Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions(NEW YORK) -- “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon officially announced her primary challenge to New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday.
In a video announcement, the actress states: “I love New York. I’ve never lived anywhere else."
Nixon also attacks Cuomo for “a string of indictments for corruption, his failure to fix the New York City subway, and his support for a backroom deal which handed Republicans control of the state Senate, resulting in the failure of numerous pieces of progressive legislation,” in her release announcing her candidacy.
The video, which aims to introduce her to voters, shows her at home with her wife Christine and son Charlie, and walking her son Max to school.
In the coming weeks, Nixon will travel across the state to hear from voters, according to an announcement from her campaign.
Her message also echoes the outsider, progressive message other candidates have invoked this year.
“We are sick of politicians who care more about headlines and power than they do about us. It can’t just be business as usual anymore,” she said.
This would be Nixon's first bid at political office but she has long been an activist on political and social issues, particularly for LGBT issues and education issues. The actress, best known for her role as the practical lawyer Miranda on HBO' "Sex and the City," was born in New York.
Her announcement video emphasizes her long ties to the city and that she is a graduate of its public schools. It emphasizes her life as a New Yorker, showing her walking the streets and taking the subway.
Nixon has been an outspoken critic of Cuomo and his administration. Her bid comes as the Democratic Party looks to reconcile divides among its liberal and more moderate wings, a breach that has its roots in the 2016 election.
Cuomo, the son of legendary New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, is making his bid for a third term. He has $30.5 million in his campaign account, according to New York election records.
The actress is a longtime ally of the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Nixon's wife, Christine Marinoni, works in de Blasio's administration as a special adviser for community partnerships in the Department of Education.
Her announcement video ends with her on the train as the announcer says "Next stop, Albany."
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied a GOP-led request to hold off on using a new House map for the state of Pennsylvania, meaning candidates — including Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb lawmakers who recently faced off in a tough battle — in the state will run in new districts this November.
The move is a blow to Republican hopes and a boost to Democratic chances of retaking control of the House of Representatives.
It is the second time on Monday Republicans received a judicial blow from the courts. Earlier, a three-judge panel in Pennsylvania upheld the state’s new congressional map.
The Supreme Court announced, "the application for stay presented to Justice Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied."
There are few legal options left for Republicans in the state. The filing deadline for House candidates is tomorrow.
Republicans in the state had filed for a stay against the new map, which was drawn by the state Supreme Court after the Democratic governor and GOP-controlled state legislature could not come to terms on a new one.
The GOP took two legal routes — one before the U.S. Supreme Court and the other before the federal panel.
They lost on both.
Democrats are expected to pick up three to five House seats under the new map, according to estimates by election experts, which would help them on their way to the 24 seats they need to retake control of the lower chamber of Congress.
The filing deadline for House candidates in Pennsylvania is Tuesday.
The three-judge panel ruled that the Republicans had no standing to make their argument. The court also noted that “because fundamental principles of Constitutional standing and judicial restraint prohibit us from exercising jurisdiction, we have no authority to take any action other than to dismiss” the request.
Republicans can appeal the ruling. That appeal could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In January, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a new House map drawn, citing gerrymandered districts that favored Republicans. The GOP has been fighting the court order ever since and the U.S. Supreme Court denied an early request to put a stay on the map.
Republicans currently hold 12 of the state's 18 congressional districts, while Democrats control just five. The special election last week for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was held under the old map.
Several GOP lawmakers found their House districts dramatically affected by the new map, including Rep. Ryan Costello, who is considering retirement, several state and national officials in GOP politics told ABC News.
His 6th Congressional District was transformed from one that Hillary Clinton won by one point in 2016 to one she would have won by nine points.
Costello has not said he is retiring and his office and campaign did not respond to ABC News' multiple requests for comment.
Pennsylvania’s House delegation took a big hit in Republican members this year.
GOP Rep. Tim Murphy resigned after a scandal. Rep. Lou Barletta is running for Senate. And Reps. Bill Shuster, Charlie Dent and Patrick Meehan are retiring.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Amid multiple investigations and controversies over the cost of travel by Trump administration officials, two senators are asking the Office of Management and Budget to provide more detail about the administration's policies on travel spending.
Several members of Trump's cabinet have been under scrutiny for the cost of their travel and other expensive purchases. The president asked former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign last September after reports that his travel on private planes cost more than $1 million of taxpayer money.
Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, the ranking member of theFederal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management subcommittee, and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, wrote to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on Monday asking him to explain how the Trump administration is enforcing rules on the cost of government travel and whether OMB has reviewed any other relevant guidance or rules.
"It is our duty to provide oversight and ensure that taxpayer money is spent responsibly, without waste, fraud, or abuse," the senators wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by ABC News. "As you have said yourself about past issues with Administration travel, “just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.” We owe it to the American people to ensure with the utmost vigilance that tax dollars are being spent appropriately."
The senators are also asking Mulvaney for documents on all travel approved by the White House Chief of Staff related to travel on government-owned or charter planes. OMB said in a memo issued after Price resigned that some travel would need to be approved by the chief of staff and that the chief of staff would provide further guidance on the use of government and private planes.
