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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The retired U.S. Navy admiral who led the mission to kill Osama bin Laden is defending former CIA director John Brennan after President Donald Trump revoked his security clearance earlier this week.

In an op-ed for the Washington Post on Thursday, retired Adm. William McRaven asks Trump to revoke his own security clearance in solidarity with Brennan, a frequent critic of the president.

"Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him," McRaven wrote. "Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."

McRaven, a former Navy SEAL, led the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 before leaving the military. He notably oversaw the 2011 mission that killed the former head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.

"Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs," McRaven wrote, addressing Trump. "A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself. Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities."

"Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation," he continued. "If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be."

McRaven has criticized Trump before, saying the president's characterization of the press as "the enemy of the American people" is the “greatest threat to democracy” he’s ever seen.

The retired admiral, who went on to become the chancellor for the University of Texas system, made the comment during a speech at the University of Texas - Austin campus last year, according to the Daily Texan.

Mixing the military with politics


Many of the military's former top leadership have not-so-quietly waded into American politics.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn campaigned for Trump before briefly serving as his national security adviser, while retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen campaigned on behalf of Hillary Clinton.

John Kirby, a retired Navy admiral, and James Clapper, a retired Air Force general and former Director of National Intelligence, frequently appear on CNN with their own analysis of the current administration. Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, who also ran the NSA and CIA, is another vocal critic.

But Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general himself, has advocated against these "formers" revealing their political persuasions so publicly.

"I think that it is wrong in America, the United States of America, to say as a retired general or admiral to come out in a public position supporting one candidate or another," Mattis said during a speech in South America this week. "The reason is, we do not want to politicize the officer corps, and I don’t want anyone thinking when they have a general in the room 'well he retires next year, I wonder what he’s going to do after that.' So that’s why I took no part in the campaign. I don’t believe I should."

There are military policies that restrict political activities for service members, especially when they are in uniform. But those restrictions go away upon retirement.

Still, more than half of former U.S. presidents served in the military at some point during their lives. The last retired general elected to office was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senators’ reactions to President Donald Trump revoking former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance mostly broke down along party lines, with Democrats condemning and Republicans defending him.

In a statement, Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., cited a New York Times op-ed published Thursday, after Brennan’s security was revoked, in which Brennan wrote that Trump’s claims of no collusion were "hogwash," saying the only remaining questions were whether the collusion amounted to a criminal conspiracy and whether the Trump team obstructed justice in order to cover up the collusion Brennan alleged.

Burr said that if in fact Brennan had information that proved the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power, he should have provided that information to special counsel Robert Mueller, rather than writing about it in a newspaper.

Burr also asked that if Brennan had had direct knowledge of collusion during his CIA tenure, he should have included it in the intelligence community’s 2017 assessment of Russian interference, released just before Brennan resigned. If Brennan learned information after he left office, Burr said it would constitute an intelligence breach.

"If, however, Director Brennan’s statement is purely political and based on conjecture, the president has full authority to revoke his security clearance as head of the Executive Branch," Burr’s statement continued.

A spokesperson for Burr did not respond to a follow-up question about whether Brennan said or did anything before his clearance was revoked that led Burr to believe it should be revoked.

Brennan has been one of the more outspoken former members of the intelligence community – though far from the only one – in criticizing the president, often addressing the president directly over Twitter.

In the White House’s own announcement of his security revocation, press secretary Sarah Sanders accused Brennan of demonstrating "erratic behavior" and specifically cited testimony Brennan gave to Congress last year in denying that the so-called Steele dossier was a factor in the intelligence community's ultimate conclusion regarding Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

But she did not present any evidence that Brennan has actually ever mishandled classified information.

Back on the Hill, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., defended the president, saying it was Brennan who had overstepped.

"Mr. Brennan has gone way over the line in my view and I think restricting his clearance, pulling his clearance makes sense to me," he said.

Graham added that he believed Trump should also strip Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, of his security clearance. Flynn plead guilty in December to lying to the FBI and has been cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference since then.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., told reporters Thursday that he wasn’t sure it was necessary for any former intelligence community employees to maintain their clearance "unless there is some justification not to."

Asked Wednesday for their thoughts, Sens. John Kennedy and Richard Shelby also deferred to presidential authority and focused on Brennan's faults.

"I don't see why he would need a security clearance. I really don't. And I don't think he's qualified to have one," Kennedy said, calling Brennan a "butthead."

"I don't see anything wrong with that. I don't know why they give them security clearances anyway other than maybe a transition period," Shelby added.

One Republican who bucked the party line was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., who said she disagreed with Brennan’s statements but also disagreed with the president’s decision.

"I believe that John Brennan has acted in far too politically a role since he left the CIA. Nevertheless I do not see the grounds for revoking his security clearance, unless there was some disclosure of classified information of which I am unaware," she said.

Senate Democrats were much more openly critical.

"I think it is pretty clear this is a president who goes out of his way to punish his political adversaries. And just really haven’t seen anything like this before," Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, said.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a full day of deliberation, the 12-person jury in the financial crimes trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has yet to reach a verdict, meaning the panel will reconvene Friday to continue considering Manafort’s fate.

