Collins and loss for Gideon, Trump looms overhead.

Maine is one of only two states to split its electoral votes among congressional districts. The president only lost statewide by 2.9 percentage points, and Trump won in the 2nd Congressional District in 2016. But while that district is much more conservative, there are a lot more voters in the 1st Congressional District, where the city of Portland is, and that district encompasses a much different, more liberal Maine.

Sabato told ABC News that the United States rebuilding a strong economy before November could make all the difference for Collins - because of how it impacts Trump’s prospects. In nearly every poll, the economy is Trump’s number one seller. Voters trust him more on that issue over any other than compared to Biden, and at the ballot box, the economy is often top of mind.

“If Trump can be competitive again and come as close as he did in 2016 to winning Maine, she will win Maine – even if Trump will lose narrowly,” said Sabato. “But Trump has a long way to go to get competitive again.”

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump threatens to cut funding to schools that don't reopen in the fall and continues to host mega-rallies as cases of coronavirus increase, there appears to be a growing rift between the Trump White House and its top health advisers.

The president has taken his criticism of the government's top expert on infectious diseases and of leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into the public forum in his massive push to reopen the country.

Despite coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx asking Americans in hot spot zones to avoid indoor gatherings and reduce them to 10 people or fewer, Trump on Friday delivered remarks and attended a home fundraiser in Florida as cases there rise -- one day after the state saw a record death toll.

The trip came as Trump seeks to downplay the danger in states like Florida, Arizona, Texas and California struggling to control outbreaks -- which he calls "embers" -- and openly disputes coronavirus task force officials.

In a series of interviews this week, Trump questioned the expertise of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Health for more than three decades and a prominent member of the White House coronavirus task force, who continually polls higher in favorability than the president.

"Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes," Trump told Fox News' Sean Hannity Thursday night, insisting Fauci was against his travel ban on China and wrong on face masks.

"A lot of them said don't wear a mask, don't wear a mask," added Trump, who has yet to don one himself in public. "Now they are saying wear a mask. A lot of mistakes were made, a lot of mistakes."

Trump used the same criticisms in an interview Tuesday, when directly asked about Fauci's assessment one day earlier that the country is "knee deep in the first wave" of the virus.

"Well, I think we are in a good place," Trump told "Full Court Press" with Greta Van Susteren in response. "I disagree with him."

Notably, when Fauci testified before House lawmakers in March as the pandemic took off, he said he supported Trump's travel bans on China and Europe, calling the case for them "pretty compelling." The decision to advise against wearing masks, until an official CDC recommendation in April, was due largely to a nationwide shortage, officials said.

Fauci is not the only expert under fire from Trump.

Throughout the week, Trump has also criticized guidelines from the CDC on reopening schools -- calling them "very tough & expensive" -- and has characterized the decision to reopen schools as a political one, even as coronavirus cases surge across the country.

"It is politics," Trump said, at an event unrelated to the pandemic in the Rose Garden Thursday. "They don't want to open because they think it will help them on November 3rd. I think it's going to hurt them November 3rd."

After Vice President Mike Pence, backing the president, said the guidelines on reopening schools would be changed, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield wouldn't say if that was a direct result of the president's demand but instead stressed that the guidelines are "intentionally non-prescriptive."

While Birx and Redfield are more controlled in their press appearances, careful not to clash with Trump's positive outlook, Fauci this week characterized the entire country as "living in the perfect storm."

In an interview with the Financial Times out Friday, the infectious disease expert revealed the last time he saw the president in person at the White House was on June 2 and that he has not briefed him for at least two months.

"I have a reputation, as you probably have figured out, of speaking the truth at all times and not sugar-coating things," Fauci said. "And that may be one of the reasons why I haven't been on television very much lately."

Back in March, Trump praised the doctor as a "major television star for all the right reasons" -- a key metric for Trump -- but as the pandemic worsened it appears their relationship did, too.

Trump, the ever-optimist, and Fauci, who calls himself "cautiously optimistic" soon diverged on their messaging -- whether on the promise of potential treatments such as hydroxychloroquine or the speed at which Americans should return to normal life.

In April, after Fauci told CNN the administration "could have saved lives" had firm social distancing guidelines been enforced earlier and added that there was "pushback about shutting things down," Trump retweeted a former Republican congressional candidate's attack on Fauci, including the hashtag of #FireFauci, sparking concern over his future on the task force.

And in May, after Fauci urged caution when it comes to reopening schools, Trump told reporters, "He wants to play all sides of the equation."

Both parties seem to agree that politics are at play.

Fauci on Thursday, asked by FiveThirtyEight's Anna Rothschild if the country's hyper-partisan environment has made it more difficult to suppress the virus, said, "I think you'd have to admit that that's the case."

"You have to be having blindfolders on and covering your ears to think that we don't live in a very divisive society now, from a political standpoint," Fauci said. "You'd have to make the assumption that if there wasn't such divisiveness, that we would have a more coordinated approach."

While Fauci has done several podcast, print and social media interviews in the last month, his presence on TV and as a leading face at the once-daily task force briefings has diminished -- though coronavirus cases have resurged prompting several state and local officials to halt or reverse their reopening efforts.

At an afternoon White House briefing Wednesday, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany wouldn't say when directly asked whether Trump still has confidence in the government's top expert on infectious diseases.

"The president has confidence -- confidence in the conclusions of our medical experts, but it's up to him to determine what to do with that information and to take what we hear from Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx and others and take what he values in their opinion and come to the ultimate consensus that's best for this country," she said.

Fauci, notably absent from Wednesday's task force briefing, was reportedly asked to go to the White House at the same time it was being held at the Department of Eduction, which meant he could not answer questions from reporters on schools reopening.

"Look, that's a decision for the task force as to who appears at the briefing, but you've heard from a lot of our doctors today," McEnany said to justify his absence.

She noted that Fauci has appeared on six TV programs since June 1, he spoke during a task force briefing on June 26 and participated in Pence's briefing on June 29.

But while the Trump White House this week said the world is looking to the U.S. as the leader in the ongoing pandemic, Fauci has asserted the opposite.

"As a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great," Fauci said. "I mean, we're just not."

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Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesBy KATHERINE FAULDERS, ALI DUKAKIS, ALEXANDER MALLIN, and JOHN SANTUCCI, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump has commuted the sentence of his longtime friend and former campaign adviser Roger Stone, the White House announced on Friday.

In a statement, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump had “signed an Executive Grant of Clemency commuting the unjust sentence of Roger Stone, Jr.,” calling him “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.”

