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krblokhin/iStock(DENVER) -- Onetime 2020 Democratic presidential candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper launched his campaign to unseat GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Thursday morning, entering a crowded Democratic primary to challenge the vulnerable Republican incumbent.

"I know changing Washington is hard but I want to give it a shot," Hickenlooper said in a new video announcing his Senate campaign. "I'm not done fighting for the people of Colorado."

The former governor, who dropped out of the even more crowded presidential Democratic field just a week ago, in his Senate campaign video took direct aim at Washington politics and Gardner.

"I don't think Cory Gardner understands that the games he's playing with Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are hurting the people of Colorado," Hickenlooper said. "We ought to be working together to move this country forward and stop the political nonsense."

Hickenlooper enters an already crowded Democratic primary in Colorado's Senate race where 11 other candidates are competing to win the party nomination to challenge one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in 2020. But the former governor is already seen as one of the more viable Democrats in the race because of his existing recognition boosted by his seven-month presidential run.

One of the Democrats running for the Colorado Senate race, former U.S. Ambassador Dan Baer, responded to the news of Hickenlooper's new Senate campaign saying "new voices" are "ready to lead" the state in a statement.

"There are new voices ready to lead across our state and in the U.S. Senate, voices who understand that there is no back to normal, there’s only forward to normal. That’s why I was running yesterday, and that’s why I’ll be running tomorrow," Baer said in a statement.

The news of Hickenlooper's Senate run doesn't come out of the blue: In May, Hickenlooper expressed confidence in his potential candidacy in the Senate race during an interview with George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," touting his record in the state as "both as an entrepreneur in the private sector, but also as a mayor and a governor."

And just two days before Hickenlooper ended his presidential campaign, 314 Action, a federal PAC, launched a “Draft Hick for Senate” campaign, urging the former governor to end his presidential candidacy to run for Senate.

As more 2020 Democrats are ending their presidential bid, Hickenlooper was the first - and potentially, not the last Democratic presidential candidate to wind up running for Senate in his home state. Shortly before Hickenlooper announced his Senate bid, fellow Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington announced Wednesday night his decision to drop out of the presidential race.

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liveslow/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is dropping out of the 2020 presidential race.

He made his announcement on MSNBC Wednesday night.

"It's become clear that I'm not going to be carrying the ball, but we're going to make sure somebody is," he said on "The Rachel Maddow Show."

Inslee was the first governor to declare a run for the White House in March. He made combating climate change the crux of his campaign.

In a Twitter thread, Inslee shared a clip of his announcement and wrote, "I know you agree that our mission to defeat climate change must continue to be central to our national discussion -- and must be the top priority for our next president. But I’ve concluded that my role in that effort will not be as a candidate to be our next president."

He claimed a victory in championing climate change.

"Many of the campaigns started with little attention to climate, but since our campaign began, we’ve seen almost every serious candidate put out a climate plan; we’ve seen climate come up in both debates; and we now have two networks hosting nationally-televised climate forums," he wrote.

He also said he would have more to say about what comes next for him in the days ahead.

"I will continue to lead, to demand bold action, and to do everything in my power to ensure the fight to defeat climate change stays at the top of the national agenda," he tweeted.

This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.

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claffra/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- As the Trump administration dismisses concern from some economists that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the federal deficit will grow to $960 billion this year before climbing above $1 trillion in 2020 -- two years earlier than a projection earlier this year.

The non-partisan agency periodically publishes reports that present projections of what federal deficits, debt, revenues and spending -- and the economic path underlying them -- would be for the current year and for the next decade under existing laws covering taxes and spending.

In its fresh report, the CBO warns that annual deficits will soon increase above the average over the past 50 years.

"Although both revenues and outlays grow faster than GDP over the next 10 years in CBO's baseline projections, the gap between the two persists," the CBO noted in its summary statement of its report. "As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public is projected to grow steadily, from 79 percent of GDP in 2019 to 95 percent in 2029 -- its highest level since just after World War II."

After enacting a bipartisan spending agreement early this month, the CBO's estimate of the deficit for fiscal year 2019 grew by an additional $63 billion, while the 10-year cumulative deficit increased another $809 billion higher than an estimate released in May -- totaling more than $12 trillion of deficits in the next 10 years. CBO's baseline projections of primary deficits -- deficits excluding net outlays for interest -- for that period increased by a total of $1.9 trillion.

