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Adventure_Photo/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump signed an executive order late Wednesday officially making the U.S. military responsible for virtually all security background checks for millions of federal workers, the latest step by the administration to tackle a daunting backlog of security clearance cases.

The order calls for the National Background Investigations Bureau, currently under the civilian Office of Personnel Management, to be absorbed by the Department of Defense under a reorganized, and renamed, Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.

Though Congress mandated in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that a majority of the investigative bureau's caseload be transferred to the Defense Department in phases, Wednesday’s order lifts the entire bureau -- and the 95 percent of all federal background checks it processes -- and places it all under military authority.

A senior administration official told ABC News the bigger move would be more efficient and effective than “bifurcat[ing]” the background check system between two departments.

In June 2018 the Trump administration identified the security clearance process as one of many targets for drastic government reform.

“The Administration recognizes that background investigations are critical to enabling national security missions and ensuring public trust in the workforce across the Government,” a White House report said at the time.

The report noted that the “background investigation inventory” – the cases to be processed – had risen to three-quarters of a million and that the average Top Secret background investigation takes four times as long as it should.

In congressional testimony in March 2018 National Background Investigations Bureau Director Charles Phalen partially blamed much of the then-ballooning backlog on the 2014 cancellation of a federal contract that stripped the bureau of more than half its investigative force and "increased demand" by the bureau's government customers.

“This is an unsustainable way to do business,” the White House report said.

The report argued the military is better positioned to handle the massive caseload and already conducts security clearance evaluations for several agencies.

On Wednesday Phalen told a security conference the backlog has since been reduced by 32 percent, to just under 500,000 cases.

“The numbers are still not where they need to be, but we’ve moved that needle significantly,” Phalen told a security conference, according to a Defense One report. “We’ve improved wait times 50 percent to 60 percent in many categories, but have some outliers that skew the average.”

The large-scale transfer to the military is happening in the background of a security clearance controversy in the White House, where a whistleblower alleges more than two dozen officials, reportedly including Jared Kushner, received high-level clearances over the objections of career security specialists.

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John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, his re-election campaign has spent more than $8 million in legal fees, according to ABC News' analysis of campaign finance records through last month, with record-breaking quarterly expenditures doled out in the last three months of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Between January and March 2019 alone the Trump campaign spent nearly $1.7 million on legal expenses – more than $1.2 million of which went to former White House Counsel Donald McGahn's firm, Jones Day, which has represented Trump and the Trump campaign since his first presidential campaign in 2015.

Even after McGahn left for the White House gig in 2017, McGahn’s firm remained as the biggest recipient of the Trump campaign's legal expenses, earning more than $5.6 million.

Payments to Jones Day, however, are expected to drop moving forward as the Trump campaign recently hired a new in-house legal team for its 2020 reelection bid, as first reported by Politico and confirmed by ABC News.

The Trump campaign has helped pay legal bills for a number of current and former Trump associates caught up in various investigations and lawsuits, including the president's son Donald Trump Jr. and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

For a time, the Trump campaign also paid portions of Michael Cohen's legal fees, as ABC News has previously reported, before the relationship between the president and his former longtime personal attorney went south late last year, thus dissolving their joint defense agreement.

Another notable legal expense went to Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman which was paid $76,415 in the first three months of 2019. The firm was paid just $55,668 throughout 2018.

Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman is the same firm that represented the Trump Organization in In 2016, in the Trump University lawsuit, which resulted in the organization being ordered to pay a $25 million settlement to attendees of the now-defunct real estate seminar.

The Trump campaign was not available for comment.

To put the Trump campaign's more than $8 million in legal expenditures into perspective, former President Barack Obama's re-election campaign, over the same period of time, spent only about $2.7 million in legal fees, according to campaign finance reports.

Former President George W. Bush's re-campaign, for its part, spent only about $260,000 in legal fees in the first two years of his presidency, records show.

It's hard to compare how much in legal fees were paid by the re-election campaign of former President Bill Clinton, who was buried in various investigations during the course of his presidency, because of the changes in the way campaign expenditure are reported to the FEC as well as the timeline and the nature of the legal battles Clinton was involved in. But for a general comparison, Clinton told NBC's Craig Melvin in June last year that he "left the White House $16 million in debt" because of attorney fees incurred by scandal investigations and the impeachment proceedings.

In addition to the $8 million spent by the Trump campaign, other political sources have chipped in to share the campaign’s burden.

