Political News

Investigations and complaints facing George Santos could bring serious penalties

(NEW YORK) -- Embattled New York Rep. George Santos insists he will serve out his term and has indicated it's up to his constituents to reelect him or vote him out of office, despite mounting controversy over his past falsehoods, scrutiny of his finances and investigations in the U.S. and Brazil.

Santos told The New York Post last month that he's not a "criminal" and said, "I will be effective. I will be good."

But the various investigations and complaints he faces could have serious consequences -- including expulsion.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday said that if Santos is found to have broken the law, "we will remove him," though he didn’t clarify what that removal would involve.

Resignation

Members ofboth parties have called for Santos to resign, but the congressman says he has no intention of leaving.

Him potentially stepping down has political ramifications for McCarthy, who holds only a five-seat majority.

If Santos were to leave office, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul would have discretion about when to hold a special election for his replacement -- one would not be automatically appointed -- and his 3rd Congressional District is competitive, so a Republican victory isn't guaranteed.

Criminal Charges

Santos told The New York Post in December that "I am not a criminal ... not here or in Brazil or any jurisdiction in the world."

Within days of Santos telling the Post that, however, ABC News and other outlets reported that Brazilian prosecutors were seeking to revive check fraud charges against Santos from when he was 19.

a spokesperson for the Rio de Janeiro prosecutor's office said then that prosecutors intended to charge Santos with two counts for alleged fraud, including theft and the check forgery, with each count punishable by up to five years in prison, according to the spokesperson. An official in the prosecutor's office told ABC News, however, that the likely punishment if convicted would be a fine.

Santos also is being investigated by the New York attorney general, federal prosecutors in New York and the Nassau and Queens County district attorney's offices, according to previous ABC News reporting.

"No one is above the law and if a crime was committed in this county, we will prosecute it," Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly, a Republican, said in a statement.

Speaker McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that Santos deserved the benefit of the doubt.

"I believe in the rule of law. A person's innocent until proven guilty," he said.

Ethics action

Earlier this month, New York Reps. Dan Goldman and Ritchie Torres, both Democrats, filed a complaint with the House Ethics Committee calling for an investigation of Santos' financial disclosures, according to documents previously obtained by ABC News.

If a majority of the committee determines Santos has done something wrong, they can then file a recommendation to the full House for one or more punishments, including: expulsion, censure, reprimand, fine, denial of various responsibilities or any other sanction determined to be appropriate by the committee.

Expulsion

The Constitution gives each chamber of Congress the power to remove a seated member who has engaged in "disorderly behavior."

Being expelled from the House requires a two-thirds vote. With the current makeup of the House, 222 Republicans and 212 Democrats, about a third of the GOP members would have to vote with Democrats to expel Santos.

Expulsion is very rare: The last time a representative was expelled was in 2002 when James Traficant Jr., from Ohio, was removed. Traficant was convicted on conspiracy to commit bribery, defraud U.S., receipt of illegal gratuities, obstruction of justice, filing false tax returns and racketeering, according to the House Archives.

ABC News' Aicha El Hammar Castano contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump kicks off presidential campaign in New Hampshire, South Carolina

(SOUTH CAROLINA) -- Former President Donald Trump is embarking on his first campaign swing of the 2024 presidential cycle on Saturday where he is expected to announce his leadership team from South Carolina as he seeks the White House for the third time – but his appearance comes as some conservatives in the state say their support for Trump isn't locked in.

Trump will deliver remarks from the Columbia State House in an event hosted by Gov. Henry McMaster who has endorsed Trump, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is widely expected to make his Trump endorsement official on Saturday.

It's still unclear at this point who else will appear with Trump on stage in Columbia. Trump advisors have reportedly "blanketed" South Carolina Republican officials with "pleading" phone calls in recent weeks to drum up endorsements and attendees, according to The Washington Post.

"There's some reserve because everybody knows what Donald Trump is going to come in and say: rewind, press play, change your city name, and you're going to hear the same thing," Dave Wilson, the president of evangelical group Palmetto Family Council, said in an interview with ABC News.

"And not to say that the former president doesn't have something to bring to the table, but I think that a lot of conservative voters are saying, 'all right, let me see what else is out there before I decide whether I'm going to jump back on a train that I already know,'" Wilson said.

Trump is also slated to speak at the New Hampshire Republican Party's annual meeting in Salem on Saturday morning before he heads down south, a likely indication his campaign is kicking into high gear.

His visit could also be seen as a warning shot to New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who is said to be considering his own run for the Republican presidential ticket in 2024. Sununu's office told ABC News the governor has made no plans to attend the annual meeting this year.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

Trump and his allies' appeals for support in South Carolina come amid a potentially competitive nomination process as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., are weighing presidential runs themselves. Neither party has confirmed their intentions to run, but Haley is widely expected to announce in the coming weeks while Scott hasn't ruled it out.

"I think Trump is hoping that a good showing this weekend will encourage both of them to stay out of the race," Kirk Randazzo, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, said to ABC News. "That said, there will be appearances by Senator Lindsay Graham and Governor Henry McMaster, both of whom previously relied on Trump for their political positions…beyond these two individuals, there are not many more notable individuals joining Trump on stage this weekend."

