Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One of the nation’s largest banks said a loan made to Kushner Companies last year was “completely appropriate” despite questions about the timing.
March 31, 2017, less than a month after Citigroup chief Michael Corbat met at the White House with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has faced questions about potential conflicts between his government role as a senior adviser to the president and his loyalty to his family’s real estate firm.
The 2017 meeting was first reported by the New York Times in Feb. 2018.
In a letter obtained by ABC News and addressed to Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren, Thomas Carper and Gary Peters – as well as to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings – who had requested additional information, Citi general counsel Rohan Weerasinghe sought to assure the lawmakers “This transaction was done in the normal course of Citi’s commercial real estate lending business.”
The lawmakers’ March 8, 2018 letter to Corbat questioning the loans said: "Federal ethics laws prohibit federal employees from profiting from their government service, and Mr. Kushner's refusal to fully divest from his financial holdings raises questions about his behavior as a Senior Adviser to President Trump."
“It would be a serious matter if the loan provided to Kushner companies by Citigroup resulted in a violation of federal ethics laws,” the letter continued.
Citi’s letter in response said “The Kushner family has been a client of Citi for decades” and played down the timing of the loan and Corbat’s meeting with Kushner.
“Transactions of this nature take a long time to come to fruition and Citi had begun exploring this loan in late 2016,” the letter said.
The bank’s general counsel added that Corbat “was unaware of the transaction” until a report in The New York Times. By the time Corbat and Kushner met “the loan was far along the standard process,” the letter said.
Corbat had requested a meeting with Kushner to discuss U.S. trade policy and NAFTA, the bank said.
Citi provided $325 million for a property in the Brooklyn neighborhood known by the acronym DUMBO for down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass.
“Nothing related to the DUMBO loan or any other personal business with Mr. Kushner or the Kushner Companies was discussed,” the bank said.
The remaining financing for the property was provided by Apollo Global Management, a firm that has also faced questions about loans to Kushner Companies after the Times reported Joshua Harris, one of its founders, met at the White House with Kushner. The Times cited an Apollo spokesman as saying Harris was not involved in the decision to loan money to Kushner Companies and that the loan “went through the firm’s standard approval process.”
Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Abbe Lowell, Kushner’s attorney told ABC News:
“Mr. Kushner has met with hundreds of business people during the campaign, transition and in the Administration to hear ideas about improving the American economy. Mr. Kushner has had no role in the Kushner Companies since joining the government and has taken no part of any business, loans, or projects with or for the Companies after that.”
The lawmakers also sent Apollo a letter questioning its loans but its response to the congressional inquiry was not immediately available.
Other lenders face an inquiry from the New York State Department of Financial Services which is exploring their relationships with Kushner and his family business.
Late Wednesday, Carper, one of the Democratic senators who had questioned the loans, said the Citi response was being reviewed, “but these questions regarding potential conflicts of interest have plagued this Administration ever since then-President-elect Trump refused to divest from his business interests.”
“The Trump Administration should require all senior White House officials to fully divest from all personal business interests. Anything less will only ensure that members of Congress continue to raise questions as part of their constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight of the executive branch," Carper said in a statement
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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Mississippi will send its first female lawmaker to Congress in April, a candidate whose Democratic background could make her vulnerable to attacks from conservatives in the November special election to fill out Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s term.
Gov. Phil Bryant announced Wednesday he was appointing state Agricultural Secretary Cindy Hyde-Smith to Cochran’s seat.
Cochran, 80, is suffering from poor health and announced earlier this month he would retire effective April 1.
Hyde-Smith will serve in the seat until the Nov. 6 special election to fill out the rest of Cochran's term, which expires in January 2020.
The appointment means Vermont is the only state not to send a woman to Congress.
Hyde-Smith will become the 23rd woman serving in the Senate this year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
The announcement was made in the 58-year old’s hometown of Brookhaven, Miss.
In his remarks, Bryant emphasized her conservative credentials, calling her “a rock-solid conservative.”
Hyde-Smith is a beef cattle farmer who has served in the Mississippi State Senate from 2000 to 2012.
She drew ire in 2010 when she switched parties from Democrat to Republican. Her background in the other party led to reports that some Republicans have questioned appointing a former Democrat to the seat, particularly since state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a conservative favorite, is running the special election.
Cochran is a legend in the state, having served in the seat since 1978.
After he announced his retirement, McDaniel announced he would run in the special election for Cochran’s seat instead of challenging Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, who is also on the ballot this fall.
McDaniel ran against Cochran in 2014 and nearly ousted him from office.
In accepting the position, Hyde-Smith emphasized her conservative credentials.
“I've been conservative all of my life and that's demonstrated by my conservative voting record as a three-term State Senator and my conservative accomplishments as Agriculture Commissioner," she said.
She also touted her support of President Donald Trump, saying she looked forward to working with him on the “policies and principles that are making America great again."
And her first campaign release also notes her ties to the administration, saying she is “strong supporter of President Donald Trump” and points out she co-chaired the Trump Agriculture Policy Advisory Council during the presidential campaign.
McDaniel wasted no time in attacking Hyde-Smith for her time in the Democratic Party.
His statement on her appointment used the word “Democrat” 11 times.
“Knowing the establishment’s opposition to conservatives, it was not at all surprising that they would choose a former Democrat,” he said in a release. And he also attacked her as the choice of establishment Republicans, invoking the name of Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, who has been a target of anger from the right.
“I was troubled to learn that Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant dutifully followed the orders of the Washington establishment’s Mitch McConnell” with Hyde-Smith’s appointment, he said.
McDaniel compared this primary contest to the one in the Alabama Senate race last year, in which Republicans supported the appointed GOP senator, Luther Strange, in the primary instead of Rep. Mo Brooks. Former state Judge Roy Moore ended up winning the Republican primary and ultimately losing the special election to Democrat Doug Jones.
“The establishment should have learned their lesson in Alabama. By spending millions of dollars against conservative Mo Brooks, they ended up losing the seat to a Democrat,” McDaniel said.
On the Democratic side, former Rep. Mike Espy, who also served as Bill Clinton’s agricultural secretary, announced his bid for Cochran’s seat earlier this month. In 1986, Espy became the first African American since Reconstruction to win a congressional seat in Mississippi.
There is no primary in Mississippi’s special election. If no candidate garners a majority, the top two vote-getters face off in a run-off later in November.