Jurors’ first day deliberating the special counsel’s case against Manafort, who faces 18 counts of tax- and bank-related fraud, ended with questions – not answers. Before leaving the courtroom on Thursday, jurors sent a note to the judge asking four questions about nuances of the case, including the definition of "reasonable doubt."

Judge T.S. Ellis – the federal judge overseeing Manafort’s case in Alexandria, Virginia, clarified to jurors that the government is not required to find "guilt beyond all possible doubt," but defined reasonable doubt as a "doubt based on reason."

Jurors also asked the court to define "shelf company," and for more information on foreign bank account records. Jurors also asked for the special counsel’s indictment of Manafort to be included in their exhibit list.

Judge Ellis told jurors to rely on their collective recollection based on testimony to answer those questions.

Leaving the courthouse after learning of the jury’s questions, Manafort’s lead attorney Kevin Downing told reporters that the jury’s questions are "good news" for Manafort.

"Well we just got some good news. The jury’s been deliberating. They had some questions which the judge addressed, and they’ve asked to come back tomorrow to continue deliberation," Downing said. "So, overall a very good day for Mr. Manafort."

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A federal judge in South Carolina has issued an injunction to block the Trump administration's move to delay a clean water rule intended to prevent pollution from being released into bodies of water like creeks, lakes and streams.

The change to the Waters of the United States rule was a hallmark of former Administrator Scott Pruitt's time at EPA, who often said that under the rule a dry creek bed would be regulated as a Water of the United States. Groups like the American Farm Bureau opposed the rule, saying that the Obama administration did not listen to their concerns that it put too many regulations on their business.

EPA was working to change definitions in the rule that would have drastically rolled back protections.

Similar to other rulings that have gone against rules delayed or rolled back under the Trump administration, South Carolina District Judge David Norton ruled that the government did not follow proper procedure in delaying the rule and suspended the EPA's decision, specifically by not considering public comment in its decision.

"The agencies refused to engage in a substantive reevaluation of the definition of the "waters of the United States" even though the legal effect of the Suspension Rule is that the definition of "waters of the United States" ceases to be the definition under the WOTUS rule," he wrote in the decision.

Norton ruled in favor of environmental groups and states that challenged the delay and granted an injunction to reinstate the rule.

An EPA spokesperson said the agency and Army Corps of Engineers will review the ruling to determine the next step.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's military parade is now estimated to cost approximately $92 million, a U.S. official tells ABC News.

The official stressed that this is still an estimate that could vary based off of the final decision on the scope of the parade made by Defense Secretary James Mattis. The secretary has still not signed off on the final plans.

The latest estimate, first reported by CNBC, is $80 million higher than the previous estimate of $12 million. About $50 million is expected to be paid for by the Pentagon with the other $42 million coming from the Department of Homeland Security, the official said.

The latest estimate means the cost of the parade could be as high as six times that of the U.S. and South Korean military exercise Trump suspended after he labeled them "provocative" and "very expensive." The cost of the suspended exercise, scheduled to take place this month, was $14 million.

The official said that the initial $12 million estimate was based off of a review of the capital's last military parade for the 1991 Gulf War. Before that figure, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told the House Budget Committee in February that the cost could range between $10 and $30 million.

Last month, ABC News reported that between 5,000 and 7,000 service members were estimated to march in the parade which is slated for Saturday, November 10, according to a U.S. defense official familiar with parade planning documents.

Nearly 3,000 personnel, a mix of civilian and military employees, are planned to be supporting the execution of the parade the week before it takes place. Some of those individuals will be security personnel.

In addition to the 5,000 to 7,000 individuals who could be marching, the parade, which is slated to begin at the U.S. Capitol and end at the White House, is expected to feature a mix of vehicles, aircraft, and horses.

A March memo from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said no tanks would be used in the parade, only wheeled vehicles in order to "minimize damage to local infrastructure." But on Thursday, CNBC reported that eight tanks have now been approved following an analysis that showed the vehicle's weight would not negatively impact the streets of Washington, D.C.

Trump first mentioned the idea of a grand parade after attending France's Bastille Day parade last summer. Then, in February, he asked the Pentagon to begin planning for such a parade to take place in the U.S.

The date of November 10 is one day before Veteran's Day, that will also coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Lawmakers clashed with federal officials during a heated hearing Thursday examining which agencies maintain legal responsibility for the welfare of unaccompanied, undocumented immigrant children after they are placed in the homes of sponsors.

Amid a growing backlog of children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border without a parent or legal guardian, a bipartisan report released Wednesday evening found several federal agencies failed to address deficiencies that create “significant risk for trafficking and abuse” for immigrant minors who are placed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement into homes with sponsors.

After the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released its 52-page report, Sens. Rob Portman and Tom Carper, the chairman and ranking member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), pressed federal officials at the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Justice on their efforts to protect such children (UACs) from human trafficking and other forms of abuse after they are placed in the homes of sponsors and await legal proceedings.