 The CBO blames $1.7 trillion of that increase on the enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019, and about $255 billion more due to the supplemental appropriations for disaster relief and border security this year.

"A range of developments, such as unexpected changes in international conditions, business confidence or productivity growth, could make economic outcomes differ significantly from our projections," CBO Director Phillip Swagel said. "Prospective changes in trade policies add to the projections' uncertainty."

The CBO projects that the GDP will grow by 2.3% in 2019 as a result of a strong labor market, low unemployment and rising wages.

But by next year, the agency predicts the economy's growth will fall below its long-term historical average, averaging just 1.8% GDP over the next four years.

"I've said it once and I'll say it as many times as I have to, we HAVE to cut spending," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. tweeted.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that ongoing investigations into the death of Jeffrey Epstein have not produced information that contradict the medical examiner's determination that Epstein died by suicide.

"I have seen nothing that undercuts the finding of the medical examiner that this was a suicide," Barr told reporters, following a roundtable at a Dallas boxing gym where he was promoting the Department of Justice's Project Safe Neighborhoods Initiative. "Epstein's death, I think we will see, was a suicide and I do think there are some irregularities at the [Metropolitan Correctional Center]."

Barr said that the DOJ, FBI and Inspector General investigations into Epstein's death are, "well along," but added that there have been some unanticipated delays.

"A number of the witnesses are not cooperative," Barr said. "A number of them required having union representatives and lawyers before we could scheduled interviews."

Barr added that he expected he will "soon" be able to provide initial results of the investigations to Congress, as well as to the general public.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Wednesday hit back at Denmark's prime minister for calling his idea about the U.S. buying Greenland "absurd," blasting her comment as "nasty" and accusing her of "blowing off the United States."

Trump spoke after abruptly cancelling his planned visit to Denmark via Twitter Tuesday night.

"I looked forward to going but I thought the prime minister's statement that it was 'absurd,' that it was an absurd idea, was nasty," he told reporters as lef the White House for a trip to Kentucky. "I thought it was an inappropriate statement. All she had to do was say, 'No, we're not interested.'"

He said the prime minister spoke "in a very sarcastic, nasty way."

"Don't say what an absurd idea that is," Trump said. "She's not talking to me, she's talking to the United States of America."

He said they would still meet sometime in the future, though.

"We'll do it another time," he said.

Trump mentioned Harry Truman as having the same idea, saying it's been talked about "for years." Trump said, for him, it was "just an idea, just a thought."

"I thought it was not a nice statement, the way she blew me off, because she was blowing off the United States," Trump said.

Earlier Wednesday, Denmark's prime minister said she was "disappointed and surprised" that Trump had called off his visit.

The White House had said that Trump would travel to Denmark and Poland over the Labor Day weekend, but Trump wrote in a tweet Tuesday night that he would postpone the Denmark leg after Frederiksen dismissed his suggestion that the United States was interested in purchasing Greenland.

"Based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting," Trump tweeted.

Frederiksen has previously rejected the possibility of selling Greenland to the United States. Greenland is a autonomous territory of Denmark.

The prime minister on Wednesday again rejected the idea of selling Greenland and said the issue should not serve as a distraction.

"This does not change the character of our good relations, and we will, of course, from Denmark, continue our ongoing dialogue with the U.S. on how we can develop our cooperation and deal with the many common challenges we are facing," Frederiksen said.

 Trump was slated to meet with Denmark's queen during his trip, and on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Danish royal household told ABC News the household was "surprised" by the trip cancellation. The spokesperson would not comment further.

It seems that the cancellation took the U.S. ambassador in Copenhagen by surprise, too. Just hours before Trump's tweet, Ambassador Carla Sands tweeted, "Denmark is ready for the POTUS @realDonaldTrump‬⁩ visit!"

Sands later followed up in a second tweet Wednesday to say Trump "values and respects" Denmark and "looks forward to a visit in the future."

 The State Department referred questions about the cancellation to the White House, but defended Sands, saying her tweet "goes to show the strength of the relationship that our ambassador has with the government, and we continue to work together."

"I think it's sad, honestly, because this is just not the way you treat an ally," Rufus Gifford, who served as U.S. ambassador to Denmark during the Obama administration, told CNN. And to cancel the trip in this way is just a shame. It's absolutely a shame."

Trump has cancelled overseas trips or stops before.