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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, is expressing outrage over a report that a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy was caught sleeping on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where one of the deadliest school shootings in American history happened last month.
“Of all the schools in America, you would think this would be the safest one right now. This is so outrageous it’s almost impossible to believe,” Rubio said in a statement Tuesday.
The statement was posted to Rubio's web site shortly after The Huffington Post first reported BSO Deputy Moises Carotti was found sleeping in his patrol car outside the school's northwest building.
The Broward Sheriff's Office confirmed to ABC News that Carotti was first found by a student, who then notified a BSO sergeant patrolling the interior of the school.
Just thirty minutes before, shooter Nikolas Cruz's brother Zachary was arrested by Broward deputies for trespassing on school property. Three other students were also arrested in separate, unrelated incidents; two for carrying knives on school property, and one for posting threats to social media, according to the sheriff's office.
Carotti will be suspended without pay pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation, the sheriff's office said.
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Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is set to announce actions the United States will take against China to combat what the administration claims are unfair practices related to intellectual property.
"Tomorrow, the president will announce the actions he has decided to take based on [the U.S. Trade Representative]'s 301 investigation into China's state-led, market-distorting efforts to force, pressure, and steal U.S. technologies and intellectual property," deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement.
The specific nature of these actions was not detailed.
The White House's confirmation of the pending announcement comes amid reports that the president will roll out steep tariffs of tens of billions annually against China. The White House declined to confirm those figures on Wednesday, but a USTR official said that tariffs and investment restrictions are options that the president will have at his disposal based on the USTR's investigation into China's practices.
The investigation, which was initiated in August of last year to look into China's practices as it relates to intellectual property, was very “getting very close” to concluding on Wednesday, the official said.
Among China's behaviors that the U.S. has investigated is a whether the country has used state funds to purchase U.S. intellectual property, as well as China's practice of not allowing U.S. companies the same abilities as Chinese companies to license intellectual property in China.
The official said that the USTR has found that the World Trade Organization and other negotiations with China have not been sufficient in reining in the country's behavior.
“Is the WTO alone going to be able to get at a lot of these things? No. Can you simply sit down and get them to sign on to commitments and then trust that those commitments are going to solve the problem? No,” the official said.
The official also said the administration has been engaged in a months-long effort to engage with China diplomatically on its intellectual property practices and said there’s been an extensive interagency process.
“As of today, the administration has not been satisfied with the types of responses we've been getting from China and now we're getting very close to the end of potentially this 301 investigation, so obviously the president will have the final say,” the official said.
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Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is pushing back hard after being criticized for congratulating Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election in a phone call Tuesday.
The president lashed out on Twitter — first taking aim at the news media.
"I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him. They are wrong! Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.......," Trump tweeted.
Trump then sent a second tweet insulting former Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton for, he said, not getting along better with Russia.
"They can help solve problems with North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Iran and even the coming Arms Race. Bush tried to get along, but didn’t have the “smarts.” Obama and Clinton tried, but didn’t have the energy or chemistry (remember RESET). PEACE THROUGH STRENGTH!" Trump tweeted.
Trump's tweets came after a White House official said the West Wing is "stunned" by reporting Monday night that Trump did not follow the advice of his aides to not congratulate Putin during the call Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday night, the Washington Post reported that Trump did not heed the advice of his national security advisers to not congratulate Putin and to condemn the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in the UK. "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" was written in all capital letters on briefing materials provided to Trump by advisers, the Washington Post reported. The report said it wasn't clear whether Trump had read the briefing materials.
"If this story is accurate, that means someone leaked the president's briefing papers. Leaking such information is a fireable offense and likely illegal," a senior White House official told ABC.
An administration official confirmed reports that chief of staff John Kelly is "frustrated and deeply disappointed" by the leak of the president's briefing notes for his call with Putin.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill said whoever made the stunning leak should be fired — or simply quit.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said that he didn't like that Trump missed an opportunity to challenge Putin.
"But you know what I like even less? That there's somebody close to him leaking this stuff. If you don't like the guy then quit. But to be this duplicative and continue to leak things out, it's dangerous," Rubio said. "If you don't like working for the president, you should resign your job."
Sen. Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, said the leaker ought to be fired.
"I think that's unconscionable. I think whoever did that ought to be fired immediately and I think they ought to be prosecuted," said Kennedy. "I think that's absolutely unconscionable. It's disgraceful to work for a person, give him advice, if he chooses not to follow that advice, to go try to justify your advice by leaking the advice."
One administration official told ABC News their impression of what Trump said to Putin in offering his congratulations was that it was an underhanded insult. The official said Trump congratulated Putin on his big victory over tough competition.
But that's not how Trump described the call when he — impromptu — told reporters gathered in the Oval Office Tuesday that he spoke to Putin in the morning and congratulated him on his victory. Trump did not, however, discuss election meddling or Russia's use of a nerve agent on a former spy, two glaring omissions from the call.
When White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was asked Tuesday why Trump didn't mention election meddling to Putin, she told reporters, "We speak about it and continue in ways, steps forward to make sure it never happens again."
The White House has tried to crack down on leaks in the past, but despite measures like taking away personal cell phones, the leaks have continued.
"There have been more leaks coming out of this White House, the only thing in coming out in greater volume are people resigning," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As questions have mounted about data firm Cambridge Analytica’s alleged misuse of Facebook data from up to 50 million user profiles, it has not only caught the eye of Congressional investigators but also the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team for the last several weeks has had a growing interest to better understand the relationship between the campaign, the Republican National Committee, and Cambridge Analytica, sources tell ABC News.
The company is also under investigation by British officials for its use of Facebook users’ data.
Sources tell ABC News several digital experts who worked in support of Trump’s bid in 2016 have met with Mueller's team for closed-door interviews. The staffers, most of whom were employed by the RNC, served as key members of the 2016 operation working closely with the campaign and the data firm, the sources said. The company worked closely with the Republican candidate’s political team.
The Trump campaign declined to comment and the Republican National Committee has not responded to ABC News' request for comment.
Cambridge Analytica was brought on by then-Trump campaign digital advisor Brad Parscale in early June 2016, after the data science firm pitched him on its services, sources told ABC News. Three Cambridge Analytica employees, including two data scientists, immediately moved to San Antonio to embed with Parscale's firm and by August, the number of fulltime staffers in Texas ballooned to 13.