The Republican National Committee, for example, has helped pay legal bills for various Trump's associates, including at least about $200,000 for Trump Jr. and more than $589,000 for former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks.

A separate legal defense fund, dubbed the Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, reported raising more than $853,000 from top Trump donors – including $500,000 from Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife and $150,000 from New York waste management executive and Mar-a-Lago member Anthony Lomangino.

The Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, which assists current and former campaign and administration volunteers and staffers caught up in the special counsel’s investigation –excluding Trump’s relatives-- shelled out a total of about $457,000 in legal bills through December, according to disclosure reports.

The identities of those supported by the fund remain under wraps.

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MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has declined an invitation from the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee for senior aide Stephen Miller to testify before the committee on the administration’s immigration policies, including a plan to bus migrants to "sanctuary cities."

“In accordance with long-standing precedent, we respectfully decline the invitation to make Mr. Miller available for testimony before the committee,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter obtained by ABC News.

“The precedent for members of the White House staff to decline invitations to testify before congressional committees has been consistently adhered to by administrations of both political parties and is based on clearly established constitutional doctrines.”

The White House cites a Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion which states that the president’s immediate advisers are immune from the congressional testimony process. The letter potentially provides a roadmap for how the White House plans to respond to requests for senior aides testifying before Congress.

The chairmen of the House Oversight, Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday requesting documents related to Trump and Miller removing senior staffers at the agency.

“We are deeply concerned that the firing and forced resignation of these officials puts the security of the American people at risk,” the chairmen wrote, referring to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, former DHS Undersecretary for Management Claire Grady and former Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We are also concerned that the President may have removed DHS officials because they refused his demands to violate federal immigration law and judicial orders. "

The chairmen also say they are concerned that Miller is in charge of handling the administration's immigration policy.

Cummings requested that Miller come before the committee to explain the administrations’ handling of the border crisis and recent reports about a plan to transfer immigrants detained at the southern border onto the streets of “sanctuary cities” – a plan President Donald Trump confirmed.

“I am offering you an opportunity to make your case to the Committee and the American people about why you—and presumably President Trump—believe it is good policy for the Trump Administration to take the actions it has, including intentionally separating immigrant children from their parents at the border to deter them from coming to the United States, transferring asylum seekers to sanctuary cities as a form of illegal retribution against your political adversaries, and firing top Administration officials who refuse orders to violate the law,” Cummings wrote in a letter to Miller last week.

Anticipating that the White House would decline the invitation, Cummings referenced other senior White House aides who had testified, including former White House counsels and President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff.

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SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- In a video released Thursday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden formally announced he's running for president in 2020 -- ending months-long speculation about his intentions.

Biden becomes the 20th Democrat to enter the 2020 race, and enters as a high-profile candidate, with decades of experience.

He will hold his first event as a candidate in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Following his formal announcement, Biden's first television interview will take place on ABC's The View on Friday.

Biden opened his announcement video quoting from the Declaration of Independence.

"We haven't always lived up to these ideals. [Thomas] Jefferson himself didn't. But we've never before walked away from them," Biden says in the video.

Biden contrasts Jefferson's hometown, Charlottesville, with the deadly clash between white nationalists and counterprotesters that occurred there in August 2017. He quotes President Donald Trump in the video, referring to the president's "very fine people on both sides" quote in the wake of the death of Heather Heyer.

The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy...everything that has made America -- America --is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. #Joe2020 https://t.co/jzaQbyTEz3

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 25, 2019

In Biden's first fundraising email, sent just after the announcement, he writes, "If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation. I cannot stand by and watch that happen."

He and his wife Dr. Jill Biden will also sit down with Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, ahead of his Pittsburgh event. The interview will air on GMA Tuesday.

Dr. Biden tweeted about the announcement, saying she was "excited and proud" her husband was running for president.

It’s official! Excited and proud that @JoeBiden is running for President #Joe2020 #TeamJoe https://t.co/eN0RcJkpIT

— Dr. Jill Biden (@DrBiden) April 25, 2019

Throughout the 2018 midterms, Joe Biden cast the upcoming elections as a "battle for the soul of America."

Biden's campaign will focus on three major pillars -- rebuilding the middle class, "the backbone of this country; demonstrating respected leadership on the world stage; and making democracy more inclusive, by fixing campaign finance, voting rights and gerrymandering.