Graham has been working the phones to drum up support for Trump, telling allies to get on board because he believes Trump is the likely presidential nominee, sources familiar with the senator told ABC News. The Washington Post first reported the details of these conversations.

But aside from close allies, "Republicans are increasingly backing away from Trump," Randazzo said.

"The evidence indicates that they are looking for other individuals who can champion MAGA policies but who do not possess the negative baggage associated with Trump," he added, pointing to Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor from Florida, as an alternative candidate.

Many Republicans have noticed the last two or three elections where Republicans lost in large part because of Trump and the candidates he openly endorsed, Randazzo said. "This, combined with his brusque personality and behavior, have folks thinking they're better served by distancing themselves from him," he said.

South Carolina Republican Party chair Drew McKissick is not expected to attend the Saturday event because he is attending Republican National Committee meetings in California. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a close ally of Trump is not expected to attend the campaign event due to a scheduling conflict, his office confirmed to ABC News.

"With Nikki Haley and Tim Scott in the mix as South Carolinians, Donald Trump as the former president, as well as members of his administration also running against him in [Mike] Pence and [Mike] Pompeo – it begs the question that a lot of people are asking right now and that is: who's going to take the lead?" Wilson said.

"I think that there are a lot of conservatives in South Carolina who are taking a wait-and-see kind of attitude," he said.

Wilson noted that several members of the South Carolina General Assembly have told him privately that they would not be attending Trump's event on Saturday.

"Core conservatives are asking this question: who's going to be able to do go beyond the next four years? The best Donald Trump can offer us is four more years as president. Conservatives are looking for somebody who can become a standard-bearer, who can go beyond four years to eight years," Wilson said.

"In South Carolina, we really kind of take the importance of us as first-in-the-south primary very seriously," Wilson added. "For us, it is a one-year job interview. And we expect you to show up at our towns large and small, we expect you to come to our restaurants, we expect you to show up at our churches, we expect you to have conversations with us."

Republican voters in South Carolina primaries have voted for the eventual GOP presidential nominee in every cycle since 1980, except in 2012 when the Republican Party nominated Mitt Romney.

Haley and Scott are already making the rounds because they benefit from residing in South Carolina, Wilson noted, but others including Pence and Pompeo have also notably made various stops in the state in the past several months. He cautioned other candidates to take the southern state seriously.

"People like Ron DeSantis – Ron DeSantis needs to start making his way to South Carolina because the one-year job interview starts now," he said.

A spokesperson for DeSantis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pence takes 'full responsibility' for classified documents found at his home

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday he takes "full responsibility" for the classified documents found at his Indiana home.

"While I was not aware that those classified documents were in our personal residence, let me be clear: Those classified documents should not have been at my personal residence," Pence said as he spoke at Florida International University.

"Mistakes were made, and I take full responsibility," Pence said.

The classified documents were found in Pence's home in Indiana last week and turned over to the FBI, his attorney Greg Jacob wrote in letters to the National Archives.

The discovery came on the heels of investigations into mishandling of classified documents by former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden.

The National Archives has now asked the offices of recent former presidents and vice presidents to review personal documents for any outstanding classified material or presidential records that have not been properly returned to the government at the end of their administrations, according to a letter obtained Thursday by ABC News.

A spokesperson for former President Barack Obama said all classified records were submitted to the agency, and a spokesperson for former President George W. Bush said they were "confident" no materials were in their possession.

Pence's attorney said the former vice president engaged outside counsel on Jan. 16 to review records stored at his home. It was then that a "small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records," Jacob wrote to the National Archives.

"Vice President Pence immediately secured those documents in a locked safe pending further direction on proper handling from the National Archives," Jacob wrote in the letter.

The materials were then turned over to the FBI, according to Jacob. He said they appeared to be "inadvertently boxed and transported" to Pence's home, and that the former vice president was "unaware" that they were there.

The documents were under review by the Department of Justice's National Security Division and the FBI, sources previously told ABC News.

Pence said Friday that he's directed his counsel to work with the National Archives, the Department of Justice and Congress to "cooperate in any investigation."

"Our national security depends on the proper handling of classified and sensitive materials, and I know that when errors are made, it's important that they be resolved swiftly and disclosed," Pence said.

"My only hope is that as the American people look at our conduct in this manner, that they see that we acted above politics and put the national interest first."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ronna McDaniel reelected RNC chair after contentious 3-way contest over party's future

Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(DANA POINT, Calif.) -- Republican National Committee members reelected Ronna McDaniel as chair inside a ritzy hotel in Dana Point on Friday, closing out an unusually contentious race that could have outsized implications as the GOP gears up for the 2024 elections.

"It is an honor to be re-elected as Chairwoman of the RNC, and I am deeply grateful that our members have entrusted me with another term in this role," McDaniel said Friday. "The work to make Joe Biden a one-term president is already underway: it is time for our party to unite and re-dedicate ourselves to electing Republicans up and down the ballot. I look forward to working alongside conservative leaders, including Harmeet and Mike, from across our party to deliver on our promises to the American people."