There are multiple investigations pending from congressional committees and agency watchdogs seeking more information about whether officials' travel spending followed all the relevant rules. The inspectors general at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior have ongoing investigations into travel spending and the IG from the Department of Veterans Affairs already published a report into Secretary David Shulkin's spending on a trip to Europe.
Federal law says that government officials should use the least expensive travel option available and should use commercial flights, unless otherwise authorized.
Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is expanding his legal team and is adding veteran DC attorney Joe diGenova.
A source with direct knowledge tells ABC News the plan is for diGenova to join the president’s legal team which already consists of John Dowd and Jay Sekulow; Ty Cobb remains the in-house White House lawyer handling issues related to the presidency.
“Former US Attorney for the District of Columbia Joe diGenova will be joining our legal team later this week. I have worked with Joe for many years and have full confidence that he will be a great asset in our representation of the President, “ Jay Sekulow counsel to the president told ABC News in a statement confirming the hiring.
DiGenova declined to comment when reached by ABC.
DiGenova has been a fierce defender of the president on cable TV. He told Fox News earlier this month that the media is out to attack the President because the press “like Comey and McCabe and the senior Obama DOJ people, hate Donald Trump. And they believe that anything, including violating every known standard of federal law enforcement is justified to either keep him from office or, if elected, take him out of office."
He added: "It is one of the worst moments in the history of American law enforcement and the shame is on Comey and everybody associated with it.”
The president mentioned Special Counsel Robert Mueller by name this weekend.
As ABC News has previously reported, the president’s legal team has been in active negotiations with the special counsel over what an interview with the president can look like whether it would be in person or via questionnaire or a mix of both.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations have told ABC among the topics the special counsel wants to ask the president about may include the circumstances around the firing of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the circumstances around the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn awaits sentencing for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with Russian officials, the retired three-star Army general has been quietly "putting his life back together," surfing and even dabbling in politics, friends and relatives say.
Flynn has kept a low profile for more than three months following the dramatic court appearance in which he made what confidants call a humiliating admission for a soldier with a decorated 33-year military career. He has avoided the news media and even moved to shut down a conservative lobbyist’s unauthorized public fundraising event for his legal defense fund.
"He felt he needed to act as a soldier and has kept his mouth shut," a close confidant told ABC News. "He doesn't want to be viewed as whiner."
But in a move that stunned some supporters, Flynn returned to the spotlight on Friday night, appearing beside Omar Navarro, a Republican who is running against Democratic stalwart Rep. Maxine Waters in California’s 43rd Congressional District and has already collected endorsements from a trio of political celebrities: GOP consultant Roger Stone, Infowars' Alex Jones and former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“What I'm not here to do, is I'm not here to complain about who has done me wrong, or how unfair I've been treated or how unfair the entire process has been,” Flynn said to laughter from supporters as he introduced Navarro at the rally. “You know, it is what it is."
While a far cry from his infamous "Lock her up!" speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Flynn’s appearance at a political rally raised eyebrows among some of Flynn’s supporters, who believe he should have avoided an event that did little to help his public image.
Several longtime friends who served with Flynn in the military -- and spoke anonymously to comment more frankly about a former commander they still admire -- found the campaign appearance last week "perplexing," with one deriding it as an example of "more bad decisions.”
Waters is not a member of the Congressional committees investigating Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 elections, but she has been critical of Flynn in the past, which could explain the general’s surprise support for Navarro. In an February 2017 appearance on MSNBC, Waters slammed Flynn as a member of what she called Trump’s “Kremlin clan.”
Flynn's lawyer Robert Kelner did not respond to an ABC News request for comment on the Friday campaign appearance.
Navarro told ABC News that he did not pay Flynn “directly or indirectly” to speak or cover his travel expenses from Rhode Island, but his closest supporters say carefully raising his public profile again is key to his ability to earn income.
Flynn is selling his Old Town Alexandria townhouse for about $835,000 to pay steep legal fees amassed over the past ten months since Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel to probe alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents.
Friends and family say he’d like to get back to doing some sort of "foreign policy" consulting, but it's not apparent whether he has actively sought or accepted any such work.
Out of public view, Flynn has been focused mostly on grappling with a year of personal turmoil since President Trump dismissed him after 24 days as his national security adviser. Recent photos shared on social media by family members show Flynn surfing frigid waves off the New England coast in a body suit.
"What he's doing is putting his life back together and looking forward," his brother Joe Flynn told ABC News.
Many of his supporters do not believe that he did, in fact, lie to the FBI when agents visited the White House 14 months ago to question him about contacts he had with the Russian ambassador during the transition following the November 2016 election.
"I think he did not lie to the FBI,” author and commentator Michael Ledeen, a close friend of Flynn and his wife Lori, said recently. “I cannot imagine him lying to the FBI.”
His younger brother Joe also rejects the idea that his sibling would ever do anything dishonorable.
"There is nothing he would ever do willfully to harm the United States,” Joe Flynn told ABC News.
Why Flynn pleaded guilty to one count of lying to FBI agents and agreed to be a cooperating witness as part of a plea to avoid a trial -- if he was actually innocent, as his supporters maintain -- has so far not been explained.
"We know the truth about the man,” said another close confidant. “There is no way those crimes were committed.”
