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ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the allegation against his embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh should go through a process.

There “there shouldn't even be a little doubt,” Trump said of the process.

“Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case,” Trump said Tuesday. “He will state his case before representatives of the United States Senate. And then they will vote, they will look at his career, they will look at what she had to say from 36 years ago, and we will see what happens.”

And as he did earlier in the day, Trump said he didn't think the FBI should be involved, despite Democrats' insistence that, before any public hearing with the nominee and his accuser, the FBI should look into an allegation made by professor Christine Blasey Ford, 51, that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school decades ago in suburban Maryland.

Kavanaugh, who was back at the White House on Tuesday for the second day in a row, has repeatedly denied the alleged encounter ever happened.

The president said he has not personally spoken with Kavanaugh since the allegation surfaced, saying “specifically I thought it would be a good thing not to.”

Trump pointed out that Kavanaugh has had multiple background checks throughout his career and called his history "impeccable."

"I feel so badly for him that he is going through this," Trump said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

The sexual assault allegation became public after the contents of a letter Ford sent to California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were disclosed to several media outlets.

Asked if he believes the allegation is political in nature, the president said: “I don't want to say that. Maybe I will say that in a couple of days, but not now,” Trump said earlier on Tuesday.

Trump, however, attacked Democrats for “holding” onto the allegation, saying it was “a terrible thing that took place” when the story surfaced over the weekend.

“It's a terrible thing that took place and it's frankly a terrible thing that this information was not given to us months ago when they got it,” Trump said.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing ahead with plans to hear testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford on Monday.

This, despite the numerous calls from Democrats to slow down the process and allow the FBI to re-open its background investigation into Kavanaugh so that they can determine the facts of what happened to Ford in high school, when she alleges Kavanaugh forced himself on her.

"She's been asking for the opportunity to be heard and she's being given the opportunity to be heard on Monday," McConnell told reporters.

"She could do it privately if she prefers or publicly if she prefers. Monday is her opportunity," he said.

Democrats have been writing to White House Counsel Don McGahn and to Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley to request the FBI re-open its investigation into Kavanaugh but to no avail.

Democrats are also crying foul over Grassley's decision to not allow other witnesses besides Kavanaugh and Ford to testify.

Grassley has said Ford has still not accepted his invitation to appear before the Judiciary Committee on Monday.

However, McConnell and GOP leadership are forging ahead with the hearing.

"There have been multiple investigations. Judge Kavanaugh has been through six investigations in the course of his lengthy public career. We want to give the accuser the opportunity to be heard and that opportunity will occur next Monday," McConnell reiterated.

"I think that gives her ample opportunity to express her point of view and Judge Kavanaugh of course has been anxious for days to discuss the matter as well," McConnell said.

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In his first on-camera comments since ordering the declassification of secret documents related to the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump on Tuesday argued his move was in the interest of “total transparency” while making clear his primary target is the “terrible witch hunt."

“What I want is I want total transparency,” Trump said. “This is a witch hunt. Republicans are seeing it. The Democrats know it's a witch hunt, too, but they don't want to admit it because that’s not good politics for them.”

Trump noted that his order was based on requests from lawmakers on the House Intelligence and Oversight committees, and wouldn’t answer directly if he plans to declassify even more items in the future.

On Monday, Trump directed that more of the FBI’s warrant application to secretly monitor Trump campaign adviser Carter Page’s communications be declassified and released to the public. The order followed a request from several Republican members of Congress seeking to discredit the Russia investigation.

In addition, Trump ordered the declassification of FBI documents detailing information provided by Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has become a frequent target of the president’s Twitter attacks, in which he calls for Ohr to be fired and brands the investigation a politically biased “witch hunt.”

Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who has been a leading GOP voice in urging Trump to use his legal authority to publicly release the documents, praised the president's unusual move. "As Congress has investigated, we've continued to see more and more troubling evidence suggesting multiple senior level FBI and DOJ officials acted in a deeply unethical fashion during the 2016 campaign and throughout the early stages of the Trump administration," Meadows said in a statement.

But Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, quickly denounced Trump’s move, calling it a “clear abuse of power” to “advance a false narrative.”

A Justice Department statement issued Monday evening suggested that the declassification was not a done deal, but that DOJ would try to comply with the president's order while reviewing for any potential harm.

“When the President issues such an order, it triggers a declassification review process that is conducted by various agencies within the intelligence community, in conjunction with the White House Counsel, to seek to ensure the safety of America's national security interests,” the DOJ statement said. “The Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are already working with the Director of National Intelligence to comply with the President's order.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it would comply as well.

“As requested by the White House, the ODNI is working expeditiously with our interagency partners to conduct a declassification review of the documents the President has identified for declassification,” ODNI spokesperson Kellie Wade said.

After Carter Page joined Trump’s presidential campaign in early 2016, the FBI in New York paid a visit to Page, who years earlier had been targeted for recruitment by Russian spies.

In October 2016, after the FBI obtained a copy of a so-called “dossier”, written by former British spy Christopher Steele, alleging cooperation between Page and Russian operatives, the FBI sought permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington to track Page’s communications. Steele was hired was hired by the Washington, D.C.-based firm Fusion GPS, an effort which was backed by money from Democratic operatives, to conduct research on Trump.

Trump and his allies insist the FBI’s application for that surveillance illustrates how politically tainted the entire federal probe of Russian interference has been. But much of the application has remained classified, and so have the subsequent applications the FBI filed to continue monitoring Page’s communications.

Now, Trump has directed the full release of sections of the third application filed by the FBI in June 2017. Those sections summarize Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, detail Page’s alleged connections to Russian intelligence services and “coordination with Russian government officials on 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Influence Activities,” and address his denials of those allegations.

“President Trump, in a clear abuse of power, has decided to intervene in a pending law enforcement investigation by ordering the selective release of materials he believes are helpful to his defense team,” Schiff, a California Democrat, said in a statement.

Trump “cares about nothing about the country and everything about his narrow self-interest,” Schiff added.