He nixed a trip to Davos, Switzerland, in January, citing the partial government shutdown in the U.S., and cancelled stops in Peru and Colombia in April 2018 to deal with a Syrian chemical weapons attack.

He also called off a planned trip to London to inaugurate a U.S. embassy complex in January 2018, saying he was unhappy with the Obama administration's sale of the previous embassy building. And he reportedly cancelled a stop at Israel's Masada in 2017 because he could not land a helicopter atop the mountain fortress.

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zrfphoto/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump doubled down Wednesday on his controversial assertion that Jewish Americans who vote for a Democrat are "very, very disloyal to Israel and the Jewish people," continuing his effort to make support for Israel a political wedge issue ahead of the 2020 election.

The day before, while attacking Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib and other Democratic congresswomen of color who had been critical of Israel's policies, Trump told reporters that he thought "any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty."

Asked on Wednesday to clarify to whom they were being disloyal -- as critics called his comments anti-Semitic -- the president said he was referring to Israel and the Jewish people in general.

“In my opinion, if you vote for a Democrat, you're being very disloyal to Israel and you're being very disloyal to Jewish people," Trump told reporters before departing the White House en route to Kentucky.

Historically, Jews have overwhelmingly voted for Democratic candidates.

 Seventy-nine percent of Jewish voters cast a ballot for a Democrat in the midterms last year, according to exit poll data. In the 2016 presidential election, 72% of Jews voted for Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

An analysis of ABC News data in 2018 found that 41% of Jews identified themselves as liberals, more than any other religious group.

"Let’s be clear: What @POTUS said was #antiSemitic," the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, wrote on Twitter, about Trump's initial remark. "The charge of disloyalty or dual loyalty has been used against Jews for centuries. Almost a year after the #Pittsburgh shooting, as #antiSemitism continues to rise, it’s bewildering that we still need to have this conversation."

 Asked Wednesday by a reporter if his comments about “disloyalty” were anti-Semitic, Trump replied that they were not.

"It's only anti-Semitic in your head," he told the reporter.

Democratic lawmakers lashed out against the president.

"When President Trump uses a trope that has been used against the Jewish people for centuries with dire consequences, he is encouraging—wittingly or unwittingly—anti-Semites throughout the country and the world," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Wednesday. "Enough."

Democratic 2020 candidates blasted his initial comments as offensive and anti-Semitic. Former Vice President Joe Biden said Trump's remark was "inexcusable" and "beneath the office" of the president, while Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., contrasted Jewish teachings about love and kindness with what he called Trump's efforts "to try to divide us against each other, to demean and degrade us."

"I am a proud Jewish person and I have no concerns about voting Democratic," Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., tweeted. "And in fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States."

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Photos597/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration on Wednesday rolled out a new plan that would allow the government to detain migrant families traveling with children indefinitely, effectively calling for an end to the federal government's agreement with a court more than 20 years ago that it wouldn't hold children for long periods of time because it's so detrimental to their health.

The proposal is the latest move by President Donald Trump to try to curb an unprecedented tide of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border and raises questions about whether the administration has the capacity to care for families, which have been arriving in the tens of thousands each month. There was no doubt the move would be challenged in court and could be blocked by a judge before it would have a chance to take effect.

“The government should not be jailing kids, and certainly shouldn’t be seeking to put more kids in jail for longer,” Madhuri Grewal, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan told reporters that the new rules were about returning "integrity" to U.S. immigration.

"No child should be a pawn in a scheme to manipulate our immigration system,” he said in a news conference on Wednesday. Details of the plan were first reported Tuesday by ABC News.

At issue is an agreement the U.S. government made with a federal court in 1997 after lawyers representing migrant children, including a girl named Jenny Lisette Flores, filed a lawsuit objecting to their treatment in custody. The resulting "Flores Settlement Agreement" limited the time children could be held in custody to 20 days and required safe and sanitary conditions.

President Trump and Republicans have long claimed that the 20-day restriction has encouraged migrants to bring their children, knowing that they can't be held for long and will eventually be allowed to enter the U.S., where it can take months or years for their asylum cases to wind their way through court. President Barack Obama had at one point asked a judge to allow families to be detained together and was denied.

"The problem is, you have 10 times more people coming up with their families. It's like Disneyland now," Trump told Fox News last April.

Immigration advocates counter that forcing children to spend what could be months in detention would be traumatizing, and that the administration is poorly equipped to care for them. Since last year, seven children have died after having been in U.S. custody, six of them exhibiting flu-like symptoms that advocacy groups blame on overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement currently maintains three "family residential centers" where the children would be held with their parents -- two in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. But Congress has refused additional money to expand those centers.