A popular belief pushed by some conservative supporters is that he pleaded guilty to protect his outspoken son Michael Flynn Jr. from facing unspecified charges related to his role in the now-shuttered Flynn Intel Group lobbying firm. Mueller's team reportedly threatened to indict his son, according to the Washington Post, but sources close to the family say even the Flynn family is in the dark about what prosecutors actually did or did not have on Flynn Jr.
For one thing, until former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was charged by Mueller, it was very rare for anyone to be prosecuted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which is one law Mueller looked at as he examined Flynn’s work for entities tied to the Turkish government.
A month before his father’s surprise guilty plea, Michael Flynn Jr. tweeted, “The disappointment on your faces when I don’t go to jail will be worth all your harassment.” Flynn’s son has not been charged with any crime.
Friends and family members have discussed a social media effort to build public support for somehow reversing the disgrace of a felony conviction. They have pushed the hashtag #ClearFlynnNow, which Joe Flynn says has gained some traction on Twitter.
But given the iron-clad language of his plea agreement, even diehard supporters in the retired general’s orbit concede privately it will be tough to walk back Flynn’s guilty plea. It is also unclear how he is helping the Mueller investigation.
Some supporters are holding out hope that the Justice Department inspector general’s report due to be released possibly next month — which sank FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe on Friday when he was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions 26 hours before his effective retirement date — will somehow offer exculpatory evidence of FBI misconduct that will compel the judge to let Flynn off the hook.
Trump could also pardon Flynn at any time, but his lawyer and family have not said if he has asked the White House to do so.
ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump will visit New Hampshire on Monday to unveil a series of new steps aimed at combating the opioid crisis in what the administration is billing as his “initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand.”
Among the steps announced in the initiative is a call for the Department of Justice to “seek the death penalty against drug traffickers, where appropriate under current law.”
However, a previous draft proposal of the initiative obtained by ABC News seemed to take a harder line on what the administration might pursue regarding use of the death penalty against drug traffickers.
“The death penalty should be sought for certain cases where opioid, including Fentanyl-related, drug dealing and trafficking are directly responsible for death,” the previous draft read.
The administration could not provide information about when it would currently be appropriate to seek the death penalty under current law for trafficking drugs.
Trump has previously suggested dealers face the death penalty. At an opioid summit earlier this month, Trump said dealers should face “the ultimate penalty” for their roles in drug-related deaths.
“You know, if you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty," Trump said. "These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them. Some countries have a very, very tough penalty -- the ultimate penalty. And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do.”
Trump’s announcement Monday comes more than four months after he declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, though the decision faced criticism as it stopped short of a national emergency declaration that would have made an additional surge of federal funds available to address treatment and recovery efforts.
Other proposals in the plan include many recommendations previously put forward by the president’s opioid commission last November, including the launch of a nationwide public awareness campaign to educate on the dangers of prescription and opioid abuse; the implementation of a "safer prescribing plan" aimed at cutting nationwide opioid prescription fills by a third over the next three years; calling on Congress to pass legislation that reduces the threshold amount of drugs needed to invoke mandatory minimum sentences for drug traffickers who knowingly distribute certain illicit opioids that are lethal in trace amounts; and working to ensure first responders are supplied with naloxone, a lifesaving medication used to reverse overdoses.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has labeled the country's opioid problems an "epidemic." There were over 42,000 deaths from opioid use, including fentanyl, heroin and prescription drugs, in 2016, according to the CDC. Deaths were five times higher than they were just 17 years earlier, the CDC reported.
In New Hampshire, 39 people per 100,000 died of opioid drug overdoses in 2016 -- the third-highest rate in the country. Only West Virginia and Ohio reported worse rates in 2016, according to the CDC.
U.S. House of Representatives(WASHINGTON) -- The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday that congressional members need to “speak out” now about the importance of the special counsel’s Russia investigation, before there’s a “constitutional crisis.”
Rep. Adam Schiff of California was responding to a question from ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday.
“What would happen if the president” fired special counsel Robert Mueller? Stephanopoulos asked.
Schiff responded, “I would hope that it would prompt all Democrats and Republicans in the House to pass an independent counsel law and reinstate Bob Mueller,” Schiff said. “This would undoubtedly result in a constitutional crisis, and I think Democrats and Republicans need to speak out about this right now.”
The White House has repeatedly said there are no plans to fire Mueller, but President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday night that the investigation “should have never been started.”
The president’s latest tweets criticizing the Russia investigation came after Friday’s firing of former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, leading to speculation that the president may act to remove the special counsel.
Asked whether McCabe’s firing was justified, Schiff said, "You know, his firing may be justified. There's no way for us to know at this point, but even though it may have been justified, it can also be tainted."
Stephanopoulos asked Schiff about the president's tweets and a statement by Trump attorney John Dowd to The Daily Beast on Saturday suggesting that the Justice Department official who appointed Mueller end the probe.
“I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation," Dowd said, calling the probe "manufactured."
Schiff said, "I think, George, you just pointed to the single most important development of the week and that is at the same time it's revealed that the special counsel is looking at business records of the Trump Organization," referring to a New York Times report Thursday that Mueller’s team has subpoenaed Russia-related records from president's business, the Trump Organization. ABC News has confirmed this report with multiple sources familiar with the matter but has not seen the subpoenas.