When the FBI began monitoring Page’s communications in late 2016, the agency based some of its application on information directly provided by Steele in his “dossier.”

Ohr did not provide the FBI with an updated copy of the dossier until months later, after the FBI broke off contact with Steele for sharing his findings with reporters, sources told ABC News. Steele and Ohr had known each other for years, having jointly tracked matters of organized crime around the world.

It’s unclear if portions of the June 2017 court application that Trump has ordered be released include mention of Ohr, who likely did not appear in the initial application.

Meanwhile, Trump on Monday also ordered the Justice Department and FBI to fully release any and all text messages relating to the Russia investigation sent by then-FBI director James Comey, then-deputy director Andrew McCabe, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page, and Ohr, according to a White House press release announcing the move.

It’s not clear when those messages were sent or what they might say.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee is planning to hold a public hearing next Monday and expects to call Judge Brett Kavanaugh and professor Christine Blasey Ford to testify, according to a senior administration official and several top Republican lawmakers.

The expectation is that both would appear on the same day but not side-by-side on the same panel.

The development effectively delays a planned committee vote on Kavanaugh's nomination that had been set for this Thursday.

Word of the public hearing came a couple of hours after President Donald Trump defended his Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, as "somebody very special" but said "we want to go through a full process ... and hear everybody out" on the sexual assault allegation against him.

"If it takes a little delay, it'll take a little delay," the president said. "I'm sure it will work out very well."

In a statement late Monday afternoon, White House spokesman Raj Shah said, “Judge Kavanaugh looks forward to a hearing where he can clear his name of this false allegation. He stands ready to testify tomorrow if the Senate is ready to hear him.”

Trump said he has not spoken to Kavanaugh about the allegation but called a reporter's question about whether the judge has offered to withdraw from consideration "ridiculous."

For his part, Kavanaugh on Monday again strongly denied in a new statement a woman's allegation that he sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school, saying "this never happened."

“This is a completely false allegation," Kavanaugh said in the statement released by the White House. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone."

He continued, "Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday. I am willing to talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation, from 36 years ago, and defend my integrity.”

Kavanaugh was responding to an allegation by Christine Blasey Ford that he sexually assaulted her when they were both in high school in Maryland in the 1980s.

The accusation became public last week but Ford did not reveal her identity until Sunday in Washington Post story.

Some senators meanwhile called for both Kavanaugh and Ford to address the matter before lawmakers.

"Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh should both testify under oath before the Judiciary Committee," Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a crucial vote on the nomination, said in a tweet Monday.

A senior White House aide also said Ford should be heard and should testify under oath.

“Absolutely,” Kellyanne Conway told reporters during a gaggle Monday morning when asked if Ford should testify. “She should not be insulted; she should not be ignored; she should testify under oath and she should do it on Capitol Hill.”

Conway, counselor to the president, did not directly characterize President Trump's thinking about Ford's allegation. But she made clear that she was speaking on behalf of the president in expressing an openness to Ford testifying.

“Let me be very clear on behalf of the president with whom I’ve spoken at length about this,” Conway said. “She should not be ignored or insulted; she should be heard.”

Conway said that in addition to Ford, Kavanaugh should get the chance to testify again in response to the allegations.

While the White House is supportive of the concept of additional testimony, Conway made clear that they will defer to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the best way to deal with the accusation, even as she also expressed a view that a vote on Kavanaugh should not be unduly delayed.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee has to decide how each of them will testify,” she said.

Conway also offered a general defense of Kavanaugh’s character, pointing out that he’s been through six prior FBI vetting processes and that ultimately members of the Senate will have to weigh the late-breaking allegations by Ford against a “considerable body of evidence” pointing to the strength of Kavanaugh’s character.

Monday afternoon, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell referred to Collins' comments on the Senate floor, attacking how Democrats had handled the allegation, saying they about it for six weeks but chose to keep it "secret until the 11th hour."

"I can't explain the situation any better than the senior senator from Maine put it yesterday evening when she said if they believed judge Kavanaugh's accuser, why didn't they serve us this information earlier so that he could be questioned about it?" McConnell said. "And if they didn't believe her and chose to withhold the information, why did they decide at the 11th hour to release it? It's really not fair to either of them the way it was handled."

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer took to the floor not long after to respond, calling again on the FBI to investigate the allegation and that there should be no vote into that is complete.

"It is an insult -- insult -- to the women of America to rush this through after these serious allegations have been made," Schumer said.

In addition to Collins, another key Republican, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, issued a statement saying, “Allegations surrounding sexual assault must be taken seriously and the Judiciary Committee must look into this further. Despite the length of time since the alleged incident, Dr. Ford’s allegations should be heard and she must have an opportunity to present her story before the committee under oath, with Judge Kavanaugh having the opportunity to respond under oath as well,” her statement said,

Ford, 51, a psychology professor in California, told the Post that the incident occurred in the 1980s when the 53-year-old Kavanaugh was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland, and she was a 15-year-old sophomore at Holton-Arms School, an all-girls school in Bethesda, Maryland.

She said she believes the year was 1982 when Kavanaugh would have been 17.

Ford said she was at a teen house party when Kavanaugh and one of his male classmates -- both "stumbling drunk" -- cornered her in a bedroom and Kavanaugh pinned her on her back on a bed, the paper reported.

She said Kavanaugh's friend watched as Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and attempted to remove her clothes and the one-piece bathing suit she was wearing underneath, according to the story.

Ford told the Post that when she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford said in the story. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

She said she managed to escape when Kavanaugh's friend jumped on top of them on the bed and sent all three of them tumbling, according to the Post.

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Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's former national security adviser, retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, is ready to be sentenced later this year for pleading guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, according to a status report his lawyer filed jointly Monday with special counsel Robert Mueller.

After months of delays, Judge Emmet Sullivan is now likely to move swiftly to schedule Flynn's sentencing date, which the parties requested for Nov. 28 or the following week.