“In light of the egregious facts and circumstances surrounding his unfair prosecution, arrest, and trial, the President has determined to commute his sentence,” McEnany wrote. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man!”

When reached by ABC News, Stone attorney Grant Smith issued a brief statement.

“Mr. Stone is incredibly honored that President Trump used his awesome and unique power under the Constitution of the United States for this act of mercy,” Smith told ABC News. “Mr. and Mrs. Stone appreciate all the consideration the President gave to this matter.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who oversees the committee Stone was convicted of lying to, condemned the move, accusing Trump of undermining the rule of law.

“With this commutation, Trump makes clear that there are two systems of justice in America: one for his criminal friends, and one for everyone else,” Schiff said in a statement. “Donald Trump, Bill Barr, and all those who enable them pose the gravest of threats to the rule of law.”

Stone came under scrutiny for activity related to former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In February, he was sentenced to 40 months in prison after he was found guilty in November of obstructing justice, witness tampering and five counts of lying to Congress. Stone is currently remanded to home confinement and was expected to report to prison on July 14.

While a commutation reduces a convict's sentence either in part or in full, only a pardon nullifies a conviction entirely. Absent a full pardon, Stone will avoid prison time but will still remain a convicted felon, barring him from voting in any future elections, serving on a jury or seeking elected office. If Trump chooses, as a part of the commutation he also may release Stone from any of the financial obligations that his conviction carried.

Stone was convicted of misleading lawmakers on several key elements of their probe into Russian meddling, including communications he had with the Trump campaign discussing WikiLeaks’ dissemination of damaging documents stolen from Democrats during the campaign.

Stone formally left the Trump campaign in late 2015 but remained in touch with multiple senior advisers to Trump and the presidential candidate himself. According to testimony and evidence presented at his trial, Stone became the campaign's informal point-person on all things WikiLeaks -- a relationship that underpinned lies he eventually told during sworn testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in September 2017.

The commutation comes after Trump had long fueled speculation that he had plans to pardon or commute the sentence of his longtime friend and adviser.  President Trump tweeted in May that Stone "had been treated very unfairly" and made reference to a jury foreperson, who he has previously accused of being biased.

"Roger Stone has been treated very unfairly. How about that jury Forewoman, does anybody think that was fair? DISGRACEFUL! Stay tuned," the president tweeted.

After a federal judge in Washington, D.C. last month gave Stone a surrender date of July 14 -- though he had sought to report to the Georgia prison on Sept. 3, citing coronavirus fears -- the very next day the president tweeted a story about a petition for him to pardon Stone.  

Stone had asked for a new trial based on alleged juror misconduct, but Judge Amy Berman Jackson denied Stone’s request in April, saying Stone failed to "[supply] any reason to believe that there has been a 'serious miscarriage of justice.'"

“The defendant has not shown that the juror lied; nor has he shown that the supposedly disqualifying evidence could not have been found through the exercise of due diligence at the time the jury was selected," Jackson said.

With regard to Stone's argument that the juror was biased because of comments made on social media, Jackson said, "To the extent one could consider any of the social media posts to be inconsistent with the juror’s questionnaire, they do not warrant a new trial because they do not meet the legal test for something that has been 'newly discovered.'"

During the hearing on the new trial motion in late February, Jackson expressed concern for the safety of a juror from Stone’s trial after Trump repeatedly accused her of being biased.

“The president of the United States used his Twitter platform to disseminate a particular point of view about a juror,” Jackson said during that hearing. “Any attempt to invade the privacy of the jurors or to harass or intimidate them is completely antithetical to our system of justice. They deserve our protection. They deserve to have their privacy protected.”

Trump has so far granted 25 pardons and commuted the sentences of 10 individuals since taking office, among them a host of controversial figures championed by conservative media as well as several other political allies.    Trump first pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in August 2017, taking the unusual step of doing so after Arpaio's trial and conviction but prior to his sentencing. Since then Trump has sporadically granted pardons to individuals like conservative filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, Scooter Libby, former NYPD Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik and Conrad Black, a former newspaper publisher who penned a fawning biography of Trump in 2018.    This February, Trump commuted the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was eight years into his 14-year prison sentence on federal corruption charges. Trump has also in several cases commuted the sentences of individuals convicted for non-violent drug offenses, following personal pleas from Kim Kardashian West. He also granted a posthumous pardon to the legendary boxer Jack Johnson.    Typically, modern presidents are known to use their pardon and commutation powers sparingly in their first terms -- often through a meticulous process via close coordination between the White House and the Justice Department's Office of the Pardon Attorney.    While President Obama set a record in commutations at 1,715 by his final day in office -- roughly 98% of which were for prisoners convicted on drug offenses --  at the end of his first term he had only commuted the sentence of a single individual while granting pardons to 22 others. Obama granted a total of 212 pardons before leaving office, fewer than any of his modern predecessors with the exceptions of former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

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Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty ImagesBy LAUREN LANTRY, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- In the latest bout in the ongoing feud between Sen. Tammy Duckworth and right-leaning TV personality and Fox News host and commentator Tucker Carlson, Duckworth penned an op-ed in The New York Times on Thursday, defending all Americans’ right to freedom of speech and opinion, including Carlson’s.

"Even knowing how my tour in Iraq would turn out, even knowing that I’d lose both my legs in a battlefield just north of Baghdad in late 2004, I would do it all over again," Duckworth wrote in the op-ed. "Because if there’s anything that my ancestors’ service taught me, it’s the importance of protecting our founding values, including every American’s right to speak out. In a nation born out of an act of protest, there is nothing more patriotic than standing up for what you believe in, even if it goes against those in power."

Carlson attacked Duckworth Monday night, saying she and other Democratic leaders "despise this country" and "actually hate America" after Duckworth told CNN on Sunday that there should be "a national dialogue" surrounding the founding fathers’ legacies -- many of whom, George Washington included, enslaved Black Americans.

Duckworth responded to Carlson on Monday night, tweeting that the Fox News host should "walk a mile in my legs." Duckworth is a war veteran, who lost both of her legs while serving in Iraq and now uses a wheelchair and prosthetic legs. She has a Purple Heart for her service, and now represents Illinois in the Senate.

In her op-ed published Thursday, Duckworth noted that her ancestors fought alongside then-General George Washington in the Revolutionary War, and that she would do anything to protect both statues erected in his honor and an American’s right to criticize them.