McAleenan said the centers would care for the children and include such amenities as a library and video games.

“A gilded cage is still a cage and I think keeping these families in these facilities is definitely contrary to what should actually happen which is families being released in alternative detention," said Joann Bautista, a policy associate at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

The administration initially proposed doing away with the Flores settlement last fall. A draft rule published in September would have allowed for the long-term detention of families with "dignity, respect and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors." Those proposed rules languished, however, as the administration confronted a massive uptick in undocumented border crossings that's only recently began to slow down. The updated final regulation, to be published Friday, is expected to make the rule final although a judge would have the opportunity to block it.

Under the new plan, there is no specific cap on how long children could be detained with their parents. The families could try to get parole or bonded release, an option currently available to some immigrant detainees.

Congressional Democrats signaled they would fight the idea. Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the plan was "illegal" and violated American values on the treatment of children.

"This regulation will allow the Administration to dramatically expand family detention and indefinitely lock up children," he said in a statement. "The Administration’s rule will put even more stress on our immigration system and add to the chaos the Administration continues to create."

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Kameleon007/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- March for Our Lives, the student-led activist group founded by survivors of the 2018 Parkland, Fla., high school mass shooting, on Wednesday proposed sweeping new gun control measures and called on 2020 presidential candidates to endorse its “Peace Plan for a Safer America.”

“Gun violence is destroying our generation. This is simply unacceptable,” the group said.

The group's first public plan since the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton earlier this month includes some familiar proposals to curb gun violence as well as more ambitious ones to address what the student call a “a national public health emergency.”

The plan calls for raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21, creating a national licensing and gun registry, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as implementing a mandatory gun buyback program.

The group also proposed implementing a new role with the next presidential administration called the National Director of Gun Violence Prevention who would report directly to the president on issues on gun violence prevention.

Former Texas congressman and 2020 presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke quickly responded to the release of the plan tweeting, “Following the lead of the students marching for their lives, and for all of ours, we will end this epidemic. I support their Peace Plan For A Safer America—and I call on everyone else in this race to do the same.”

After the Parkland shooting in which 17 students and staff were shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018, the March for Our Lives group took to the streets and organized hundreds of thousands of Americans, including children, student activists, concerned parents and angry teachers, to march in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country, demanding an end to gun violence and for federal lawmakers to act.

Their calls for action seemed to go unheeded by lawmakers as Congress has failed to pass any comprehensive control laws since then.

“We know this seems ambitious given Washington’s apathy to decades of bloodshed in our schools, neighborhoods, and even our houses of worship,” David Hogg, one of the faces of the March for Our Lives movement, tweeted Wednesday morning. “Policymakers have failed, so survivors are stepping up. The #PeacePlan is written by the generation that’s only ever known lockdown drills. But we WILL be the last. We’re not just fighting against the status quo, we’re fighting for real change, for justice, for peace.”

In the days following the Parkland shooting, during a listening session with teachers and students, Trump signaled that he was going to act on universal background checks.

"We’re going to be very strong on background checks. We’re going to be doing very strong background checks,” Trump said in 2018.

In the wake of the the El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, mass shootings, Trump again seemed to note that he was open to legislation on background checks and said that his administration and Congress were talking about gun control reform.

However, a few weeks after saying, “we have to have very meaningful background checks,” Trump on Tuesday appeared to back off on any new push background checks, and repeated his assertion that mental illness is the actual problem.

“We have strong background checks right now,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “But we have sort of missing areas and areas that don't complete the whole circle. And we're looking at different things and I have to tell you it's a mental problem, I said it 100 times, it's not the gun that pulls the trigger, it's the person that pulls the trigger.”

Trump had a lengthy conversation Tuesday with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive for the National Rifle Association, multiple senior level sources confirm to ABC News.

The president told LaPierre he does not support universal background checks, the sources said, but that does not mean background check legislation is off the table.

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devonanne/iStock(ST. LOUIS) -- Kelli Dunaway knows her decision to be sworn in on a Dr. Seuss book pushed back against tradition.

That is, in part, why she did it -- and it's the same reason why she wanted to run for a seat in the St. Louis County Council election: She wanted to try something new.