Over the next few weeks, Biden will take that message on the road to early voting states, including Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, California and New Hampshire, before returning to Pennslyvania for a final kickoff event on May 18 in Philadelphia, with remarks focusing on "Unifying America," according to Biden's campaign website.

In a field that boasts a number of vocal progressive candidates, Biden's bipartisan approach may make it difficult for him to gain support with the liberal wing of the party.

"Middle-Class Joe" isn’t backing away from his bipartisan roots.

"Vice President Biden believes to his core that you can disagree politically on a lot and still work together on issues of common cause, especially issues as essential as the fight against cancer," Biden spokesperson Bill Russo told ABC News earlier this year.

One of the first challenges to Biden's candidacy will be answering tough questions on allegations from some women who have said that the former vice president made them feel uncomfortable in past interactions by touching them without their permission.

On Wednesday, his Democratic rival, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, signaled that Biden "is going to have to directly answer to voters" on the allegations.

This will be Biden's third run for president. He previously ran in 1988 and 2008, before serving as vice president to Barack Obama.

Biden will likely campaign on his connection to the former president, though a source familiar with Obama's thinking tells ABC News that its unlikely "he will throw his support behind a specific candidate this early in the primary process."

But Obama did have praise for his former running mate after his announcement.

“President Obama has long said that selecting Joe Biden as his running mate in 2008 was one of the best decisions he ever made. He relied on the Vice President’s knowledge, insight, and judgment throughout both campaigns and the entire presidency. The two forged a special bond over the last 10 years and remain close today," Katie Hill, a spokesperson for Obama, told ABC News in a statement.

Biden was one of the youngest people ever elected to the Senate, when he won his race in 1972 at 29 years old.

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oorka/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- As the increase of sightings of unidentified aircraft rise, the U.S Navy is currently in the process of developing guidelines in reporting such encounters.

Commonly referred to as "UFOs" these unauthorized aircraft have caused concerns leading the Navy to take further precautions for safety and security reasons.

"There have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated airspace in recent years," said Joseph Gradisher, spokesperson for Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare in a statement from the Navy.

"For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the USAF take these reports very seriously and investigate each and every report."

At this time, the Navy is drafting a more advanced procedure in which any can be reported and properly handled by aviation safety.

"As part of this effort, the Navy is updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities," Gradisher said.

While the process of reporting efficiently is in the drafting phases, due to the request for information made by members of Congress and staffers, the Navy has prepared briefings by senior officials and aviators who report risk at this time.

"In response to requests for information from Congressional members and staff, Navy officials have provided a series of briefings by senior Naval Intelligence officials as well as aviators who reported hazards to aviation safety."

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Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Conservative Evangelical leader Franklin Graham is blasting South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg for being gay and is calling on the presidential hopeful to repent for his “sin.”

In a series of tweets to his 1.9 million followers on Wednesday, Graham said, “Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian, I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as a sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman – not two men, not two women.”

Graham, the 66-year-old son of the late Billy Graham, began his attack by referring to Buttigieg’s comments at a CNN town hall on Monday, where the mayor said “God does not have a political party” while answering a question on uniting conservative, moderate and liberal Christians behind his 2020 campaign.

 “Part of God’s love is experienced, according to my faith tradition, is in the way that we support one another and, in particular, support the least among us,” Buttigieg said. “It can be challenging to be a person of faith who’s also part of the LGBTQ community and yet, to me, the core of faith is regard for one another.”

Graham responded by tweeting “[Pete Buttigieg] is right – God doesn’t have a political party. But God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by.”

Mayor Buttigieg, an Episcopalian, has not shied away from discussing his faith during the early run of this presidential race.

Most recently, Buttigieg quarreled with Vice President Mike Pence over the “hypocrisy” of supporting President Donald Trump while boasting his Christian values.

“When you have somebody seeming to want to impose his religion on others as the vice president has, and at the same time teaming up with the presidency that seems to have no regard for, at least, what I would consider to be Christian values, I do think that hypocrisy needs to be called out," Buttigieg said on Good Morning America earlier this month.

Pence responded by saying that they had a “great working relationship” during his time as governor of Indiana and criticized the mayor’s description of his religious beliefs.

“He knows better, he knows me” the vice president said.

In response to Graham’s tweet, celebrities and LGBT organizations slammed the attack on the 37-year-old mayor.

"Franklin Graham is a sad, out of touch extremist who has spent the last several years selling his soul for parts in order to excuse Donald Trump's worst behavior," Chris Sgro, Senior Director of Communications for the Human Rights Campaign, told ABC News.