"But while I would risk my own safety to protect a statue of his from harm, I’ll fight to my last breath to defend every American’s freedom to have his or her own opinion about Washington’s flawed history," Duckworth wrote, noting that she never said -- nor does she believe -- a statue of George Washington should be pulled down.

Duckworth writes that for the United States to be a more perfect union, Americans must learn from past mistakes, "and in order to do so, we cannot whitewash our missteps and mistakes," she wrote.

Carlson's comments were compounded by the fact that, on Tuesday, President Donald Trump tweeted a clip of Carlson’s show, and Scott O’Grady, co-chair of Veterans for Trump, along with Patrick Brady, a Medal of Honor recipient, released a statement saying Duckworth is "using her military service... to villainize America’s founding."

This is not the first time Trump has attacked a veteran. He has a history of challenging the patriotism of military leaders, especially those who challenge him.

Trump argued in 2015 on the campaign trail that Sen. John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, was not a war a hero.

"He was a war hero because he was captured," Trump said. "I like people who weren’t captured."

During the war, McCain was offered an early release but refused the offer because it would have meant leaving before other prisoners of war.

In July 2016, Trump called retired four-star General John Allen a "failed general." That same month he attacked the family of Capt. Humayun Khan, a slain soldier and Bronze Star awardee. Khan's father, Khizr Khan, had spoken out against Trump during the Democratic convention and supported Hillary Clinton in 2016.

In August 2019, Trump called Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton, another Bronze Star awardee who served as a marine in Iraq, a "coward" after he ended his presidential campaign. Moulton said he would campaign for whomever the Democratic nominee would be, which is now Joe Biden. Two months later, Trump called his former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired four-star general, "the world's most overrated general." This comment came after Mattis publicly contradicted Trump's wishes to quickly pull troops out of the Middle East.

And as recently as February, Trump attacked Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, who testified before the House in its impeachment inquiry expressing concern about the president's alleged quid quo pro.

In a tweet, Trump said Vindman "had problems with judgement, adhering to the chain of command and leaking information."

Duckworth, a possible vice-presidential contender who could run on the ticket with Biden, wrote in the op-ed that she will continue to fight for her country, despite attacks from powerful men like Carlson and Trump.

The attacks "will never diminish my love for this country — or my willingness to sacrifice for it so they don’t have to," she wrote. "These titanium legs don’t buckle."

The attacks against her patriotism and service have echoes of those against former Democratic Sen. John Kerry during his 2004 presidential bid. While he was running, the so-called "Swift Boat" attack was made against him, a reference to the boats the U.S. military used in Vietnam. The attack questioned his service during that conflict, for which he earned a Purple Heart. Those accusations against Kerry have since been discredited and proven false.

Trump, unlike Duckworth, has never served in the military in any capacity. He received five military deferments — one for bone spurs, and four for education — during the Vietnam War. Carlson has also never served in the military.

In the op-ed, Duckworth implies that she believes that Carlson and Trump have continued to focus and attack her patriotism to distract from bigger issues -- the fact that now over 133,000 Americans have died from complications due to COVID-19, or the fact that Trump has not yet addressed claims that Russia put bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan.

Carlson's comments are often incendiary. In 2018, he lost advertisers after saying certain immigrants make "our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided.” More recently, after protests following the death of George Floyd began across the country, Carlson casted doubt on the Black Lives Matter movement and its purpose, which caused companies such as the Walt Disney Company, Papa John’s, Poshmark and T-Mobile to pull advertisements from his show, the "Tucker Carlson Show."

Even Fox News attorney Erin Murphy has argued Carlson isn't giving his viewers the facts. Amid a defamation lawsuit filed by Karen McDougal because Carlson allegedly accused her of extortion, Murphy asked the judge, "Would a reasonable viewer be coming here and thinking this is where I’m going to be hearing the news of the day?"

Duckworth, however, did not focus on Carlson and instead turned her attention to President George Washington, recognizing his imperfections but relying on his words of wisdom in this particularly divisive moment in American history.

"He also urged Americans to ‘guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism’ and be wary of excessive partisanship," she wrote.

Finishing where she started, Duckworth highlighted the importance of the country’s First Amendment. Without explicitly mentioning every American’s right to free speech, she writes that what makes this country "great" is everyone’s right to question those who lead.

"Remember that part of what has always made America not just great but good is that every American has the right to question those in charge," Duckworth later continued. "Anyone claiming to stand up for 'patriotic' values should recognize that, because, without it, the country these impostor patriots claim to love so much would not exist."

Duckworth concluded by looking ahead to the 2020 election.

"So while I would put on my old uniform and go to war all over again to protect the right of Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump to say offensive things on TV and Twitter, I will also spend every moment I can from now until November fighting to elect leaders who would rather do good for their country than do well for themselves," she wrote.

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.


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OlegAlbinsky/iStockBy BEN GITTLESON, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Friday wrote he was instructing the Treasury Department "to re-examine" the "tax-exempt status ...and/or funding" of "universities and school systems" that, he said, "are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education."

In a pair of tweets sent while he flew to the battleground state of Florida for a series of events, Trump said: "Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education. Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status... and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!"

Trump did not provide any more details or indicate what had prompted his tweets.

The White House declined to comment when asked for more details and about what specifically prompted them. The Treasury Department did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Trump's announcement came as he earlier this week threatened to "cut off funding" for schools that do not physically reopen in the fall because of continued concerns about the novel coronavirus.

He has insisted states and local governments physically reopen regardless of the spread of COVID-19, but it remains unclear how the federal government could exert significant financial pressure on state and local school systems.

Attacking universities perceived as "liberal" has long been a conservative cause.

The White House this week criticized two elite institutions, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, after they sued the Trump administration for moving to revoke the visas of foreign students who take all-virtual classes in the fall.

The president's tweets came as he fights to win re-election in November and struggles in polling against the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. The president has embraced divisive positions popular with his conservative base, such as defending statues of Confederate generals.

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ABC News/Ipsos PollBy KENDALL KARSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump is facing broad disapproval for his management of the two major crises gripping the nation, with two-thirds of Americans giving him low marks for both his response to the coronavirus pandemic and his handling of race relations, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday.

Evaluation of Trump's oversight of the COVID-19 crisis reached a new low since ABC News/Ipsos began surveying on the coronavirus in March, with 67% disapproving of his efforts. One-third of the country approves of the president's oversight of the pandemic.

Over nearly four months of polling, Trump's approval has mostly held steady, except for one week in mid-March, when it spiked above 50%. In the last month, Trump's approval dipped to a range between the high 30s and low 40s, as the U.S. saw a resurgence of coronavirus cases, particularly across the south and west.

