Credit: Architect of the Capitol(PHOENIX) -- Arizona was represented by an American war hero for decades, and now the military is playing a role in Arizonans’ search for their next senator as well.
The Senate seat that will be filled by the state’s first female senator come November is not the one left open by the passing of Sen. John McCain, but his military legacy, and the pride that Arizonans put in military service, is clear.
Bumper stickers denoting military branches are a regular sight in Phoenix. Earlier this month, a stall selling flags at the state fair prominently displayed the iconic black-and-white flag dedicated to prisoners of war and those missing in action. Arizona prides itself as the state with the sixth-highest number of active duty Air Force personnel, according to June 2018 figures from the Department of Defense.
Military pride has permeated the Senate campaign between Republican Rep. Martha McSally and Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, and their ties to the military has become an issue for supporters.
McSally was the nation’s first female fighter pilot to serve in combat, and hints of her 26 years of service have trickled in throughout her campaign.
She uses militaristic language in her speeches, likening parts of the campaign to air wars and ground wars, and talking about her current "deployment" in Washington. She wore a silver pendant of an A-10 Warthog plane for the debate on Monday. And most recently, President Donald Trump noted her service in an email that he sent to her supporters ahead of their rally together in Mesa on Friday night.
The military theme extends into the crowd as well, as supporters at a recent rally wore t-shirts with the phrases “fly, fight, win” and “Martha’s wingman.”
At that rally, where she stood alongside former Gov. Mitt Romney on Oct. 12, she said that “part of our culture as veterans” means that “we just run into gunfire, not away from it. We’re the ones that run into the toughest battles.”
She’s now battling Sinema, regularly drawing a contrast between their levels of service by calling it a contest between “a patriot and a protester.”
In that, McSally is referencing Sinema’s time protesting the Iraq War in 2003, before she started her political career. Sinema’s protesting past was the subject of one of the most damning ads of the Arizona election, wherein Sinema is shown protesting in a pink tutu while McSally is pictured in her Air Force uniform.
To leave the comparison at that, however, would be misleading.
Sinema has personal ties to the military as well, as one of her brothers is a Marine and another is a sailor. She also has made veteran’s affairs issues a focus of her work in Congress, and was one of the leaders calling for reform at the VA in the spring of 2014 after news broke of misconduct at the Phoenix VA — it had happened before McSally was in Congress.
Where voters stand will be determined on election day, when exit polls will show which voters listed the military as their top priority and which candidate gets their vote.
For Chris Brant, a McSally supporter, he has a personal connection to the A-10 Warthog, a plane that McSally flew while in uniform and allocated appropriations funds for while in Congress.
Brant is originally British, a veteran of the Royal Marines, and became a U.S. citizen in 1983.
“The A-10 came in and rescued wounded Royal Marines in Afghanistan,” Brant said, while wearing a green Royal Marines beret and a red McSally t-shirt at the rally with Romney.
Brant’s niece, Adrenne Kelley, 37, accompanied him to the event and also cited McSally’s “honorable service” as a selling point. Kelley’s spouse is a U.S. Marine.
Vermelle Bibler, a 76-year-old McSally supporter, identified herself as a Gold Star widow who appreciates McSally’s service.
"I always lean toward somebody in the military plus I like her better than Kyrsten Sinema," Bibler said.
That said, the appreciation of McSally’s service extends across party lines.
"I support the fact she was a military person, and the fact that I'm proud of her that she's a woman. However, that's where my support ends," Bernie Williams, a Democrat protesting the McSally-Romney rally, told ABC News. "However, that’s where my support ends.”
Gregg Gordon, 71, is a disabled veteran who was injured while fighting in the Vietnam War. He and his wife, Linda, opened the doors to their home to volunteers who used their home as a base of operations for a door-knocking event for Arizona Democrats on Sunday, Oct. 14.
He said that his support for Sinema stems from his respect for her work in addressing the crisis at the Phoenix Veteran’s Affairs Office in 2014. He worked there at the time and remembers seeing Sinema and McCain visit the VA to make sure the issue was addressed.
“They cared about veterans and what happened,” Gordon said.
Caleb Hayter, 28, is a member of a group called Veterans for Sinema. An Afghanistan veteran and a current Congressional constituent of McSally’s, he said that he respects McSally but is going to be voting for her opponent.
“I’m not begrudging Congresswoman McSally’s service and I think she has every right to talk about her service. I appreciate her service," Hayter said. "However, what I’m looking at this November is two different ideas of what service should be as a U.S. senator. I think that if a person is going to serve in politics as an elected official, then they have to put the interests of their constituents first.”
He added, “Because of her record and her ideology I wouldn’t trust her to put the interests of veterans ahead of the interests of her fellow ideologues and her campaign donors."
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Roman Babakin/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal authorities have charged a Russian woman for allegedly taking part in a Russian plot to influence public opinion over the upcoming 2018 midterms elections and other politically-charged events inside the United States, the Justice Department announced Friday.
“The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” the U.S. attorney overseeing the case, Zach Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.
According to prosecutors, 44-year-old Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova of St. Petersburg, Russia, served as the chief accountant of a $35 million effort to conduct “information warfare” against the United States and elsewhere using social media and other online sites.
Operating under an umbrella organization called “Project Lakhta,” Khusyaynova and her alleged conspirators used fake identities online to pretend to be “ordinary American political activists,” prosecutors said.
Their postings did not exclusively reflect one ideological viewpoint, and the operatives were directed to create “political intensity through supporting radical groups” and to “aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population,” the Justice Department said.
They allegedly focused on such topics as immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women’s March, and the NFL national anthem debate.
And, according to the Justice Department, they “took advantage of specific events in the United States to anchor their themes,” including the racially-motivated shooting at a Charleston, South Carolina, church three years ago that left nine people dead, and the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally last year that left one woman dead.
Project Lakhta is allegedly funded by Russian oligarch and associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, and two companies he controls. Those companies have been indicted in a separate case by special counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly taking part in the massive Russian campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. They have pleaded not guilty to the charge against them and are fighting the case in court.
In his own statement, FBI Director Chris Wray said the case “serves as a stark reminder to all Americans: Our foreign adversaries continue their efforts to interfere in our democracy … [and] we must remain diligent and determined to protect our democratic institutions and maintain trust in our electoral process.”
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ChrisBoswell/iStock/Thinkstock(BISMARCK, N.D.) -- Courtney Yellow Fat, a tribal council member for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, has lived on a reservation for most of his life – a community which historically hasn't used street names or addresses and instead relies on post office boxes.
So, a few years back when he made the 90-minute trek to the state capital of Bismarck to the department of motor vehicles for an updated license, he felt he had no choice but to make up one on the spot.
"Sitting Bull Street, I think," he said of the street address he gave for his state-issued driver's license.
His tribal issued ID is correct because he has since gotten an actual street address listed for 911 purposes and he plans to add that address to his driver's license.
Still, it's a complicated matter for thousands of Native American voters in North Dakota who, because the Supreme Court last week allowed the state to implement its strict voter ID law, now find themselves scurrying to make sure they have identification with street address so their votes will count. According to studies commissioned by Native American rights groups who sued North Dakota over the new law, roughly 35 percent of that population doesn't have an acceptable ID with a residential address.
Nevertheless, Yellow Fat and other tribal leaders are optimistic that the ruling will galvanize Native American voter turnout.