"I've always thought the money laundering issue was the most serious," Schiff said. "You have the president through his lawyer trying to shut down the Mueller investigation and speaking out against special counsel."
Stephanopoulos also asked about this week's announcement by the Republican majority on the House Intelligence Committee that they are ending their probe of Russia's meddling in the 2016 election after concluding there was no collusion by the Trump campaign.
"I know you dispute that," Stephanopoulos said to Schiff. "But will a report by the Democrats [on the committee] be able to demonstrate that collusion did, in fact, take place?"
"Well, it certainly would be able to show the facts supporting the issue of collusion and the secret meetings, all the lies about the secret meetings, and putting them in their important context, the timing of these secret meetings," the California representative said. "But there's still a lot of investigative work to find the remaining pieces of the puzzle and the most significant part of the Republicans shutting us down is they're preventing us from doing so."
Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- A mayor who drew headlines for a speech he gave about his order to remove Confederate monuments said the U.S. is in "a dark moment," with many people gripped by angst.
Mitch Landrieu, the Democratic mayor of New Orleans, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday that many Americans "feel alienated."
"In this moment that we have a dark moment in the country, it's obvious that a lot of people feel alienated," said Landrieu, who has a new book coming out, "In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History.”
"White people in rural America feel alienated. African-Americans in urban areas feel alienated," the mayor said. "People just feel [distant] from each other."
Landrieu continued, "I think the bigger point is how to find common ground. And that's true whether you're sitting in the White House or whether you're sitting in the statehouse, whether you're the mayor, whether you're the head of a community organization, I think you feel that angst in the country right now."
Stephanopoulos asked Landrieu about a passage in his book, a copy of which was provided to ABC News in advance, that compares the rise of former KKK leader David Duke in the late 1980s to the election of President Donald Trump. Duke is a former Republican Louisiana state representative who was later a candidate in U.S. presidential primaries.
"When I look back today, David Duke's demagoguery stands like a dress rehearsal for the rise of Donald Trump,” Landrieu wrote. “While he may not have worn a hood or swastika, Trump's rhetoric and actions during his 2016 presidential campaign were shockingly similar to the tactics deployed by Duke.”
Landrieu said to Stephanopoulos, “I made an observation, not an accusation, that what happened in Louisiana when David Duke was there is fairly similar to what we're seeing ... where people are speaking in coded language. They are beginning to judge people based on race, creed, color, sexual orientation and not on their behavior.”
Landrieu drew national attention for speech last May about why New Orleans was removing its Confederate monuments, in which he said, "The Confederacy was on the wrong side of history and humanity. It sought to tear apart our nation and subjugate our fellow Americans to slavery. This is the history we should never forget and one that we should never again put on a pedestal to be revered."
He told Stephanopoulos on Sunday that differences of opinion over Confederate statues are fine. "We can argue all the to conservative or liberal," he said.
But, he added, "One thing that we cannot countenance in this country is the rise of white supremacy. It needs to be called out; it needs to be focused on. Slavery was our original sin. The Civil War was fought about that."
Landrieu said he believes Americans can find unity, but should not wait for a president to bring the country together.
“We shouldn't just wait on whoever the president is to fix our problems,” Landrieu said. “If 320 million Americans did something really kind for each other every day and just kind of pushed back on all the nastiness we could move the country fairly quickly.”
Landrieu has been marked as a possible dark-horse candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, though he brushed aside such a notion on Sunday.
“I'm not thinking about that,” he said. “Other people have talked about that. Honestly, it's very flattering to think about that, but I don't really see that happening as it relates to me.”
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Representative Marcy Kaptur is now the longest-serving woman in the history of the House of Representatives, breaking the record Sunday –- 12,858 days after she first took office in 1983.
Kaptur told ABC News that as she surpasses the milestone, previously held by Massachusetts Republican Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers, she is “a citizen with deep gratitude and very energized to keep going and to keep working.”
“This record really belongs to my constituents and the people of Ohio, and ultimately to the country,” Kaptur, a Democrat, said. “The time has gone very quickly.”
She remarked that while only 288 women have ever served in the House of Representatives -- out of more than 10,000 members in the history of the lower chamber -- “we’re making progress.”
“I’m just very grateful to be able to celebrate the fact that so many women have been able to serve in the Congress,” she said, citing a sea change after the 1980 election. “But we have a long way to go.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi paid tribute to Kaptur on the House floor in anticipation of the record.
“This is truly a milestone,” Ryan, R-Wis., said. “Marcy, the lawmaker that you are surpassing, Edith Nourse Rogers, famously summed up her time in office by saying this: ‘The first 30 years is the hardest. You start it and you just like the work and you just keep on.’ Marcy, you have certainly kept on.” Rogers served from 1925 until her death in 1960.
Pelosi called Kaptur an “unwavering voice for the American heartland.”
“It's really important to know the impact that Marcy has had on all of us,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “She's a person of the greatest integrity, sincerity, she knows her purpose, she knows her subjects, her judgment is respected and she always has a plan.”
Kaptur is the second longest-serving current House Democrat (Steny Hoyer), and 6th most-senior member in the lower chamber.