"I think we need to do so much of that in our politics and in our policy," she told ABC News Wednesday. "Just because we've done things the way we've always done them is no reason to keep doing them that way."

Dunaway, a Democratic activist, was elected Aug. 6 as a councilwoman for District 2 on the St. Louis County Council. A week later, she had her swearing in ceremony, accompanied by her two children, 7-year-old Bella and 5-year-old Liam, and the Dr. Seuss 1990 classic Oh, The Places You'll Go.

In the days after she was sworn in, images of her holding her right hand above the book with her left hand on it flooded the internet. The St. Louis Post Dispatch first reported on Dunaway's swearing in.

Her decision wasn't met without backlash. In a Facebook post thanking her supporters and speaking on her decision to choose Dr. Seuss, a slew of commenters said she was making a mockery out of the position because she didn't use a Bible. There is no law in Missouri that requires council members be sworn in on a Bible.

Doug Moore, the spokesman for St. Louis County Council, confirmed to ABC it's not a requirement to use any text, though many use the Bible, and elected officials just have to raise their right hand to swear in. Still, he allowed, "It's unusual to use Dr. Seuss, for sure."

Another Facebook commenter pointed out criticism Dr. Seuss and his books faced in recent years over his portrayal of people of color.

Dunaway ignored most of the disparaging comments, but thanked the woman who made her aware of the criticism. She told ABC News she believes it's important for the country to understand and accept "how we have all been influenced by a racist society," an issue she plans to make a priority as a councilwoman.

"The only way to truly face a problem and deal with it is to admit you have one, and I think that's where we're stuck right now," she said. "I think so many of us don't want to even admit that racism is part of the problem, but it's the biggest part of a lot of problems."

She plans to address racial inequity, especially in a city that she described as suffering from widespread racial segregation, during her time in Council.

"There are certain parts of St. Louis County that have been left behind, while other parts have really had great growth and development and I want to focus on some of those left behind areas," she said.

About 9.8 percent of people in St. Louis County are living under the poverty line, according to 2017 data from Data USA. Of that 9.8 percent, black people make up the majority of those living in poverty despite only accounting for 24 percent of the population.

The book, she hoped, would resonate with the people of St. Louis County with its message, paired with her effort to carry out that message.

"I am going to do my best every day to do what's right for everybody. I believe we are better than our current political climate might suggest and I will always be working to make that better, and I'll do the work. That's the message of the book, right?" she said. "If you have brains in your head and you have feet in your shoes, you do what you do"

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly a year after her husband's death, Cindy McCain said the current Republican Party is "not the party of Abraham Lincoln ... nor the party of Ronald Reagan."

In an interview with ABC's Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl, McCain spoke about the legacy her late husband, Sen. John McCain, left in American politics, and focused on his willingness to work across the aisle. A year later, McCain said she doesn't see anyone picking up and carrying the mantle of staunch bipartisanship the way her husband did.

"That was a tough torch to carry and, as John said, there were many lonely days because he always said what was on his mind," she told Karl.

McCain added that her husband "never did anything deliberately to be hurtful or anything. … I don't see anybody carrying that mantle at all, I don't see anyone carrying the voice -- the voice of reason."

That sentiment appeared to extend to one of the late senator's closest friends and colleagues, Sen. Lindsey Graham, who's widely considered to be one of President Donald Trump's closest allies.

"Lindsey has his own political career to worry about and his own political life," McCain said. "I would just hope that in the long run, everyone would begin to move in the right direction, including Lindsey or anybody else."

"Lindsey's a part of my family," she added. "He's a good friend and I cannot, [and] will not, be critical of Lindsey."

Despite her comments about the Republican Party as a whole, McCain did not call out Trump directly even with his frequent attacks on John McCain, including after his passing.

When asked about an incident in May, in which the White House requested that the name of the U.S.S. John McCain be covered up ahead of Trump's visit to Japan, Cindy said, "I don't know who directed it."

Navy leadership didn't go through with obscuring the ship's name, and Trump denied having any information about the request.

Cindy McCain said she called around seeking more information but realized she was "never going to find out."

"What concerns me is that it happened at a United States naval warfare ship," McCain said. "Those fine men and women on that ship did not deserve that."

McCain also seemed to allude to some of the Trump administration's most controversial policies, including on immigration.

"You know this country is made up of immigrants," she said. "We're made up of people of every color, every creed, and that's what makes us special."