Eighty-four votes were needed to win a majority of the 167 votes cast in the contest. McDaniel received 111, while Dhillon received 51 and Lindell got four. One vote was cast for former congressman and New York governor nominee Lee Zeldin.

McDaniel, entering a fourth term, was the favorite in Friday's election, though she faced a challenge from attorney Harmeet Dhillon and a long-shot bid from My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell. Typically a sleepy affair, the chair's race this year morphed into a debate over personality and strategy, with surrogates for the candidates lobbing personal attacks over last year's election operations.

The acrimony has largely been fueled by a broader reckoning over Republicans' underperformance in the 2022 elections, with McDaniel insisting certain aspects of the midterms were out of her control and Dhillon panning what she claims was a fundamental lack of strategy and misallocation of resources on the part of the national party.

McDaniel still retained support from well over half of the 168 voting RNC members -- the threshold she needs to clinch reelection -- though frustrated members said the stakes would be high for whomever won the chair.

"I think Ronna is likely to win but probably by a smaller margin than she may expect. There is pretty profound desire for change from the committee. But there's also dissatisfaction with the way Harmeet has run her campaign," said one undecided committee member. "And I think the important thing is, whoever wins, the party has got to come together -- and that starts with Ronna and Harmeet."

"2024 just has so much at stake with the White House in play," this member said. "I think many Americans think the country is on the wrong track. As a party, we just can't afford to underperform in '24. We clearly underperformed in '22, and there are a lot of reasons for that. We can't do it again."

Ahead of the race, McDaniel released a letter boasting endorsements from more than 100 of the 168 voting RNC members, handing her buffer room to shed support to a challenger and still be on strong footing.

Dhillon, who has represented former President Donald Trump against the House Jan. 6 committee, also got a late start in the race.

McDaniel only added to the number of supporters in recent days, announcing endorsements from a small handful of state party chairs who are also RNC members.

Dhillon, however, had waged a full court press, leaning on both meetings with RNC members and outside allies including Fox News personalities to raise the heat and try to help her beat that daunting math.

RNC members predicted that she succeeded in peeling off at least a few signees from McDaniel's letter.

In an interview, Dhillon claimed the pro-McDaniel letter is inaccurate and said she's "hoping and planning to win," though she wouldn't say how many votes she believes she has behind her heading into Friday.

"I have an estimate, but I'm not sharing that information publicly because some of those people want to stay private," she insisted. "That said, several people are privately committed to us, and I'm picking up votes -- several a day."

Dhillon said her challenge to McDaniel is fueled by three main concerns, including "an inexplicable failure" by RNC leadership to take advantage of mail-in and early voting to the full extent that it's allowed -- even as Trump and some other Republicans tell voters to embrace in-person ballots.

Dhillon also accused the national party of "wasting" millions of dollars on "consultants who don't produce results" and failing to promote "clear and concise messaging and direction for our candidates," citing conflicting stances among candidates around the Supreme Court's ruling scrapping constitutional protections for abortion.

"We failed," Dhillon said. "And again, these are sort of critical, basic building blocks of winning elections. And until we get these things right, I don't know that donors, voters or candidates are going to have confidence in the party, and that's terrible because the RNC plays a critical role in our elections."

Dhillon also argued that McDaniel didn't take a muscular enough approach in advising local and state officials on which candidates could be potent in general elections.

"Ultimately, voters have to select who the candidate is. But there are many inflection points along the way between the time somebody wakes up and says, 'I can be the next United States senator,' versus the day we are counting the ballots and coming up short,'" Dhillon said. "I think the idea that everybody else gets a say, Democrats get a say, President Trump gets a say, various PACs get to say, but the party doesn't get a say? I don't think so."

Kari Lake, who traveled to the RNC meeting in California to drum up support for Dhillon after her failed Arizona gubernatorial bid, echoed the need for different leadership.

"I am so excited to see such quality candidates stepping forward to say, 'Let's move on, Ronna. Thank you very much for your service, we need a change in America,'" Lake told reporters Wednesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who cruised to reelection in the midterms despite GOP disappointments elsewhere, told conservative activist and host Charlie Kirk on Thursday that he "like[s] what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC outside" of Washington.

"I think we need a change, and I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC," DeSantis said.

Lindell asserted in a phone interview with ABC News that he and Dhillon have enough combined power to at least keep the simple majority away from McDaniel -- a prediction that did not come to fruition.

"I believe Ronna McDaniel is well under the 85 needed," Lindell said. "Kind of like what happened in Congress [with Kevin McCarthy's protracted speakership election]. This is very similar, only it's very much to my advantage because it's a secret vote."

"If it was an open vote, I think it'd be hard for anybody to win because of the promises that are made -- and all of the sudden you're going to get that carrot pulled back if you vote elsewhere," he said.

Lindell, like Dhillon, sought to project confidence about his chances to overcome McDaniel's broad support.