Sullivan has said it would occur within about 60 days of the two sides agreeing they are ready to proceed with a presentencing report and court date for Flynn, the former intelligence officer who spent three decades in the military before entering the political ring.

Friends and relatives have said the former Defense Intelligence Agency director and confidant of Trump, who at 2016 campaign rallies led chants of "Lock her up!" about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, is eager to face the judge and accept his fate following his dramatic guilty plea on Dec. 1.

Flynn told the first judge presiding over his case that he would fully cooperate with Mueller's investigators looking at Russian influence operations in the 2016 presidential campaign and he has kept a low profile publicly ever since.

"He's paralyzed, he can't do anything. He just wants this to go away," historian and commentator Michael Ledeen, a close confidant of Flynn, told ABC News over the weekend.

But it remains unclear the extent of his subsequent cooperation, which one knowledgeable source said occurred mostly immediately following his December court appearance.

Mueller's assessment of the value of the cooperation by Flynn -- who had at times testified in Congress as DIA director alongside Mueller when he led the FBI -- is likely to influence Sullivan's judgment at sentencing.

Under federal guidelines, Flynn could face up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period from election day in 2016 to Trump's inauguration in January 2017. But court observers say if Flynn satisfactorily cooperated with the special counsel, it will likely mean he receives little if any prison time.

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Flynn ready to be sentenced in Russia probe, his lawyer and special counsel tell court


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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Following allegations of sexual assault from a California psychology professor against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, outside groups from both sides of the aisle are readying for an intense messaging battle as Capitol Hill grapples with the political fallout.

The allegations made against Kavanaugh by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, 51, stem from an incident that allegedly took place while they were attending high school in suburban Maryland, and became public after the contents of a letter Ford sent to California Senate Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were leaked.

In a new statement released Monday morning, Kavanaugh forcefully refuted Ford's allegations.

"This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes—to her or to anyone," Kavanaugh's statement read, "Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday."

Following the initial firestorm over the allegations, leading groups on the left and right tell ABC News they are readying major advertising buys to push key Senators to either move forward on or put a stop to Kavanaugh's confirmation.

The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), which has already spent millions to push for Kavanaugh's confirmation, is planning a new $1.5 million TV ad blitz, on cable and broadcast, featuring a 35-year friend of the nominee.

"We are not going to allow a last-minute smear campaign destroy a good and decent man who has an unblemished personal record," a conservative strategist told ABC News.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a leading GOP super PAC with links to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told ABC News that the group is "still evaluating" their options in light of the allegations against Kavanaugh.

Leading groups on the left have been pushing for a halt to Kavanaugh's nomination ever since the allegations from Dr. Ford, who spoke to the Washington Post about the incident on Sunday, were made public last week.

Demand Justice, one of the leading anti-Kavanaugh groups on the left, told ABC News Monday that they are planning a $700,000 television and digital advertising blitz in four states, Alaska, Colorado, Maine and Nevada, that will focus on Dr. Ford's allegations.

Brian Fallon, a spokesman for Demand Justice, told ABC News that this is the first time since Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement that trigger Kavanaugh's nomination, the group is targeting Colorado and Nevada in an effort to put pressure on Republican Senators Dean Heller and Cory Gardner, to halt the confirmation process.

The group has also been promoting the hashtag "#IBelieveChristine" on it's Twitter account in an effort to boost pressure on GOP lawmakers.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, another major organization on the left fighting against Kavanaugh's nomination, released two new online ads Monday targeting Heller and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a key Republican swing vote who has been at the center of the left's efforts to block the judge's nomination to the Supreme Court.

Collins on Monday called for both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee under oath.

A vote in Judiciary Committee is slated for Thursday, but several GOP senators, including Arizona's Jeff Flake, have said that the committee should hear from Ford before they move forward on Kavanaugh's nomination.

In a press call Monday afternoon, leaders from several progressive organizations said the allegations against Kavanaugh should force his withdrawal.

"This is a remarkable moment with echoes of the past, but also stark differences," said Nan Aaron, the founder and president of the Alliance for Justice, a liberal judicial advocacy group, "I can tell you, every woman in America will be watching how this unfolds."

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL, said that the Judiciary Committee that is overseeing Kavanaugh's nomination is not in a position to obtain a credible denial from the nominee in the face of Ford's allegations.

"There is no way for the American people to be assured through any Senate Judiciary process that [Kavanaugh] can be trusted in his denials of this extraordinarily credible claim by a woman who had nothing to gain, and everything to lose by bravely coming forward and telling her story," Hogue told reporters, "It is NARAL's position and the position of our members that Brett Kavanaugh should withdraw his nomination immediately."

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Trey Gowdy, has sent a letter to FEMA requesting documents and records pertaining to administrator Brock Long's use of government vehicles and staff to travel to and from North Carolina.

The request follows a report in Politico last week that the internal watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, was looking into whether Long misused government resources on weekend trips to his hometown in North Carolina.

During a news conference on Hurricane Florence last week, Long said he was aware of the article and would fully cooperate with any investigation by the DHS inspector general.

"I would never intentionally run a program incorrectly. Bottom line is, if we made mistakes on the way a program was run, then we'll work with the OIG to get those corrected. Doing something unethical is not part of my DNA and it's not part of my track record my whole entire career, so we'll work with the OIG," Long told reporters last week.

In his request, Gowdy asked Long to provide information on every time he has used a government vehicle for personal reasons, information on staffers that were with him during those trips, and any communications related to FEMA employees going with him to North Carolina. Gowdy asked for the information by October 1.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As Judge Brett Kavanaugh faces an allegation of sexual assault, the Supreme Court nominee's prospects for confirmation could be in peril as Democrats pressure Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley to delay an anticipated committee vote to send his nomination to the full Senate on Thursday.

The burning question everyone from the White House to Capitol wants answered: what will Grassley do?