While Kaptur was the driving force behind passage of legislation authorizing the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, the 18-term Democrat admits her proudest moments haven’t always resulted in the president’s signature on a bill she had sponsored.
“Some have been defeats,” she admitted, pointing at her opposition to NAFTA in the 1990s and the Wall Street bailout in 2008. “My biggest fights I haven’t always won, but I think I’ve been a voice for the American people. I think I’ve been a voice for economic justice here.”
She says “only God knows” how long she’ll serve, though it’s not her intent to chase after Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s record for longest-serving woman in congressional history. Mikulski served a combined 40 years in the House (10) and Senate (30).
“I’ve been a part of the flow of American history and I believe that the votes that I’ve cast have made a difference,” Kaptur observed. “You do what you can while you’re here. I’m very grateful for every day you’re able to make a difference in the lives of the American people.”
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democratic divisions that have simmered in the party since the 2016 presidential election are starting to boil over in primary contests across the country as the party struggles with identity without a clear leader.
Party leaders hoped their base would respond enthusiastically to Donald Trump's presidency with a rush to the polls to usher in their candidates.
The party faithful have rallied and showed up to the polls but there's been an unexpected side effect -- the progressive wing is fired up and that has brought out a crop of insurgent candidates to run against establishment favorites in key House races across the country.
“There’s also a different view of what the party should be,” Rutgers University professor David Greenberg said of the divisions among the Democrats. “Should it be a big tent or should it be a more single-minded ideological party?”
Those divisions will meet on the field of battle on Tuesday night in Illinois, with a primary contest in the 3rd Congressional District that features Blue Dog Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski being challenged from the left by progressive candidate Marie Newman.
And the rifts in this race have split the party.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has endorsed Lipinski. Sanders has endorsed Newman. And, in a move that has outraged some of their colleagues, so have Illinois Democratic Reps. Luis Gutiérrez and Jan Schakowsky.
Unions are split between the two contenders with teachers and service workers backing Newman while Lipinski has the firefighters, the police and labor groups.
And the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is staying out of it.
The party's moment of self-reflection comes as it wrestles with decisions over which candidates to support in contests that Democrats ultimately hope could help them take back control of at least one chamber in Congress.
Democrats worry the surging blue wave could be at risk of crashing as a result of long-standing tension perhaps best exemplified by the revelation that the strong ties between the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton -- seen as the establishment choice -- potentially hindered progressive folk hero Sen. Bernie Sanders' bid.
Democratic National Committee members, party stalwarts, members of Congress all seem to have different answers when asked who they see as their party’s standard-bearer.
Some even joked about it.
“You take 10 different Democrats you’ll get 20 different answers. That is just the way it is,” said former Democratic National Committee Chairman Don Fowler.
Another Democratic official was more blunt on the party’s leadership: “We really don’t have one right now. But nobody should be surprised. Who was the leader of the Democratic Party for the eight years George W. Bush was president?”
Sen. Cory Booker, who’s mentioned as a possible White House contender, said the party has several leaders.
“I see myself as one of the leaders within the Democratic Party. I am not the leader. I’m not sure which article I can use,” he joked. “But in all sincerity, there’s not a leader. We’re fortunate as a party to have leadership at every level.”
The party does have a lot of big names and is dispatching them in areas where they are most useful.
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned for Conor Lamb in Tuesday’s special election in Pennsylvania. Rep. Joe Kennedy, of the famous political family, gave the Democratic response to the State of the Union address. And Sanders continues to be a voice for the progressive movement.
“They speak to different audiences and they have different personalities, different backgrounds,” Fowler said of the party’s diversity of the leadership.
It’s also an answer that may not have to be solved this year.
While Democrats are trying to flip 24 seats to win control of the House of Representatives and are defending 24 Senate seats, a national message may not be as important in these contests as it is in a presidential year, when the faithful need to rally around a standard bearer to be their White House nominee.
Greenberg said it’s “best for the party” in House races this cycle to have representatives that fit the makeup of the district.
“You have to allow the different elements of the Democratic Party to support who they want. It only gets to be a problem really when you have statewide or especially national elections. Then you do have to have a fight. There’s really no way around it,” he said.
Lamb would fit the argument of a Democrat who fits the district. More of a Blue Dog model than a liberal one, Lamb supports gun rights, supported Trump’s position on tariffs and said he personally opposes abortion.
Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat from Illinois who holds a seat Trump won by one point in 2016, said those type of candidates give her hope the party can retake control the House.
“We just have these candidates that are a perfect fit for their district and I think we’re going to be successful. I don’t know if I’ve ever really said that. Even last election cycle I hedged it,” she said.
But there are concerns the lack of a leader could mean a lack of a consistent national message.
Harold Ickes, a former White House deputy chief of staff and current member of the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee, said the party being anti-Trump won’t be enough for the upcoming elections.
He argues “it’s the economy that’s going to be critical going into ’18 and 2020.”
He noted that “the fact is real wages are beginning to inch up. People have gotten bonuses and it’ll be a very strong issue for the Republicans. And so far we don’t have an economic message that is understood and compelling.”
Republicans, in contrast, believe their tax-cut message will carry through tough elections, particularly in suburban districts held by their party that Democrats are targeting.
Then there’s the danger the opposition will define leadership for the Democrats.