Commander Jonathan White, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Federal Health Coordinating Official for the 2018 UAC Reunification Effort at HHS, insisted under sworn testimony that the responsibility to enforce the law is not HHS’s.

“HHS does not presently have the authority to exercise supervision or oversight of children who are not in the physical care and custody of ORR,” White testified. “We have neither the authorities nor the appropriations to exercise that degree of oversight after minors exit ORR care.”

That posture flabbergasted several senators.

“You're catching these children and then you're releasing them and everyone goes like this: 'not my problem!'” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., exclaimed incredulously.

“I can tell you along with the rest of America this sickens me,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-North Dakota, said. “It sickens me that these children have been put in this position and in harm's way and that we in the United States government have responsibility for these children.”

The departments, collectively, slammed the report as “misleading,” adding that it “demonstrates fundamental misunderstandings of law and policy related to the safety and care of Unaccompanied Alien Children.”

“Congressional oversight is critical and often helps to improve the agencies’ operations, but flawed reports based on a lack of understanding of Executive branch operations will not produce any meaningful opportunities to advance legislation,” DHS, HHS and DOJ noted in a joint statement.

Without a federal agency tasked to ensure the children appear at their immigration court cases, an increasing number of the kids have failed to show up, the report found.

Over a three-month period in 2017, HHS attempted to locate 7,635 undocumented immigrant children whose cases were still pending. Out of 7,635 attempted phone calls, HHS discovered that 28 of the kids “had run away” and the agency was “unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 UACs.”

Despite those facts, White asserted that there are “no lost children” – prompting a sharp rebuke from Portman.

“Your blanket statement that there are no lost children is simply inaccurate. There are lost children, clearly,” Portman, R-Ohio, said. “Of course there are lost children — and that’s the whole point here. No one’s responsible.”

DOJ immigration courts have more than 700,000 backlogged cases, according to the report. As of the end of June, a whopping 80,266 pending cases awaited a resolution from just 355 immigration judges authorized to review the mounting legal work – a stunning figure that has exploded from 18,852 at the end of 2014.

“A siloed response to child welfare is not acceptable,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, said. “These children are here and the American people want to know we are doing what we would do for any child to make sure they are safe.”

While current cases have been pending an average of 480 days, President Donald Trump has scoffed at proposals to hire more judges to handle the casework.

“I don't want judges,” Trump said during a campaign rally in South Carolina on June 25.

“I want ICE and border patrol agents. That's what I want.”

The report notes that the Department of Justice currently has the authority to hire 129 additional judges, though James McHenry, III, the director of DOJ’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, told the panel that that figure is misleading and the department expects to fill all vacancies in the next year.

“Our bigger problem is not hiring. We've gotten the hiring process down to as little as 266 days right now. Our bigger problem is going to be space and logistics,” McHenry said. “By the end of this year, we'll approximately 426 permanent courtrooms. That's less than our authorization. We can't hire judges until we have the courtrooms or until we have the space for them and we can't procure more space until we get our appropriations.”

More than 200,000 unaccompanied minors have entered the country illegally in the past six years, according to the report.

The investigation was initiated in 2015 after the subcommittee learned that HHS had placed eight children with human traffickers who subjected the children to forced labor on an egg farm in Marion, Ohio. The subcommittee found that HHS had failed to establish procedures to protect such children, such as conducting sufficient background checks on sponsors and following up with sponsors and the kids to ensure the childrens’ welfare.

The panel held two previous hearings on April 26, 2018 and January 28, 2016, when the agencies agreed to craft a Joint Concept of Operations to explain their responsibilities for the care and safety of unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children before and after they are placed with sponsors. After the agencies delayed submitting a written response to lawmakers, the document was finally submitted on July 31—17 months after it was initially due.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Will Democrats win control of the House of Representatives this November?

FiveThirtyEight’s newly launched House forecast gives them a 3-in-4 chance of winning the majority. Republicans have a 1-in-4 chance of keeping control.

That’s according to a statistical model that looks at polls of each race, how much money each candidate has raised, how each district has voted historically and more. (You can read more about how the model works here.)

But there are a ton of seats in play -- FiveThirtyEight rates 112 as at least somewhat competitive -- and with more than two months before Election Day, the forecast shows a wide range of potential outcomes.

Democrats could quite plausibly gain anywhere from 14 seats to 58 seats, according to FiveThirtyEight. In other words, at this point, it would not be surprising if Democrats fell a few seats short of the majority, or if a “blue wave” swept dozens of Republicans out of office.

The FiveThirtyEight House model produces probabilistic forecasts, as opposed to hard-and-fast predictions about who will win or lose. In the same sense a weather forecaster might tell you there’s a 30 percent chance of rain tomorrow, the FiveThirtyEight model estimates the chances of each candidate winning in all 435 House races. It will update continuously up until Election Day.

FiveThirtyEight, a data-driven news site founded by Nate Silver in 2008, joined ABC News this year.