Ross Murray, Senior Director at the GLAAD Media Institute and Deacon in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, says Graham needs to “stop the attacks on LGBTQ Christians and allies like Buttigieg, and focus on the Gospel's call to protect those most marginalized.”

“Franklin Graham's relentless attacks on Christians who are a part of the LGBTQ community, while excusing the very un-Christian actions of President Donald Trump, demonstrates that he has been seduced by worldly power and fallen prey to sin,” Murray said in a statement to ABC News.

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dsmoulton/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A pair of legal groups sued the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday, seeking to compel the agency to enforce the law amid what they allege is mounting evidence that the National Rifle Association has engaged in “an elaborate scheme … to unlawfully coordinate with candidates it supports for federal office,” including with the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Giffords Law Center, a gun-control advocacy group led by former Democratic lawmaker from Arizona Gabby Giffords. The lawsuit accuses the NRA of “using a network of shell corporations” to circumvent contribution limits and coordinate approximately $35 million in advertisement spending with the campaigns of at least seven Republican candidates over the last three election cycles, “thereby making millions of dollars of illegal, unreported, and excessive in-kind contributions.”

But while the NRA deliberately circumvented FEC rules that prohibit vendor coordination between campaigns and outside groups, the complaint alleges, the federal agency responsible for oversight of election spending -- whose members frequently deadlock on matters along partisan lines -- has not taken any enforcement action.

“The FEC is supposed to be the nation’s election watchdog, but in this case, it didn’t bite, bark, or even whimper,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for the Giffords Law Center, in a statement. “Instead, it turned a blind eye … In a desperate attempt to hold onto power and influence, NRA executives have flagrantly ignored our campaign finance laws and undermined the integrity of our election system. The FEC must bring illegal campaign conduct into the light of day.”

A spokesperson for the FEC declined to comment on the litigation.

Federal Election Commission rules prohibit super PACs from making coordinated expenditures with campaigns, meaning that the Trump campaign should not be "materially involved" in the production and placement of ads purchased by the super PAC arm of the NRA, and vendors shared by the NRA and the Trump campaign cannot share information in support of each other.

But as first reported by the nonprofit journalism outlet The Trace in December, throughout the 2016 election cycle, the NRA launched an aggressive $25 million pro-Trump ad blitz using multiple vendors linked to a political consulting firm called OnMessage, while the Trump campaign placed its ads using multiple vendors linked to a firm called National Media. The two firms were disguised as separate entities, according to the complaint, which cites public records reviewed by ABC News, but in fact vendors were "functionally indistinguishable.”

"[T]hey are led by the same people and located at the same address,” the complaint said, “and no internal separation or firewall exists between the staff who work for each entity.”

A spokesperson for the NRA did not respond to ABC News’ requests for comment, while a spokesperson for the Trump campaign declined to comment. Sen. Sheldeon Whitehouse, D-R.I., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., opened a probe into this matter earlier this year, demanding documents from the NRA, the Trump campaign and the relevant vendors. A spokesperson for Sen. Whitehouse told ABC News last week that none of them have responded to those requests, either.

According to Trevor Potter, who cofounded the Campaign Legal Center after serving as commissioner and chairman of the FEC, the alleged coordination provided those candidates with a “significant” advantage.

“If they know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it, that spending is much more valuable to candidates,” Potter told ABC News. “They can build their plans around your spending. They can match messages. They don’t have to spend where you’re spending. It’s as if the candidates had that much more money in their pockets during their races.”

Critics of the FEC have described the agency as one crippled by partisanship. The commission was designed to consist of six members -- no more than three from each party -- and four of them must agree to launch an investigation, a system that prioritized compromise. But the commission is currently comprised of only four members -- two Republicans, one Democrat, one Independent -- and the executive branch has not appointed new commissioners, so the agency frequently deadlocks on issues and, critics say, has been slow to launch investigations.

According to Ann Ravel, a Democratic former commissioner who left the agency in February of 2017, the FEC has been failing to enforce campaign finance laws for several years.

“The F.E.C. was betraying the American public and jeopardizing our democracy,” she wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times. “It pains me to report that the agency remains dysfunctional, more so than ever, as I prepare to depart at the end of this month as my term nears its end. This is deeply worrisome, because the F.E.C.’s mission is to ensure fairness in elections.”