The team led by Matt Oczkowski, who served as the data firm's chief product officer, was divided into three groups focusing on data science, research and polling and marketing.
Parscale would eventually leave Texas to move into Trump Tower in September, and the data firm sent a mid-level employee with him to interpret daily polling reports, according to sources.
Cambridge Analytica was one entity involved in creating the voter information and fundraising database now known as Project Alamo, built jointly by staffers from the RNC, the Trump campaign and Parscale's firm with data supplied by the RNC and the campaign, sources said.
A spokesperson for the Trump campaign told ABC News in a statement that they “used the RNC for its voter data and not Cambridge Analytica. Using the RNC data was one of the best choices the campaign made. Any claims that voter data were used from another source to support the victory in 2016 are false.”
A source with direct knowledge who has met with the special counsel's team tells ABC News investigators have asked former senior level campaign staff about the digital operations, specifically how data was collected and used and how assets were targeted specifically in the battleground states. Mueller's team has asked witnesses about the process of "micro targeting" which is the process of using data to identify specific groups of individuals and thereby influence their thoughts and potentially their actions.
From the start, Trump and his top advisors have touted the campaign’s mastery of spinning pithy social media messages into votes.
"I understand social media. I understand Twitter, I understand the power of Twitter I understand the power of Facebook. Maybe better than almost anybody, based on my results," Trump said at a 2015 town hall in South Carolina.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, and Parscale are among those who credited the use of targeted Facebook advertising – a strategy developed by Cambridge Analytica.
“We found that Facebook and digital targeting were the most effective ways to reach the audiences. After the primary, we started ramping up because we knew that doing a national campaign is different than doing a primary campaign," Kushner told Forbes Magazine just after the election. "That was when we formalized the system because we had to ramp up for digital fundraising. We brought in Cambridge Analytica.”
The Trump campaign paid the data firm more than $5.8 million for “data management” during the 2016 election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Overseeing that effort was Parscale, the Trump family confidante who has been tapped to run Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. Parscale coordinated work with Cambridge Analytica executives to identify voters who were undecided and use social media to motivate them to support Trump over Hillary Clinton.
"I think Donald Trump won, but I think Facebook was the method–it was the highway in which his car drove on," Parscale told 60 Minutes last year.
In an undercover video aired on the British television Channel 4, the managing director of Cambridge Analytica's political division, Mark Turnbull, appears to describe, the effort to a reporter posing as a potential client.
Turnbull said his firm created memes around the “Crooked Hillary” brand, not necessarily the name itself.
“The brand was ‘Defeat crooked Hillary,’” he said. “Sometimes you could use proxy organizations… charities, or activist group. We feed them the material and they do the work. We just put the information into the bloodstream on the internet and then watch it grow. Give it a little push every once in a while. .. it’s un-attributable. Untraceable.”
Cambridge Analytica in a statement said it deleted all the Facebook data and related information in cooperation with the social media company, and that such information was never used as part of the data firm's work with the Trump presidential campaign. The data firm has said it was unaware the data was improperly obtained by a third party and that is was destroyed as soon as they were made aware.
Aleksandr Kogan, the psychology researcher at Cambridge University, who developed the app to collect the data from Facebook users that Cambridge Analytica used told the BBC that he is “being basically used as a scapegoat” by the social media company and data firm.
"Honestly, we thought we were acting perfectly appropriately, we thought we were doing something that was really normal," he told the news outlet.
The Trump campaign has said they never used data from Cambridge Analytica.
On Tuesday, the data firm announced CEO Alexander Nix’s suspension, pending an investigation and the release of several undercover videos, aired by Channel 4, of him bragging about Cambridge Analytica’s use of sex workers and bribes to damage politicians for their clients.
In the video, Nix is also recorded as saying the company used a method of communicating with clients that ensure emails “disappear” after they have been read.
“You send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear,” Nix said in the undercover Channel 4 News video. “There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”
ABC News has not verified Nix’s on camera claims in the Channel 4 reports.
The data firm has been under fire this week after reports that the company used data harvested from millions of Facebook users without consent beginning in 2014 through an app. The company claims the material was obtained by a third party and has denied wrongdoing.
“This Facebook data was not used by Cambridge Analytica as part of the services it provided to the Donald Trump presidential campaign; personality targeted advertising was not carried out for this client either. The company has made this clear since 2016,” the company said in a statement.
Lawmakers involved in congressional investigations into Russian election interference have renewed interest in Facebook, calling for top company leaders to testify on Capitol Hill and more scrutiny of safeguards meant to protect user data.
“I think it’s time for the CEO, Mr. [Mark] Zuckerberg, and other top officials to come and testify and not tell part of the story, but tell the whole story of their involvement -- not only with the Trump campaign but their ability to have their platform misused by the Russians,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told ABC News.
Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee may soon have the opportunity to question the former Cambridge employee who helped expose the company's use of millions of Facebook profiles without their knowledge to help its political messaging efforts during the 2016 presidential election.
Christopher Wylie, the former employee, told ABC News “one of the reasons why I’m speaking out is because I think that it’s really concerning that no one has really investigated Cambridge Analytica and its role in the 2016 election.”
Wylie confirmed to ABC News that he has accepted an invitation to appear for an interview with congressional investigators.
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Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Nearly a year before Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired senior FBI official Andrew McCabe for what Sessions called a "lack of candor," McCabe oversaw a federal criminal investigation into whether Sessions lacked candor when testifying before Congress about contacts with Russian operatives, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.
Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly accused Sessions of misleading them in congressional testimony and called on federal authorities to investigate, but McCabe's previously-unreported decision to actually put the attorney general in the crosshairs of an FBI probe was an exceptional move.
One source told ABC News that Sessions was not aware of the investigation when he decided to fire McCabe last Friday less than 48 hours before McCabe, a former FBI deputy director, was due to retire from government and obtain a full pension, but an attorney representing Sessions declined to confirm that.
Last year, several top Republican and Democratic lawmakers were informed of the probe during a closed-door briefing with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and McCabe, ABC News was told.
By then, Sessions had recused himself from the FBI’s probe of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, giving Rosenstein oversight of the growing effort.
Within weeks, Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to take over the investigation and related inquiries, including the Sessions matter.