"I believe and I hope it's going to have the opposite effect of suppression because the people here are so used to fighting uphill battles against the U.S. government," he said.
The question of whether Native American votes will be counted is an especially relevant one in the upcoming midterms because, in less than three weeks, Yellow Fat and Native Americans across North Dakota will be among the nation’s most important groups in an election likely to help determine Senate control.
North Dakota’s voters are the most powerful in the country, according to FiveThirtyEight’s voter power index. A vote in North Dakota has more influence on which party will control the Senate majority than a vote in any other state, a point not lost on Yellow Fat.
“After the election of Sen. Heitkamp is when a lot of this came up through the legislature. And to us it’s clearly suppression of our votes,” Yellow Fat said.
The ability to have those Native American voters' ballots count is especially important for Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's re-election bid.
She won her first election in 2012 by fewer than 3,000 votes thanks in part to Native American voters who cast their ballots under less restrictive voting laws. The court decision makes her already tough reelection bid against popular Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer even harder than it already has been.
Native Americans comprise two percent of the national population, but make up a larger share of North Dakota’s population at just over five percent. The state is also home to five reservations, which often vote in large numbers for Democrats and serve as a chunk of the state Democratic Party’s base.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger, the defendant in the voter ID lawsuit, told ABC News voter suppression is not the intent of his office or the voter ID law.
“I can look you straight in the eye and I will tell you that nothing has ever happened in this office to target anybody. That's not what I was elected to do,” Jaeger said. “I took an oath of office to follow the laws of the state of North Dakota and I try my best every day to do that.”
Jaeger said his office is entirely focused on making voting accessible to anyone who wants to do so.
“I don't have time to try to figure out how to disenfranchise anybody in the state of North Dakota because all of our efforts to make sure that anyone who wants to vote will be able to vote.”
Heitkamp countered Jaeger’s view in an interview with ABC News after Thursday night’s Senate debate. She said the law by its nature blatantly disenfranchises Native Americans by requiring a residential street address.
“Why would we ever disenfranchise a Native American veteran who only has a P.O. box that everybody knows when they walk into the polling booth, they know exactly who that person is, they know that they're a North Dakota resident. That's why we don't have registration in North Dakota because we don't have this problem and anyone who says this isn't about disenfranchising Native Americans is not being honest,” the senator said.
Jaeger said that the P.O. box requirement was meant for the state to verify that voters who live in a given precinct get a ballot specific to where they live and that votes are not supposed to be cast by people who do not actually live in the precinct.
“It becomes very difficult if somebody just comes in with a P.O. box because we have no way of knowing which ballot that they should receive,” Jaeger said, giving examples of how election issues vary in different towns across the state. “Voting is tied to a residential address, and so there's a lot of different ballots.”
Although a lower court sided with the Native Americans before the state’s June primary, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have both ruled in recent weeks that the state can move ahead with its law for its stated purpose, namely combatting voter fraud.
Voter fraud, however, has been virtually nonexistent in North Dakota, with the Secretary of State’s office saying that the number of fraudulent voter cases found have been in the single digits in both the 2012 and 2016 elections.
Jaeger, however, said that the numbers do not mean they can rule out the existence of voter fraud, citing voters in 2016 who voted without IDs and were unable to be matched by his office, in the weeks after the election, back to a home address they’d written down when they voted.
“Their ballot was counted and we can't find them anymore. From my position that's a concern. Because that means the integrity of the election may have been compromised,” Jaeger said.
The first effort at a voter ID law in North Dakota passed in 2013, within a few months of Heitkamp’s victory. A court win by tribal members prevented the law from taking effect for the 2016 election.
Last year, the Republican legislature worked with the secretary of state’s office on a new bill. The bill allowed voters without an ID showing a residential address to vote, but would only count their vote if they could prove their address to election officials within six days of the election.
Tribal activists submitted to the state legislature statistics detailing Native Americans’ difficulty in getting an acceptable ID.
The bill passed with overwhelming support from the Republican majority.
Court documents indicate the state did not consult with tribal governments about the impact of the bill on Native Americans, even after tribal members won their 2016 case.
Activists have accused Republican legislators and state election officials of erecting barriers to voting for the state’s mostly Democratic Native American population. North Dakota’s two majority-Native American counties both supported Heidi Heitkamp with nearly 80 percent of the vote when she first ran in 2012.
In a statement this week, the leaders of the four largest tribes in North Dakota opposed the law, calling it “suppressive” and accused the state of attempting to disenfranchise Native American voters.
“We believe the requirement of a physical, residential property with a street address was intended to disenfranchise Native American voters. To combat the disenfranchisement of our members, we intend to ensure that our members that lack residential street addresses can obtain them so that they may exercise their right to vote,” the statement read.
“We encourage all tribal people to come out to vote on November 6th even if you do not have a qualifying ID,” the statement added. “We will not be silenced by the blatant attempts to rob our people of our voice.”
Heitkamp and Cramer both addressed the voter ID ruling in their debate Thursday night.
Heitkamp accused the state legislature of deciding that “there are certain people in North Dakota that they don’t want to vote,” and that the law countered the state’s values, expressing hope that votes from Native Americans will count.
Cramer said North Dakota, as the only state without voter registration, needs to make sure voters demonstrate they live where they say they do and noted that “the integrity of the ballot box is very precious.”
Jaeger said it should be up to the tribes to provide proper qualifying identification to citizens on the reservation who have not sought them.
“I certainly hope that the appropriate authorities will see that their people have that since it’s so essential for everything that’s done.”
In an interview with ABC News, Mike Faith, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said he expected people to see the court ruling as a challenge that will drive people to come to the polls.
“With this ruling, I think it actually energized more people to go out. They want to be challenged for not voting, I think they’re going to go meet that challenge and I think they’re going to get out to the polls. That is our outlook,” Faith said.
But others on the reservation are wary.
Bill Left Hand, who has lived on the reservation most of his life with his five children — and now their children, said he is concerned people may not be able to vote because of the address requirement.
But he expressed approval for the tribe’s efforts to increase awareness about the new law.
“Standing Rock tribe is making every effort they can to inform the people of that and I’m also encouraging a lot of people to get out and get their address updated and to come and vote because that’s what we need, our voices to be heard most of all,” he said.
Faith and other tribal leaders in North Dakota are coordinating ahead of election day to ensure that Native Americans on the state’s five reservations will be able to vote. Four Directions, a Native American voting rights advocacy group, has put forward a proposal agreed to by tribal leaders to help residents secure acceptable forms of ID to present at the polls.
“As long as you provide a name and you’ll be at a physical residence, [the state] will honor a tribal letterhead as an ID for that person to vote,” said OJ Semans, Four Directions’ executive director. “We’re working with the tribes getting tribal officials to be at polling places or setting up an office near the polling places so people can get a tribal letterhead, get their IDs and go vote.”
Semans says his message for the state and people outside North Dakota is that the tribes will vote.
“It’s real simple. At the end, you tell them — Standing Rock will vote. Spirit Lake will vote. Turtle Mountain will vote. Sisseton-Wahpeton will vote. All of the tribes are united in ensuring that our tribal members are able to participate in this democratic process.”
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ByoungJoo/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The United States and South Korea said Friday they have decided to suspend another joint military exercise to give more breathing room for ongoing denuclearization talks with North Korea.
The Pentagon announced Defense Secretary James Mattis and South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo had agreed to put off this year's version of Vigilant Ace, a large-scale air exercise slated for December.
"Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis and Minister of National Defense Jeong Kyeong-doo decided to suspend Exercise VIGILANT ACE to give the diplomatic process every opportunity to continue," said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokesperson.
"Both ministers are committed to modifying training exercises to ensure the readiness of our forces," she added.
Both Mattis and Jeong had met earlier Friday in Singapore on the sidelines of the ASEAN security meeting.
Last year's version of the annual Vigilant Air exercise included the participation of 230 aircraft and more than 12,000 personnel. Some of the United States Air Force's most sophisticated aircraft participated in the exercise, including the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.
Occurring just days after North Korea's successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the east coast of the United States, North Korea blasted the exercise as being a provocation.
The suspension of this year's Vigilant Air exercise marks the second time that the U.S. and South Korea have agreed to put off an annual large-scale military exercise in the wake of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore this past June.
Trump's pledge to stop 'war games' with South Korea throws critical exercises into question
A month after that summit, the United States and South Korea announced they would suspend the large Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise scheduled for August.
Mattis has said the "good faith effort" of suspending that exercise was not open-ended and that he wanted to wait and see how future negotiations with North Korea progress before making a decision about future large-scale exercises, particularly the Foal Eagle exercise scheduled for the spring.
In September, Mattis said there had suspension of previous exercises had had a "negligible" effect on the readiness of U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.
White said on Friday that Mattis and Jeong "pledged to maintain close coordination and evaluate future exercises."
Mattis consulted Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya ahead of the joint U.S. and South Korean announcement. White said "they reaffirmed their commitment to regional security."
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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(BISMARK, N.D.) -- The first debate in a Senate race that could shape up to be one of the most critical in the country was largely an argument over which candidate would be less beholden to politics and stand up more for the people of North Dakota.
“I ran six years ago and I said, ‘I’m not joining any team.’ I’m not 100 percent with anyone other than North Dakota,” said Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in the debate against her Republican challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer.
But Cramer sought to paint a different picture, calling Heitkamp’s bipartisanship an “illusion.”
“Donald Trump stands with North Dakota more often than Heidi Keitkamp stands with North Dakota,” he said during the debate, which aired across the state Thursday night.
Heitkamp is a Democrat running for re-election in a state President Donald Trump won handily in 2016. It is forcing the senator to maintain a tough balance, and recent public polling shows Heitkamp behind Cramer by double digits -- a fact she likes to say was also reported when she won in 2012 by only about 3,000 votes.
Because Democrats need to not only defend 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016, but also pick up two seats in reliably Republican states in order to take control of the chamber, Heitkamp’s seat is key.
According to FiveThirtyEight’s voter power index, North Dakota’s voters are the most powerful in the country.
And in order to come out victorious, Heitkamp will have to win over voters on both sides of the aisle and go up against the Trump-endorsed Cramer, who benefits from the president’s popularity in the state.
“When one team is so much better for North Dakota than the other team, you don’t abandon the good team half the time just to say you’re only with ‘em half the time,” Cramer said, knocking Heitkamp’s work across the aisle.
“[Trump’s] on the right side of North Dakota, that’s what matters,” he said.
Speaking after the debate, Heitkamp called the strategy “ridiculous.”
“When you look at my history and my record with the president, I’ve attended many signing ceremonies, worked with the administration. He knows that,” said Heitkamp, who votes in line with Trump around 54 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker.
“And so, you know, I think people see through that,” she added.
Heitkamp hammered her moderate voting record in the debate, shedding light on her bipartisan accomplishments and diverting Cramer’s attempts to pair a vote for him with support for the president.
“I think it’s interesting that Congressman Cramer talks about President Trump. Why not talk about what you’ve done, why not talk about your accomplishments, why not about your bipartisan credibility?” asked Heitkamp.
“Because when you look at rankings, no matter what he says, I’m 50th-most conservative and 49th-most liberal,” Heitkamp said.
She compared moderates in the Senate to “connective tissue in between that stops gridlock” and said they are the ones “trying to get things done and do get things done.”
But Cramer called it a “tricky game.”
“This is the thing, she's with them when we don't need her. She's never been with them when we needed the vote. And that's the problem,” he said in an interview after the debate.
The #MeToo movement has also played a role in each of the two candidates’ campaigns, and Cramer was quick to hit Heitkamp for voting "no" on Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“You vote against Brett Kavanaugh when 64 percent of your constituents want you to vote for Brett Kavanaugh?” he asked rhetorically in an interview after the debate.
He also called out Heitkamp for running an advertisement that inadvertently outed women who were victims of sexual assault, which she opened the debate by apologizing for.
“I just thought it was really important to begin, to just say, ‘I'm sorry,’” Heitkamp said of the decision to use her opening statement to apologize.
Asked if the mistake might lose her votes with Independent women, a key bloc of support in the state, Heitkamp said it wasn’t about votes.
“This really for me isn't about the election. This is about, ‘I made a bad mistake, my campaign made a bad mistake, and I need to own it, and I need to do everything possible to fix it,” she said.
“So that's not about getting votes or losing votes. That's about making amends,” she added.
But while Cramer criticized the intent of the ad as a play toward “identity politics,” he also addressed his own comments over the #MeToo movement that landed him in hot water recently. In comments to The New York Times, he said the women in his family “cannot understand this movement toward victimization” because they are “tough.”
Heitkamp responded tearfully, when first asked about Cramer’s comments in early October, and said her own mother, a victim of sexual assault, was no less tough because of it.
“We say all politics is local, I think all politics is personal,” Heitkamp said after the debate Thursday. “In North Dakota, what they want is they want someone who has integrity, they want someone who knows how to talk to people and knows the opportunities that we should be pursuing for the state.”
Cramer, speaking separately, pointed to a different quality he thinks voters appreciate -- and defended his comments to The New York Times.
“What I think North Dakotans like is they like common sense,” he said.
“And when a movement becomes so extreme that it's now hurting the very cause and the people that it states that it's helping, North Dakotans see through that quickly. And when you call it out, in Washington they think it's a gaffe. Here they think it's somebody talking to them,” Cramer said.
Both Heitkamp and Cramer also described health care and tariffs as key issues for voters in the state. Heitkamp is aiming to preserve the Affordable Care Act while Cramer wants to replace it, and Heitkamp is against Trump’s tariffs while Cramer supports the president’s efforts.
“Tariffs are a key issue in the media, and they are a key issue certainly to the people directly affected, but even most of them, soybean farmers, as an example, strongly support Donald Trump,” Cramer said.
“I used to say I’m the chief bitcher about these tariffs because they are so wrong for North Dakota,” Heitkamp said in contrast. “These tariffs are going to decimate a very critical and important market for one of our most important cash crops: soybeans.”
Over the summer, the Trump administration announced tariffs of 10 percent on more than $200 billion of imported Chinese goods. The response from China hit Trump country specifically, with tariffs on billions of dollars of American products, including soybeans.
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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley poked fun at President Donald Trump, his longtime rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other high-profile politicians in a lighthearted speech on Thursday.
Haley showed off her aptitude for keeping a secret last week with a shocking resignation announcement, but she displayed a brand new talent during her speech in New York City on Thursday as she assumed the role of a comedian for the night.
"Two years ago Trump was here and made some waves with his remarks, so last year you went with Paul Ryan, who’s a Boy Scout and that’s fine, but a little boring. So this year, you wanted to spice things up again,” she quipped after being introduced as the “next president of the United States.”