Others, like campaign finance lawyer Caleb Burns of the Washington, D.C. law firm Wiley Rein, see the partisan divide as a crucial safeguard "to avoid political abuse by one party of the other" when regulating "political activity that is highly protected by the First Amendment’s freedoms of speech and association."

In addition to the Trump campaign, the complaint alleges that the NRA has shown a years-long pattern of coordinating with several other congressional campaigns in a similar operation since at least 2014, including the campaigns of Sens. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Josh Hawley, R-Mo., and Matt Rosendale, who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana in 2018.

Spokespersons for Sens. Tillis, Cotton and Gardner did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment. Messages left at the offices of Sens. Johnson and Hawley, as well as Mr. Rosendale, now the commissioner of Securities and Insurance in the Office of the Montana State Auditor, were not immediately returned.

And with the 2020 election cycle already underway, the continued deadlock at the FEC has watchdogs worried that the election system is still ripe for exploitation.

“As long as the commission has not ruled on this behavior, there’s a risk that it will be happening or is happening now,” Potter told ABC News. “The country has a deadline. The legal system should have one, too.”

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Ivan Cholakov/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Defense Department's internal watchdog has cleared acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan of favoring his former employer, Boeing, while serving at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon's inspector general found that reports of ethics violations were not substantiated, clearing the way for Shanahan for a possible nomination to the top Pentagon job.

The inspector general opened the investigation last month after receiving a complaint that Shanahan "allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules."

During the investigation, more than 30 witnesses were interviewed, including many senior defense officials and Shanahan, according to the inspector general. More than 5,600 pages of unclassified documents and approximately 1,700 pages of classified documents relevant to the allegations were also reviewed.

"The Office of Inspector General took these allegations seriously, and our 43-page report of investigation, which we released today, describes our conclusions and the facts on which they are based," said Glenn Fine, the Principal Deputy Inspector General Performing the Duties of the Inspector General. "The evidence showed that Acting Secretary Shanahan fully complied with his ethical obligations and ethical agreements with regard to Boeing and its competitors."

Shanahan worked for Boeing for 31 years, last serving as senior vice president of supply chain operations. When he transitioned to the Pentagon as then-Defense Secretary James Mattis' deputy in 2017, Shanahan said he divested his financial interests related to Boeing and signed an ethics agreement barring him for participating in Boeing-related activities -- as is typical for government officials transitioning from the private sector.

He's been serving in the "acting" capacity since Mattis departed the Department of Defense over policy differences related to the war against the Islamic State in Syria at the end of last year.

At the time the inspector general announced its investigation, a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement that Shanahan had "at all times remained committed to upholding his ethics agreement filed with the DOD."

"This agreement ensures any matters pertaining to Boeing are handled by appropriate officials within the Pentagon to eliminate any perceived or actual conflict of interest issue(s) with Boeing," the statement added.

The complaint that launched the investigation was filed to the inspector general in March by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which in its complaint cited news reports that Shanahan had privately promoted Boeing in discussions about government contracts, disparaging defense industry competitors like Lockheed Martin.

Shanahan has been rumored as a top contender to replace Mattis as the next defense secretary. He would need to be formally nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate.

The full inspector general report is available online here.

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Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump gave a sarcastic welcome Thursday morning to one of his potential Democratic opponents in the 2020 race for the White House, the latest candidate to enter the field, former Vice President Joe Biden.

"Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe. I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign," Trump tweeted, repeating a nickname he's tagged Biden with and questioning his intelligence and political aptitude. "But if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate!"

Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe. I only hope you have the intelligence, long in doubt, to wage a successful primary campaign. It will be nasty - you will be dealing with people who truly have some very sick & demented ideas. But if you make it, I will see you at the Starting Gate!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 25, 2019

Biden and Trump have had a tumultuous public relationship. Trump was a primary focus of Biden's announcement video, which drilled down on the president for his comments in August 2017 after white nationalists and neo-Nazis rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"He said there were 'very fine people on both sides.' Very fine people on both sides?" Biden said in the video. "With those words, the President of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate, and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had seen in my life time."

In his tweet, Trump also tossed an insult at the rest of the 19 Democrats in the primary contest to be the party's nominee, saying Biden would be dealing with "people who truly have some very sick & demented ideas."

The president has made a habit of tweeting about his possible opponents with a false welcome to the race, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and others.