And Republicans seem to have picked Pelosi.
Several attack ads in the Pennsylvania contest tied Lamb to the Democratic House leader, despite his repeated comments he would not support her for leadership.
Plus, Trump has taken to mentioning her by name in his stump speeches, using her moniker to rally the party’s base.
Pelosi, who is known to have a thick skin, shrugged off the GOP attacks.
“They're coming after me because of my city,” she said on Thursday at a news conference in the Capitol.
“Whoever the leader is, will be the target,” she said. “That's just the way it is.”
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A federal government council made up mostly of hunters and hunting advocates met for the first time Friday to begin its efforts to advise the interior secretary on how to improve public awareness of the benefits of international recreational hunting.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke created the International Wildlife Conservation Council in November to provide recommendations on conservation issues, specifically to tout the role of hunters in conservation and increase public awareness of "economic benefits that result from U.S. citizens traveling abroad to hunt," according to a press release.
The majority of the 16 council members have a connection to trophy hunting or groups that advocate for hunting as a way to support conservation, according to a federal database of government advisory committees.
Six of the members are listed as "U.S. hunters actively engaged in international and/or domestic hunting conservation," in the official list of committee members. Others are listed as affiliated with wildlife and habitat conservation organizations like Safari Club International, other groups related to international hunting, and some have connections to firearms manufacturers or the National Rifle Association.
Several animal advocacy groups said in their public comments that the council is biased and does not include members with a scientific expertise in conservation.
“Built on the backs of hunters and anglers, the American conservation model proves to be the example for all nations to follow for wildlife and habitat conservation,” Zinke said in that press release. “The conservation and long-term health of big game crosses international boundaries. This council will provide important insight into the ways that American sportsmen and women benefit international conservation from boosting economies and creating hundreds of jobs to enhancing wildlife conservation.”
Zinke is an avid hunter and has said that he wants to expand access to hunting and fishing on public lands in the U.S.
The committee expects to provide recommendations by fall of this year on multiple issues relating to the import of animals legally hunted overseas to the United States.
Those recommendations are expected to include "recommending removal of barriers to the importation into the United States of legally hunted wildlife," an ongoing review of bans on importing hunted animals and "providing recommendations that seek to resume the legal trade of those items, where appropriate," and recommending ways to streamline or expedite import permits, according to the group's charter.
The government's policies on trophy hunting permits have been a source of controversy over the last few years.
The Trump administration faced intense public scrutiny after announcing that it would begin allowing permits to import elephant trophies from some countries in November. That decision was quickly put on pause after the president tweeted calling it a horror show. He later said in an interview he didn't agree with killing elephants.
That decision upset hunting groups like Safari Club International who had sued the Obama administration to lift a ban on elephant trophy imports put in place in 2014. A judge's ruling in that case recently led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to withdraw the ban but the decision is still facing legal challenges.
Zinke said in a hearing Thursday that no elephants have been imported since that decision. He has also said that the new policy is "100 percent aligned with the president."
On Friday the council elected former congressman Bill Brewster as chairman. Brewster retired from Congress in 1997 and worked as a board member for the NRA and a lobbyist, according to the NRA publication American Hunter.
The elected vice chair is Jenifer Chatfield, a veterinarian who worked in the office of Rep. Brian Babin, R-Texas, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association website.
In the first meeting, council members heard presentations from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Greg Sheehan, Craig Hoover, who runs the agency's management of an international treaty on threatened species, and the head of the Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement office, David Hubbard.
Other members include Paul Babaz, the president of Safari Club International. The Safari Club praised the Trump administration for lifting a ban on imports of elephant trophies from some countries and still has a lawsuit pending after it sued to reverse the ban on elephant trophies put in place by the Obama administration in 2014.
The Safari Club described all 16 council members as "various facets of the pro-hunting community" in a blog post announcing that Babaz was appointed.
Cameron Hanes is a bowhunter and an athlete sponsored by Under Armour. He told ABC News in a message that he's never killed an elephant, lion or rhino.
"I'm on the council because I care about animals. And I hunt. The two aren't mutually exclusive as everyone on the council has a deep concern for animal welfare and just as deep of love for Africa and its people," Hanes said in a message Friday night.
Another council member, Keith Mark, hosts a hunting show on the Outdoor Channel. He has gone hunting with Donald Trump Jr. prior to being appointed to the council and has posted photos of meetings with Zinke and Trump Jr.
Terry Maple, a psychology professor at Georgia Tech University and former CEO of Zoo Atlanta, is also on the council and listed as "Tourism, outfitter, and/or guide industries related to international hunting." Maple co-wrote a book on the environment debate with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 2007.
Hunting advocates often cite revenue generated from U.S. hunters that travel abroad as an important source of funding for conservation efforts in those countries. In Hoover's presentation Friday he said that international hunters contribute $325 million to countries in East and South Africa each year, according to a 2015 Safari Club report on revenue from trophy hunting.
Hunters that travel to countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe or South Africa to hunt have to pay significant fees to that country's government, which is supposed to use that money for conservation programs. The hunt itself can cost tens of thousands of dollars in fees and a guide. According to that report 74 percent of hunters visiting African countries were from the United States.