Haley kept the crowd entertained during her keynote speech at the Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner, a fundraiser for impoverished children, and she even touched on the president’s ongoing feud with Warren, D-Mass., over the senator's Native American ancestry.
“I get it, you wanted an Indian woman, but Elizabeth Warren failed her DNA test,” joked Haley, whose parents emigrated from Punjab, India. “Actually, when the president found out that I was Indian American, he asked me if I was from the same tribe as Elizabeth Warren.”
Haley, who will keep her post at the U.N. until the end of the year, acknowledged that she had tough shoes to fill as keynote speaker, an honor most-recently bestowed to House Speaker Ryan, Trump and Hillary Clinton.
“I really am super excited to be at the Al Smith Dinner. As a member of the Trump Cabinet, it is a thrill to be out to dinner without being harassed,” Haley said. "Actually the president called me this morning and gave me some really good advice.
“He said if I get stuck for laughs, just brag about his accomplishments. It really killed at the U.N., I got to tell you." she added, referring to an incident at the U.N. General Assembly last month when audience members laughed after Trump said his “administration has accomplished more than almost any in the history of our country.”
Haley also made light of her role as America’s ambassador in a joke about “the most important thing” she learned working under Trump.
“I learned that the U.N. has 193 member nations, 180 of which are mad at us on any given day, and the most important thing I learned is that with all of our differences there is still one thing that unites all 193 countries: At one point every single one of them was paying Paul Manafort,” she said, referring to Trump’s former campaign chairman, who was convicted on federal money laundering charges.
The former South Carolina governor also delivered punchlines about rapper Kanye West and Trump’s embattled attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
"Jeff Sessions wanted to be here but he recused himself," she said. "Actually I saw Jeff Sessions earlier today, but not in New York, I saw him on LinkedIn looking for a job."
The Al Smith Dinner, a white-tie gala featuring prominent politicians, was one of Haley’s first appearances since announcing her resignation in an Oval Office meeting with the president Oct. 9.
“She’s done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump during the meeting. “We’re all happy for you in one way, but we hate to lose you.”
Haley said her working with the U.N. was an “honor of a lifetime" and said she would continue to support Trump as “a private citizen.”
"I expect to continue to speak out from time to time on important public policy matters, but I will surely not be a candidate for any office in 2020,” she said following her announcement. “As a private citizen, I look forward to supporting your re-election as president and supporting the policies that will continue to move our great country toward even greater heights."
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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump on Friday said he had no regret for making light of Rep. Greg Gianforte's physical assault on a reporter at a Montana rally Thursday night.
"No, that was a different league, a different world," Trump said on Friday when asked whether he regretted Thursday's comments -- made amid outrage he's expressed over the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"That was a tremendous success last night in Montana and Greg is a great person, he’s a tough cookie, and I’ll stay with that," Trump said, again offering praise for the congressman who body-slammed a reporter last year as he campaigned during a special election for Montana's at-large congressional seat. The incident was caught on audiotape. Gianforte went on to win the election and is now up for reelection.
"Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!" Trump said to cheers Thursday night.
"I was in Rome with leaders when I heard about it, and I heard that he body-slammed a reporter," Trump said.
Trump said he was afraid Gianforte would lose after the moment, but then recalled, "Wait a moment, I know Montana."
Gianforte pleaded guilty and was sentenced to community service for the incident. He apologized on the night of his election victory, saying, "When you make a mistake you have to own it."
For Trump, the Montana Senate race is personal.
Trump came to Montana on the attack against Tester, a two-term Democratic senator, who is in a close race against Matt Rosendale, the current state auditor.
The president has made it his mission to unseat Tester, whose office publically released information about alleged misconduct that led to White House physician Adm. Ronny Jackson’s failed nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. Jackson denied allegations of misconduct and that he overprescribed medications, but eventually withdrew his name from consideration. Trump never forgot.
“That’s really why I’m here,” Trump said. “I can never forget what Jon Tester did to a man of the highest quality. It was vicious.”
The president spoke at length about immigration and falsely said that Democrats are supporting a caravan of immigrants traveling up from Central America.
“They wanted that caravan and there are those who say that caravan didn’t just happen, it didn’t just happen. A lot of reasons that caravan -- 4,000 people -- but I just want to thank the Mexican government because they’re stopping it hopefully before it ever gets to Mexico,” Trump said.
“As you know, I’m willing to send the military to defend our Southern border if necessary all because of the illegal immigration onslaught brought by the Democrats because they refuse to acknowledge or to change the laws -- they like it,” Trump said.
Trump said that the midterm elections will be “an election of Kavanaugh, the caravan, law and order and common sense -- that’s what it’s going to be.”
At times, the president veered off script, talking about the first lady’s trip to Africa and controversy over her pith hat (“I think she bought it in Los Angeles!”) and fake allegations he wears a toupee (“He wears a hair piece”).
But then he would swerve back on course to talking about Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test in a state home to many Indian reservations: “It’s too bad because I can’t call her Pocahontas anymore.”
While Trump comfortably won the Big Sky state by 20 points, Tester, a moderate Democrat, maintains a slight lead in what has become one of the most expensive political contests in the small state’s history as millions of dollars have poured into Montana. It’s the president’s third trip to Montana, and Tester is only a few points ahead of Rosendale in recent polls.
Tester has touted a bipartisan record in the Senate, even publishing a full-page newspaper ad at the beginning of the summer thanking the president for signing 16 of his bills into law on everything from government waste to veterans affairs.
“We can’t let Jon Tester and the radical liberal agenda win, they’ll go after President Trump,” Rosendale said.
While the president’s ire toward Tester is rooted in Jackson, many of the voters ABC News spoke with before the rally began didn't seem to know his name.
“I really don’t have any thoughts about him,” Jeffrey Stenger from Polson, Montana, told ABC News.
His wife Lynn jumped in, to remind him he was the White House physician who “got in a spat with Tester.”
“He has a good instinct of reading people, even in the beginning of the election he called people out and said the truth. So far, he hasn’t lied to me,” Stenger said.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that he is concerned Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi might be dead.
"It certainly looks that way to me," Trump said as he departed from Joint Base Andrews. "It's very sad. Certainly looks that way."
While U.S. officials are awaiting the results of three investigations, the president said he feels confident "we should be able to get to the bottom fairly soon." He added that he would consider "severe" consequences if oil-rich ally Saudi Arabia was involved.
Vice President Mike Pence went a step further during a stop in Denver earlier in the day and vowed: "the world deserves answers."
"If what has been alleged has occurred. If an innocent person lost their life at the hands of violence, that's to be condemned," Pence said. "If a journalist, in particular, lost their life at the hands of violence, that's an affront to a free and independent press around the world. And there will be consequences. But we'll wait for the facts, we'll wait for all the information to come in."
The comments from the president and vice president were some of the strongest from the pair to date in the wake of mounting questions over the journalist's fate. It also adds to the drumbeat of American politicians and business leaders demanding answers and, in the meantime, withdrawing support from Saudi-sponsored functions.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took to Twitter Thursday to announce his withdrawal from a Saudi-hosted, major investment forum called the Future Investment Initiative, sometimes referred to as "Davos in the Desert". He said he made the decision after speaking with President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Several business leaders and media companies have also pulled out of the event over concerns about the Khashoggi episode, including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, Virgin and its CEO Richard Branson, venture capitalist and AOL co-founder Steve Case, LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, Bloomberg Media, and CNN, among others.