"Remember, it's a secret ballot -- and guess what, no machines. Isn't that great?" Lindell said, laughing. (The businessman has continued to spread baseless claims about electronic voting machines.)

Despite the challenges, McDaniel's pull on her caucus remains strong. During a candidate forum on Wednesday night at the Waldorf Astoria in Dana Point, McDaniel was the only candidate to receive a standing ovation from RNC members, according to several sources who were present in the room. Supporters milled about the lobby of the Waldorf later that evening, sporting campaign buttons -- a bright red "Roll With RONNA for RNC chair" fastened to several members' lapels and dresses.

McDaniel, whose spokesperson did not make her available for an interview after multiple requests, has insisted that her critics are overestimating the power of the RNC chair and that she does not have the power to pick candidates or impose messaging discipline on any nominee.

And with six years of running the RNC under her belt, McDaniel, a member of the Romney family's whose GOP ties stretch back decades, still boasts a hefty roster of supporters who maintain that she has the institutional knowledge and donor base to propel the GOP to victory next year.

"I think she's demonstrated the skills and the temperament and the passion to run the organization in a way that's gonna benefit parties around the country and, hopefully, our presidential candidate, too," said an RNC member supporting McDaniel.

One thing uniting McDaniel and Dhillon are vows to remain neutral in the 2024 GOP primary -- as mandated by RNC bylaws -- despite both of their links to Trump and claims from members of different camps that their preferred candidate's opponent would not be able to sufficiently cut ties.

But beyond debates over campaign operations, what has made the race particularly divisive is the sharpening of swipes over strategy into attacks on character and professional threats.

Oscar Brock, a national committee member from Tennessee, sent an email in November to others in the RNC blasting McDaniel after Trump dined with antisemites Nick Fuentes and Ye, saying he was "flabbergasted" by what he suggested was an insufficient response by the national party.

One Dhillon ally, meanwhile, released other members' contact information and Kirk, a hardline activist supporting Dhillon, sent out an email to RNC members warning he could replace them with those who "better represent the grassroots voice." On top of that, Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham have promoted Dhillon and criticized McDaniel in an apparent bid to apply pressure to the 168 who will elect the chair.

"This was the first time that I'm aware of where we've had a lot more outside involvement. I think for Harmeet, I think that was a smart strategy, but I wouldn't say it was perfectly implemented. And I think it's helped her and hurt her," the undecided RNC member said. "The strategy is probably a smart one, but I think she overplayed her hand"

"We had people like Charlie Kirk sending emails to RNC members threatening us. That's not very effective. Certainly doesn't make him very popular with RNC members," the member said. "And I think that really hurt her."

Members on all sides of the race concede got ugly, though they say the long-term divisions run no deeper than strategy.

But in the short-term, even Dhillon supporters who say she's run a strong campaign also said her chances were murky.

"The party isn't fractured. A lot of us are simply disappointed with Ronna's stewardship of the RNC and know we need a change," Bill Palatucci, a member from New Jersey who endorsed Dhillon, said earlier this week.

Still, "If I was a betting man, I would think the incumbent wins," Palatucci said. "But Harmeet has run an excellent campaign very aggressively and has made a lot of progress and continues to make progress. So, we really won't know until we get out there."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff tours Auschwitz on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland Friday, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 78th anniversary of the death camp's liberation.

In an emotional visit, Emhoff laid a wreath at Auschwitz and placed a white stone, a Jewish tradition, at the remnants of a crematorium in Birkenau. After walking under the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Sets You Free) gate, Emhoff wrote a long message in the museum's guestbook.

The visit is part of Emoff's six-day trip that is aimed at Holocaust education and remembrance as well as combating antisemitism worldwide, according to senior administration officials.

The events will focus on honoring the victims of the Holocaust and see "the Second Gentleman educating the public on the true nature of the Holocaust," one official said.

Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, will also aim to address antisemitism globally, particularly amid what advocates have warned is a spike in recent years.

"While some of those before us in government, in this fight, may have been able to travel abroad to discuss the issue of antisemitism globally, without the need to spend much time on antisemitism in the United States, we can no longer do so," one administration official told reporters Wednesday, previewing the trip.

"Modern technology and internet, with social media in particular, allows ideas to spread with unprecedented rapidity. Hatred now faces no borders, and we will take an all-of-government and all-societal approach to combat that hate," the official added.

While Emhoff's trip will also aim to strengthen relationships with European allies on this issue, the second gentleman is not expected to deliver new policy proposals or deliverables.

"I would also think of it in many ways as a listening session," one official said, nothing it's more important than ever to share ideas for best steps forward as the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle.

"The trip is about reflecting on what we know is a dark, difficult history and then renewing our commitment to take action in current times," the official said.

Officials said the trip was designed "to trace the trajectory of Jewish life in Europe, past, present and future."

Emhoff visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and state museum on Friday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, attending a ceremony alongside some Holocaust survivors. Later, he will attend a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland.

He is scheduled to visit Schindler's factory museum on Saturday, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the iconic film "Schindler's List," which was inspired by Schindler's efforts to shield Jews during World War II.