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a striking admission after his unprecedented move to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, President Donald Trump said in a new interview that his true motive for targeting Brennan was his role in the start of the Russia investigation.

“I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham,” Mr. Trump said in a Wednesday interview with The Wall Street Journal. “And these people led it. So I think it’s something that had to be done."

Reading off a statement from the president from the briefing room podium prior to his interview, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Wednesday the president's move to revoke Brennan's clearance was related to "risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior."

"Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations – wild outbursts on the internet and television – about this Administration," according to the president's statement. "Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the Nation’s most closely held secrets and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos."

Trump is also expanding his review of revoking potential clearances from nine other current and former officials, all with different levels of involvement in the government's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with members of Trump's campaign, Sanders added.

In citing the Russia investigation as his motive for attacking Brennan, the move amounts to one of the rare instances since the firing of former FBI Director James Comey where Trump has shown a willingness to move beyond threats and actually use the powers of the presidency to punish people he believes had a role in the Russia probe.

Brennan responded Wednesday to the news that his clearance was revoked by describing the act as part of "a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics."

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House is revoking the security clearance of John Brennan, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and mulling pulling them for several other former intelligence chiefs and other officials.

Reading aloud a statement from President Trump at the top of Wednesday’s press briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced that the president has decided to revoke Brennan’s security clearance, claiming the former Obama CIA chief has displayed “erratic behavior."

"Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations, wild outbursts on the Internet and television about this administration," Sanders said, reading the presidential statement. "Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nation's most closely held secrets and facilities the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos."

Sanders also specifically cited testimony Brennan had gave to Congress last year in denying that the so-called Steele dossier was a factor in the intelligence community's ultimate conclusion regarding Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

However, Sanders did not present any evidence that Brennan has actually ever mishandled classified information even as she said the president was fulfilling his "constitutional responsibility to protect the nation's classified information."

Brennan shot back at the president on Twitter writing, "this action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics."

"My principles are worth far more than clearance," Brennan said. "I will not relent."

During an interview on MSNBC following the announcement, Brennan said he learned about the administration's decision after a friend told him Sanders was delivering a statement concerning him during the press briefing.

"I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action, as he's done with others, to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration. And revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me," Brennan said.

Brennan has been a vocal critic of the president since leaving public service.

Following Trump's press conference in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brennan called Trump's performance "nothing short of treasonous."

One week later, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, a national security hawk and Trump ally on Capitol Hill, announced on Twitter that he met with the president at the White House to tell him "John Brennan and others [sic] partisans should have their clearances revoked."

Shortly after, Sanders announced that the White House was not only looking into revoking the clearance of Brennan but former intelligence officials like FBI Director James Comey and former Director of the Central Intelligence Committee Michael Hayden as well.

"The President is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they've politicized and, in some cases, monetized their public service and security clearances," Sanders said.

Both the White House and the National Security Council declined to comment on the process that went into removing his clearance, or the administration parties involved.

It's unclear when the White House made the final decision to revoke Brennan's clearance, but it goes into effect immediately. The president's announcement comes as the White House has been on the defense and inundated with questions about salacious claims made by former Trump advisor Omarosa Manigault Newman in her book, "Unhinged."

Brennan might not be the only former official to lose security clearance.

Sanders said the president is also more broadly reviewing access to classified information by government officials and named others who are also now under specific review: James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, James Comey, a former FBI director who Trump fired last year, Michael Hayden, a former Director of the National Security Agency, Sally Yates, a former Deputy Attorney General, Susan Rice, a former National Security Advisor, Andrew McCabe, a former deputy director of the FBI, Peter Strzok a recently fired FBI agent, Lisa Page, a former FBI lawyer and Bruce Ohr, a former associate deputy attorney general.

Hayden said the way Sanders made the president's announcement was "threatening."

"The way that Sarah Huckabee Sanders rolled this out was almost in a tone to be threatening to the rest of us. In other words, it looks to me like an attempt to make us change the things we are saying when we're asked questions on CNN or other networks," Hayden said. "You have to tell the truth and something's not right or not true, you have to point that out. And that implied threat isn't going to change what I think, say or write."

In an exchange with ABC News' Jon Karl, Sanders denied that the president is going after his political opponents with this action.

“No. If there were others that weren't, that we deemed necessary, we would certainly take a look and review those as well,” Sanders said.

Ranking Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner, D- Virginia, said the president's decision was "Nixonian."

"These people were being singled out to have even appointed to this revoke or in the process of being to smacks of Nixonian type practices of trying to silence anyone who is going to criticize this president, "he said.

President Richard Nixon's aides famously compiled a political enemies list – although it was secret.

"I've seen this type of behavior and actions on the part of foreign tyrants and depots and autocrat in my national security career," Brennan said. "I never thought I would see it here in the United States."

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) -- Closing arguments concluded Wednesday in the financial crimes trial of Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Donald Trump, and the case is now in the hands of 12 jurors who will begin deliberations Thursday morning to decide Manafort's fate.

In their closing argument, prosecutors attempted to paint Manafort as a liar and a schemer, calling attention to the mountain of financial records provided to the court.