Earlier in the day, Pompeo said he told President Trump that the Saudis should have “a few more days” to complete their investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“We made clear to them that we take this matter with respect to Mr. Khashoggi very seriously,” Pompeo said following his nearly hour-long briefing with the president. “They made clear to me they too understand the serious nature of the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi. They also assured me that they will conduct a complete, thorough investigation of all of the facts surrounding Mr. Khashoggi and they will do so in a timely fashion and that this report itself will be transparent for everyone to see, to ask questions about, and to inquire with respect to its thoroughness.”
Trump echoed Pompeo's comments shortly after, tweeting that the secretary of state met with him Thursday morning and discussed in "great detail" the investigation and meeting with the crown prince.
Pompeo again stressed several times in his statement the “long strategic relationship” the U.S. shares with Saudi Arabia and their status as an “important counter-terrorism supporter.”
He said between the Turkish and Saudi investigations they expect “a complete picture will emerge for what actually transpired here.”
Pressed why the Saudis should be entrusted with an investigation into themselves, Pompeo said: “We’re all going to get to see the work product.”
“We're all going to get to see the response the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes with this,” Pompeo said. “All of us will get a chance to make the determination... whether it's fair and transparent in the way they made a personal commitment to me and the Crown Prince made a personal commitment to the president when he spoke to him the night before last.”
Pompeo's comments also come amid ongoing speculation that Turkey may have audio tapes that reveal what happened to Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and royal insider who has been missing for over two weeks after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Pompeo met with Turkish President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavusoglu Wednesday but refused to express any doubt or skepticism about the legitimacy of a Saudi investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Following that meeting, Trump stressed that his earlier comments about Saudi Arabia's denials of any involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance were not an attempt to give the oil-rich ally cover.
“No not at all, I just want to find out what's happening,” Trump told reporters.
Khashoggi, who had been living in the U.S., visited the consulate to file paperwork for his wedding and has not been seen since. Turkish officials allege Khashoggi, who has written critically about the Saudi government, was killed, which the Saudis have fiercely denied.
Turkish officials say that a hit squad of 15 Saudis flew to Istanbul for just hours surrounding Khashoggi’s disappearance, and they reportedly claim to have audio recordings of Khashoggi being interrogated and murdered.
Trump told reporters Wednesday the U.S. has asked for the recordings “if it exists.”
“We don't know if it exists yet. We'll have a full report when Mike [Pompeo] comes back, that's going to be one of the first questions I ask him,” he said in the Oval Office.
In his first sit-down interview with U.S. media, a close friend of Khashoggi's described to ABC News what he'd been told in briefings by Turkish security officials.
"I talked with some Turkish government and security officials and they said Jamal was killed. I didn't know what to do. I really couldn't answer. Then I called a few colleagues, again security officials, trying to have them verify it, saying 'Is this really true?'" Turan Kislakci said Wednesday. "They said, 'Yes, Turan, and let's tell you even beyond that, he was killed in a very barbaric way.' I was shocked. They not only kill him in the consulate, but also in a barbaric way."
Khashoggi warned of increasing efforts to silence the media in the Middle East in a column he wrote just before he vanished earlier this month. The "final column" was published online Wednesday.
Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for The Washington Post, wrote that Khashoggi’s translator sent the article a day after the journalist disappeared while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Does Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren really have Native American blood running through her veins?
It's scientifically impossible to know for sure, according to a collection of leading Native American geneticists, industry experts, research scientists with expertise in indigenous genetics and Native American leaders who spoke with ABC News.
The process of tracing one's ancestry is still evolving, geneticists told ABC News, and efforts to establish genetic affiliation with an indigenous group like Native Americans are at best thorny and uncertain, and, in the extreme, offensive.
Some experts were critical of Warren's press conference this week and her latest declarations.
Numerous experts also said that the Native American gene databases are too thin to make definitive conclusions about ancestry as far back in a person's lineage as Warren laid claim to again this week.
One leading Native American geneticist -- Dr. Kim Tallbear -- characterized Warren's Monday press conference and declarations as just the latest incidence in a decades-old practice of white Americans co-opting the Native American identity when it suits them.
Finally, critics said, using DNA to claim an ancestral affiliation with Native Americans contravenes contemporary notions of Native American identity, and, to some in the Native American community, is simply insulting.
Some experts, including Tallbear, saw Warren's DNA test as an affront to Native Americans' spiritual heritage, which is based on long and deeply-held tribal beliefs that the tribes have for centuries occupied the land on which their reservations sit.
Warren's renewed claims to Native American heritage touch on an extremely delicate subject among U.S. geneticists who study indigenous genomics. Several of a dozen scientists and experts interviewed by ABC News asked to talk on background in order to speak frankly and avoid any political blowback.
As genealogy databases have grown in recent years, Native American tribes have been inundated by DNA test result-toting Caucasians seeking tribal certification for everything from eligibility for school scholarships to sought-after tax relief, experts and Native American geneticists said.
Neither Warren nor anyone on her staff has responded to multiple requests for comment from ABC News.
'I am just very proud of it'
Warren has been dogged by her assertions that she descended from Native Americans ever since her successful 2012 Senate run, during which a 1996 article surfaced that quoted a Harvard Law School spokesperson as saying Warren is Native American.
The future U.S. senator -- who changed her ethnicity from white to Native American at the University of Pennsyvlania Law School, where she taught from 1987 to 1995, and at Harvard Law School, where she was a tenured faculty member beginning in 1995, according to a 2012 Boston Globe investigation -- defended herself on the campaign trail that year.
"Being Native American is part of who our family is, and I'm glad to tell anyone about that," she said at the time, describing her understanding of her heritage as having come from stories her mother told her as a child. "I am just very proud of it."
In a subsequent campaign ad, Warren doubled-down on the claim.
"I never asked for documentation from my mother when she talked about our Native American heritage," she said in the ad. "What kid would? But I knew my father's family didn't like that she was part-Cherokee and part-Delaware, so my parents had to elope."
"Let me be clear," she continued. "I never asked for, never got any benefit because of my heritage. The people who hired me have all said they didn't even know about it."
This week, Warren held a press conference revealing conclusions of a DNA test she took that was conducted by Stanford University geneticist Carlos Bustamante.
The test determined with "high confidence" that she is likely somewhere between 1/64th and 1/1024th Native American, adding that Warren "absolutely [has] a Native American ancestor in [her] pedigree...likely in the range of 6-10 generations," according to the report and videos released by Warren's office this week.
Warren has stressed repeatedly that she's not seeking membership in or direct affiliation with any U.S. tribe.
The revelation sparked near immediate political backlash from President Donald Trump, who called the Massachusetts politician a "total fraud." Earlier this year, Trump had challenged Warren, whom he often refers to derisively as "Pocanhatas," to take a DNA test.
'Inappropriate and wrong'
Tallbear, an assistant professor of Native Studies at the University of Alberta, has long been one of the most strident critics of Warren's genealogy claims.
Tallbear, who recently authored "Native American DNA: Origins, Ethics, and Governance," assailed Warren’s DNA test campaign this week, contending that her strategy is a cynical one, though consistent with Tallbear's experience in recent years as gene-testing technology has evolved.