So far, Grassley has not agreed to postpone Thursday’s vote, though he says he is working to set up bipartisan phone calls with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Kavanaugh, and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

“Anyone who comes forward as Dr. Ford has deserves to be heard, so I will continue working on a way to hear her out in an appropriate, precedented and respectful manner," Grassley, R-Iowa, announced in a statement Monday afternoon. "The standard procedure for updates to any nominee’s background investigation file is to conduct separate follow-up calls with relevant parties."

Grassley says he is "working diligently to get to the bottom of these claims" also complained that Feinstein’s office has so far "refused" to schedule the phone calls.

“Unfortunately, committee Republicans have only known this person's identity from news reports for less than 24 hours and known about her allegations for less than a week," Grassley said. "Senator Feinstein, on the other hand, has had this information for many weeks and deprived her colleagues of the information necessary to do our jobs."

Senate Democrats are calling on Republicans to delay a Judiciary committee vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court this week, protesting that decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct against the nominee require a formal investigation.

“Now that her story is public, it is even more important that we give the [FBI] the time it needs to follow up,” all 10 Judiciary Democrats wrote in a letter to Grassley. “All Senators, regardless of party, should insist the FBI perform its due diligence and fully investigate the allegations as part of its review of Judge Kavanaugh’s background.”

When asked if the committee should consider delaying the vote this week, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who is still undecided on Kavanaugh’s nomination, told CNN, "that might be something they might have to consider, at least having that discussion.”

“This is not something that came up during the hearings,” Murkowski, R-Alaska, said. “The hearings are now over, and if there is real substance to this, it demands a response. That may be something the committee needs to look into."

Sen. Susan Collins, another Republican who has not publicly committed to supporting Kavanaugh, called for both Ford and Kavanaugh to testify publicly before the committee.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said that Ford “must be heard” before a committee vote, which had been expected Thursday.

“I’ve made it clear that I’m not comfortable moving ahead with the vote on Thursday if we have not heard her side of the story or explored this further,” Flake, a Judiciary Republican, said.

Republicans hold an 11-to-10 majority on the committee, so Flake’s disapproval could stall the nomination.

“For me, we can’t vote until we hear more,” he said.

While none of the Judiciary Democrats are expected to support Kavanaugh’s nomination, and Republicans could approve his nomination without Democratic support, other red state Senate Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp have not ruled out voting in favor of Kavanaugh.

In light of the allegations against Kavanaugh, all three urged further investigation of the matter.

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Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., renewed his call to postpone the confirmation vote on Supreme Court Justice Nominee Brett Kavanaugh after an explosive report revealed a California professor, Christine Blasey Ford, accused the nominee of attempted sexual assault in the 1980s.

“I think the allegations by Professor Ford are extremely credible,” Schumer said on ABC’s The View on Monday. "She didn't do it on a whim. I don't think she did it for political reasons," he added.

Schumer, who said he first found out about the accusations last week when Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., informed the Senate Judiciary Committee, doubled down on his assertion that the confirmation vote on Thursday should be postponed.

He said the FBI should do a second background check –including an interview with Ford – and both Kavanaugh and Ford should testify publicly in Congress.

Colleagues, including Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins echoed similar sentiments on Monday.

On Sunday, Schumer called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to postpone a vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination until the sexual misconduct accusation against him is investigated.

“For too long, when women have made serious allegations of abuse, they have been ignored. That cannot happen in this case," Schumer said in a written statement.

Christine Blasey Ford, now a 51-year-old psychology professor, told the Washington Post on the record Sunday that Kavanaugh pinned her down during a party when she was 15, groped her, and attempted to silence her screams for help with his hand, all while he was under the influence of alcohol. Kavanaugh has repeatedly "categorically and unequivocally" denied the accusation. "I did not do this back in high school or at any time," he added.

Ford’s lawyer, Debra Katz, told Good Morning America Monday morning that her client is willing to cooperate with lawmakers. The White House has indicated that it is open to her doing so.

In a statement released via the White House Monday morning, Kavanaugh said he is willing to “talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee in any way the Committee deems appropriate to refute this false allegation.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When voters go to the polls in five states, a verified paper trail will not follow them.

At a time of heightened concerns over election interference, election-security experts have called for that to change, suggesting paper results – visually confirmed by voters – would help state officials recover in the event of meddling or simple mistakes.

"That presents a greater risk because there's no way to detect if things have gone wrong," said Marian Schneider, former deputy secretary of voting and administration in Pennsylvania and the president of the group Verified Voting.

Paper ballots – or, at least, auditable paper trails, in which voters can see their choices recorded on a printed roll of paper – have been recommended by experts from Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to the Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program to the Defending Digital Democracy Project at Harvard's Belfer Center.

A large swath of Americans, however, will vote without them.

Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina will all vote without such paper trails. That's in addition to eight other states that use paperless voting machines in some, but not all, counties. Those range from Pennsylvania, where three-fourths of the state's 67 counties use paperless machines, to Arkansas, where the state has been upgrading its final handful of paperless-voting counties and expects all but one to have voter-verified paper trails by Election Day.

In some cases, as in Delaware and South Carolina, the electronic machines do print vote totals internally, for comparison with results stored electronically on cartridges. In others, as in Georgia, they can print images of ballots. Election-security experts, however, call for paper records of each vote, which voters can actually see, to make sure their choices are recorded accurately.

Officials in the five exclusively paperless-voting states say their results are safe from hacking -- and that voters should not be concerned.

"Our machines have never been connected to the Internet," Delaware Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove told ABC News. "We take every security precaution that there is."

Nor are voting machines connected to each other.

"You would have to hack into each machine individually, in all 64 parishes without being seen," said Tyler Brey, spokesman for Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. "We are very confident in a safe, secure, and complete election."

Hackable Machines?

At this year’s DEFCON hacker conference, where hackers test their skills on out-of-use voting machines brought in by conference organizers, hackers succeeded in cracking -- to various extents -- several models currently in use, conference organizer Harri Hursti told ABC News.

One hacker, already familiar with the machine, gained full administrative-level access to a Premier (formerly Diebold) AccuVote TSX in about 30 seconds. That model is used in Georgia. In a video from last year’s conference, cybersecurity professional Rachel Tobac demonstrated a similar hack in about as much time.