It was unclear who the president was talking about or what ideas he was referring to. The Democratic primary race has covered a wide array of issues thus far, including a call from Warren for the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against the president in the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

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code6d/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- German banking giant Deutsche Bank has begun turning over financial records related to its business with President Donald Trump, in response to a subpoena from the New York attorney general’s office, a source familiar with the matter told ABC News on Wednesday.

As one of the Trump Organization’s most reliable lenders in recent years, Deutsche has come under scrutiny from several investigative bodies examining the president’s personal finances.

The New York attorney general’s office subpoenaed Deutsche Bank in March for records related to Trump's unsuccessful NFL bid and several other Trump Organization projects -- including Trump International Hotels in Chicago, Washington and Florida -- another source familiar with the matter told ABC News at the time.

Earlier this month, the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees jointly subpoenaed Deutsche Bank as part of their ongoing investigation into President Donald Trump’s financial dealings and concerns about foreign influence over the Trump Organization.

In December 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller issued a subpoena to the German bank, though the nature of Mueller’s request was not clear.

The New York attorney general’s investigation is based, in part, on the testimony of Trump’s one-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who claimed that Trump had -- in the past -- defrauded insurance companies by misrepresenting the value of his assets.

In court documents filed Monday as part of a lawsuit against House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., attorneys for Trump and the Trump Organization called Cohen’s testimony a "political stunt" and "one of the worst examples of the House Democrats’ zeal to attack President Trump under the guise of investigations."

The bank has previously said it was cooperating with ongoing inquiries as appropriate.

Both the New York attorney general’s office and Deutsche Bank declined to comment. CNN first reported Deutsche Bank’s cooperation in the probe.

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Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump vowed to fight against the opioid epidemic and took credit for recent progress combating the public health emergency at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta on Wednesday.

"Everyone here today is united by the same vital goal, to liberate our fellow Americans from the grip of drug addiction and to end the opioid crisis once and for all," the president said.

"My administration is deploying every resource at our disposal to empower you to support you, and to fight right by your side. That's what we are doing. We will not solve this epidemic overnight, but we will stop -- nothing is going to stop us," Trump said.

Combating the opioid epidemic has been a top domestic policy prioity for the administration and a focus of the first lady's Be Best campaign that has found widespread, bipartisan support. The Trump administration secured $6 billion in new funding over the next two years to combat opioid abuse. Earlier this month, HHS announced a $350 million plan to reduce opioid deaths by 40 percent in three years in certain communities.

Earlier Wednesday, speaking from the South Lawn, the president also claimed credit for progress combating the epidemic.

"It's a big problem, it's a big addiction, and we're handling it," Trump said. "The doctors are working with us, the labs are working, the clinics are working, the pharmaceutical companies are working with us, and we've made a tremendous amount of progress."

Despite the president's claims of progress, the statistics surrounding the epidemic remain staggering: On average, 130 Americans die each day from opioid overdose and opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths), per the Centers for Disease Control.

The president also claimed -- without providing specifics -- that the problem is down "17 percent from last year."

White House spokesperson Judd Deere clarified the president's statement and noted that since President Trump took office, "the total number of opioid prescriptions dispensed monthly (by retail and mail-order pharmacies) has declined by at least 17%."

Before speaking in Atlanta, the president was introduced by the first lady, who referenced the work she has done with her Be Best campaign.

"I have seen firsthand both the medical and personal results of this crisis. I have visited hospitals and treatment centers around the country. I have met with doctors, nurses, mothers, and children," the first lady said. "We will continue to raise awareness of the dangers of opioids to unborn babies. We are also committed to supporting more treatment facilities that have both bond of addiction with the bond of love between a mother and her child."

“My husband is here today because he cares deeply about what you are doing to help the millions of Americans affected by the opioid epidemic.”

The president also veered off script during his remarks, and claimed that he was victim of a rigged system when talking about foreign pharmaceutical company drug pricing.

“At long last we’re stopping the drug companies in foreign countries from rigging the system,” Trump said. “I know all about the rigging the system because I had the system rigged on me."

He also touted the work of drug-sniffing dogs like German Shepherds who work alongside CBP officers at the border.

"Dogs do a better job than four hundred million dollars worth of equipment," Trump said. “We have a lot of dogs and they’re great dogs and we cherish them.”