Two months ago, Sessions was interviewed by Mueller's team, and the federal inquiry related to his candor during his confirmation process has since been shuttered, according to a lawyer representing Sessions.
"The Special Counsel's office has informed me that after interviewing the attorney general and conducting additional investigation, the attorney general is not under investigation for false statements or perjury in his confirmation hearing testimony and related written submissions to Congress," attorney Chuck Cooper told ABC News on Wednesday.
According to the sources, McCabe authorized the criminal inquiry after a top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and then-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter in March 2017 to the FBI urging agents to investigate "all contacts" Sessions may have had with Russians, and "whether any laws were broken in the course of those contacts or in any subsequent discussion of whether they occurred."
It's unclear how actively federal authorities pursued the matter in the months before Sessions' interview with Mueller’s investigators. It's also unclear whether the special counsel may still be pursuing other matters related to Sessions and statements he has made to Congress – or others – since his confirmation.
During his confirmation in January 2017, Sessions told the Senate committee that he had not been in contact with anyone connected to the Russian government about the 2016 election. He also said he was "not aware" of anyone else affiliated with the Trump campaign communicating with the Russian government ahead of the election.
Two months later, after a Washington Post report disputed what Sessions told Congress, the attorney general acknowledged he had met the Russian ambassador twice during the presidential campaign, but insisted none of those interactions were "to discuss issues of the campaign."
Sessions "made no attempt to correct his misleading testimony until The Washington Post revealed that, in fact, he had at least two meetings with the Russian ambassador," Leahy and Franken said in a statement at the time. "We know he would not tolerate dishonesty if he were in our shoes."
Sessions called any suggestions that he misled lawmakers "false."
Nevertheless, charges subsequently brought by Mueller raised more questions over Sessions' testimony to Congress.
In November, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos admitted to federal authorities that during the campaign he was in frequent contact with Russian operatives about setting up a meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Papadopoulos pitched the idea to Sessions and Trump at a meeting of the then-candidate's foreign policy team in March 2016.
Sessions later told lawmakers he "always told the truth," insisting he didn’t recall the March 2016 meeting when first testifying to Congress. He later remembered the meeting after reading news reports about it, he said.
"We are concerned by Attorney General Sessions' lack of candor to the Committee and his failure thus far to accept responsibility for testimony that could be construed as perjury," Leahy and Franken said in their March 2017 letter to then-FBI director James Comey, who was fired by Trump two months later.
It is a federal crime for anyone to knowingly provide false information to Congress – or to a federal law enforcement agency. No charges have been announced against McCabe, and there’s no indication that the FBI has recommended he be charged.
McCabe was fired Friday after the Justice Department's inspector general concluded that McCabe misled investigators looking into how Justice Department and FBI officials handled matters associated with the 2016 presidential election.
In October 2016, hoping to push back on a series of news reports questioning whether he might be trying to protect Hillary Clinton, McCabe authorized two FBI officials to speak with a reporter about his efforts to boost the FBI's investigation of the Clinton Foundation. When he was questioned later about that decision, McCabe "lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions," Sessions said in a statement announcing McCabe's firing.
"The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability," Sessions said. "As the [FBI's ethics office] stated, 'all FBI employees know that lacking candor under oath results in dismissal and that our integrity is our brand.'"
McCabe vehemently denies misleading investigators, saying in his own statement that he is "being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey."
For more than a year, Trump and other Republicans have questioned whether McCabe harbored a political bias when making law enforcement decisions as deputy director. McCabe's critics point to his ties to Democrats, particularly his wife's failed Democratic run for state senate in Virginia nearly three years ago.
But in an interview with ABC News, McCabe insisted politics was "absolutely not" a factor in any of the decisions he made, noting he has considered himself a Republican all his life.
A representative for McCabe declined to comment for this article.
Franken, one of the two senators who pushed the FBI to investigate Sessions, resigned from Congress in December amid several claims of sexual misconduct.
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Pete Marovich/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt spent almost $118,000 in flights — many of them first class — during his first year in the role, according to documents the agency provided to the House Oversight Committee.
In the letter to Chairman Trey Gowdy, a Republican who requested the documents last month, the agency says that the EPA approved the administrator's first or business class flights based on a recommendation from his security detail.
There have been multiple questions about the cost of Pruitt's travel, especially after the agency confirmed that he often flies first and business class citing security reasons. The EPA's inspector general is currently investigating the cost of his travel from last year and whether the agency followed all proper procedure in making travel decisions.
"This location allows the Administrator's security agents to expeditiously exit with him upon the occurrence of a threat," Associate Administrator Troy Lyons wrote in the letter.
The documents were first reported by The Daily Beast and provided to the committee on Tuesday.
Neither the EPA or the House Oversight Committee has responded to ABC News’ request to review the documents.
The EPA has said that Pruitt receives "an unprecedented number of threats" directed at the administrator and his family, which has led them to increase his security detail. Pruitt has also said that the decision to place him in an upgraded class was made after at least one problematic interaction with another passenger during one of his trips in his first few months as administrator.
Pruitt recently said in an interview with CBS News that he has asked his security team to find a solution that would include more flights in coach.
Federal regulations say that federal officials should take the cheapest travel possible but that first class travel can be approved in "exceptional security circumstances," according to the letter.
The letter also says that Pruitt's security detail also traveled in first class on these trips but does not include documents on the cost of those flights.
In addition to the cost of Pruitt's first class flights the agency has also confirmed that Pruitt took at least one chartered flight and multiple flights on government planes totaling more than $58,000.
Among questions being raised is one trip that included a flight on his way to Italy for the G-7 environmental summit in June. That trip included multiple flights including a flight on a military plane and a first-class flight.
ABC News has exclusively obtained a June 2017 photo of Pruitt deplaning a military-owned plane at New York's John F Kennedy International Airport.
In that instance, Pruitt was approved to take a military plane from Cincinnati to New York before his trip to Italy for the G-7 environmental summit. That flight cost $36,000 and was approved so Pruitt could join President Trump at an event in Cincinnati and still make his flight to Rome, which was another first class flight leaving JFK airport.
More documents released this week showed that that trip to Italy cost the agency about $120,000 - about $90,000 on travel for Pruitt and his staff and an additional $30,000 more than previously made public for the cost of his security detail.
Those documents were obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through a Freedom of Information Act request and subsequent lawsuit. ABC News reviewed the documents.