Later that day, Emhoff will also meet with Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, officials said.

On Sunday, the second gentlemen will tour the historic Jewish Quarter of Krakow and visit Galicia, Poland, before heading on to Berlin, where he will meet with various European officials engaged in combating antisemitism in a "convening of Special Envoy coordinators."

Emhoff will gather Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders to hold an interfaith discussion on Tuesday in Berlin and make stops at Berlin's Holocaust memorial and other historic sites.

ABC News' Madison Burinsky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Paul Pelosi hammer attack video released

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Audio and video recordings from the night Paul Pelosi, the husband of Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, was violently assaulted were released on Friday.

The public release comes after multiple news organizations, including ABC News, filed a court motion arguing the footage should be made available to the public after it was presented as evidence in court.

A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the outlets on Wednesday.

Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday she "respected the system" after the judge's decision to grant access. She said she hadn't watched it herself and that it would be "a very hard thing to see."

"My concern is my husband's well-being and we take that day to day," she said.

Paul Pelosi was hospitalized for several days after the Oct. 28 attack, which authorities described as politically motivated.

The suspect, David DePape, faces federal charges of assault and attempted kidnapping. DePape also faces a slew of state charges, including attempted murder, residential burglary and assault with a deadly weapon.

DePape has pleaded not guilty.

Paul Pelosi underwent surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands. He returned to the public eye in early December, joining his wife at the Kennedy Center Honors.

DePape is accused of using a hammer to break into the Pelosi residence just before 2 a.m. on Oct. 28.

Authorities have said the assailant then went upstairs to where the 82-year-old Paul Pelosi was sleeping and woke him up, demanding to know "Where's Nancy?"

During a hearing in December, prosecutors presented new evidence -- including body camera footage and the 911 call Paul Pelosi made when he was attacked -- in their case against DePape.

"Are the Capitol police around? I got a problem. A gentleman just came into my house, waiting for my wife to come home," Paul Pelosi said on the 911 call.

According to the federal complaint, Paul Pelosi was able to call 911 after telling DePape he needed to use the bathroom. When officers arrived, they found the two men struggling over a hammer.

DePape then allegedly gained control of the hammer and used it to strike Paul Pelosi in the head, the complaint stated.

Officials said they discovered zip ties on the scene along with rope, tape and other things in DePape's backpack.

DePape told investigators he was "going to hold Nancy hostage and talk to her," according to authorities. If she told the truth, he said he "would let her go, and if she 'lied,' he was going to break 'her kneecaps,'" the complaint said.

Nancy Pelosi has spoken about the "survivor's guilt" she felt after the attack and how it turned their San Fransisco home into a "crime scene."

"He's one good day after another, he's improving," Pelosi told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on This Week in November. "It will take a little while. But we've been so comforted by the outpouring of so many prayers and good wishes."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


National Archives asks former presidents and vice presidents to check for outstanding classified material

Tetra Images/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The National Archives has asked the offices of recent former presidents and vice presidents to review personal documents for any outstanding classified material or presidential records that have not been properly returned to the U.S. government, according to a letter obtained Thursday by ABC News.

The communication specifically refers to any material thought to be personal that might "inadvertently" contain presidential records, adding that "the responsibility to comply with the [Presidential Records Act] does not diminish after the end of an administration."

Sent via e-mail to the various offices, the letter opens by stating, "There have been several instances reported in the media where records containing classified information and subject to the Presidential Record Act (PRA) have been identified outside the physical custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). While much of the attention around these instances has focused on classified information, the PRA requires that all Presidential records of every Administration from Reagan onward must be transferred to NARA, regardless of classification status."

The National Archives declined to comment to ABC News on the letter, which was first reported by CNN.

ABC News has reached out to the offices that received the letter for a response. A spokesman for former President Barack Obama said all of Obama's classified records were submitted to the National Archives, "consistent with the Presidential Records Act." A spokesman for George W. Bush provided a similar statement, saying they "remain confident that no such materials are in our possession."

The National Archives sent letters to the offices of presidents dating back to the late Ronald Reagan. Former President Jimmy Carter, who turned 98 last October, and his administration are not subject to the request because the Presidential Records Act did not go into effect until January 1981.

The letter comes as classified documents have been found in the home of former Vice President Mike Pence and turned over to the FBI for review.

The revelation made Pence the third high-profile official to have classified material discovered at their residence in recent months, after President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, both of whom are now being investigated by special counsels under the Department of Justice.

Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate was searched by federal agents in August after what the federal government said was a months-long effort to retrieve documents that Trump resisted handing over.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and asserted, without evidence, that he declassified the documents.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Early 2024 presidential contenders narrow in on Haley and DeSantis

Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- 2024 is a year away, but the shadow presidential campaign seems to be underway in the Republican party.

Former South Carolina governor and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have been the subject of attacks and criticism from their fellow Republicans and their staff over the past few weeks.

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is mulling over a presidential run, dropped bombshells and stirred controversy in his book where he alleged that Haley worked with then-Trump presidential advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to have her replace Mike Pence as vice president under President Donald Trump.