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jgroup/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- In recent months before resigning from her position, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was prevented from convening senior cabinet meetings at the White House on potential future Russian interference in the upcoming 2020 U.S. elections, two senior administration officials familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Nielsen, whose department is charged with defending U.S. infrastructure including elections against cyber attacks, had been sounding the alarm publicly before the 2018 midterms. After the midterms, she pushed for the White House to convene a cabinet meeting to address the issue head-on, but the White House "refused," according to one of the officials, forcing DHS to start convening meetings with principals on its own.

Nielsen was also told by White House staff the issue did not need to be brought to Trump’s attention, according to the official.

"The White House didn’t want to focus on the issue at a principals level, period," the official told ABC News.

The last in-person principal-level cabinet meetings on the issue occurred before the November 2018 midterm elections, and since then there have been none, according to three senior administration officials. One said there have been smaller discussions about the topic among top national security officials.

“We are far, far better prepared than we were in 2016, but we are still way behind where our adversaries are. It’s clear the administration hasn’t made foreign interference a high enough priority. That’s a feeling felt throughout the interagency," one of the officials said.

The New York Times first reported on Wednesday White House pushback to Nielsen’s efforts. The Times reported that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Nielsen specifically not to bring it up to the President, reportedly telling her it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

In a statement to ABC News, Mulvaney said, “I don’t recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting, but unlike the Obama administration, who knew about Russian actions in 2014 and did nothing, the Trump administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections, and we’ve already taken many steps to prevent it in the future.”

The Obama administration did take some action against Russian election interference including private warnings and sanctions.

A spokesperson for the DHS did not respond to a request for comment. Garrett Marquis, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement, “National Security Council staff leads the regular and continuous coordination of the whole-of-government approach to addressing foreign malign influence and ensuring election security.

“Any suggestion that this Administration is giving less than full-throated effort to secure America’s elections is patently false,” he said.

The redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report sent to Congress last week laid out both what he described as Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, as well as Trump’s concern that acknowledgment of that interference could undercut his electoral victory.

“After the election, the President expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election,” the report said.

Even in the lead up to the midterm election lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including intelligence officials expressed frustration over what they saw as the administration's lack of clear strategy to combat more Russian interference.

After the publication of the Mueller report, experts said it was “sobering” to see all of Russia’s efforts to undercut American society and the political process all in one place.

The U.S. intelligence community and previous Mueller indictments had already accused Russia of three interference efforts in 2016: a hack-and-leak operation that targeted democratic figures, a widespread online influence campaign designed to sow social and political discord in the U.S. and cyber attacks targeting election infrastructure itself, such as voter databases. But last week, the Mueller report laid out, in narrative detail, the push by the Kremlin to weaken American democracy – a strategy that officials and experts say continues today.

The 2018 midterm elections did not see the hack-and-leak strategy or any especially significant attacks on voting infrastructure, but foreign online influence operations continued unabated, an intelligence community assessment said. Top U.S. security officials have been vocal in their warnings that Russia, potentially along with China, Iran and others who learned dark lessons from 2016, are likely to take aim at the 2020 race.

“The risk of election interference by a foreign government is an existential national security threat,” John Cohen, a former senior Department of Homeland Security official and current ABC News contributor, said after the Mueller report’s release. “While some agencies like the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Cyber Command are working to mitigate this threat, the U.S. government can and must do more to address the threat to our election process, but that requires visible leadership from the White House and the president himself.”

Former Trump campaign advisor Chris Christie told the ABC News podcast “The Investigation” on April 18 that if he were speaking to the president he would tell him to “shift focus” now to the 2020 threat – both for practical and political reasons.

“You know, bring in [CIA Director] Gina Haspel and [FBI Director] Chris Wray, bring in the DNI [Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats] and say, ‘Listen, we now have a roadmap for what the Russians did, what are we doing to prepare for the 2020 election? I authorize you to do everything it is you need to do to protect the integrity of that election and we’ll work with Congress to make sure… if you need additional funding that you’ll get it in order to protect the integrity of our elections.’

“I have often thought that that would be a really productive thing for him to do, and a smart thing for him to do politically,” Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and current ABC News contributor, said.

Last week another spokesperson for the White House National Security Council declined to comment on Trump’s personal interest in Russian interference, but pointed to moves by the administration to counter foreign election interference, from broadening offensive cyber rules to paving a pathway for sanctions for those “determined to have interfered in a United States election,” to the Department of Justice indictments against suspected Russian operatives.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that he would warn his Russian counterparts about the “steadfast requirement that Russia not engage in activity that impacts the capacity of our democracy to be successful."