"When you follow the trail of Mr. Manafort's money, it's littered with lies,” special counsel prosecutor Greg Andres said in federal court on Wednesday, telling jurors that Manafort is “not above the law.”

Manafort is on trial in Alexandria, Virginia, where special counsel Robert Mueller has accused Manafort of shielding millions of dollars in off-shore bank accounts from American tax-collectors. During his closing arguments, Andres reminded jurors of the $60 million Manafort is accused of hiding in 31 separate bank accounts.

"He lied to his tax preparers, he lied to his bookkeeper, because he wanted to hide that money and avoid paying taxes," Andres added.

Andres wrapped his closing statement after 90 minutes, then it was on to the defense.

Speaking for Manafort’s defense team, attorney Richard Westling implored jurors to see their client as a respected political operative and successful businessman, highlighting Manafort’s work on numerous presidential campaigns. Westling argued that the volume of documents provided by the special counsel did not amount to meaningful evidence of guilt.

“Sitting here today, Mr. Manafort is innocent and he will continue to be innocent until you render a decision,” Westling said. “If you are thinking this evidence adds up to something, you shouldn’t.”

Taking over for the defense, lead attorney Kevin Downing returned to the matter of Rick Gates, casting blame on the prosecution’s star witness and longtime business associate of Manafort. Downing reminded jurors of Gates’ confession to embezzling money from Manafort and engaging in multiple extra-marital affairs.

“The government was so desperate to make a case against Mr. Manafort, it made a deal with Mr. Gates,” Downing said, accusing Gates “fabricating” his testimony to make a deal with Manafort.

Gates pleaded guilty in February to charges of conspiracy against the United States and lying to federal authorities. Having initially been charged alongside Manafort, Gates has since cooperated with the special counsel as part of their investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 campaign.

Prior to the defense team’s closing statements, special counsel prosecutor Greg Andres sought to downplay Gates’ role in the trial, asking jurors to look at the paper trail.

“The government is not asking you to take everything Mr. Gates said at face value… we are not asking you to like him,” Andres said, adding, “The star witness, in this case, is the documents.”

If found guilty, Manafort, 69, faces a prison sentence of up to 305 years. Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Special counsel prosecutors rested their case on Monday after bringing more than two dozen accountants and associates of Manafort to the stand. On Tuesday, Manafort’s defense team declined to mount a defense or bring any witnesses to the stand.

After the judge instructed jurors Wednesday afternoon, the 12-person panel will deliberate and return their verdict.

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Council of Economic Advisers is facing backlash from economists after it acknowledged providing incorrect economic figures to press secretary Sarah Sanders regarding African American unemployment.

Sanders during Tuesday's briefing brushed off accusations of racism against President Trump amid his contentious feud with former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman with a familiar pivot, citing economic gains by African Americans during Trump's time in office.

"This President, since he took office, in the year and a half that he's been here, has created 700,000 new jobs for African Americans," Sanders said. "When President Obama left, after eight years in office – eight years in office, he had only created 800 – or 195,000 jobs for African Americans."

But that claim was false, by a factor of roughly 15 times the number Sanders provided.

According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, while 700,000 jobs have been added for African Americans during Trump's time in office, nearly 3 million were added for black workers during President Obama's tenure.

As reporters started to raise issue with the misleading figure in the briefing, the Council of Economic Advisers' Twitter account posted a graph showing changes in minority employment from the 20 months following Obama’s election with the 20 months following Trump’s election.

The account then tweeted "apologies" to Sanders for their "miscommunication."

Sanders soon also took to Twitter to acknowledge the rare "correction," though she wrongly insisted that the jobs numbers provided for Obama during the briefing "were correct."

Several economists
and former top Obama officials were quick to point out, however, that there were still basic flaws in the logic of the CEA's correction.

The graph measured employment numbers for President Obama and President Trump starting in November of 2008, and 2016, respectively, months before either president took office and began to implement their economic policies. Furthermore, President Obama entered office in the midst of the 2008 economic crisis when black unemployment was at 12.7%, while President Trump entered office in a period of sustained growth in the economy.

President Obama's former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Jason Furman offered his own reaction expressing dismay at the CEA's handling of the controversy.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A slate of primaries in Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin on Tuesday delivered key answers in some of this midterm cycle’s most pivotal races.

There were historic wins for a diverse crop of candidates that includes a transgender woman and a Muslim nominee, and a slew of progressives prevailed only a week after they fell short in a number of high-profile races in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri.

Here are some of the top takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries:

A resurgence for progressives

It was a big night for progressives, as candidates backed by the Working Families Party swept their primaries in three of the four states Tuesday night.

The liberal factions of the Democratic Party fell short last week in the Michigan gubernatorial primary, in which former state Senate leader Gretchen Whitmer won the Democratic nomination over two insurgent candidates -- former Detroit Public Health Director Abdul El-Sayed and businessman Shri Thanedar -- who embraced true progressive ideals like "Medicare for All."