In the newest poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos’ Knowledge Panel, Trump's approval rating on his job dealing with the coronavirus dropped another rung, driven by plunging support among independents and even waning support among Republicans. Democrats have always been highly skeptical.

Trump's approval among independents lands at 26% in the survey, a sharp drop from 40% in mid-June, the last time the question was asked. Trump's disapproval among independents has risen to 73%, up from 59% in the June poll.

Within his own party, Republicans are less inclined to back him in the newest poll, with only 78% approving of the president's handling of the coronavirus, compared to 90% in mid-June. His disapproval of 22% in the new poll is a more than two-fold increase from last month.

In a variety of demographic groups, there are clear and consistent shifts in support away from the president.

Men (66%) and women (67%), in near equal measure, disapprove of the president's coronavirus response, which represents a double-digit increase among men since the June poll, when 54% disapproved.

Even white Americans without a college degree, considered to be a core constituency of Trump's base, are split in their approval of the president's handling, with 50% disapproving and 49% approving, compared to 42% disapproving and 57% approving in that last poll.

The newest numbers come as Trump continues to downplay the threat posed by the virus, even as confirmed cases climb.

Earlier this week, Trump falsely claimed that "99 percent of [coronavirus cases] are totally harmless," while casting the movement to remove statues of controversial figures in the country's history as the most pressing threat to the nation.

Trump's focus on what he called an "angry mob" looking to "tear down our statues" and "erase our history," comes as the country continues to reel from the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, who died on Memorial Day after he was pinned down by a white Minnesota police officer, and the nationwide unrest over racial injustice that followed.

The new poll comes amid debates over renaming and removing statues that bear the names of Confederate figures, and after Mississippi lawmakers voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag.

Americans are more than eight times as likely to have a negative reaction to the Confederate flag than a positive one, the new poll finds, marking a shift from just five years ago.

In a 2015 poll from Pew Research Center, 13% said they had a positive reaction to the Confederate flag, compared to 28% who said they had a negative reaction. Now, only 5% say they have a positive reaction to the defining emblem of the Confederacy, while 43% have a negative one.

Still, a majority of Americans, both in 2015 and now, said they had neither a positive or negative reaction to the flag.

A negative reaction is even more pronounced for black Americans, who are more than two times as likely as white Americans to have a negative reaction to the Confederate flag, 76%-37%. Just over four in 10 Hispanics have a negative reaction to the banner.

The reckoning over race comes over three years into Trump's presidency, throughout which, he has invoked inflammatory rhetoric on the issue.

Trump is seeing his approval broadly underwater for his handling of race relations, even across all racial groups. More than half (57%) of white Americans, and overwhelming majorities of black Americans (92%) and Hispanics (83%) disapprove of the president’s handling of this issue.

Although his approval among Republicans falls at 78% on race relations, this is far less than the strong majority of Democrats (91%) who disapprove of the president on this issue. Independents (74% disapprove) are also deeply skeptical of the president’s handling of race relations.

The faltering numbers for Trump are also accompanied by concerns over the country's path to reopening.

A majority of Americans (59%) believe the push to reopen the economy is moving too quickly, similar to a June 26 ABC News/Ipsos poll when it was 56%.

Currently, 15% think the country is moving too slowly, and 26% think the country is moving at the right pace.

The more reticent attitudes about reopening the economy appear to challenge Trump's aggressive push to return the country to normal.

On Wednesday, the president threatened to "cut off funding" to schools that don't reopen in the fall and criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance as "very tough," "expensive" and "impractical."

By Thursday morning, Dr. Robert Redfield, who heads the CDC, told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America that the agency's guidance for protecting against the novel coronavirus remains the same but that they will be providing "additional reference documents" to aid communities wanting to reopen their K-12 schools this fall.

This ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs‘ KnowledgePanel® July 8-9, 2020, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 711 adults, with oversamples of black and Hispanic respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 4.1 points, including the design effect. See the poll’s topline results and details on the methodology here.

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Ivan Cholakov/iStockBy LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday that the intelligence on the Russian bounty program had not been corroborated by intelligence agencies and that they do not believe any attacks in Afghanistan that resulted in American casualties can be directly tied to it. The U.S. is still looking into the program and Milley warned that if it proves to have been real the U.S. "will take action."

"All the defense intelligence agencies have been unable to corroborate that report," Esper told the House Armed Services Committee.

"As of today, right now, we don't have cause and effect linkages to a Russian bounty program causing U.S. Military casualties," Milley said. "However, we are still looking. We're not done. We're going to run this thing to ground."

If proven true, Milley said "we will take action." Though he also indicated that there have probably been some contacts with Russia about this, on the strategic level, that have not been made public.

"If it is bounties, I am outraged, just like every one of us in uniform is," Milley said. "If these bounties are directed by the government of Russia to kill American soldiers, that is a big deal. We don't have that level of fidelity yet. We are still looking."

Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. Scott Miller, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, became aware of the intelligence in January, according to Esper.

"Neither thought the reports were credible as they dug into them," said Esper, who noted that he became aware of the intelligence report in February.

Esper added that McKenzie and DOD intelligence agencies have not found any links to an April 2019 roadside bomb blast that killed three Marines that, according to some press reports, has been linked to the program.

Earlier this week, McKenzie said he found the intelligence report concerning, but did not believe it was tied to actual U.S. military deaths on the battlefield.

"I found it very worrisome, I just didn't find that there was a causative link there," McKenzie said in an interview with a small group of reporters.

"The intel case wasn't proved to me -- it wasn't proved enough that I'd take it to a court of law -- and you know that's often true in battlefield intelligence," McKenzie said. The general added that he told his intelligence staffers "to continue to dig on it" and that force protection levels for U.S. troops in Afghanistan are always high.

Based on his multiple tours of service in Afghanistan, Milley said he has been aware of Russian meddling in Afghanistan for years, including sending arms supplies to the Taliban. But, he said, "there is a distinction between arming and directing."

"We don't have -- in the case of the Russians -- we do not have concrete evidence intelligence to show directing. That is a big difference," Milley said. "If we did, it would be a different response. We are not done looking. We are going to get to the bottom of this bounty thing."

The reports of a Russian bounty program created a controversy for the Trump administration after it was disclosed that President Donald Trump had not been personally briefed on the information because it had not been "verified." The New York Times reported that the information was included in the written version of the president's daily intelligence brief in late February.