She said she objects to how Warren maintains she's not seeking tribal membership or affiliation while simultaneously touting scientific evidence about her bloodline.
"Elizabeth Warren and genome scientists ... get to have it both ways," Tallbear said in a statement pinned to her Twitter feed on Tuesday. "They know very well that the broader US public will understand a DNA test to be a true indication of Elizabeth Warren's right to claim Native American identity in some way."
"The broader US public knows nothing about tribal citizenship and histories of settler-colonial meddling in our laws. The broader US public is also invested…in making what are ultimately settler-colonial claims to all things Indigenous: our bones, blood, land, waters, and ultimately our identities."
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin, Jr. released an equally embittered statement about Warren's press conference this week.
"Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong," Hoskin Jr. said.
"It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and [their] legitimate uses, while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well-documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren," he added, "is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage."
Tallbear said she has long been frustrated by Warren's claims.
In 2016, Tallbear published a 47-tweet thread decrying the notion that DNA has nearly anything to do with Native American identity.
Tallbear said the Cherokee Nation has been asking Warren since 2012 to stop affiliating herself with them.
Not all Native American leaders, however, have been publicly critical of Warren's DNA testing.
"Senator Warren has not tried to appropriate Cherokee or Delaware culture," Eastern Band of Cherokee Principal Chief Richard Sneed said in a statement sent to ABC News. "She has not used her family story or evidence of Native ancestry to gain employment or other advantage. She has not tried to claim a treaty or trust obligation, or seek the protection of the Indian Child Welfare Act."
"On the contrary," he continued in the statement, "she demonstrates respect for tribal sovereignty by acknowledging that tribes determine citizenship and respecting the difference between citizenship and ancestry."
Sneed went on to note that Warren has sponsored legislation to help prevent suicides in Native American populations, identify missing and murdered Native American women, and help tribes reaquire land they once occupied.
'Not a yes or no answer'
None of the experts and industry executives who spoke to ABC News -- including scientists who have worked with Bustamante -- directly refuted his conclusions.
Instead, they contended that the underlying science is apt to be flawed because the Native American gene databases for tribes in the U.S. are so thin –- making conclusions like Bustamante's all but useless from a scientific perspective.
"It's hard to say that there is a definitive conclusion, especially if someone has such small amounts of Native American ancestry," said Dr. Nanibaa’ Garrison, a faculty member in the Treuman Katz Center for Pediatric Bioethics at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.
"When you're testing someone who might have an ancestor more than four or five generations back, that's when it becomes very hard to piece out that ancestor from all the other ancestors that the person has," Garrison added. "It's not a yes or no answer."
There are a number of different DNA tests that examine a person’s genes, and they generally fall into two broad categories: paternity or maternity tests, which compare a child’s genes to those of a possible parent, and genetic ancestry testing, which looks at numerous genes from an individual and compares their sample to a broader database.
Warren took a genetic ancestry test, which the National Congress of American notes “is based on probabilities and can provide information about how different or similar an individual’s DNA is to that of most people within a larger group of people.”
Industry executives like Bennett Greenspan, founder of Family Tree DNA and Gene by Gene, concurred.
Greenspan, who's worked with Bustamante, said definitive conclusions on ancestry stretching as far back as Warren's purported lineage are harder to stand by than tests for other races because the indigenous databases are too limited.
That in turn has forced geneticists like Bustamante to draw from databases of tribal ancestry from north and south of U.S. borders.
"All of us -- at Ancestry, Family Tree DNA, My Heritage -- we all strive to obtain the fullest, most complete Native American databases simply because Native Americans have historically been unwilling and uninterested in participating in this game of identification,” Greenspan said.
"When the National Geographic Society was trying to recruit Native Americans for their project 13 years ago," Greenspan added, "they had a very, very hard time obtaining DNA samples in the U.S. So, quite often, the DNA samples that have been obtained are either Canadian, Mexican or South American."
Bustamante has said that due to limited Native America databases, he compared Warren’s DNA sample to recent samples from indigenous populations in South America rather than Native Americans in the U.S.
"He [was] not comparing markers to populations that lived in what is now the United States,” said Dr. Michael Hammer, a biotechnology research scientist at the University of Arizona.
Neither Bustamante nor his staff at the scientist's eponymous lab responded to numerous requests for comment from ABC News.
Defining Native American identity
While multiple independent geneticists explained why Native American gene databases are far less reliable measuring sticks for ancestry than other Western races, they also stressed the more subtle, underlying damage that efforts like Warren's do to the Native American psyche.
Several leading geneticists told ABC News that the whole issue of gene-testing is a particularly sensitive one to Native Americans.
"As a geneticist, I don't want to be telling an indigenous people like Native Americans where they come from," said one leading genetic scientist who requested anonymity in return for speaking frankly. "They really don't appreciate that. Their origin story is where they live now -- so who am I to tell them that's not true?"
Hammer, the University of Arizona research scientist, explained that Native Americans’ concept of their ancestry is built less upon gene tests than tradition, including oral histories passed down through generations.
"That's the way they were raised and brought up, and that information was transmitted from generation to generation," he said. "It's their legacy, their heritage. It's the spiritual side of their origin."
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump Organization is accusing the New York State Attorney General’s office of being “unfairly biased” in its case against the Donald J. Trump Foundation.
In a motion filed earlier this week urging the judge to dismiss the case, attorneys for President Trump’s company, which is connected to the charitable foundation, argued that former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was investigating the foundation while soliciting campaign contributions on the promise to oppose Trump and his agenda.
Schneiderman led the investigation until his resignation in May following the publication of domestic abuse allegations against him in The New Yorker. He was replaced by Attorney General Barbara Underwood, who filed the lawsuit in June.
The lawsuit alleges that President Trump and his three eldest children, who served as members of the charity’s board, repeatedly used charitable donations to pay off other financial obligations. The lawsuit seeks to dissolve the foundation and to bar Don Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump from serving on other charity boards in the future.
Alan Futerfas, an attorney for the Trump Organization, called it “highly improbable” that an investigation into years of charitable work done by the foundation “was the product of three weeks of new leadership under Attorney General Underwood”.
"The bias of an poffice working towards a goal does not disappear in three weeks," Futerfas wrote. "This is clearly demonstrated by a statement of Attorney General Underwood in which she said that she considers her battle with the President "the most important work [she] has ever done."
The New York Attorney General’s office responded to Futerfas’ filing in a statement.
"As our lawsuit detailed, the Trump Foundation functioned as a personal piggy bank to serve Trump’s business and political interests,” a spokesperson for the New York Attorney General said. “We won’t back down from holding President Trump and his associates accountable for their flagrant violations of New York law -- just as we hold accountable anyone else who breaks the law.”
Prosecutors allege that Trump used the foundation “for his benefit to advance his personal, business, and political interest in violation of federal and state law governing charities,” according to a recent court filing. His alleged indiscretions include using the foundation’s money to pay legal settlements, support political campaigns and even purchase of a portrait of himself to hang in one of his hotels.
The president has been vocal in his objections to what he portrayed as a politically motivated campaign, tweeting that “the sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000.”
Oral arguments on the motion to dismiss are scheduled to begin later this month.
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Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump inserted himself personally into his administration ’s discussion of the fate of the FBI headquarters in downtown Washington near his D.C. hotel, House Democrats said in a letter released Tuesday, raising questions about possible conflicts-of-interest between the government’s actions and the president’s personal business holdings.