Despite that setback, progressives responded Tuesday night, surging to victory in several races, including Randy Bryce in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, Christine Hallquist in Vermont’s gubernatorial race and Jahana Hayes in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District, among others.

"Tonight’s results are nothing less than seismic. You can feel the progressive earthquake from Milwaukee to Danbury to Burlington," said Joe Dinkin, Working Families Party campaigns director. "A new generation of trailblazing progressives are running, and they’re running without the backing of any political machines."

Marquee Midwest races set, GOP comeback bid falls short

The most high-profile races of the night included gubernatorial primaries in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the GOP primary to take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin for one of the Badger State’s U.S. Senate seats.

In Wisconsin, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers emerged victorious in the crowded Democratic primary to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a longtime foe of the party that has already survived two re-election campaigns and a recall election. Evers has the benefit of already having won a statewide election and is arguably the most palatable choice in the general election in a state that narrowly went to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

In the GOP primary for the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race, state Sen. Leah Vukmir utilized the backing of the state party and was able to defeat U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kevin Nicholson, who was backed to the tune of $10 million from GOP mega-donor Richard Uihlein and outside groups like the Club for Growth.

In Minnesota, Republicans face a setback in a gubernatorial race they were hoping to target. Former presidential candidate and two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, an unexpected result that bolsters Democratic hopes of holding onto the governor’s mansion. Democrats nominated Rep. Tim Walz in the governor's race, who represents a rural district in the southern part of the state.

There were no surprises in the four congressional districts that are expected to be competitive this cycle. In the state’s 1st and 8th congressional districts, which both have retiring Democratic incumbents, Republicans got their preferred candidates in former U.S. Treasury Department official Jim Hagedorn and St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber. Trump carried both districts by more than 15 points in 2016, and the GOP is expected to invest heavily in these two open-seat races.

Diverse women make history on night of firsts

Tuesday also provided two more historic results in an already historic midterm cycle.

In Vermont, Democrats nominated Hallquist in the gubernatorial race, making her the first openly transgender individual to win a major party's nomination for governor in U.S. history. Hallquist, the former head of the Vermont Electric Cooperative, faces a tough race in November against incumbent Gov. Phil Scott, who easily survived a primary challenge from first-time candidate Keith Stern, who mounted a serious challenge to the incumbent by running to his right.

In Minnesota, state Rep. Ilhan Omar is likely to join Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib as the first two Muslim women in Congress come November. Omar won the Democratic nomination in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which was vacated by Rep. Keith Ellison, who won the Democratic nomination in the state’s attorney general race Tuesday night. Omar is a Somali-born hijab-wearing refugee, and was favored to win after running on a strong progressive platform. She was also endorsed by progressive darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who celebrated Omar’s win on Twitter Tuesday evening.

Educators win big

An understated storyline on Tuesday were the wins by multiple candidates with backgrounds in education.

Tony Evers, a top official in the Wisconsin's public school system, won the Democratic primary in the state's gubernatorial race, and education figures to be a major issue in his bid to unseat GOP Gov. Scott Walker.

In Connecticut, former National Teacher of the Year and first-time candidate Jahana Hayes will win the Democratic primary for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District.

Hayes will be the Democratic nominee in the race to replace Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who did not seek re-election after mishandling a sexual harassment scandal involving her chief of staff. Sen. Chris Murphy encouraged Hayes to run, however, he did not issue a formal endorsement in the race. Hayes’ Republican opponent in the general election has not been called yet.

In Minnesota, former high school teacher and curren Congressman Tim Walz emerged victorious in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, while Iraq War veteran and former Teach for America participant Dan Feehan won the Democratic primary in the seat Walz vacated to run for governor.

There was one instance of an educator falling short Tuesday. In Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District, currently Speaker Paul Ryan's seat, ironworker Randy Bryce defeated Janesville schoolboard member Cathy Myers despite his history of arrests, including one for drunk driving.

A historic night in the wake of #MeToo

The #MeToo movement that brought down former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken has now also ushered in two female candidates to replace him.

Sen. Tina Smith won the Democratic primary, according to the AP’s projection, in Tuesday night’s special election to replace Franken after he resigned due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Smith has occupied the seat for the last several months, appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to fill the seat earlier this year.

In a contest to finish out Franken’s term, Smith will compete against state Sen. Karin Housley, who won the Republican primary, according to the AP’s projection.

Both garnered commanding leads in their primaries: Housley captured over 62 percent of the vote and Smith picked up more than 76 percent, according to unofficial results from the Minnesota secretary of state.

This matchup arises after the #MeToo movement toppled goliath men from power across the political, media and Hollywood landscapes. But these two contenders weren’t alone on Tuesday. They were among 58 women featured on the ballot for either congressional or statewide executive elections, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.

Some (possibly) ethically questionable candidates survive

In Minnesota, Ellison defeated a wide-ranging field of candidates to land on the general election ballot for attorney general. His victory, however, is overshadowed by allegations of domestic abuse, which he denies, from a former girlfriend and her family.