E&E News, an energy and environment news outlet, has reported that Pruitt's security detail is more expensive than previous administrators, according to information obtained through a FOIA request. For example, documents released by EPA show that Pruitt's security detail cost upwards of $830,000 during the first quarter of the year.
The news outlet reported that former Administrator Gina McCarthy's security detail cost about $465,000 and Lisa Jackson's detail cost about $423,000 for the first quarter in their respective administrations.
Other lawmakers have also raised concerns about the costs of Pruitt’s travel and security detail.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a letter to the EPA inspector general on Tuesday asking them to provide more information on the cost of Pruitt’s security and specifically how the agency handles his security on personal trips.
Whitehouse writes in the letter, which was reviewed by ABC News, that he has seen documents that Pruitt’s security detail traveled with him on a trip in December where he had no official business scheduled. Pruitt allegedly flew to Lexington, Kentucky and attended a University of Kentucky basketball game on Dec 29, flew to Los Angeles with his family on Dec 31 where they attended the Rose Bowl and then went to Disneyland on Jan. 2nd and 3rd, according to the letter.
“Information I have reviewed suggests that significant agency resources are being devoted to Administrator Pruitt’s round-the-clock security, even when he is traveling on non-official business,” Whitehouse wrote in the letter.
Whitehouse asks the EPA to provide more information about the cost of the security detail, including whether the agency issues tickets for agents to attend events like the Rose Bowl with the administrator.
He also asks the EPA to answer questions about whether the cost of Pruitt’s security detail “detracts from the agency’s agility to investigate environmental crimes.”
In another part of the letter, Whitehouse says he has been told that Pruitt has requested lodging on his trips that is higher than the federal government’s daily rate.
“While I consider matters of personal security to be extremely serious, personal security should never be used as a pretext to obtain special treatment,” the senator wrote in the letter.
The EPA defended the costs.
“Administrator Pruitt follows the same security protocol whether he’s in his personal or official capacity,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said in a statement.
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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Working against a midnight Friday deadline, Democrats and Republicans are coming together on a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill to avert a government shutdown, although they’re punting on some of the more contentious issues, including a solution for the fate of some 700,000 DACA recipients – undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
As snow blanketed Capitol Hill Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Nancy Pelosi emerged from a meeting of the so-called “Big Four” congressional leaders in the House Speaker Paul Ryan's office, signaling they've reached a deal in principle with Republicans, although they’re still finalizing legislative text.
“We had a very, very good meeting and we hope that everything will be done,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “There's some language that has to be gone over in a few areas but we hope to be ready to go in a few hours” while Pelosi said negotiators have “made good progress.”
Ryan likewise told reporters the leaders had a "good meeting" while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said appropriators are heading "toward a conclusion" and "is currently being finalized."
Pelosi signaled rank-and-file House Democrats would vote for the compromise.
“I want to commend our staff, the staff of both House, Senate, and the Republicans as well for dealing expeditiously with some of the differences, resolving some, putting some aside for another day,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “And I think we're going to present something to our members that they can comfortably support.”
The deal funds government programs for the remaining fiscal year 2018, including $629 billion in defense spending and non-defense discretionary funding at a pace of $579 billion. An additional $92 billion is set aside for emergencies.
Current government funding lapses on Friday night at 11:59:59 p.m.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are tight-lipped about the details, although aides say the package also includes the "Fix NICS" gun purchase legislation to give states and federal agencies incentives to enter data into the National Instant Background Check System.
But a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients must wait for another day, sources say, leaving the futures of hundreds of thousands of people hanging in the balance.
"Republicans refused to address DACA in a manner that Democrats could support," a Democratic aide noted.
Nevertheless, the Democratic leaders expect broad bipartisan support in a vote later this week.
“We're feeling very good about this. We've accomplished many, many, many of our goals,” Schumer added. “When it's unveiled, you will see them. We're not getting into any more details.”
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise plans to whip during the first series of votes following the text being available, according to a senior GOP leadership aide. As of noon Wednesday, the text still had not been posted online for members to review.
The deal requires bipartisan buy-in from all four corners of Congress, though congressional leaders did not craft the bill to win over support from the most conservative and progressive wings of their respective parties. Freedom Caucus conservatives, for example, have expressed a principled concern over the $1.3 trillion price tag, while some Democrats are expected to attribute their opposition to a lack of a solution on DACA.
But the bill should not require their support for passage.
The White House has been engaged in the negotiations but has not yet weighed in on the president's position on the expected agreement.
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Getty Images/Jeff Kravitz(NEW YORK) -- A former Playboy model who claims she had an affair with Donald Trump and is now suing to break free from a 2016 legal contract that allegedly restricted her ability to speak about it has "no interest in making money" and only wants to "set the record straight," her attorney says.
Former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal on Tuesday filed suit against the publisher that owns the National Enquirer, American Media Inc. (AMI), which apparently paid $150,000 for the exclusive rights to McDougal's firsthand account of her alleged affair with Trump. McDougal alleges in the lawsuit that AMI "worked secretly" with Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen as well as her own attorney at the time to buy her silence after Trump became the Republican presidential nominee in the 2016 election.
McDougal seeks to invalidate the contract because she claims "there was fraud in its execution," its object "is illegal" and it "violates fundamental public policy."
“AMI lied to me, made empty promises, and repeatedly intimidated and manipulated me," McDougal said in a statement Tuesday. "I just want the opportunity to set the record straight and move on with my life, free from this company, its executives and its lawyers."
In a statement Tuesday responding to the lawsuit, an AMI spokesperson said in part, "Karen McDougal has been free to respond to press inquiries about her relationship with President Trump since 2016. Thus, the suggestion that AMI 'silenced' her is completely without merit. Rather, Karen signed a contract that gave AMI the editorial discretion to publish her life story, and she promised to write health and fitness columns and appear on the cover of two magazines."
Peter Stris, who is among the attorneys representing McDougal, said his client's decision to file suit now is "not for opportunistic reasons."
"This publicity is not good for Karen McDougal. This is not going to make any money for Karen McDougal," Stris told ABC News' David Muir in an interview Wednesday on "Good Morning America."
"She has no interest in making money. She wants out of this contract, not for opportunistic reasons but because she wants to get out from under the thumb of a huge company that is essentially controlling her life," he continued. "She's going to speak once, she's going to set the record straight and then she wants to go back to a normal, private life."