“And we will make very clear to them that this is unacceptable behavior and as you’ve seen from this administration, we will take tough actions which raise the cost for Russian malign activity,” he said. “And we’ll continue to do that.”

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Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Declaring the Mueller investigation “the most thorough investigation, probably, in the history of our country,” President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the subpoena for his former White House counsel Don McGahn “ridiculous” and argued his team shouldn’t be subject to any further inquiry.

“I say it’s enough,” the president told reporters as he left the White House Wednesday morning with first lady Melania Trump for a trip to Atlanta.

“The subpoena is ridiculous. We have been -- I have been the most transparent president and administration in the history our country by far,” Trump said, repeating his usual claim that there was collusion, no obstruction, and that any potential wrongdoing was perpetrated by Democrats.

The president also seemed to be suggest that the Mueller probe, in its thoroughness, also cleared him of any questions related to his taxes and financial holdings.

“Mueller, I assume, for $35 million, checked my taxes, checked my financials, which are great by the way, but they checked my taxes and they checked my finances I assume,” Trump said.

But despite the president's assumption, there is no indication the president’s personal finances were a target of Mueller’s investigation, which focused on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign and questions of obstruction of justice.

Asked a second time about the subpoena for McGahn and White House plans to resist, the president said “we are fighting all the subpoenas,” arguing that all the investigative efforts from congressional Democrats are politically motivated.

“These aren't like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win 2020. They're not going to win with the people that I see, and they’re not going to win against me. The only way they can maybe luck out, and I don’t think that’s going to happen, the only way they can luck out is by constantly going after me on nonsense.”

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Moussa81/iStock(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Iowa's longest-serving Republican state lawmaker has switched to the Democratic Party, citing President Donald Trump's behavior and the GOP's shift to the right.

State Rep. Andy McKean, who was first elected to the Iowa legislature in 1978 and has served in both chambers, said Tuesday that despite the disappointment from friends and colleagues, his support of the Republican Party's standard-bearer -- Trump -- was becoming untenable in light of the 2020 election.

"The time comes when you have to be true to yourself and follow the dictates of your conscience," the 69-year-old former lawyer said at a press conference Tuesday. "For me, that time has come."

Specifying the reasons for his split, he pointed to the Trump administration's fiscal, foreign and environmental policies and the president's fomenting of what he called "hateful rhetoric and actions," all of which he said the U.S. will "soon pay a heavy price for."

McKean said the phenomenon in the White House is part of a broader shift in politics in which partisanship is favored over moderation, which made him "increasingly uncomfortable" with the Republican stance on a myriad of issues.

"If this is the new normal, I want no part of it," McKean said.

The Iowa House is now composed of 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. The shift in balance follows a five-seat gain by Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections.

McKean's defection prompted a critical response from Republican Party of Iowa chairman Jeff Kaufmann, who said McKean is "about to feel the headwind" of Trump's support in his district.

"It's disappointing that he felt the need to deceive Iowans," Kaufmann said in a tweet. "If the people of District 58 can't trust him on something as simple and fundamental as what party he belongs to, how can they trust him on any issue."

Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said in a statement, "Representative McKean didn't leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left him -- and their loss is our gain."

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Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump threatened anew to shut down a portion of the southern border on Wednesday after reports that a group of Central Americans traveling north had been partially detained by Mexican officials.

"Mexico must apprehend the remainder or we will be forced to close that section of the Border & call up the Military," Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning.

The president has threatened to close the southern border or portions of it before. It's also not the first time he's placed the responsibility on Mexico to do more to stop people in so-called "caravans" -- large groups of migrants traveling north together and largely reported to be mostly women and children from Central America seeking refugee -- from arriving at the U.S. border.

Trump largely backed off his most recent calls to close the southern border in early April, instead giving Mexico a one-year warning to apprehend more Central American migrants. At the time, Senate Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, publicly warned the president against acting on his threat. Closing the border would have a "potentially catastrophic economic impact," McConnell warned.

While shutting down U.S. border crossings would not stop the vast majority of unauthorized arrivals, who mostly cross illegally between border stations, it would halt the flow of trade between the U.S. and Mexico, which totaled $611 billion in 2018, or $1.67 billion per day. More than 40 percent of all fruits and vegetables brought into the U.S. come from Mexico, for example, according to data from the Department of Agriculture.

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