But critics say that it is difficult to ensure that money is used for conservation and that there are limited controls in countries like Zimbabwe, for example. A 2016 report by Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee, which oversees Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service, found that there hunting can only help wildlife populations if it is properly regulated and recommended the FWS make some changes to how it issues permits for trophy hunters.
Several members of the committee defended their involvement on social media today, saying that hunters are especially dedicated to conservation efforts.
Animal advocacy groups like the Humane Society of the United States say the council is biased and that the members will make money from expanding trophy hunting. Protesters from the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity gathered outside the department's entrance before the meeting.
Masha Kalinina, an international trade policy specialist with the Humane Society, said in her prepared comments that the council is more of a trade association than an advisory panel.
"Notably missing from this council are qualified representatives of the broader conservation community, with scientific credentials and direct experience with the management of successful conservation programs, along with wildlife law enforcement experts, and others, who have no financial or commercial stake to cloud or shape their judgments," Kalinina said in her statement.
An anti-animal cruelty group, the Animal Welfare Institute, said in its submitted public comment that the council is wasteful and that the Trump administration has not held meetings of wildlife trafficking advisory councils created by President Barack Obama.
"The makeup of this new council is also of significant concern, with designated seats for representatives of the firearms and ammunition industries, who have no scientific or conservation expertise. There is no seat at the table for experts with a scientific or conservation focus," the group's government affairs director Nancy Blaney said in the statement.
Another animal rights nonprofit, Born Free USA, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week for documents related to the creation of the council.
iStock/Thinkstock(MENLO PARK, Calif.) -- Cambridge Analytica, the London-based political data analytics firm tied to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, has been suspended from Facebook, the social media giant announced late Friday.
Questions have been raised about the digital operations surrounding the Trump Campaign and Republican Party efforts during the last campaign cycle.
Under the suspension, Cambridge Analytica is blocked from Facebook and cannot buy ads on the site.
The decision, said Facebook, comes in light of newly resurfaced questions surrounding a possible violation to agreement made between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica involving the access, use, and distribution of hundreds of thousands of Facebook user’s personal data.
Facebook offered an explanation of how they arrived at the decision, and why.
“In 2015, we learned that a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge named Dr. Aleksandr Kogan lied to us and violated our Platform Policies by passing data from an app that was using Facebook Login to SCL/Cambridge Analytica, a firm that does political, government and military work around the globe. He also passed that data to Christopher Wylie of Eunoia Technologies, Inc.,” Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for Facebook Paul Grewal wrote.
Grewal explained that, as any app developer would do, Kogan requested and garnered access to information from individuals after users chose to download his app. The app, “thisisyourdigitallife,” according to Grewal, “... offered a personality prediction, and billed itself on Facebook as ‘a research app used by psychologists.’”
“Approximately 270,000 people downloaded the app,” Grewal stated.
“In so doing, they gave their consent for Kogan to access information such as the city they set on their profile, or content they had liked, as well as more limited information about friends who had their privacy settings set to allow it,” he added.
“Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted,” said Grewal. Facebook is “moving aggressively” to assess the accuracy of the new claims, he added.
“If true, this is another unacceptable violation of trust and the commitments they made,” Grewal said.
Cambridge Analytica is financed in part by Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor and patron of President Trump's former senior advisor Steve Bannon.
Reached by ABC News, a spokesperson for Cambridge Analytical defended their work, claiming, “It would be entirely incorrect to attempt to claim that SCL Elections illegally acquired Facebook data."
"Indeed SCL Elections worked with Facebook over this period to ensure that they were satisfied that SCL Elections had not knowingly breached any of Facebook’s Terms of Service and also provided a signed statement to confirm that all Facebook data and their derivatives had been deleted. Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections do not use or hold Facebook data,“ the statement read.
Cambridge Analytica argues they violated no laws in obtaining the data under British policy, under which they considered themselves as qualifying under the provisions.
“Under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act ... a criminal offense has not been committed if a person has acted in the reasonable belief that he had in law the right to obtain data,” the Cambridge Analytica spokesman said. “GSR was a company led by a seemingly reputable academic at an internationally renowned institution who made explicit contractual commitments to us regarding the its legal authority to license data to SCL Elections.”
“It would be entirely incorrect to attempt to claim that SCL Elections illegally acquired Facebook data,” the spokesman added.
The spokesman later said in sum, “Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections do not use or hold Facebook data.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., on Saturday night called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee over the acquisition of user data, saying, "This is a major breach that must be investigated. It's clear these platforms can't police themselves."
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The former deputy director of the FBI who was fired Friday by President Donald Trump's attorney general has memos that document his conversations with the president, a source told ABC News. The memos are akin to documentation of meetings with the president kept by McCabe's former boss, James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump.
McCabe's documents have been turned over to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the Russia investigation, the source said.
The news of McCabe's memos that detail interactions with the president was first reported by The Associated Press.
McCabe was fired Friday, just two days before he was set to retire from government after nearly 22 years in federal law enforcement.
In an interview with ABC News, he pushed back, claiming he's been caught up in a politically-motivated effort to hurt the Russia investigation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he decided to fire McCabe based on the findings of the Justice Department’s internal watchdog, which concluded that McCabe allegedly misled investigators looking into how Justice Department and FBI officials handled matters associated with the 2016 presidential election.