Democrats, citing new documents obtained by the House Oversight Committee, said the administration abandoned plans to sell the current Pennsylvania Avenue site of the FBI headquarters at “direction from the White House” and according to “what POTUS directed everyone to do.”
“These new documents also show that top GSA officials promised to ‘hold our ground’ on this proposal ‘per the President’s instructions’,” they wrote in the letter to General Services Administration head Emily Murphy.
The White House denied claims that President Trump attempted to influence the real estate decisions about the FBI headquarter building.
“The idea that the reason the president wanted the F.B.I. headquarters to remain in its current location is based on anything other than the recommendation of the F.B.I. is simply false,” said Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, in a statement to ABC News.
The internal documents obtained by the Oversight Committee are quoted at length in an Oct. 18 letter from congressional Democrats to Murphy, shared with ABC News Thursday. The disclosures come on the heels of new reports from the agency’s inspector general, and a report Thursday in the New York Times, which raise questions about President Trump’s decision to intervene personally in the real estate discussions surrounding the iconic Pennsylvania Avenue property.
In August, the GSA inspector general, an internal independent watchdog, concluded that Murphy initially misled Congress about Trump’s interest in the project, writing that she provided “incomplete” testimony about conversations with the president and White House officials about the FBI headquarters project.
After suggesting to Congress that the president had no role in the discussions during a House Appropriations Committee hearing in April, Murphy was later shown to have attended two meetings at the White House in January on the relocation plan, including one meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, where the plans were discussed, the report said.
Asked twice about the White House’s role by Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill, Murphy said the directions to redevelop the downtown headquarters came from the FBI.
Murphy’s testimony “was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with the President or senior White House officials in the decision-making process about the project,” the inspector general concluded.
Internal email correspondence between the General Services Administration and the White House showed President Trump was being briefed on discussions about the FBI building, and direction on the project was clearly coming from the White House, congressional Democrats said. “GSA is going to hold our ground … per the President’s instructions,” one email from Murphy’s chief of staff read, according to their letter.
At stake was a plan to move the FBI headquarters out of the city – a relocation that had been in the works for several years and narrowed down to three possible sites in Maryland and Virginia in 2013. The watchdog found that the revised plan to demolish and rebuild the headquarters in Washington could be more expensive than initial plans to relocate the agency.
The New York Times reported Thursday that Trump had long held a personal interest in the fate of the FBI building. The newspaper report, citing congressional sources, said an executive for The Trump Organization had at one point raised concerns that, if the site was redeveloped into a hotel, new competition from across Pennsylvania Avenue could imperil the business prospects of the Trump hotel. The report said the executive sought assistance from a member of Congress to restrict what could be built on the F.B.I. site.
In their letter to Murphy, Democrats, led by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, said the committee is seeking more information and documents “to determine whether the President is making decisions about the FBI headquarters building based on what is best for the country of what is best for his own financial bottom-line.”
The Trump Organization had arranged to lease the Old Post Office building from the federal government prior to Trump’s bid for the White House, and the GSA is now the landlord of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which is located just blocks away from the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building.
A federal judge recently ruled that congressional Democrats could proceed with a lawsuit against the president centered on his D.C. hotel and some other businesses and whether he is profiting illegally from their business with foreign governments.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump is again ramping up his rhetoric on an issue he said he hopes can energize his Republican base heading into the midterms, with an all-caps threat to shut down the southern U.S. border if Mexico doesn’t stop the "onslaught" of a caravan of migrants fleeing Honduras.
The president tweeted Thursday morning that Democratic Party leaders "are doing little to stop this large flow of people INCLUDING MANY CRIMINALS."
Trump also suggested that the migrants hoping to enter the U.S. are linked to crime and drugs that he said are "pouring in," and he called on Mexico to stop the "onslaught."
The president's tweets come after more than 2,000 Honduran migrants hoping to come to the U.S. resumed their travel northward Wednesday even hours after Trump warned "anybody entering the United States illegally will be arrested and detained" in a tweet.
On Wednesday, the president also threatened to cut U.S. aid to the Northern Triangle countries -- Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador -- saying "all payments made to them will STOP (END)!.
Mexico in a statement Wednesday said that anyone who entered its country illegally would be processed and returned to their country of origin.
While Trump is threatening to eliminate aid, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have been pushing efforts to improve U.S. ties in Central America to reduce the flow of migrants.
"We are committed and have been continuing to put in the resources to fund programs that we hope will address the root causes of migration and help people thrive at home," a senior State Department official told ABC News Wednesday.
Ahead of Pompeo trip, Trump threatens Central America with aid cuts over caravan
Thursday's comments were not the first time Trump has threatened to close down the southern border entirely. He made similar remarks at a tax event in May, saying if he was unable to secure funding for the wall he would “have to think about closing up the country.”
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Oliver Contreras - Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Fresh off a victory in President Donald Trump's ongoing legal battle with adult-film star Stormy Daniels, his attorneys will be in a New York appeals court Thursday afternoon over another defamation lawsuit -- this one by Summer Zervos, a former contestant on Trump’s reality TV show, who alleges that he groped and kissed her without her consent in 2007.
Zervos sued Trump in New York state court last year, alleging that he defamed her on 18 separate occasions during the closing weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign after she and more than a dozen other women went public with allegations of unwanted sexual advances by Trump.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign, total fabrication,” Trump said at an October 2016 campaign rally in Pennsylvania. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over."
The president's lawyers hope to convince a panel of judges on Thursday to dismiss Zervos' lawsuit, contending in court filings in advance of the hearing that the “meritless” and “politically-motivated” claim should be dismissed or, alternatively, delayed until Trump leaves office. They cite the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes federal law as the supreme law of the land, to argue that Trump is immune from civil actions in state court.
“[T]he issue is whether state courts have authority to exercise jurisdiction over a sitting president at all,” wrote Trump attorney Marc Kasowitz. “They do not.”
“This action - like any other action against the president in any of the thousands of state courts across the country - should be dismissed or, at a minimum, stayed during his term in office,” Kasowitz wrote.
That argument fell flat with the trial court judge overseeing the Zervos case who, earlier this year, rejected Trump’s immunity claim, writing that “no man is above the law.”
“Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the president cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility,” Justice Jennifer Schecter wrote in a March opinion.
Schecter’s ruling also discounted Trump’s contention that his comments on the campaign trail amounted to heated political rhetoric in response to the allegations from Zervos and the other women who came forward prior to the election.
“That defendant’s statements about plaintiff’s veracity were made while he was campaigning to become president of the United States, does not make them any less actionable,” Schecter wrote.
But Kasowitz argues in a filing with the appeals court, that Schecter’s ruling was in error, asserting that all of Trump’s statements about the women’s allegations “involved political speech concerning, among other things, candidate Mr. Trump’s qualifications, protected by the First Amendment.”
Similar arguments found success for Trump earlier this week, when a federal court in California dismissed a defamation claim against the president from Stormy Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero ruled Monday that a tweet Trump sent earlier this year questioning Daniels’ credibility was constitutionally protected speech because it amounted to “rhetorical hyperbole normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States.”
Though Otero’s ruling came after the parties filed their briefs with the New York appeals court, it is likely to feature in the Trump team’s oral arguments before the panel.
Mariann Wang, an attorney for Zervos, contends that Trump and his attorneys have been trying to spin the case to make it about something that it is not.