McDougal, who was the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year, claims in court documents that she had a 10-month "romantic relationship" with Trump that began in 2006. Trump was married to his current wife, Melania, at the time.
A White House spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News last month that Trump denies having had an affair with the ex-Playboy model: "This is an old story that is just more fake news. The President says he never had a relationship with McDougal."
McDougal reportedly documented their alleged relationship "in an eight-page, handwritten document" that was provided to The New Yorker by her friend, John Crawford.
Nearly a decade later, rumors of the alleged affair began to arise around the time Trump was named the Republican presidential nominee. McDougal "wanted to be the one to tell it to ensure that the account was accurate and not lurid grist for the tabloid mill," according to the lawsuit. So she hired entertainment lawyer Keith Davidson, who introduced her to AMI, which at first expressed no interest in purchasing the story of her alleged relationship with Trump but later changed its mind, according to the lawsuit.
According to McDougal's lawsuit, Davidson informed her that AMI wanted to buy the rights to her story but would not publish it because the company's CEO and chairman, David Pecker, "is close personal friends with Mr. Trump." Davidson told her that AMI offered $150,000, 45 percent of which he would keep, and would also give her "a highly lucrative contract by guaranteeing her two magazine covers ... and 24 months of both monthly feature print articles and weekly online columns."
McDougal alleges in court documents that AMI and her own lawyer failed to tell her that the contract's fine print did not actually require the company to run her columns nor that they were "secretly negotiating deals with other women to kill negative stories for Mr. Trump." McDougal was "pressured" by AMI and Davidson into signing the agreement "within hours of receiving it," according to the lawsuit.
"She didn't fully understand anything about the contract. But the real issue is this is not a hush agreement," Stris said in the interview on "GMA" this morning. "There's a provision in the contract that says she can respond to legitimate press inquiries."
McDougal later fired Davidson "after months of radio silence from AMI about her weekly columns" and, with pro bono help from First Amendment lawyer Ted Boutrous, she negotiated an amendment to the contract allowing her to respond to "legitimate press inquiries" about her alleged affair with Trump, according to the lawsuit.
However, in the following months, McDougal claims in court documents that AMI has told her "to say nothing about the relationship to reporters that contact her, and instead to forward misleading emails that AMI ghostwrites." McDougal alleges that AMI threatens and intimidates her with "financial ruin" if she does not remain "loyal," while feeding reporters "false information" about her alleged affair with Trump, according to the lawsuit.
In the company statement Tuesday, an AMI spokesperson said the contract with McDougal is "valid" and that the company has made good on its promises. AMI has published 20 of McDougal's columns in print as well as five stories online to date, and she has appeared on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers, according the spokesperson.
"We have been very proud of Karen McDougal and our work with her. The relationship has produced good journalism and content for our publications. And until very recently, it was our understanding that Ms. McDougal was satisfied with our editorial approach to her work with AMI's publications," the AMI spokesperson said in the statement. "Her lawsuit is the first time AMI has learned of her desire to go a different direction. AMI has a valid contract with Karen and we look forward to reaching an amicable resolution satisfactory to her and to AMI."
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Twitter/@univmiami(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden took fresh jabs at President Donald Trump on Tuesday while speaking at an anti-sexual assault rally, telling students at the University of Miami that he probably would have "beat the hell out" of Trump if they'd attended school together.
"A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, 'I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,'" Biden said. "They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said 'no.' I said, 'If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.'"
"I've been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life," Biden continued. "I'm a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room."
Biden made the comments Tuesday afternoon at the university's "It's on Us" rally, an event aiming to change on-campus culture surrounding sexual assault.
The 47th vice president also commended the country on progress it's made in battling sexual assault, mentioning the success of the #MeToo movement, but he also said there was still a lot of work to be done.
"Sexual assault is about power and the abuse of power more than it is about sex," he said, before going on to tell women in the audience that they should arm themselves with more resources.
"It's not just on the men. It's on you women, as well, on campus," Biden said. "All the studies show that 95 percent of young women who are abused -- the first person they tell is their roommate, their friend, someone on campus. You've got to inform yourself as to what facilities are available, what help is available, not just empathize, hug and say, 'I'm so sorry.' You have an obligation to be informed."
Biden, who also headlined a political fundraiser with Latino leaders during his time in South Florida on Tuesday, ended the speech by encouraging students to participate in the Sexual Assault Awareness Month next month and the Day of Action April 3.
The University of Miami thanked Biden in a statement on Twitter, sharing candid images from his appearance, including some where he's taking selfies with students.
"Today's @itsonus rally reminded us that we are responsible for creating an environment where sexual assault and gender-based violence is unacceptable," the university said in a tweet. "Thank you @joebiden for bringing us your legacy of ending violence against women and empowering our students to take action."
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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Money was the big winner in a marque Illinois primary race Tuesday night as two multi-millionaires faced off in the governor's race.
In a key Democratic congressional primary featuring Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski and Democratic progressive activist Marie Newman, it took until the early hours of the morning for the incumbent to emerge victorious.
And in a landmark year for female candidates, the Illinois House primaries seem, thus far, to be following the national trend.
Here's are some of the results in the Illinois primary races.
Governor’s race goes big
The race to become Illinois' next governor continued on its track to be one of, if not the most expensive gubernatorial races in American history on Tuesday night, as two self-funding candidates who have already poured millions into their campaigns advanced to the November general election.
The Associated Press projected that Democrat J.B. Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, and incumbent GOP Governor Bruce Rauner won their respective primaries Tuesday night.
Rauner, who poured over $50 million of his own money into his campaign and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable Republican governor in the country, barely held off a primary challenge from conservative State Rep. Jeanne Ives, winning by a little more than 20,000 votes.
Dogged by a budget crisis during his tenure, Rauner has seen his approval rating dip into the 30’s heading towards November, and his performance Tuesday night only further reinforces the narrative that even those in his own party are skeptical of his effectiveness as governor.
But regardless of the margins Tuesday night, more money is now expected to flow into the race now that two independently wealthy candidates will be on the ballot in November.
If the current rate of spending holds, Illinois could break the current record for the most expensive gubernatorial race in American history, a title currently held by California's 2010 gubernatorial election, which saw roughly $280 million spent.