This year, hackers turned a Dominion (formerly Sequoia) AVC Edge -- used in some New Jersey counties -- into a Pac-Man game, Hursti said. They manipulated a piece of equipment used in tallying votes from Election Systems & Software iVotronic machines, used statewide in South Carolina and in parts of New Jersey.

"The voting machines themselves are horrifically insecure," Ryan Kalember, senior vice president of cybersecurity strategy at cybersecurity firm Proofpoint, told ABC.

In each state except New Jersey, where the Election Division did not respond to requests for comment about its voting machines and potential vulnerabilities, officials insisted that voting machines are not connected to the Internet -- rendering a widespread hack virtually impossible. Machines are protected by seals that would show any evidence of tampering, officials say.

Security experts have focused their worries mainly on other possible threats -- such as hacking of voter-registration databases, which could wreak havoc on checking in voters and cause longer lines at the polls -- but experts also voice concerns that results could be vulnerable nonetheless, if gaps in the system go unanticipated.

"There really is risk in using an electronic-only system, in that it's not only about the machines, but it's about the machines that program the machines -- it's about the machines that tally the votes," McAfee Chief Technology Officer Steve Grobman told ABC.

"If somebody tells you that their risk is zero, that's not true. We know that," said Verified Voting's Scheider.

State officials say their vote-tabulation systems are similarly connected only to closed networks cut off from the Internet -- and DEFCON's results should be taken with a large grain of salt, the National Association of Secretaries of State cautioned, as unfettered access to voting machines "does not replicate physical and cyber protections" in place on Election Day.

Electronic-voting states have taken other cybersecurity precautions after 2016 saw interference attempts including hacks of Democratic groups and attempted intrusions into state voter-registration systems -- but not any hacking of actual votes.

State precautions have included training for employees, multi-step verification when logging into vote-related systems, in at least one case hiring cybersecurity firms, and tapping the Department of Homeland Security -- which has offered cybersecurity assistance to states -- to monitor threats and scan for vulnerabilities.

A Slow Change to Paper

Electronic voting was once all the rage, Delaware's Manlove said.

"I got a lot of phone calls from people saying, 'Gosh, I'm looking at Florida on TV, and they have butterfly ballots, and they're talking about hanging chads, and Delaware's so advanced,'" Manlove told ABC, referencing Florida's paper-ballot count in 2000 that ended up in the Supreme Court. "Now I'm getting calls saying, 'Why don't we use paper?'"

The pendulum has swung back -- but change takes time.

A group of Georgians has sued Secretary of State Brian Kemp to force an end to Georgia's paperless machines, but Kemp's office has pushed back, insisting elections are secure and that a wholesale change would cause problems if undertaken too quickly. Georgia solicited information on new equipment this year, and Kemp has stipulated new machines should have a paper trail.

Other states are buying new machines but won't roll them out by the 2018 midterm elections. Congress appropriated $380 million for election upgrades this spring, but unless states began buying new machines before 2018, November has not been a realistic deadline, officials in these states and others have said.

In Louisiana, the state approved a bid for new machines, but the losing bidder challenged, and the buying process is on hold. Despite the current limbo, the state expects new machines -- with paper records voters can see -- to be in place in 2019. Delaware expects to have paper-verified machines next year, too, and South Carolina expects to have them by 2020. New Jersey will begin trying out new, paper-verified machines under a pilot program, but not before November.

For state officials, cybersecurity isn't the problem -- even if a paper trail might provide greater peace of mind. Instead, it's simply about outdated technology. For instance, in Delaware, where voters press a plastic-shielded, paper ballot to record their choices through buttons underneath, the paper ballots are designed on Windows XP computers, and the Elections Commission worries it won't be able to buy new ones.

For those concerned with paperless machines on a nationwide Election Day, they will have to wait until 2020 for larger-scale change.

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Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A California psychology professor who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in high school wants to cooperate with federal lawmakers considering the nomination, but doesn't want to be part of a Washington "bloodletting," her attorney said on Good Morning America Monday.

Christine Blasey Ford wants to speak to investigators about her allegations, but she doesn't want to become the next Anita Hill, her attorney, Debra Katz, told ABC News Chief Anchor George George Stephanopoulos on GMA.

"It's not clear what the Republicans are saying," said Katz. "I was listening to some reporting this morning saying that they're going to fight this tooth and nail, that they're going to grill her. That's hardly an effort to get into a fair and thorough investigation of what has occurred. That's a very intimidating statement and it really is designed to scare her and make her not want to come forward.

Katz added: "She's willing to cooperate. What she's not willing to do is to be part of this bloodletting that happens in Washington."

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Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- During Donald Trump's presidential campaign, his friend and adviser Michael Flynn enjoyed the spotlight in a way few other retired generals have. But these days, after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, he speaks only rarely and cautiously in public as he prepares to be sentenced.

"I want to make sure that I'm very precise because I know there will be a lot of people -- especially in the back row there -- who will pay attention to whatever the heck I say, and I want to make sure that they get the words that I say right," Flynn told an audience of conservative activists in St. Louis on Friday night.

"The back row" was an apparent reference to news media at the event organized by the Gateway Pundit website and conservative stalwart Phyllis Schlafly. Flynn was honored with the Gen. Jack Singlaub Award for Service to America.

Flynn's remarks on Friday were notable for what they left out. He did not mention President Trump, who fired him as national security adviser three weeks into the presidency. He said nothing about special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, in which Flynn became ensnared for misleading FBI agents about his contacts with Russia's ambassador during the presidential transition in late 2016.

He also made no reference to the news Friday that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort made a plea deal with Mueller and agreed to be a cooperating witness.

Flynn's friends say his failing to generate headlines means mission accomplished.

"He's paralyzed, he can't do anything. He just wants this to go away. So I'm sure he wants to not make news," historian and commentator Michael Ledeen, a close confidant of Flynn, told ABC News over the weekend.