When asked by Karl how she thought John McCain would have reacted to the "send her back" chants that broke out at a "Make America Great Again" rally in North Carolina, referring to four Democratic congresswomen, McCain said her husband "would not have accepted it."

"I'm quite certain he would have spoke out about it," she said. "These are American citizens -- these are our citizens."

Trump allowed the chants to last more than 10 seconds without saying a single word. Later, he said he disagreed with "send her back" chants.

"We are from all walks of life, and they have just as much a right to be here as we do," Cindy McCain said. "That's not what this country was founded on."

In addition to the political speed bumps facing the Republican Party, Cindy McCain noted that there is "trouble on both sides of the aisle."

"The Democrats have their own problems, as well, and I know they feel the pressure on their side too, because they are talking about it," McCain said without elaborating further.

In hope of helping overcome divisiveness in politics, McCain and her family are launching a new initiative called "Acts of Civility" that aims to use her husband's story to go beyond politics and inspire people to engage with one another on critical issues, thoughtfully and constructively.

A major effect of incivility, Cindy McCain said, has been the proliferation of mass shootings across the country. She didn't comment specifically on gun control policy, but said it's an issue worth addressing with urgency.

"These shootings are our response to this incivility, and our response to things that are occurring around them," she said, adding, "All of this has to be taken into consideration in our country. I mean our country is not well right now, [and] we need to get our act together."

Ultimately, however, McCain said she believes the country will overcome its current difficulties.

"I believe in America. I believe so much in this country, and I know John did too," she said. "I believe this pendulum is going to swing back. I don't know when, but I just don't believe that we're going to stick right here on the side that's just disruptive and mean and non-progressive in any way."

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jose carlos macouzet espinosa/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A non-profit group contracted by the government to house unaccompanied migrant kids kept conditions at multiple facilities that were at times unsafe and unsanitary, federal inspectors found, according to an inspector general report released Tuesday.

At two housing centers, children had easy access to keys for the vehicles used by the government contractor. At another, unlocked areas gave the kids access to a pressure washer, a weeding machine and a gas container. Three facilities were found not to have carbon monoxide detectors despite having gas appliances nearby. Unsanitary bathrooms were also found by government inspectors.

Another disturbing finding: Some of the kids were released to sponsors whose names hadn’t been checked against the sex offender database. In some cases, employees hired to work with the kids were missing evidence of background checks.

In the report, the inspector general at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said it found conditions at facilities caring for undocumented migrant children that were at odds with state regulations.

The government contractor running the facilities, Southwest Key, is a nonprofit paid by the U.S. government to care for tens of thousands of children deemed “unaccompanied.” These are mostly older children and teens who have recently crossed the border -- oftentimes with an extended relative the government doesn’t recognize as a legal guardian.

“Southwest Key failed to ensure compliance with State requirements, and for some of these conditions, Southwest Key staff did not adequately monitor its facilities during the monthly facility safety check to ensure that the facilities were clean and free from unsafe or harmful conditions,” the watchdog wrote.

“The failure to follow health and safety requirements placed the health and safety of children at risk,” the report added.

Southwest Key said it was taking steps to improve its oversight and safeguards at facilities, but told inspectors it “strongly disagreed with any implication that it put a child at risk or improperly released a child to a sponsor.”

The inspections were at facilities in Arizona, Texas and California in 2017, a year when border crossings had decreased and these types of shelters were not overwhelmed. It wasn’t until early 2019 that migration levels rose dramatically, overwhelming the U.S. capacity to care for the kids.

The allegations comes as lawmakers like Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings have blasted the administration’s handling of migrant children and contend the government does a better job tracking objects belonging to undocumented migrants than tracking and caring for children.

“How do you say to a 2-year-old, we can’t find your mother but we can find her keys?” Cummings said last month at a hearing.

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vincent_ruf/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday defended his relationship with President Donald Trump amid fresh interest in his biting critiques of then-candidate Trump during the 2016 presidential race and renewed scrutiny of his ferocious loyalty to the president.

While Pompeo says he will remain as the top U.S. diplomat for as long as Trump wants, many supporters and critics see the 55-year old former congressman and CIA director as charting his own political future that will likely include a presidential campaign of his own down the road.

In 2016, Pompeo was a Tea Party conservative serving in the House of Representatives, known best for his pugnacious role sparring with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi hearings. He was also an ardent opponent of Trump and a supporter of Sen. Marco Rubio.