"It’s entirely possible that that could happen here. The only two people who know how expensive the race will be are the two self-funders," Sarah Brune, the executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, a non-partisan group that tracks political spending in the state, told ABC News.
"All in sum, all of the candidates for governor have raised about $160 million so far," Brune said, an impressive total considering the general election campaign just now getting underway.
The Democratic Governors Association (DGA) praised Pritzker’s victory Tuesday night, saying he is a candidate that will deliver “much-needed change for Illinois.”
“With a strong candidate like JB Pritzker, Illinois is a top pickup opportunity for Democrats in the fall. The DGA looks forward to working to elect JB Pritzker to serve as Illinois’ next governor,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee, who chairs the DGA.
The DGA also ran television ads in the waning days of the campaign hoping to boost Ives by reinforcing her conservative credentials and hurt Rauner, a move that appears to have paid dividends Tuesday night.
Lipinski emerges as victor in tight 3rd Congressional District race
It was a nail-biter in one of the most-watched congressional races in the country, but seven-term incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski will likely head towards an eighth term in Illinois 3rd Congressional District after a narrow projected victory over his opponent, Marie Newman.
The Associated Press called the race at 1:17 a.m. EST with 97 percent of precincts reporting and Lipinski holding a slim edge of fewer than 1,600 votes over Newman.
On the Republican side in the 3rd Congressional District, Holocaust denier and self-described "white racialist" Arthur Jones captured the party's nomination after running unopposed.
'Pink wave' hits Illinois House primaries
Heading into the Illinois House primary races, 17 women were vying to win a spot in the November general election. At least six will be on the ballot in November as of late Tuesday night.
Incumbents Democratic Reps. Robin Kelly, Jan Schakowsky, and Cheri Bustos all won their contests. First-time candidate Betsy Dirksen Londrigan will run against GOP Rep. Rodney Davis and Lauren Underwood will run against Republican Rep. Randy Hultgren in November.
Sara Dady in IL-16 came out on top in the Democratic primary race to ultimately run against GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger this fall.
Marie Newman fell just short in her hotly contested primary battle with Lipinski.
Kelly Mazeski leads the pack in IL-06, a race that had five women vying to take on Rep. Peter Roskam in November's general election.
Suburbs set the stage for a battle for the House
Democrats see the path to the 24 seats they need to regain control of the House as going through the nation’s suburbs.
Prosecutor Brendan Kelly won the Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. Mike Bost. Donald Trump carried this district, which sits outside the St. Louis suburbs, by 15 points.
This race is in Democrats' "red to blue" program, meaning it’s one they are going to heavily invest in.
Bost has long ties to the district. He’s represented it since 2015 in Congress and before that was in the Illinois House of Representatives.
Both men are about evenly matched in fundraising.
Kelly has raised almost a million for his bid and had $663,000 cash on hand while Bost raised a little over a million and had $684,000 cash on hand, according to FEC reports.
Female candidates dominated the other two contests in suburban districts.
First-time candidate Betsy Londrigan won the nomination to take on Republican Rep. Rodney Davis in the fight to represent a suburban district outside of Champaign which Trump won by three points.
She has a compelling personal story, saying she was inspired to run after Davis voted in favor of the GOP health care plan, The American Health Care Act.
Londrigan’s candidate biography notes that in 2009 her 12-year-old son, Jack, was fighting a rare, life-threatening illness that resulted from a tick bite. He eventually recovered.
A former teacher, she has been self-employed since 1998, doing fundraising for people like Sen. Dick Durbin and for entities including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation. She was endorsed by EMILY’s List.
Finally, there’s the 6th Congressional District seat west of Chicago held by five-term GOP Rep. Peter Roskam.
Clinton won this seat by seven points in 2016 and it’s a heavy Democratic target this cycle.
Kelly Mazeski, a scientist, leads the Democratic primary with 84 percent of precincts reporting but the race has yet to be called by the Associated Press as of early Wednesday morning.
Energy executive Sean Casten is close behind her in second place.
Five women are among the seven candidates running for the Democratic nomination.
Mazeski has the backing of EMILY’s List and Illinois Democratic Reps. Cheri Bustos and Jan Schakowsky. A breast cancer survivor, Mazeski announced her candidacy last May on the same day Roskam joined his fellow Republicans in voting to repeal Obamacare.
Republicans are downplaying concerns about this district.
One GOP strategist pointed out that Roskam has long ties the district. He grew up in the area and represented it in the state legislature from 1993 until he was elected to Congress in 2007.
Republicans also believe their tax cut message will play well here and in other suburban races.
Garcia could represent Latino-majority district
Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez is retiring after more than 20 years in Congress. Hillary Clinton won his Latino-majority district in 2016 with more than 80 percent of the vote.
Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the winner of the Democratic primary, is highly favored to win the general election November and be the next member of Congress.
Garcia had been contemplating another run against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2019 before Gutierrez announced his retirement. But he quickly pivoted to the congressional race and was endorsed by Gutierrez. In 2015, Garcia forced Emanuel into a runoff for the city’s top spot.
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The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania(HARRISBURG, Penn.) -- A plethora of candidates filed to run for House seats in Pennsylvania, setting up intra-party contests in some key races that could help determine control of the lower chamber of Congress — including primary challenges for Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone.
Lamb and Saccone filed to run in different districts than the 18th Congressional District – which held a closely-watched special election last week. Less than 1,000 votes separate the candidates and the results have not been certified.
Instead, Lamb filed to run in the 17th Congressional District, where his hometown of Mt. Lebanon was moved to under the new House map. Republican Representative Keith Rothfus holds that seat and has $1.2 million in his campaign account.
Meanwhile, Saccone filed to run in the 14th Congressional District, which holds a lot of the 18th’s original acreage and is much friendlier to Republicans than the district in which his hometown of Elizabeth was placed. The new 14th Congressional District has no sitting incumbent. Its area mainly consists of the seat that former Representative Tim Murphy held before he resigned after a report that he allegedly asked an extramarital lover to end her pregnancy.
But both men will face something they didn’t in their last election – primary contests.
Two other Democrats filed to run against Lamb in the 17th Congressional District while one other Republican has filed to challenge Saccone in the 14th Congressional District, according to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s website.
Both men would be favored to win their respective contests in the May 15 primary given the national name recognition they received in last week’s special election.