Flynn's lawyer and Mueller are expected to inform U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan in a status report today whether both sides are finally ready to schedule Flynn’s sentencing after its being delayed three times. If so, he could be sentenced as soon as mid-November. The judge will decide the sentencing date with the special counsel and Flynn's lawyer based on the status report.

It remains a mystery whether the special counsel will agree to set the sentencing date now.

Flynn's loyalists say he is hopeful that his pre-sentencing limbo that began more than nine months ago may soon come to a close.

He pleaded guilty in a dramatic court appearance in December to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with authorities, which, a source said, he did soon afterward.

How the special counsel’s office views the quality and extent of that cooperation is not clear, nor why his sentencing was delayed.

The retired three-star Army lieutenant general won fame and widespread respect inside the military as an innovative intelligence officer and Defense Intelligence Agency director before he retired and stunned many former colleagues by leading "lock her up" chants about Hillary Clinton at Trump campaign appearances.

He has been mostly out of the public view since his guilty plea, but broke his silence in March with a brief speech in support of California congressional candidate Omar Navarro, a Republican vying for Maxine Waters' seat.

"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 while introducing Navarro. "You know what it is."

Flynn, who sources say has since received many such invites to campaign for conservative candidates, has turned them all down on the advice that such public appearances will not help him ahead of sentencing.

"He felt he needed to act as a soldier and has kept his mouth shut," a source close to Flynn told ABC News over the summer. Flynn didn't want to be seen as a "whiner" or complicate his deal with Mueller, a former intelligence community peer of Flynn's, the source said. Mueller was FBI director when Flynn led the Defense Intelligence Agency, and they sat on the same panel as co-equals during worldwide-threat congressional hearings.

Two other witnesses have also pleaded guilty to lying to Mueller's agents: Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwann were sentenced to 14 days and 30 days, respectively, in federal prison.

Flynn could under federal guidelines face up to six months in prison for lying to the FBI about his conversations with then-Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period from the Nov. 8, 2016, election to the Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration. His cooperation with the special counsel would likely mean he receives little if any prison time.

Judge Sullivan has said once the prosecution and defense are both prepared to proceed with sentencing, he will request a pre-sentencing report, which is generally an investigation into the history of the person convicted and whether there are extenuating circumstances.

The judge also said he would set sentencing for 60 days after Mueller's team says they're prepared to move forward.

Joe Flynn told ABC News he saw his brother getting mobbed by conservative supporters before his speech in St. Louis. Many asked him to sign copies of his 2016 book, co-authored with Ledeen, "The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and its Allies," the brother said.

"His acceptance speech about service to America was met with a standing ovation, and he was happy to meet and chat with hundreds of patriotic Americans," Joe Flynn said.

Michael Flynn focused his remarks at the event on fighting for freedom and praised the namesake for his award.

Ret. Maj. Gen. Singlaub, a famed World War II spy who turned special operations into a major arm of U.S. foreign policy in the Vietnam War, was relieved of his military command in 1977 after publicly criticizing President Carter’s foreign policy.

"General Flynn was humbled and honored to receive the inaugural General Singlaub award for service to America from the Gateway Eagle Council," Joe Flynn said. "General Singlaub has long been one of his heroes as they share similar backgrounds and careers in military intelligence."

In his speech, Michael Flynn quoted Patrick Henry and Abraham Lincoln and implored his audience to be "champions of freedom" and "soldiers of liberty who are on the right side of history," declaring that they are in a fight for the "heart and soul" of America against opponents he didn't identify.

"Our enemies will try to destroy us, and we cannot fail," he said to applause.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A California psychology professor who claims Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh attempted to sexually assault her when they were in high school identified herself in a story published Sunday in the Washington Post, saying, "I thought he might inadvertently kill me." Ford, a psychology professor at Palo Alto University who teaches in consortium with Stanford University, said she was also spurred to speak out due to inaccuracies about her story that she has heard repeated, according to the report.

"These are all the ills that I was trying to avoid," she told the Washington Post. "Now I feel like my civic responsibility is outweighing my anguish and terror about retaliation."

Christine Blasey Ford, 51, told the newspaper she decided to speak out after the contents of a letter she sent to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was leaked, prompting Kavanaugh to issue a blanket denial of the allegations.

Ford's letter to Feinstein was first reported on Friday by the New Yorker magazine, but the article did not reveal her identity.

Ford said the incident occurred in the 1980s when the 53-year-old Kavanaugh was a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in North Bethesda, Maryland, and she was a 15-year-old sophomore at Holton-Arms School, an all-girls school in Bethesda, Maryland.

She told the Post she believes the incident occurred in 1982 when Kavanaugh would have been a 17-year-old junior at Georgetown Prep.

Ford said she was at a teen house party in Montgomery County, Maryland, when Kavanaugh and one of his male classmates -- both "stumbling drunk" -- cornered her in a bedroom and Kavanaugh pinned her on her back on a bed, the paper reported.

She said Kavanaugh's friend watched as Kavanaugh groped her over her clothes and attempted to remove her clothes and the one-piece bathing suit she was wearing underneath, according to the story.

Ford told the Post that when she tried to scream, Kavanaugh put his hand over her mouth.

"I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford said in the story. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing."

She said she managed to escape when Kavanaugh's friend, whom she identified as conservative writer Mark Judge, jumped on top of them on the bed and sent all three of them tumbling, according to the Post. She told the paper she ran to a bathroom and locked herself inside before fleeing the house.

When the allegations first surfaced last week, Kavanaugh issued a statement, saying, "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time."

In a statement to ABC News on Sunday, White House spokesman Raj Shah said, "As the story notes, we are standing with Judge Kavanaugh's denial."

The White House referred ABC News to Kavanaugh's earlier statement on the allegations.

Judge also denied the incident ever occurred.

"It's just absolutely nuts. I never saw Brett act that way," Judge said in an interview with The Weekly Standard.

ABC News could not immediately reach Ford to comment on the allegations.