Democratic members of Congress have countered that he should have been briefed regardless of whether the intelligence was fully analyzed, given that it involved the safety of American troops.

Asked specifically at Thursday's hearing if he had received a briefing that included the word "bounty," Esper replied, "To the best of my recollection, I have not received a briefing that included the word 'bounty.'"

If "it was a credible report that used those words, certainly it would have been brought to my attention by the chain of command, by the chairman of the joint chiefs and others for action," Esper said.

"We would have taken upon that action in an interagency effort to make sure we addressed it," he added. "At all times, we take force protection seriously and we take all of his actions regardless of the credibility of a report. We take all that seriously."

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Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy LAUREN LANTRY, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling on Thursday, held that nearly half of Oklahoma – home to 1.8 million residents – is Native American territory, saying any Native American resident on Native American land cannot be tried in state criminal court, and instead must be tried in federal court.

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.

“Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word,” he wrote.

Gorsuch was joined by the four liberal justices in a ruling that is one of the largest legal victories for tribes in decades.

The specific case involved Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. Previously, an Oklahoma state court convicted McGirt of three sexual offenses, including sexually assaulting his wife’s four-year-old granddaughter. But McGirt argued that the Oklahoma state court cannot prosecute him because he is Native American, and his crime occurred on an Indian reservation.

His argument relies upon the Major Crimes Act, which gives federal authorities – not state courts – jurisdiction over crimes involving a Native American on Native American land.

“State courts generally have no jurisdiction to try Indians for conduct committed in ‘Indian country,’” Gorsuch wrote, adding, “If Mr. McGirt and the Tribe are right, the State has no right to prosecute Indians for crimes committed in a portion of Northeastern Oklahoma that includes most of the city of Tulsa. Responsibility to try these matters would fall instead to the federal government and Tribe.”

The major dispute was whether McGirt’s crimes were committed on a reservation – the majority of the court ruled that they did. According to an 1866 treaty, the land on which McGirt committed his crime was given to Native Americans and was described as a reservation.

The state of Oklahoma state, along with the four conservative dissenting justices, argued that the land was not an Indian reservation.

"But, in seeking to defend the state-court judgment below, Oklahoma has put aside whatever procedural defenses it might have and asked us to confirm that the land once given to the Creeks is no longer a reservation today,” the majority said.

In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the reservation land was “disestablished.”

“None of this is warranted,” Roberts wrote. “What has gone unquestioned for a century remains true today: A huge portion of Oklahoma is not a Creek Indian reservation. Congress disestablished any reservation in a series of statutes leading up to Oklahoma statehood at the turn of the 19th century. The Court reaches the opposite conclusion only by disregarding the ‘well settled’ approach required by our precedents.”

Roberts also argued that this decision could destabilize much of Oklahoma, writing “the State’s ability to prosecute serious crimes will be hobbled and decades of past convictions could well be thrown out.”

Tribal leaders insist that the decision will be less destabilizing than critics have feared. They note that the ruling does not change land ownership in eastern Oklahoma. Creek Nation officials are working with state and federal officials to design a public safety and regulatory agreement between the separate governments to maintain the area.

Gorsuch wrote that under the Constitution, states have no authority to reduce reservations within their borders – that can only be done by Congress.

In his opinion, delivered less than a week after President Donald Trump visited Mount Rushmore – a site considered sacred by many Native Americans – Gorsuch referenced the centuries-long history of Native American people and land being dominated and taken advantage of by the United States government.

“The federal government promised the Creek a reservation in perpetuity,” Gorsuch wrote towards the close of the majority’s opinion. “Over time, Congress has diminished that reservation. It has sometimes restricted and other times expanded the Tribe’s authority. But Congress has never withdrawn the promised reservation.”

“As a result, many of the arguments before us today follow a sadly familiar pattern. Yes, promises were made, but the price of keeping them has become too great, so now we should just cast a blind eye. We reject that thinking. If Congress wishes to withdraw its promises, it must say so,” Gorsuch wrote.

“For MCA purposes, land reserved for the Creek Nation since the 19th century remains ‘Indian country.’”

ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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Alex Wong/Getty ImagesBy MOLLY NAGLE and JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden tore into President Donald Trump Thursday on the incumbent's signature issue, the economy, seeking to cast him as a divisive and incompetent leader while unveiling the first major plank of his economic recovery plan.

"Donald Trump may believe that pitting Americans against Americans will benefit him. I don't," Biden said, arguing that Trump has demonstrated an inability to manage the raft of crises that have engulfed his presidency in the months leading up to the November election.

"We have a health crisis, an economic crisis, a racial justice crisis, a climate crisis. We need to come together to solve these crises, to solve them as Americans. This is our moment to imagine and to build a new American economy for our families and for our communities," the presumptive Democratic nominee said in a speech after touring a metal works factory in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, just outside of his hometown of Scranton.

The remarks came in concert with the release of the first part of Biden's "Build Back Better" economy plan, which focuses on a domestic manufacturing and innovation strategy that the campaign says will create 5 million new jobs, in addition to the jobs lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The Biden plan to ensure the future is 'made in all of America' by all of America's workers" will look to counter steps taken by Trump in office, including the Trump tax cuts, which the campaign argues has led to an increase in foreign investments over domestic investments, and Trump's highly touted trade agreement with China.

Biden also took aim at Trump's 2016 campaign promises in the remarks, questioning what results the president had to show for issues including jobs, health care and manufacturing.

"Donald Trump loves to talk and talk and talk, but after three and a half years of big promises, what do the American people have to show for all the talk?" Biden asked.

"He promised to bring back jobs and manufacturing. It was in recession even before COVID-19. He promised to buy American, then he let federal contractors double the rate of offshoring jobs in his first 18 months. I'm going to change that," the former vice president continued.

Biden blasted what he characterized as the Trump administration's "incompetence" in dealing with the virus, arguing that Trump has "simply given up" the fight against stopping it's spread, and is instead solely focused on the fortunes of the stock market and their effect on his reelection prospects.

"When it comes to COVID-19, after months of doing nothing, other than predicting the virus would disappear or maybe, if you drank bleach, you may be okay, Trump has simply given up," Biden said.

"The truth is throughout this crisis, Donald Trump has been almost singularly focused on the stock market, the Dow and NASDAQ. Not you. Not your families," he added.

Biden's pivot to the economy, which has entered a recession spurred by the coronavirus crisis, comes as recent polling still shows Trump with a slight advantage over his Democratic rival when it comes to voters' attitudes on the topic. In a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in mid-June, Trump retained a 5-point advantage over Biden when voters were asked who would do a better job handling the economy.