Haley, who is also deciding if she should run for president, denied the claims in a Fox News interview, saying, "it's really sad when you're having to go out there and put lies and gossip to sell a book."

According to a source close to Kushner and Ivanka Trump, Haley originally had the meeting set up to tell Trump that she was resigning as ambassador to the U.N. and that she did not trust Kelly or Pompeo not to leak it.

"Ultimately, they found out about the meeting and suspected she was trying to become vice president but that was false. She just wanted to say she was leaving. Jared and Ivanka never conspired to try and make her Vice President," the source said.

Pompeo is standing by his claims and said on CBS that he was told it "was true" by both Trump's then-chief of staff, John Kelly, and Kellyanne Conway, a senior White House adviser. He also suggested that Haley left the Trump administration once things became difficult.

"They were coming at all of us pretty hard. And so, everyone was saying get out, quit, run -- Ambassador Haley didn't decide to stay, she decided to leave," Pompeo said.

This scuffle between Pompeo and Haley comes as Trump heads to South Carolina this weekend to unveil his state's leadership team for his third presidential run.

South Carolina and New Hampshire were the first early primary states where Trump announced he would be visiting.

Focusing on South Carolina, Trump and other potential 2024 Republican candidates face an uphill battle to win the state since two possible presidential candidates, Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, are from there and remain very popular in the state.

Haley and Scott would be in a better position to win South Carolina, given their ties to the state, if they do seek the nomination.

"You don't get attacked unless you are over the target," said Katon Dawson, the former chair of the South Carolina Republican Party. "And Pompeo certainly is not over the target and is completely unknown in South Carolina. So maybe it's good politics for him to attack Nikki Haley…"

Even some elected officials are signaling that it could be tough to overtake Haley and Scott in South Carolina.

During a Washington Post Live interview, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said she could most likely lend her support to Haley or Scott over Trump. She added that she’s going to wait until the Republican field is set before lending her support to a candidate.

Meanwhile, down in Florida, DeSantis, who many view as another potential 2024 candidate, has received public criticism over the past few weeks from those in the GOP.

One of the most public displays of an attack on the governor was when Ian Fury, spokesman for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, criticized DeSantis for not being as committed to the pro-life movement and questioning whether he believed that 14-week-old babies have a right life. In South Dakota, abortion is illegal, with the exception of the mother's life being at risk.

When asked on CBS News if she agreed with Fury's comment, Noem, another potential 2024 candidate, said that she has always been proudly pro-life.

“You know, a lot of people talk and say a lot of things to grab headlines and make broad statements,” said Noem. “I prefer to take action and to do things that actually protect life.”

And although DeSantis signed a 15-week abortion ban in 2022, he has signaled that he's open to further restricting access to abortion during a December press conference where he was asked if he would support a heartbeat bill which refers to abortion bans around the six weeks.

"I'm willing to sign great life legislation. That's what I've always said I would do," DeSantis responded.

"DeSantis has a big target on his back," said Sarah Isgur, an ABC News contributor and former Trump administration official.

Isgur believes the 2024 election could look similar to the 2008 election between former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Half of these folks are trying to help Trump because, of course, there'd be an open vice-presidential spot and DeSantis is the biggest threat to Trump right now," Isgur said.

New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu has also criticized the Florida governor during a Fox News interview earlier this month.

In the interview, Sununu agreed with DeSantis that "we need to push back on woke policy," an issue that DeSantis has actively worked on during his time as governor. But Sununu added that he disagrees with going after corporations and private businesses.

"I come from the Live Free or Die state and private businesses can and should act like private businesses without the fear of being punished by people that might disagree with," Sununu said in the interview.

Last year, DeSantis made an example of the Walt Disney Corporation after its public opposition to the state's Parental Rights in Education bill, that was dubbed as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.

A special session was called where the Florida state legislature passed a bill that eliminated Walt Disney World's special district, which allowed the company to self-govern itself.

Still, it seems that voters in Florida have responded well to the governors' actions, having won reelection in November by nearly 20 percentage points.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden holds White House's first-ever Lunar New Year reception, in mass shootings' shadow

uschools/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday held the White House's first-ever Lunar New Year reception only days after a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, during a Lunar New Year celebration.

"It's wonderful to see so many friends on this special holiday, even as we gather with such heavy hearts," the president said opening his remarks.

"Our prayers are with the people of Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, and after yet another spree of gun violence in America," Biden said, referring to both the Lunar New Year killings and a second mass shooting at two farms in California on Monday.

​​On Saturday, a gunman opened fire at a dance studio in Monterey Park, which is a predominantly Asian community, killing 11 people. Two days later in Half Moon Bay, seven people were killed. The victims were of Asian and Hispanic descent.

Biden said at Thursday's reception that he was encouraged by Rep. Judy Chu, chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and a former mayor of Monterey Park, to continue his plans to hold the celebration despite the tragic shootings.

"She said 'we have to move forward,'" Biden recalled. "Her message was, 'Don't give into fear and sorrow. Don't do that. Stand in solidarity -- in the spirit of toughness that this holiday is all about.'"