President Donald Trump announced on July 9 that he was nominating Kavanaugh to fill the seat on the high court vacated by retiring justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh's Senate Confirmation hearing began on Sept. 4 over objections from many Democrats and protesters in the hearing room.

A vote by the Senate on whether to confirm Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court has yet to be scheduled.

A simple majority of 51 votes is all that is needed to confirm Kavanaugh. Vice President Mike Pence can cast a tie-breaking vote.

Ford said she never told anyone about being allegedly attacked by Kavanaugh until 2012 when she and her husband, Russell Ford, sought couples therapy, the Post reported.

"I think it derailed me substantially for four or five years," Ford told the Post.

She said in the story that she struggled, both academically and socially, and for a long time failed to have healthy relationships with men.

"I was very ill-equipped to forge those kinds of relationships," she said in the story.

"My biggest fear was, do I look like someone just attacked me?" Ford told the paper.

She said that at the time, she recalled thinking, "I'm not ever telling anyone this. This is nothing, it didn't happen, and he didn't rape me."

She said on the advice of her attorney she took a polygraph test, administered by a retired FBI agent. The results came back that she was truthful, according to the Post story.

Ford said she told her husband after they were married in 2002 that she had been the victim of physical abuse. But Russell Ford didn't learn details of the incident.

Russell Ford told the Washington Post that he disagrees with people who say the more than 30-year-old allegations made by his wife have no bearing on Kavanaugh's fitness for the Supreme Court.

"I think you look to judges to be the arbiters of right and wrong," Russell Ford said. "If they don't have a moral code of their own to determine right from wrong, then that's a problem. So I think it's relevant. Supreme Court nominees should be held to a higher standard."

Feinstein released a statement saying she has forwarded Ford's letter to "federal investigative authorities.”

In a statement on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and an Iowa Republican, should postpone the vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation until Ford's allegations can be thoroughly investigated.

"For too long, when woman have made serious allegations of abuse, they have been ignored. That cannot happen in this case," Schumer said. "To railroad a vote now would be an insult to the women of America and the integrity of the Supreme Court.”

A spokesperson for Grassley said in a statement that the senator was working to set up follow-up calls with Kavanaugh and Ford.

"The Chairman and Ranking Member routinely hold bipartisan staff calls with nominees when updates are made to nominees’ background files," the statement read. "Given the late addendum to the background file and revelations of Dr. Ford’s identity, Chairman Grassley is actively working to set up such follow-up calls with Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford ahead of Thursday’s scheduled vote."

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a statement he would "gladly listen" to Ford if she wanted to tell her story to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I agree with the concerns expressed in the Judiciary Committee’s statement about the substance and process regarding the allegations in this latest claim against Judge Kavanaugh," he said. "However, if Ms. Ford wishes to provide information to the committee, I would gladly listen to what she has to say and compare that against all other information we have received about Judge Kavanaugh."

He added that if Ford is to speak to the committee, "it should be done immediately so the process can continue as scheduled."

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Mario Tama/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- FEMA Administrator Brock Long defended President Trump’s controversial claims which doubt new estimates on the Hurricane Maria death toll in Puerto Rico and said that the new numbers included "indirect" deaths due to stress, accidents due to failed infrastructure, and spousal abuse.

Long argued on Sunday morning that a study by George Washington University, which estimated the death toll in Puerto Rico at 2,975 people, considered additional causes of death that did not result from the hurricane itself.

"You might see more deaths indirectly occur as time goes on because people might have heart attacks due to stress, they fall off their house trying to fix their roof, they die in car crashes because they went through an intersection where the stoplights aren't working," Long said on NBC’s "Meet the Press."

Long said there is a difference between "indirect and direct" deaths, and death toll numbers from recent studies are "all over the place."

"Spousal abuse goes through the roof. You can't blame spousal abuse after a disaster on anybody," Long added.

"I think what we're trying to do, in my opinion, is just figure out why people died from direct deaths, which is the wind, the water, and the waves, buildings collapsing," Long said.

The George Washington University study looked at "excess" deaths in the six months following Hurricane Maria, taking into account the expected number of deaths in Puerto Rico each month based on historic data, and noting how many additional people actually died. That number – 2,975 – was accepted by the Puerto Rican government as the official death toll for Hurricane Maria on the island.

In a pair of late night tweets on Friday night, Trump said George Washington University's conclusion there were almost 3,000 deaths was “like magic.”

“‘When Trump visited the island territory last October, OFFICIALS told him in a briefing 16 PEOPLE had died from Maria.’ The Washington Post. This was long AFTER the hurricane took place. Over many months it went to 64 PEOPLE. Then, like magic, ‘3000 PEOPLE KILLED.’” Trump tweeted on Friday.

“They hired … GWU Research to tell them how many people had died in Puerto Rico (how would they not know this?) This method was never done with previous hurricanes because other jurisdictions know how many people were killed. FIFTY TIMES LAST ORIGINAL NUMBER - NO WAY!” Trump continued.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted that the high death toll in Puerto Rico was part of an effort by Democrats to make him look “as bad as possible.” He went on to question how researchers conducted the study.

“If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list,” Trump said.

Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello defended the George Washington University study in his own series of tweets.

“I’d very much be willing to walk you through the scientific process of the study and how @Gwtweets arrived at the excess mortality number estimate. There is no reason to underscore the tragedy

“In the meantime, I hope you consider sending a message of support to show you stand with all of the US Citizens in Puerto Rico that lost loved ones. It would certainly be an act of respect and empathy.”

Admiral Karl Schultz, the U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, did not dispute the official death toll.

“I’m not calling any numbers into doubt,” Schultz said on ABC’s “This Week.” “We were very much supported and powered to get down there and try to be helpful.” we have suffered in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” Rossello wrote on Friday.

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David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Former independent counsel Ken Starr, who led federal investigations of President Clinton, said special counsel Robert Mueller's striking a deal to win the cooperation of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is a "very significant breakthrough" and “really good for the country."