The former FBI official, who at one time was deputy director, told ABC News he wanted to make one thing clear: “I firmly believe what’s happening to me right now … is just a piece of an ongoing assault” on the FBI and Mueller. The special counsel is investigating Russia's alleged efforts to help Trump win the 2016 election and possible collusion between Trump associates and Russian operatives.
McCabe said he “played a significant role and witnessed significant events” after Trump fired James Comey as FBI director last year, and for that reason, he said, “A concentrated effort to consistently undermine my credibility and my reputation makes perfect sense if you are trying to undermine the efforts of the special counsel and discredit the entire FBI.
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Several members of President Donald Trump's cabinet are facing public criticism and government investigations over reports that they misspent taxpayer money on items ranging from pricey trips to Montana to $31,000 mahogany dining sets.
The White House has been critical of some of the spending and the president asked former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to resign last September after the cost of his travel on private jets reached almost $1 million.
Here is ABC News' latest reporting on the allegations and investigations into members of the president's cabinet.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been under investigation for several allegations of misusing taxpayer funds.
The agency's inspector general is looking into whether Pruitt's travel in 2017 followed all proper procedures, including his frequent flights in first and business class. The agency confirmed that Pruitt often flies an upgraded class due to security concerns but Pruitt recently said he would direct his staff to find a new security plan that would include flying in coach.
The agency has also confirmed Pruitt took one chartered flight and several other flights on government planes totaling more than $58,000 between March and May of last year.
The agency watchdog's review was originally prompted after documents reported in The New York Times showed that Pruitt traveled back to his home state of Oklahoma multiple times in his first few months as secretary.
The Government Accountability Office is also looking into the agency's decision to install a "secure phone booth" in the administrator's office. A contract for the "privacy booth" is listed at about $25,000 but newly released documents show that the cost of the booth and all the construction was closer to $43,000.
The EPA's overall spending on Pruitt's security is also under review. The agency spent $3,000 to have his office swept for listening devices in March and almost $2,500 to install biometric locks with fingerprint readers in Pruitt's office the following month. The cost of his security detail has also been significantly higher than previous administrators because of an increased number of threats against him.
Senate Democrats recently asked the EPA to provide information on whether a member of his taxpayer-funded security team improperly steered the contract for the listening device sweep to a personal business associate. Other congressional Democrats have said Pruitt needs to answer questions about his travel and spending.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's travel has been under investigation after the department confirmed he took at least three charter flights between March and September, including a $12,000 charter flight from Las Vegas to Montana.
The department has said Zinke only took non-commercial flights when there were no other travel options available.
He also took three helicopter trips totaling more than $53,000, according to reporting by Politico.
The Department of the Interior inspector general's report looking into Zinke's travel is expected to be made public later this year.
Last week the department confirmed it planned to spend $139,000 to replace three sets of doors in Zinke's office, saying the cost was higher because they had to protect the historical integrity of the building.
Zinke recently defended his spending in a congressional hearing on the department's budget and said in another hearing the department has negotiated the cost of the doors down to about half that price.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson
HUD Secretary Ben Carson has been under scrutiny the last few weeks after the department confirmed that it ordered a $31,000 dining set for the secretary's office suite. Carson originally denied that he ordered the set but the agency confirmed that his wife, Candy, played a role in selecting it after a watchdog group obtained agency emails this week referencing her involvement.
There is a $5,000 legal limit on spending to redecorate the office for incoming cabinet secretaries. Any additional spending requires congressional approval.
Carson asked the department to cancel the order for the dining set.
Carson is also under investigation for including his son in a "listening tour" in Baltimore in June even after the agency's attorneys warned him it could be a conflict of interest. Ben Carson Jr. is a businessman and investor in Maryland and a HUD attorney warned Secretary Carson that his son's involvement in scheduling meetings with his business associated on the visit could look like Carson was using his position for his son's private gain.
Both incidents have raised questions from members of Congress and watchdog groups about the Carson family's involvement in official HUD business. The agency's inspector general is looking into the Baltimore listening tour at the secretary's request.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin
Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin spent $122,334 of taxpayer funds when he inappropriately accepted tickets to Wimbledon as a gift during a work trip to Europe last summer, according to a VA inspector general report. That report also found that Shulkin spent the majority of that 11-day trip sightseeing.
Shulkin has said that he will pay back some of the costs.
Shulkin was also under scrutiny for saying that he was "unaware" of issues that existed at the VA medical center in Washington, D.C., despite an interim inspector general report filed in April 2017.
He later admitted critical deficiencies likely existed at VA facilities across the country after the inspector general released a 144-page report last week detailing persistent problems at the Washington, D.C. facility.
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
Former HHS Secretary Tom Price was fired in September after reports that he often flew in private jets paid for by taxpayer dollars and that he mixed government work with personal business. Price took military planes to Africa and Europe where he was accompanied by his wife. The estimated cost of all his travel on private and military planes was near $1 million from May to September, according to Politico.
He expressed regret shortly after he resigned and said he would reimburse the government for the cost of his travel on the 26 private flights. House Democrats confirmed last week that Price has repaid the federal government $60,000 for his use of private jets as secretary.