"I am honored to have earned the overwhelming support of DFLers to be Minnesota’s next Attorney General," Ellison said in a statement after his victory. "As the People’s Lawyer, I will be on the front lines to defend the rights and freedoms of all Minnesotans. As your Attorney General, I will fight every day to put Minnesota families ahead of powerful special interests, to increase access to affordable health care, make our economy more fair, and expand opportunity for all."

The accusations surfaced when the son of his former girlfriend, Karen Monahan, posted on Facebook that he witnessed the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee abusing his mother. Monahan then confirmed her son’s account in a Twitter post.

Ellison responded to in a statement that reads: "I never behaved in this way."

Despite the disturbing claims against him, the first Muslim congressman will advance to the general election, after easily overcoming the crowded primary.

He is set to face Republican Doug Wardlow in November.

Another candidate with a questionable background is Wisconsin's Bryce.

In a race to fill Ryan’s soon-to-be vacated seat, Bryce will challenge former Ryan aide Bryan Steil, who was projected to win the Republican primary by the AP.

Bryce brings a rap sheet with nine arrests for various offenses since the 1990s. The most serious arrest for the Army veteran came in April 1998 when he was caught driving under the influence. Two of his most recent arrests in 2011 and 2018 came during protests of Ryan and policies of the GOP.

His history of run-ins with the law did not undermine his campaign from gaining support within the Democratic Party. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee backed him in the primary, he raised nearly $5 million for his campaign and earned a national profile along with the support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

In 2016, with the support of a substantial white working-class population, the district swung in favor of then-candidate Trump. But Democrats are eyeing his background as an ironworker to flip the seat.



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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration wants to change a rule aimed at forcing cities to actively combat housing segregation -- a move which worries fair housing advocates.

The Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, put in place by the Obama administration, was designed to help cities and counties identify the causes of housing segregation and discrimination and create a plan to improve to address those problems.

Fighting discrimination in housing is seen as one of HUD's biggest responsibilities under the Fair Housing Act since where someone lives often determines access to jobs, education, and resources.

Under the AFFH rule, public housing agencies in dozens of cities have conducted studies and gathered public input on how to improve housing equality in their community. New Orleans' plan, for example, proposed expanding affordable housing options in areas with lots of economic opportunities and investing in public transit, schools, and parks in underserved communities.

In Philadelphia, officials identified challenges to housing equality that included gaps in outreach to non-English speakers and outlined plans for improving access and awareness to affordable housing.

Debby Goldberg, vice president of housing and special projects at the National Fair Housing Alliance, said the country is desperately in need of affordable housing and that her organization completely disagrees with HUD's assertion that the rule needs to be changed but thinks a lot of progress is being made.

"The rule is very clear that there are two kinds of strategies that we need, given our history of segregation in this country, which the government played a very significant role in creating. We have to do two things, one is we have to expand the housing choices available to people so that where you live isn't limited by the color of your skin, your national origin, whether you have kids or whether you have a disability. And we have to look at places that have been segregated and disinvested for a long time and figure out ways to make sure that people who live in those neighborhoods have access to all the community resources and amenities that people elsewhere have," she told ABC News.

However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week that it plans to change the rule to reduce some of the requirements on local governments.

Goldberg said housing advocates are worried HUD is trying to eliminate the AFFH rule and go back to the system that was in place before 2015, which both HUD and a federal government watchdog found were insufficient.

HUD didn't release specific details on how it will change the rule but said that, among other things, it wants to increase housing options in low-income communities.

HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said they have heard from some officials that the Obama-era rule was confusing and that some cities and counties were worried they could be pushed to put low-income housing in wealthier areas instead of investing in distressed neighborhoods.

"We certainly don't want a regulation to discourage investment in places that need it most. We were getting a lot of comments about mostly not understanding, finding it difficult to use, a lot of functionality complaints. If nothing else I think one of the reasons for all of this is to make it clear to people and to reduce the burdens when those burdens become excessive," Sullivan told ABC News.

Secretary Ben Carson said the rule "dictated unworkable requirements" and actually blocked development of new affordable housing.

“It’s ironic that the current AFFH rule, which was designed to expand affordable housing choices, is actually suffocating investment in some of our most distressed neighborhoods that need our investment the most,” Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “We do not have to abandon communities in need. Instead, we believe we can craft a new, fairer rule that creates choices for quality housing across all communities.”

Goldberg said HUD's argument is a complete mischaracterization of the rule and that the majority of jurisdictions were able to navigate the rule with minimal problems.

"I don't know where HUD comes up with the concept or the notion that this prevents investment in certain neighborhoods and only promotes housing mobility or new housing only in high-income neighborhoods," Goldberg told ABC News.

HUD didn't release specific details of how it will change that rule this week but announced that it is beginning the process of changing it to focus on expanding development and reducing regulations on local governments. HUD previously delayed deadlines for cities to submit plans on how they would combat housing discrimination required by the rule, prompting a lawsuit from several advocacy groups.