The campaign says Biden's new plan includes a "Buy American" aspect, based on the premise that "when we spend taxpayer money, we should buy American products and support American jobs," and is meant to be a comprehensive "manufacturing and innovation strategy [that] will marshall the resources of the federal government in ways that we have not seen since World War II."

The plan, the campaign says, is not just a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has decimated parts of the American economy, but is also a broader roadmap to a more equitable economy.

The manufacturing aspect of the plan includes a $400 billion "procurement investment" that, together with the former vice president's clean energy and infrastructure plan, will "power new demand for American products, materials and services and ensure that they are shipped on U.S.-flagged cargo carriers," according to the Biden campaign.

The procurement portion of Biden's policy is designed to support small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color and women, according to the policy release, and will also require businesses receiving funds from the investment to commit to a $15 minimum wage, paid leave and the guaranteed option to join a union.

Biden will also seek to work with allies to "modernize international trade rules and associated domestic regulations regarding government procurement," according to the policy proposal.

Biden is also proposing an additional $300 billion in research and development spending on "breakthrough technologies," like electric vehicles, lightweight materials, 5G and artificial intelligence. A portion of the proposed investment will also go directly to federal funding for research through entities like the National Institutes of Health.

The campaign did not give specific guidance on how the policy will be paid for, but said that recurring costs of the plan over 10 years would be paid in full, with a payment plan that will be rolled out with other portions of the larger policy. However, it left open the possibility of additional one-time stimulus investments that may not be covered in the proposed plan.

The campaign argues that the current economic situation calls for a "robust jobs agenda," that will off-set the precipitous decrease in demand and growth caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Today's elevated unemployment will mean lower demand, which will mean lower growth for our economy (which relies on consumption). A robust jobs agenda will increase demand," the campaign argued, saying broad investments now are necessary to improve both the long and short-term health of the economy.

Biden's trip to Pennsylvania on Thursday was his fifth to the critical swing state since the COVID-19 pandemic largely brought in-person campaigning to a halt, and marked Biden's first trip near his hometown of Scranton since October 2019.

The native Pennsylvanian also made a stop at his childhood home while in town, saying he "couldn't come to Scranton without coming by the old house."

In addition to the specific pillar Biden laid out, the campaign also previewed the other three pillars that together make up his plan, which includes mobilization plans across a number of different policy areas, including infrastructure, technological innovation, a "caregiving and education workforce" and racial equality that will be announced in the coming weeks.

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iStock/SeanPavonePhoto(WASHINGTON) -- BY: IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

The statehouse in Mississippi has been closed as a surge in novel coronavirus cases now includes at least 26 lawmakers -- both representatives and senators -- and 10 Capitol employees.

"That number will certainly grow," Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state's health officer, said at a news conference on Wednesday, when at least five of the state's largest hospitals reported having zero available ICU beds, forcing patients to be sent out of state.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who presides over the Senate, and House Speaker Philip Gunn are among those infected. Both are self-quarantining at home. In videos that captured recent sessions, several lawmakers were seen not wearing face coverings.

The Legislature, which last was in session on July 1, voted in late June to pass a bill removing the Confederate flag emblem from the Mississippi state flag.

But the Legislature still hasn't passed a budget for the next fiscal year, according to Gov. Tate Reeves, who added that lawmakers won't meet for at least 14 days to help prevent the virus from spreading further.

"There is and was a significant risk to a large number of people gathering in the state Capitol," Reeves said during a news conference.

A Mississippi Health Department spokeswoman said the agency still is conducting tests and outreach for anyone who was in contact with state leaders. Health officials are urging all staff members to get tested, self-quarantine for two weeks and monitor their symptoms.

Reeves said he's concerned about delaying the budget, particularly when it comes to funding for agencies like the Department of Marine Resources, which monitors safety patrols, but that he's worked out an emergency plan to keep the department funded.

"We are in the middle of a public health crisis, and we have to make decisions on risk and reward," Reeves said. "In my opinion, it is too high of a risk for legislators to come back at least for the next 14 days."

Mississippi's Health Department said that as of Thursday afternoon, the state had 33,591 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,204 deaths, with 703 cases and 16 deaths reported on Wednesday. Jackson, Mississippi, the capital, had reported 727 confirmed cases and 17 related deaths.

The state has seen a gradual increase in new daily cases since June, when all businesses were allowed to reopen, health department data shows.

Reeves said he's considering stricter measures to control the outbreak, including a statewide mask mandate. Reeves blamed residents and businesses for ignoring his calls to wear a mask on their own and avoid crowds.

"We believe very strongly if you wear a mask you can save yourself and your neighbors," he said. "Wearing a mask can slow the spread of this virus."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- BY: ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC News

In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Attorney General William Barr announced the creation of a new nationwide law enforcement initiative -- dubbed 'Operation Legend' -- intended to send federal resources to states and cities seeing a recent surge in violent crime.

In an opening act for the operation, a group of more than 100 FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, DEA agents and ATF agents will be dispatched to Kansas City, Missouri, in the coming weeks following a request from Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.

"The president recently said to states and cities that the federal government is ready, willing and able to to come in and help," Barr said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas. "The city of Kansas City -- they've had -- a serious spiking in crime, particularly murders. They're on pace to set all records of murders for that city, so we are going to go in."

According to the Kansas City Police Department, the city has already seen 99 homicides as of Thursday, in comparison with 74 at this point in the summer of 2019 -- a roughly 40% increase. It is also nearly double the number of homicides at this point in 2016, when there were only 54 homicides in Kansas City.

Among those killed in recent weeks was 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was killed while sleeping in his bed on June 29.

According to his family, Taliferro had survived open-heart surgery as an infant and was scheduled for another operation soon.

"My daughter had open-heart surgery at a comparable age and I remember how stressful it was for our family," Barr said, in explaining the decision to name 'Operation Legend' after Taliferro. "The idea of your child surviving that and, you know, the joy you would feel to see your kid pull through something like that and then have them shot in the face, it affected me a lot."

While the federal assistance to Kansas City came following the request of the state's Republican governor, it's not clear whether the initiative would extend to other major cities like Chicago and New York where both local and state leaders have been skeptical about calls from President Donald Trump to surge federal assistance in response to crime increases.

For instance, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas issued a statement following the DOJ announcement noting he wasn't consulted or made aware at all about the operation.