Tuesday was the filing deadline for House candidates in the state.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a GOP-led request to hold off using a new House map that came after the state Supreme Court ruled the old map should be thrown out because it unconstitutionally favored Republicans.
The court's decision was a blow to Republican hopes and a boost to Democratic chances of retaking control of the House of Representatives.
Republicans currently hold 12 of the state's 18 congressional districts, while Democrats control just five. The special election last week for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was held under the old map.
Political experts predict Democrats could net three to five House seats under the new map, helping them on their way to the 24 seats they need to retake control of the House of Representatives.
Several GOP lawmakers found their House districts dramatically affected by the new map, including Rep. Ryan Costello, who is considering retirement, several state, and national officials in GOP politics told ABC News.
Costello did file his petition to run for reelection on Tuesday but, under the new map, his 6th Congressional District seat transformed from one that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won by one point in 2016 to one she would have won by nine points.
A Costello campaign spokesperson told ABC News on Monday the congressman would file his petitions but neither the spokesperson nor Costello has said anything about campaigning again, leading to questions as to whether he will decide down the line not to run.
He is seen as the GOP’s best hope for keeping that district. Democrats are enthusiastic about their candidate — Chrissy Houlahan — an Air Force veteran endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden last week. She will be unopposed in her primary.
In a move that could complicate matters, another Republican — Gregory Michael McCauley — filed petitions to run in Costello’s district.
If Costello withdraws his petitions, McCauley would be the only GOPer on the primary ballot. If Costello decides not to run after the May 15 primary — assuming he wins the nomination — the state GOP would appoint a candidate to run in the general election, according to the state party’s bylaws.
In other House races:
Three Democrats filed to run against Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, whose 1st Congressional District became slightly more favored by Democrats under the new lines.
Democratic Representative Brendan Boyle filed to run in the 2nd Congressional District, which contains about 50 percent of his old district.
The other half of Boyle’s old district ended up in the new 4th Congressional District, where four Democrats and one Republican have filed to run.
The big primary to watch will be in the 5th Congressional District, which is retiring Representative Patrick Meehan’s old seat. A total of 14 Democrats filed to run in the primary while two Republicans filed.
Retiring GOP Representative Charlie Dent’s 7th Congressional District went from one Donald Trump won in 2016 to one Clinton would have won by one point under the new map. There are six Democrats and two Republicans who filed there.
Democratic Representative Matt Cartwright found himself in the GOP-leaning 8th Congressional District under the new map and three Republicans have filed to run in the primary for the right to take him on in November.
In the 9th Congressional District, Republican Representative Lou Barletta is running for Senate and three Republicans filed to replace him. The seat is considered solid Republican.
And, as expected, Democratic Representative Mike Doyle filed to run in the new 18th Congressional District, which saw its blue areas shored up under the new map and it contains much of his old district.
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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Texas Republican Representative Roger Williams believes his new school security bill could have prevented Tuesday’s high school shooting in Great Mills, Maryland.
Williams’ bill, H.R. 5107, creates a grant program within the Department of Education, empowering the secretary to disburse money to schools applying for grants -- using its existing budget authority to fund the checks.
“I think it could very well begin to secure the schools and keep the safety of our teachers and students,” Williams told ABC News.
Williams’ bill allows for schools to directly request exactly what they need – whether it’s bulletproof glass or magnetometers or school resource officers — after an independent security assessment.
“We're not arming teachers,” Williams said. “Every school's going to be different, but it will allow that school to begin to secure their buildings so we don't have these issues like again happened today in Maryland.”
Williams, who was on the field and injured during the shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia last year, introduced the bill on February 28 in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting that killed 17 on February 14.
“It's a big issue with me. I may see it a little different than some people,” Williams said. “It doesn't leave your mind. When I see these things happening with the children, my heart just gets so heavy and that's why we've got to fix this.”
Williams says he doesn’t want to take guns away from “good people” but doesn’t think the debate over the Second Amendment should override the public’s desire for safe schools.
“I don't think though when you start talking about the gun debate, that we need to disarm the good people, but that's the debate we're going to have,” Williams said. “But that debate does not to be ahead of school safety. That's why I want this bill to get through, get it passed and get the president to sign it.”
“We need to get this bill passed and we need to secure these schools,” Williams concluded.
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Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A Manhattan Supreme Court judge Tuesday denied President Trump’s attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by a former reality show contestant who accused him of sexual misconduct.
The judge rejected the president’s motion to dismiss the claim brought by Summer Zervos, who appeared on "The Apprentice" in 2005.
Zervos claimed that Trump kissed her twice on the lips in 2007 in his New York office, "making her 'uncomfortable, nervous and embarrassed,'" when she sought him out for job opportunities and advice after appearing on the show, according to the documents. She also alleged Trump kissed her, groped her breast and pressed his genitals against her at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
“No one is above the law,” Judge Jennifer Schecter wrote in the decision. “It is settled that the President of the United States has no immunity and is 'subject to the laws' for purely private acts.”
Zervos filed her defamation suit at the start of 2017, three days before Donald Trump assumed the presidency, alleging that he made defamatory statements about her on the campaign trail where he repeatedly accused her and other women who made similar allegations of lying. He attempted unsuccessfully to dismiss Zervos' lawsuit.
“Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the President cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility,” Schecter wrote.
She also rejected an alternative the president sought to delay the case until after he leaves office.
“A lengthy and categorical stay is not justified based on the possibility that, at a moment’s notice, the President may have to attend to a governmental or international crisis,” the judge wrote.
Defense attorney Marc Kasowitz had argued Trump’s comments on the campaign trail amounted to heated political rhetoric and were not specifically about Zervos. The judge rejected that argument as well.
“[Trump] not only averred that plaintiff told ‘phony stories’ and issued statements that were ‘totally false’ and ‘fiction,’ he insisted that the events ‘never happened’ and that the allegations were ‘100% false,’” Schecter wrote.
“A reader or listener, cognizant that the defendant knows exactly what transpired, could reasonably believe what defendant’s statements convey: that plaintiff is contemptible because she ‘fabricated’ events for personal gain.”
Kasowitz said he would appeal.
"We disagree with this decision, which is wrong as a matter of Constitutional law," Kasowitz said in a statement. "We intend to immediately appeal and will seek a stay of the case until this issue is finally determined."
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