Secretary Ben Carson told the Wall Street Journal the rule could tie HUD grants to more relaxed zoning regulations as an incentive for cities to allow more development.

At the time, Carson compared the rule to busing policies and a socialist experiment in an op-ed during the presidential campaign, arguing that the rule would force cities to build housing targeted at minority or low-income populations in wealthier areas.

In cities like New York, average rent has increased and income has stagnated, leading to fewer housing options for people who are priced out of increasingly expensive neighborhoods. The NYC Department of Public Housing and Development says on its website there are more than 970,000 low-income households for less than 450,000 available low-income homes for rent.

Carson's op-ed referenced New York as an example of issues created by the AFFH rule that cities were concerned it would block investment in low-income neighborhoods, but the department told ABC News that was not the case at all. A spokeswoman said Mayor Bill de Blasio's affordable housing plan that Carson mentioned has actually exceeded goals and on track to fund 300,000 affordable homes, and that despite concern the rule would prevent construction it actually provided more guidance for the city's efforts.

"HUD’s rule was intended to confront segregated living patterns and housing discrimination that continue to persist across our country fifty years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act, disparities that will not be wiped away simply by lessening land use regulations and increasing supply. While New York City will continue to forge ahead with its process and invest significant resources in pursuing fair housing, we need strong leadership at the federal level to push all localities to confront the legacy of structural segregation," the department said in a statement to ABC News.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Omarosa Manigault Newman addressed a legal filing by the Trump campaign -- sort of -- as she continued her book tour for "Unhinged" on Tuesday night with an appearance on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah."

Manigault, who has spent the past two days plugging her book while also releasing secret audio recordings made during her time in the White House, was hesitant to talk too much about the arbitration.

"As of today, Donald Trump has decided to sue me or bring litigation against me to silence me and to not allow me to tell my story," she told told host Noah. "I just have a whole host of attorneys who are telling me to not give Trump the ammunition."

The Trump campaign, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., filed arbitration against the reality TV star on Tuesday morning in New York for allegations that she violated her non-disclosure agreement with the campaign by releasing tapes she recorded of her firing by Chief of Staff John Kelly, a subsequent conversation with Trump himself, and a 2016 discussion with campaign aides about the candidate's possible use of the N-word.

Manigault told MSNBC on Tuesday afternoon, after the administration filed the arbitration, "I don't believe that I have violated, but I will leave it to the lawyers to sort it out."

Most of her conversation with Noah centered on the content of the recordings or the need to make them at all. Manigault said she felt like she needed to tape conversations to protect herself, she said.

"I knew I had to cover my back and document what I saw as an opportunity to kind of blow the whistle on a lot of the corruption going on in the White House, and I knew that I needed to document that corruption, otherwise people would not take it seriously," Manigault said.

Manigault, who rose to prominence and befriended the president on his show, "The Apprentice," said she wanted to be a billionaire just like Trump -- and she was blinded by the loyalty in joining the administration.

"I wanted to lead one of his companies. He inspired me. I wanted to be a billionaire," she told Noah. "I grew up in the Westlake projects [in Youngstown, Ohio] and I wanted to be wealthy and that's who I thought I could aspire to be, but boy has he been a great disappointment. And because I did have this blind spot and was blindly loyal, and I looked like the biggest dummy following this person because I didn't have that same perspective. And sometimes you have to step back in order to get a clear view, and I recognized that I was going down the wrong path with Trump.”

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden canceled plans to campaign for Democrats in Illinois this week due to an undisclosed illness, state Democrats announced Tuesday.

Biden was scheduled to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker at an event in Springfield, Illinois, on Thursday, but he canceled, citing "doctor’s orders," according to the Illinois Democratic County Chairs' Association.

“Everyone who knows Vice President Biden knows that he gives our party and our country his all, but unfortunately he is sick and is under doctor’s orders not to travel,” Doug House, president of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, said late Tuesday. “The cancellation is of course disappointing, but it is clear that the circumstances are simply unavoidable.”

A source with ties to Biden said the illness is not serious, but the former vice president is under the weather and needs a few days’ rest

House did not provide details about the nature of the illness, but he indicated that Biden would “be back campaigning for Democrats in Illinois and across the country in no time.”

Biden was listed as keynote speaker at the 2018 Illinois State Fair Democrat Day.

“While Biden's trip to Springfield is cancelled, our event will continue,” House said. “We remain excited for what will be the largest brunch in our history and look forward to hearing from our incredible slate of Democratic leaders who are ready to energize our party and lead us to victory up and down the ticket this November.”

Biden, a staunch critic of President Donald Trump, has been working hard to improve voter turnout ahead of this year’s midterm election as his party battles to regain control of at least one chamber of Congress.

“It’s up to us, America. Speak out. Rise up. Be heard. The price to be paid for putting our values at risk must be clear. Now,” he said in a late-June tweet. “And show up to vote this November -- in numbers like we’ve never seen.”

Democrats would need to win at least 24 seats to gain a majority in the House, where at least 41 Republicans are planning to retire, resign or run for another office, according to an analysis by ABC News.



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