"I learned on Twitter this afternoon that the Department of Justice plans to send federal investigators to Kansas City as support for unsolved homicide and non-fatal shooting investigations," Lucas said. "As I understand the Department’s plan, any outside help will not be used for regular policing or patrol activities -- and solely to clear unsolved murders and shootings."

"I plan and hope to learn more about this effort over the days ahead. The investigative support effort announced this afternoon can be only one tool out of many, such as mental health treatment and restorative justice, in addressing violent crime," Lucas added.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- BY: JORDYN PHELPS

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday struggled to say what federal guidance might look like for the nation’s schools to reopen this fall, after the president said the current advice was too tough and Vice President Mike Pence promised a new approach next week.

In an exclusive interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, CDC Director Robert Redfield said no revisions would be made to the guidance.

"Should the doctors and scientists at the CDC be taking that kind of political direction from the president?" ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked.

Redfield did not directly answer the question but said he wanted to "clarify" that the guidance isn't actually changing.

“It's not a revision of the guidelines, it's just to provide additional information to help the schools be able to use the guidance that we put forward,” Redfield said.

But just Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said changes were coming to make sure the guidelines are not “too tough” after the president tweeted earlier in the day that the guidance was "very tough & expensive guidelines for opening schools.”

"The president said today we just don’t want the guidance to be too tough," Pence said during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force. "That's the reason why, next week, CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools, five different documents that will be giving even more clarity on the guidance going forward."

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany downplayed the discrepancy, insisting that the White House and Dr. Redfield are on “on the same page."

“The CDC director noted that there would be additional guidance. The vice president noted that as well. But we’re on the same page with with Dr. Redfield,” she said. “I think Dr. Redfield was noting he doesn’t plan to rescind the current guidance that’s out there. It will be supplemental guidance.”

Current CDC guidelines for schools recommend that schools maximize spacing between students’ desks, promote social distancing, have students to eat in classrooms rather than the cafeteria, among other recommendations.

Under repeated questioning Thursday, Redfield would not say whether any of those guidelines would actually be changed as a result of the president’s demand but instead stressed that the guidelines are “intentionally non-prescriptive.”

“Are you revising any of those at the direction of the president?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Right now we're continuing to work with the local jurisdictions on how they want to take the portfolio of guidance we've given to make them practical for their schools to reopen,” Redfield said.

While stressed the empowerment of local jurisdictions on one hand as he stressed the non-binding nature of the scientifically-based data that his agency has produced, he also sought to push the administration line in calling for schools to be fully operational in the fall.

“The one thing I really want to say that would personally sadden me and I know my agency is in individuals were to use these that we put out as a rationale to keep schools closed,” Redfield said.

“No one wants to keep the schools closed but everybody wants to make sure they're safe before they are open again. That's what I keep trying to ask you about," Stephanopoulous followed up. "Which of these guidelines are looking to relax? Should students be six feet apart?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“I think we have to continue to work with the schools to look between the six feet apart, wearing face coverings, social distancing in seating, looking at changes in schedule to have different crowding. As I said, there is a whole portfolio that the schools can look at to see what's the right mix for them,” he said.

While President Trump has said on Twitter that ““SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” and has threatened to cut off funding to jurisdictions that don’t reopen, decisions about school reopening are at the local level and the president has little to no authority at the federal level to order schools to reopen.

While Pence signaled Wednesday that the administration could seek to leverage funding in the next coronavirus relief package to pressure localities to bend to their will, he acknowledged that the president’s threat carries limited punch.

“I think 90 percent of education funding comes from the states; roughly 10 percent, depending on states’ budgets, come from the federal government,” Pence said when asked by ABC News about the president’s threat to cut funding. “And as we work with Congress on the next round of state support, we're going to be looking for ways to give states a strong incentive and an encouragement to get kids back to school.”

In a later evolution of the administration’s position, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Thursday in an interview with Fox News that the Trump administration isn’t actually threatening to pull federal funding but is instead considering “allowing families to take that money and figure out where the kids can get educated if their schools refuse to open.”

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ABC NewsBY: AARON KATERSKY, ERIC AVRAM, and IVAN PEREIRA

(NEW YORK) -- Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, was taken back into federal custody Thursday in what his attorney said was a surprise decision that felt like "the rug had been pulled out from underneath" his client.

Cohen was released in May from federal custody to his Manhattan home on "furlough," according to the Bureau of Prisons, after the Department of Justice released him and other prisoners from federal detention facilities due to coronavirus concerns.

Cohen, 53, was in Manhattan federal court Thursday to arrange the conditions of his home confinement but the hearing ended with him being placed in handcuffs.

"On May 21, 2020, Mr. Cohen was placed on furlough pending placement on home confinement," a Bureau of Prisons official said in a statement. "Today, Michael Cohen refused the conditions of his home confinement and as a result, has been returned to a BOP facility."

"This is not what we came here to do today," Cohen's attorney, Jeffrey Levine, said after Cohen had been taken back into custody. "We came here to work out the terms and conditions of his home confinement."

Cohen was presented with the conditions of his home confinement and had no problem with the stipulations until he was told he could have "no engagement of any kind with the media, including print, TV, film, books, or other form of media/news," and that he couldn't use social media, according to a source.

Cohen said he had a problem with the language and said, "Let's work this out" before he was told to enter a waiting room, the source said.

"The next thing we knew, 90 minutes later, the marshals are coming with the shackles," said the source.

Cohen, who has been using his Twitter account frequently since he was released in May, has a book deal and did not want to relinquish the right to publish just because he was on home confinement, the source said.

"BOP just didn't want to have anything to do with working any language out," Levine said.

Cohen was taken to Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, the same federal facility currently holding Ghislaine Maxwell.

In 2018 Cohen admitted to violating campaign finance laws over payments made to women who alleged having affairs with Trump years before his 2016 presidential campaign, and he admitted lying to Congress while under oath about a Moscow real estate project Trump and his company pursued while Trump was trying to secure the Republican nomination for president.

Cohen was originally serving his three-year sentence in New York State's Otisville Correctional Facility and was slated to be released from custody in 2021.

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Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In a history-making decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled President Donald Trump cannot claim "absolute immunity" from criminal investigation while in office and may need to comply with a New York grand jury subpoena seeking his personal financial records.

The decision is a major legal defeat for Trump, although it remains highly unlikely the public will see the president's tax returns or financial records before Election Day. If the records are turned over in the grand jury probe, by law they must remain secret.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing the 7-2 majority opinion, concluded that "no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding."