“This case is not about robust political debate,” Wang wrote in a filing with the appeals court.
“Ms. Zervos came forward to report the details of [Trump’s] unwanted sexual battery only after he repeatedly lied publicly about his behavior,” Wang wrote, “and, far from merely denying her report, [Trump] then used his international bully pulpit affirmatively to attack her. No case stands for the proposition that politicians have a free pass to defame citizens who criticize them.”
Hovering over the Zervos dispute is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1997 unanimous opinion that allowed a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones against President Bill Clinton to proceed in federal court.
Both sides in the Zervos case have hitched their arguments to elements of the Jones decision to support their respective positions.
Wang asserts in court filings that the Jones case “provides powerful persuasive authority” to reject Trump’s arguments that defending the lawsuit would consume an inordinate amount of his time and impede his ability to do his job.
“That is precisely the factual claim that President Clinton made in Jones,” Wang wrote, “and the Supreme Court unanimously rejected it.”
Trump’s attorneys, though, point out in their legal briefs what they argue is a critical distinction: While the Zervos case was filed in state court, the Jones case was brought in federal court and concerned a dispute between two branches of the federal government.
The president’s lawyers have highlighted in their arguments that the Supreme Court opinion in the Jones case, authored by former Justice John Paul Stevens, essentially punted on the question of whether it would apply similarly to immunity claims in civil lawsuits filed in state courts.
“Whether those concerns would present a more compelling case for immunity is a question that is not before us,” Stevens wrote.
Stevens also noted in the opinion that allowing the Jones case to move forward against Clinton would be “unlikely to occupy any substantial amount” of his time.
That prediction turned out to be wildly off-the-mark. Clinton’s deposition in the case – along with his grand jury testimony focused on his relationship with Monica Lewinsky – eventually led to his impeachment in the House of Representatives.
In arguing for dismissing or delaying the Zervos case, Trump’s lawyers emphasized the fallout from that decision on the Clinton presidency.
“It is beyond reasonable debate that a private action can occupy an inordinate amount of time, derail an agenda, and impede the ability to govern,” Kasowitz wrote.
Kasowitz has suggested in court hearings that the Zervos case will eventually work its way up to the Supreme Court, which is now at full strength with the recent confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s second nominee to be seated on the high court.
But the case, which is now at pre-trial discovery at the trial court level, will first have to work its way through the state court system, which could take several months or more. If Trump loses this round, the next step would be the Court of Appeals in New York, the state’s highest court.
Zervos’ legal team has issued subpoenas to the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization requesting documents associated with Trump’s statements about her and other women who accused the president of sexual misconduct.
They is also seeking outtakes from episodes of "The Apprentice" and records from the Beverly Hills Hotel, where Zervos alleges Trump groped her during what she thought was going to be a business meeting.
Zervos will ultimately seek to depose the president.
A hearing is scheduled next week on her motion to compel Trump and his campaign to provide documents and information about the other women who went public with complaints. Trump’s attorneys have resisted the request, but Zervos’ legal team contends the information is “material and necessary” to her case.
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Alexandria Sheriff’s Department (WASHINGTON) -- A senior Treasury Department employee was arrested this week and charged with leaking “highly sensitive information” about suspects in the high-profile investigation into Russia's meddling in the presidential election, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards, a senior adviser at the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), allegedly "betrayed her position of trust” by leaking confidential banking reports on the Russian Embassy and suspects charged in special counsel Robert Muller’s Russian collusion probe, the government said in a statement.
Federal prosecutors said Edwards, of Quinton, Virginia, provided a journalist with confidential material, including suspicious activity reports (SARs) on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and political consultant Rick Gates, according to the statement.
Banks are required to submit suspicious activity reports with the Treasury Department when they observe transactions that raise questions about possible financial misconduct.
Edwards, 40, was also accused of unlawfully disclosing confidential financial data on the Russian Embassy and alleged Russian agent Maria Butina, the statement said.
Investigators said they found evidence indicating that Edwards had leaked “numerous” SARs between October 2017 and the time of her arrest Tuesday.
“At the time of Edwards’s arrest, she was in possession of a flash drive appearing to be the flash drive on which she saved the unlawfully disclosed SARs, and a cellphone containing numerous communications over an encrypted application in which she transmitted SARs and other sensitive government information to Reporter-1,” a federal official said in the complaint.
Authorities say she took photographs of the documents and then leaked it to a reporter. When questioned by law enforcement, officials say Edwards confessed she provided the documents to a reporter via an encrypted application.
Investigators also connected Edwards to the reporter in question through phone records. Edwards admitted to accessing the SARs, photographing them and sending them to the reporter using an encrypted app, according to the complaint.
The Justice Department did not release the reporter’s identity, but charging documents listed nearly a dozen articles published by BuzzFeed News over the past year and a half.
A spokesman for BuzzFeed did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not say whether he believes calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas" is fair game on the campaign trail.
Speaking at an event Tuesday night sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation to discuss the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, McConnell invoked the nickname, favored by President Donald Trump, and considered racially offensive, to refer to Warren.
"I understand you just got to hear from Lindsey Graham,” McConnell said at the event, referring to the South Carolina senator who had spoken before him at the event. “You know how the president likes to give nicknames to people. Elizabeth Warren is 'Pocahontas.' You noticed that Lindsey said he's going to have his DNA tested, did he mention that to you? The president will probably soon be calling him 'Sitting Bull'."
Sitting Bull was a Native American chief who helped unite the Sioux in their efforts to defend themselves in the nation's Great Plains region. Pocahontas was a historical figure often revered for her role as a Colonial-era emissary.
McConnell was referencing Graham’s quip on Fox News earlier that day about hypothetically taking his own DNA test.
Graham said it would be “like, terrible” if he took a DNA test and found out he was “Iranian.” Graham is a frequent critic of the Iranian regime.
Asked during a roundtable Wednesday with TV network reporters if his use of “Pocahontas” meant it was fair game for candidates to use such racially-tinged words to describe Democrats, he responded, “I don’t have a comment on that.”
Native American groups have previously criticized Trump’s invocation of “Pocahontas” to refer to the Massachusetts Democrat.
After he used the name at an event honoring Native American veterans in November of last year, the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes, an association of American Indian nations, released a statement saying “the name becomes a derogatory racial reference when used as an insult.”
Warren herself has also referred to her being called “Pocahontas” as a “racial slur.” She has defended herself against her critics by claiming she was told of her Native American ancestry by family members and that the registry entry was for meeting persons with similar backgrounds, rather than to advance her career.
A spokeswoman for Warren did not respond to a request for comment about McConnell’s statement.
Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. released a statement Monday criticizing Warren’s use of a DNA test to bolster her campaign argument.
“Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens... Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage,” Hoskin said.
During Wednesday’s reporter roundtable, McConnell also weighed in on the upcoming midterm elections, saying he believes the Kavanaugh confirmation was a shot in the arm for Republican enthusiasm which will pay bigger dividends “the redder the state is.”
As he has in the past, McConnell also named the Senate races he believes are the closest, most of which are states Trump won in 2016 but which have Democratic incumbents. Democrats are defending ten such seats this year.
“It’s pretty obvious that we have very competitive races in Arizona, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida,” he said.
But he said he would rather be in Republicans’ position, in control of the Senate with 51 seats, than in Democrats’, with 49 seats and facing an uphill climb to defend all ten states and make net gains in order to regain control of the chamber.
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