Lunar New Year, which began on Sunday, is widely celebrated in China and other Asian countries. Participants honor their ancestors, play games and serve traditional food.

At the White House, the president also applauded the actions of Brandon Tsay, the 26-year-old who disarmed the Monterey shooter after he entered his family's dance studio.

"Brandon said he thought he's gonna die, but then he thought about the people inside," Biden said, referring to a phone call he had with Tsay. "Think about this now. Just think about this in reality. And in that moment, he follows instinct. And he follows his courage."

Biden also touted the diversity in his administration, noting that more than 13% of his administration is of Asian and Pacific Islander background, saying that is why he was "doing so well."

Elaine Tso, CEO of Asian Services in Action, spoke at the reception and shared her anguish at the recent mass shootings during her remarks at the reception.

"As you know, Lunar New Year is the most celebrated holiday by Asians across the world, and this year's festivities have felt different," she said. "I'm still processing the recent mass shootings. So I will simply say that more needs to be done to address gun violence in America."

During the White House's celebration, the president recognized some of the guests in the audience, including Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai.

Acknowledging the uptick in violence against the Asian and Pacific Islander community amid the COVID-19 pandemic and against women in the community, in particular, Biden said: "For the progress, this community has experienced profound hate, pain and violence and loss with the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes."

"You know, gut wrenching attacks on elderly immigrant women. As I've said many times before, hate can have no safe-haven or harbor in America. No person deserves to be treated with hate. ... We all deserve to be treated with dignity and with respect," he said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


California Bar seeks to disbar ex-Trump attorney over quest to overturn 2020 election

Creativeye99/Getty Images

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- The State Bar of California on Thursday filed a notice of disciplinary charges against former Donald Trump attorney John Eastman over what bar officials said were Eastman's alleged efforts to aid Trump in his bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The complaint levels 11 different disciplinary -- not criminal -- charges against Eastman detailing various efforts to craft and play a leadership role in trying to reverse Trump's loss to Joe Biden, which hinged on false claims about widespread election fraud that the state bar claims led to the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

"There is nothing more sacrosanct to our American democracy than free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power," California State Bar Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona said in a statement.

"The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land—an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy—for which he must be held accountable," Cardona said.

His office will seek Eastman's disbarment, according to a news release.

Eastman's attorney did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Eastman's actions are already being scrutinized by federal prosecutors investigating Trump and his allies' attempt to overturn the election. Last June, agents seized Eastman's phone as part of their investigation.

Grand jury subpoenas issued in recent months to Trump allies and state officials have sought any records documenting communications that any of those individuals may have had with Eastman, who has denied any wrongdoing while continuing to push officials in swing states to cast doubt on the 2020 results.

Eastman is the latest legal ally of Trump to face the prospect of potential disbarment over involvement in the campaign against the 2020 election results.

Rudy Giuliani, the famed New York City Mayor-turned-Trump attorney, is battling similar disciplinary efforts, in Washington, as is former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and lawyer Sidney Powell, who has been slapped with sanctions over filing lawsuits packed with false claims of fraud.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


House GOP opens up amendment process for first time in seven years, allowing debate and delay

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- For the first time in nearly seven years, the House on Thursday brought legislation to the floor under a "modified-open rule" -- a change that leads to more open debate on the floor, its supporters say, though others say it removes restrictions intended to efficiently move proposals through Congress.

Republicans put an energy bill on the floor Thursday evening with a process that, prior to the vote, allowed any member to submit amendments in the Congressional Record.

It's the first time such amendments have been allowed since May 2016 -- and the first time since 2013 with non-spending related legislation.

The rule change was negotiated during Kevin McCarthy's fight for the speakership when his detractors asked for more open debate on bills.

"This is what we promised the American public. This is what we promised members on both sides: that there will be more openness, more opportunity for ideas to win at the end of the day," McCarthy told reporters earlier this week.

Some Republicans were critical of the use of "closed" or "structured" special rules under Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership in the chamber. Those processes limit amendments for consideration or eliminate them from being brought to the floor altogether.

Experts have noted how supporters of those rules say it makes the chamber run more efficiently by limiting how a bill can be revised and debated by the full chamber.

A Pelosi source also said that the closed and structured rules gave her control of the floor process, which she preferred.

The new process requires that any member who submitted their amendment in time to the Congressional Record also be able to speak on the floor. That could include members of the Democratic minority, who could use amendment proposals to spotlight attacks on legislation and create procedural hurdles.

For the energy bill taken up Thursday, 143 amendments were submitted -- but not all of the amendments will receive a vote. The House was expected to continue debating the proposed amendments into the night and vote Friday.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise said the rule change is an example of the GOP "opening things up."

The energy bill the House introduced the new amendment process with would tie Strategic Petroleum Reserve releases to increased drilling on federal lands and waters, which is a key priority for Republicans in the chamber.

Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said on the House floor that "this bill is about restoring America's energy security."

"It provides a path towards making energy more affordable for Americans, who are looking to us to help ease the pain at the pump," she said.