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is seeking 10 years of tax returns for Trump and his businesses as part of a probe into possible state tax fraud.

"The President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need," Roberts said.

But in a nod to the unique position of the presidency, Roberts returned the case to a lower court to allow Trump to "raise further arguments as appropriate," such as claims about the subpoenas' burden on his official duties.

"The court today unanimously concludes that a president does not possess absolute immunity from a state criminal subpoena, but also unanimously agrees that this case should be remanded to the district court, where the president may raise constitutional and legal objections to the subpoena as appropriate," wrote Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, the president's two appointees to the high court, in a concurring opinion.

Given the further proceedings, it was not immediately clear how soon the New York grand jury could potentially receive the documents.

“This is a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one – not even a president – is above the law," Vance said in a statement. "Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury’s solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead.”

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito both filed dissenting opinions, suggesting President Trump deserves greater deference from subpoenas given the nature of his job.

"The court's decision threatens to impair the functioning of the presidency and provides no real protection against the use of the subpoena power by the nation's 2,300 local prosecutors," Alito wrote.

Trump tweeted shortly after the decision was revealed that the matter is a "political prosecution."

 

The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2020

 

 

Courts in the past have given “broad deference”. BUT NOT ME!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2020

But the president's attorneys said they were "pleased."

"We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s tax records. We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts," Counsel to the President Jay Sekulow said in a statement on the New York case and on a second case in which the court blocked four congressional subpoenas, also sending the matter back to a lower court.

Later Thursday, Trump, speaking at a White House event, said he is partly satisfied with the rulings, calling them "purely political," part of a "political witch hunt" and a "hoax."

"Well, the court rulings were basically starting all over again, sending everything back down to the lower courts and to start all over again, and so, from a certain point, I’m satisfied," Trump said during a roundtable with Hispanic leaders. "From another point, I’m not satisfied because frankly, this is a political witch hunt, the likes of which nobody’s ever seen before. It’s a pure witch hunt. It’s a hoax. Just like the Mueller investigation was a hoax that I won. And this is another hoax. This is purely political."

In the case of Trump v. Mazars USA LLP and Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG & Capital One, House committees subpoenaed a sweeping array of Trump personal and business records predating his time in the White House, including bank statements, engagement letters, personal checks, loan applications and tax returns. They say the information is critical to drafting of federal ethics laws, anti-corruption legislation and campaign finance rules involving presidents.

When Trump's personal accounting firm and three financial institutions used by him and his business were initially subpoenaed for the information, in both cases, Trump intervened to block the third parties from complying. He has lost at every level in lower federal courts.

Trump is the only modern American president to have not publicly released tax returns or divest from major business interests while in office.

“The Supreme Court today confirmed that the president is not above the law. The court ruled that President Trump must follow the law, like the rest of us. And that includes responding to subpoenas for his tax records," said ACLU national legal director David Cole.

“There’s a lot of play left in these cases," said Philip Hackney, an associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

"SCOTUS ruled in favor in the Vance case, but we may never see Trump’s tax records anytime soon. Trump still has defenses he can raise," Hackney said.

ABC News' Elizabeth Thomas contributed to this report.

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YinYang/iStockBy DEVIN DWYER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday blocked subpoenas from congressional Democrats for President Donald Trump's personal and business financial records but kept open the possibility that they could ultimately be enforced.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in a 7-2 opinion, reversed a lower court decision upholding four congressional subpoenas for the records, saying that it failed to adequately account for "weighty concerns regarding the separation of powers."

Roberts returned the case to lower courts for a reexamination of the subpoenas in light of those concerns. He did not rule out the possibility that the House subpoenas could be enforced in the future, but delayed, for now, the prospect that the documents will be turned over to Democrats before the November election.

Three Democratic-led House committees have sought a sweeping array of Trump personal and business financial records -- more than 10 years worth, many predating his time in the White House -- including financial statements, loan engagement letters, bank statements, credit card statements, personal checks, loan applications and tax returns.

The lawmakers have said the information is critical to drafting federal ethics laws concerning the presidency, anti-corruption legislation and campaign finance rules. They are also continuing to pursue possible improper financial ties between Trump and Russia.

"We have never addressed a congressional subpoena for the president's information," Roberts writes.

"We have held that each house has power to secure needed information in order to legislate," he said, affirming the power of Congress to legitimately subpoena the president.

At the same time, the Roberts concluded that power is not unchecked: "Without limits on its subpoena powers, Congress could exert an imperious control over the executive branch and aggrandize itself at the president's expense, just as the framers feared."

Roberts, deliberately not invalidating the subpoenas, said a lower could would need to perform additional "careful analysis" using criteria laid out in his opinion to determine whether or not they serve "significant legislative interests of Congress" and respect the unique burdens of the presidency.

Justices Thomas and Alito dissented.

"Congress' legislative powers do not authorize it to engage in a nationwide inquisition with whatever resources it chooses to appropriate for itself," Thomas wrote. "The power that Congress seeks to exercise here has even less basis in the Constitution that the majority supposes."

President Trump's legal team called the ruling -- along with a decision in a related case on a New York grand jury subpoena -- a legal victory.

"We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s tax records. We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts," Counsel to the President Kay Sekulow said in a statement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, seizing on Roberts' affirmation of Congress' subpoena power, cast the decision as a victory for congressional oversight of the president.

"A careful reading of the Supreme Court rulings related to the President’s financial records is not good news for President Trump," Pelosi said in a statement. “The Court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, as it asks for further information from the Congress."

"We will continue to press our case in the lower courts,” she added.

House Democrats face protracted litigation, which could potentially return to the Supreme Court, over the scope of their subpoenas and implications on the separation of powers. The lengthy process all but guarantees the committees will not receive the documents before the fall election.

"An important win today for the pillars of separation of powers and federalism," tweeted Carrie Severino, president of the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal advocacy group. "These values are at the very heart of our Constitutional structure, and today they were upheld in a 7-2 opinion authored by the Chief Justice."

In a separate but related case handed down just minutes before, Roberts, writing for a 7-2 majority, said Trump did not have absolute immunity from subpoenas for his tax returns and other financial records sought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in a grand jury investigation.

"The conventional wisdom that this would be a split decision held: the president doesn’t have absolute immunity from state grand jury subpoenas but Congress doesn’t have carte blanche to engage in a fishing expedition against the chief executive," said Ilya Shapiro, a constitutional scholar with the Cato Institute. "Both cases will now continue, and won’t ultimately be resolved until after the election."

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