Starr told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl on This Week Sunday, “It is very likely that Paul Manafort has indicated through his counsel and directly that he can provide very helpful information -- useful information -- to get to the bottom of what Bob Mueller and his team have been charged to do. So it is a very significant breakthrough.”

"And so it’s all the more helpful that Paul Manafort has said, 'You have me and I’m going to give you the truth and nothing but the truth,'" Starr said. "So I think this is this is really good for the country."

On Manafort agreeing to the deal, Starr said, “Given the seriousness of the charges that were awaiting him, he did the right thing. He did the smart thing.”

Manafort pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of conspiracy, and agreed to fully cooperate with Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any possible collusion by Trump associates.

The former Trump campaign chairman and foreign lobbyist, who had already been found guilty of eight counts of tax fraud by a federal jury in Virginia, was supposed to begin a second trial in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Monday. In his deal with the special counsel, he agreed to "broad" cooperation and to participate in “interviews, briefings, producing documents, testifying in other matters.”

Appearing with Starr on This Week was Norman Eisen, who served as President Obama’s chief ethics lawyer for the first two years of his administration.

Eisen said he doesn't think Mueller would have offered the plea deal unless there was "very powerful evidence" that Manafort could contribute information important to the investigation.

“I would say there is no prosecutor alive who's more rigorous than Bob,” Eisen said, referring to Mueller. “I don't think -- given the nature of the fight that Manafort put up, the seriousness of the crimes, and the power of the evidence of those crimes, Jon -- that this deal would have been offered absent some very powerful evidence.”

“We don’t know for sure,” he said, “but I think there's a substantial possibility that this evidence that Manafort is offering will implicate somebody up the chain.”

“Who is up the chain from Paul Manafort?” Eisen added. “Don Jr. … Potentially the president himself.”

Manafort was present at a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump campaign members and a Russian lawyer. The meeting was arranged by Donald Trump Jr. after he was told the Russian had damaging information on Hillary Clinton.

Eisen said Sunday of Manafort, "For the first time, we have somebody who was at the infamous Trump Tower meeting. We have his notes. He can explain his notes. He can talk about the run-up to the meeting, the afterwards.”

“He’s not going to survive Manafort’s testimony,” Eisen added of President Trump. “That’s my prediction.”

On whether Trump could still pardon Manafort, Starr said, “He has the power to do that. And then I think it really becomes an issue of, is that an abuse of power on the part of the president in light of an ongoing investigation?”

“The pardon will only -- in my view, will only hurt Trump. It will only dig the hole deeper,” Eisen said.

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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump has repeatedly sought to amplify his administration's preparedness for Hurricane Florence, using social media to stress the dangers of remaining in evacuation zones and urge residents of North and South Carolina to heed warnings from FEMA and state-level authorities.

While a president can benefit from appearing to be in charge, they have also learned the hard way how politically risky it can be facing questions on disaster response. Just ask George W. Bush about Katrina.

But in a departure from the administration's approach during the 2017 hurricane season, the White House has largely avoided traditional on-camera briefings to communicate with the broader public and take questions from journalists. Trump press secretary Sarah Sanders held just one public briefing in the lead-up to Florence -- on Monday, Sept. 10.

Ahead of Hurricane Harvey, which hit Texas in 2017, Sanders invited Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert to brief reporters both before and after the storm's landfall in what became routine appearances through the rest of hurricane season, particularly during hurricanes Irma and Maria. Bossert briefed a total of five times, in addition to several briefings where Sanders took questions on ongoing relief efforts. Bossert departed the White House in April and is now a contributor for ABC News. His replacement, Doug Fears, has not appeared publicly or taken questions.

The lack of press briefings has limited journalists' ability to publicly hold the administration accountable for its preparations for the storm, inquire about the president's involvement and leadership in response efforts, and address the extraordinary Trump assertion Thursday accusing Democrats of inflating the death toll in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

The near abandonment of the use of on-camera briefings also marks a continuation of a trend in the West Wing's apparent communications strategy. During the summer months of June, July and August, Sanders held just 13 press briefings, according to ABC's analysis -- the fewest during a summer in recent memory.

Asked by ABC News about the absence of traditional White House press briefings around the storm, administration officials said they wanted FEMA and Administrator Brock Long to take the lead on informing reporters and the public on Hurricane Florence. The officials would not explain the change in approach from last year or why they declined to answer questions about the president's statements publicly.

Sanders' briefing on Sept. 10 marked the end of a 19-day streak without a single on-camera briefing, though the majority of time was devoted to a presentation by Council of Economic Advisers chairman Kevin Hassett that sought to dispute arguments that President Trump wasn't largely responsible for the strength in the U.S. economy. Sanders only fielded reporters' questions for a total of 18 minutes, with topics ranging from North Korea, journalist Bob Woodward's new book on the administration and the anonymous administration official who penned an op-ed in The New York Times.

The president has also spoken several times regarding the storm, including after he received an Oval Office briefing on the storm on Tuesday from Long and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

On Wednesday, the president posted a video message from the Rose Garden warning residents to not "play games" and heed evacuation orders from local officials.

"We’re fully prepared, food, medical -- everything you can imagine, we are ready," Trump said. "But despite that, bad things can happen when you’re talking about a storm of this size. It’s called Mother Nature. You never know, but we know."

The White House press office has also sent periodic updates through the week via its email list, including calls the president has held with state and local officials, and pictures of the president and Vice President Pence receiving a briefing in the Oval Office and with the National Security Council Resilience Directorate -- though neither of those meetings was originally listed on the president's public schedule.

On Friday, as Hurricane Florence made its way inland in North and South Carolina, President Trump again had no events open to the press on his public schedule and instead used his Twitter to retweet more than 20 different tweets from federal and state accounts providing constant updates on the storm's developments.

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WJTN News Bulletin for Tues., Sept. 18, 2018

**News Bulletin -- City man found dead from drowing in Chadakoin River... A Jamestown man has died after he apparently fell into the Chadakoin River sometime early Monday morning... and, he fai...

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