His stance was widely known. But in a March 2016 video published by the New Yorker magazine Monday, Pompeo is seen blasting Trump ahead of the Kansas primary and comparing him to President Barack Obama: "We've spent seven and a half years with an authoritarian president who ignored our Constitution. We don't need four more years of that."

Pompeo laughed off the comments Tuesday, saying, "It was a tough political campaign and when I'm on your team, I am all in, as I was, and when my candidate left, I was all in for President Trump then as well."

He pledged loyalty to serving in Trump's administration for "as long as President Trump continues to want me to be his Secretary of State." Despite again ruling out a run for Kansas's open Senate seat next year, speculation that he will jump in the race late continues. The latest tea leave to some analysts is a meeting he had Tuesday in New York with the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, a conservative economic advocacy group.

President Trump "is my leader ... I would love to serve for him just as long as I can," Pompeo said on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday.

But to critics, that loyalty has gone too far at times. Pompeo is known to be sensitive to any remark or question about differences between him and Trump and in private is reportedly "among the most sycophantic and obsequious people around Trump," a former senior White House official told the New Yorker.

One anonymous former ambassador went further, comparing Pompeo to a "heat-seeking missile for Trump's" rear end, according to the New Yorker, although the official used a slang word.

Pompeo dismissed that as "offensive" language and a "ludicrous" statement, and he said he shares his disagreements with Trump "with great frequency."

"But when he makes a decision, and it's legal, it is my task to go execute that with all the energy and power that I have," Pompeo added.

Pompeo's predecessor has said Trump repeatedly asked for things that were illegal.

"So often, the president would say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, 'Mr. President I understand what you want to do, but you can't do it that way. It violates the law," former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in December, nine months after he was fired by Trump over their many disagreements on foreign policy.

After Tillerson made those comments, Trump tweeted that he was "dumb as a rock" and that Pompeo was "doing a great job, I am very proud of him."

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pawel.gaul/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar called on their congressional colleagues to visit Israel despite the country's decision to ban the two of them from visiting this week.

"The decision to ban me and my colleagues -- the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress -- is nothing less than an attempt by an ally of the United States to suppress our ability to do our jobs as elected officials," Omar, D-Minn., said Monday.

At the urging of President Donald Trump, Israel denied entry last week to the two Muslim representatives over their support for a Palestinian-led boycott movement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement last week that the congresswomen's itinerary showed "their intent is to hurt Israel" and that he backed a decision by Israel's interior minister to block their entry.

Tlaib and Omar are outspoken critics of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and support the Palestinian-led international movement boycotting Israel.

They had planned to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank over the weekend as guests of Miftah, a nonprofit Palestinian group that seeks a "sovereign, independent, democratic, tolerant and inclusive Palestinian state, which grants Palestinians their basic rights, preserves their dignity, and enjoys international recognition and respect."

"Netanyahu's decision to deny us entry might be unprecedented for members of Congress. But it is the policy of his government when it comes to Palestinians," Omar said Monday. "This is the policy of his government when it comes to anyone who holds views that threaten the occupation. A policy that has been edged on and supported by Trump's administration."

She added, "We know Donald Trump would love nothing more than to use this issue to pit Muslims and Jewish Americans against each other. The Muslim community and the Jewish community are being othered and made into the boogeyman by this administration."

Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who represents Detroit, blamed Netanyanhu for obliging Trump’s request to ban them. Tlaib was later approved by the Israeli government to travel on a "humanitarian visit" to see her family, but ultimately decided not to go after speaking with her grandmother.

"She said I'm her dream manifested, I'm her free bird, so why would I come back and be caged and bow down?" Tlaib said of her grandmother, choking back tears.

Tlaib said she struggled with the decision not to go, but decided she couldn’t make the trip until she was a "free, American, United States Congresswoman."

Omar said that while she appreciates the outpouring of support from other members of Congress to cancel planned travel to Israel, she’s encouraging them to proceed as usual.

"We have a responsibility to conduct oversight over our government's foreign policy and what happens with the millions of dollars we send in aid," Omar said. "We cannot let Trump and Netanyahu succeed in hiding the cruel reality of the occupation from us. So I call on all of you to go. The occupation is real."

"Barring members of Congress from seeing it does not make it go away. We must end it together," Omar said.

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jetcityimage/IStock(WASHINGTON) -- Planned Parenthood announced on Monday that it will drop participation in a federal program that supports family planning services because of new restrictions placed by the Trump administration, calling a recent regulation an "assault on access to birth control and reproductive health care, especially for people struggling to make ends meet."

The announcement was the latest salvo in a long-running battle between the nationwide organization known for providing inexpensive health care for low-income women, including abortion, and conservatives who say more should be done to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to any groups that provide abortion services, even if that money is restricted to unrelated services.

The new rules prohibited participating clinics from providing abortion referrals and dictates a "clear financial and physical separation" between family planning services and abortion services.

Planned Parenthood has been fighting the regulation in court, but was supposed to submit by Monday a "compliance" plan with enforcement expected Sept. 18.

Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that Planned Parenthood clinics will remain open and urged Congress to act.

"We will do everything we can to make sure Planned Parenthood patients don’t lose care," she tweeted. "While the Trump-Pence administration may have given up on you, we never will."

Mia Heck, an official at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Planned Parenthood was "abandoning" its patients.

"HHS is grateful for the many grantees who continue to serve their patients under the Title X program, and we will work to ensure all patients continue to be served," she said in a statement.

The $286 million program, known as "Title X," started in 1970 to support family planning efforts for low-income women. Nearly 4,000 clinics in the U.S. now receive money through the program, providing care for some 4 million people, many of whom are uninsured. Planned Parenthood is among the biggest providers, serving 1.6 million of those clients.

Under previous rules for the program, participating clinics had to provide a pregnant women seeking an abortion with a referral and information about the procedure if she asked. The provider was not, however, allowed to promote abortion or help with the logistics such as scheduling an appointment or providing transportation.

Under new rules announced last February, any family planning clinic accepting federal money is prohibited from discussing where the woman might obtain an abortion.

Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said such a restriction is a "gag rule" because it prevents doctors from providing information a woman would need for legal medical care.

"The impact this will have on our most vulnerable populations will be significant," he said in a statement.

While Benjamin and other critics say the new rule restricts abortion referrals, it doesn’t go as far as an earlier proposal by the administration that would have prevented doctors from discussing the procedure at all. Under the latest plan, clinics are still allowed to answer a woman’s medical questions on the abortion procedure, so long as it is "nondirective."

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a political organization that opposes abortion services, said Planned Parenthood's actions show it's more focused on abortion services than family planning.

The rule "does not reduce family planning funding by a single dollar, it simply directs taxpayer funding to family planning providers who stay out of the abortion business," she said in a statement. "Women have the most to gain from this news."

In addition to Planned Parenthood dropping participation in the program, one impact of the new rule could be participation by faith-based organizations that would have balked at previous rules requiring they provide medical information on abortions.

The number of abortions in the U.S. has plummeted in recent years, dropping 24% from 2006 to 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the issue has remained a focus for the Trump administration, which also expressed concerns that the previous rule kept anti-abortion groups that promote natural family planning from accessing money under the program.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General William Barr on Monday announced the appointment of a new director for the Bureau of Prisons amid the scandal over Jeffrey Epstein's suicide while in federal custody.

Dr. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who previously served in the position for over a decade, between 1992-2003, will take over the role from acting director Hugh Hurwitz, who has been temporarily serving in the position since May of last year.

According to a Department of Justice press release, Hurwitz will remain in the BOP as Assistant Director of the bureau's Reentry Services Division.

Barr also announced the appointment of Dr. Thomas R. Kane as the Deputy Director of BOP.

The leadership announcement comes at a moment of crisis for the BOP, following the suicide death of Epstein in the Manhattan's Metropolitan Correctional Center more than a week ago.

There are at least five ongoing federal investigations into the matter, after Barr last week singled out what he described as "serious irregularities" that investigators had already found surrounding the death of one of the government's most high-profile inmates.

Last Tuesday, Barr announced that two guards who had been responsible for observing Epstein had been placed on administrative leave, and that a new acting warden would serve at MCC until the conclusion of the investigations.

The move marks the second time that Barr has appointed Sawyer as the nation's BOP director. During his first time serving as Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush, Barr appointed Dr. Sawyer to the position, where she served until her retirement in 2003.

According to her bio on the BOP website, Dr. Sawyer started her career in 1976 as a psychologist at FCI Morgantown, West Virginia, and eventually became the leader of the prison system.

Thomas Kane, served as Deputy Director and then Acting Director during the Obama Administration and through the Trump administration and has had an over 40 year career at the Bureau of Prisons.

Like Dr. Sawyer, Dr. Kane is a psychologist.

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