The White House is against the proposal and it is almost certain not to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The House also recently voted to ban sales from the petroleum reserve to China. That legislation passed with bipartisan support, in a 331-97 vote, with 113 Democrats joining Republicans.

ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Why would senators not be given access to the Biden and Trump classified documents?

Michael Godek/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Blistering criticism this week from Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee -- that the administration is "stonewalling" their efforts to review classified materials -- has highlighted a new question in the documents cases related to Joe Biden and Donald Trump:

Why aren't the senators being given access to the sensitive materials, and how does that process normally work?

In the last six months, federal authorities have taken possession of classified documents at both Biden and Trump's homes and said the men retained the records after they left office (in Biden's case, from his time as a vice president and senator).

The Department of Justice has since appointed special counsels to investigate both matters.

"There's no reason why Congress cannot review these documents in a secure, classified setting so we can make an assessment about what damage it may have caused to national security," Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday after a two-hour briefing with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

Multiple senators left that briefing demanding to see the documents in both cases.

"It is our responsibility to make sure that we, in our role as intelligence oversight, know if there's been any intelligence compromise," Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment in response to that criticism.

Separately, an intelligence official told ABC News that the Justice Department and its special counsels are in charge of access to these documents. The administration isn't sharing the documents with senators due to concerns about any potential for interference with the investigations, the official said.

ABC News contributor Darrell Blocker, who spent 32 years in the U.S. intelligence community, including as a senior officer for the CIA, said that the process of providing classified info to Congress can take a while.

When a congressional committee makes a request to see documents, like they would have in the Biden or Trump cases, the intelligence community first needs to determine which agency classified the document in the first place, according to Blocker. Each agency has a different way of handling how people outside their agency handle it, and they have to work their way through that.

Then, they have to figure out if releasing that information would in any way pose a threat to ongoing operations or compromise intelligence gathering methods or sources, Blocker said. The members of the Senate and House intelligence committees and their staffs are known for their adherence to secrecy and not leaking information to the press.

To give a general sense of the timeline on when classified material is usually shared, Blocker estimated that if a committee requested a handful of documents, it would probably take at least a number of days, perhaps weeks at most. Typically, each document would be treated separately, he said.

But if Congress has requested more than that, it would take longer, Blocker said -- especially since in this case, the materials involve presidents, one of whom was also a former vice president and senator. All of that complicates and lengthens the process of getting the info to Congress.

The federal government has said that classified materials were first recovered from Trump in January 2022, while Biden first voluntarily returned classified materials in November.

Warner, the Senate intelligence chairman, noted on Wednesday that his committee was given rare access to the most sensitive documents during the investigation of links between Trump and Russia, which was conducted by a special counsel at the Justice Department, Robert Mueller.

"Our committee got those briefings, in certain cases because we had the trust of the intelligence community -- had access to even raw intelligence -- but it was handled appropriately," Warner said. "Our goal is to make sure that we make that intelligence assessment of whether our nation's security has been compromised."

But ABC News contributor Mick Mulroy, a former CIA officer and deputy assistant secretary of defense, said the comparison with the Mueller investigation of Trump and Russia wasn't apples to apples: In that case, Mulroy said, the senators got to see the intelligence that Mueller was looking at. With Biden and Trump's handling of classified information, it's what the person being investigated had been looking at. Mulroy thought there likely wasn’t any precedent for this situation.

He said the decision to let the senators see the documents ultimately belonged to Haines, the director of national intelligence -- and that the only person she answers to is the president.

"My guess is she would not want to coordinate with the White House," Mulroy said, noting the intelligence community tries to stay apolitical. "I don't see how she could consult with the person being investigated about what she should do."

ABC News' Justin Fishel, Alexander Mallin, Allison Pecorin, Cindy Smith and Trish Turner contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Democrats launch dads caucus to focus on family issues, push for paid leave

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Four House Democrats launched the Congressional Dads Caucus on Thursday, joining together around a legislative agenda that includes expanding parental leave, the child tax credit and other family-first initiatives.

Reps. Jimmy Gomez of California, Andy Kim of New Jersey and Dan Goldman of New York -- all fathers -- announced the formation of the caucus alongside Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a member of the Moms in the House.

"The formation of this caucus is rooted in a simple idea that dads need to do our part in advancing policies that will make a difference in the lives of so many working families across the country," Gomez said.

The group, which is hoping to grow its membership, will work to advance legislation that they say supports working families, like expanding parental leave, the child tax credit and child care.

Efforts to boost paid leave have previously stalled in the Democratic Senate and appear unlikely to advance in the current Republican House.

"In addition to supporting legislation that advance these solutions, the Caucus will host briefings and events designed to educate and inform Members of Congress and the public about the needs of working parents, including a national paid family and medical leave program and affordable childcare," Gomez's office said in a news release.

Gomez made waves on social media earlier in the month when he brought his infant son, Hodge, to the Capitol during Kevin McCarthy's fight for the speakership.

"I realized I wanted to bring him to the [House] floor to have him witness history, but also to recognize that he is what we're fighting for," Gomez told ABC News' Jay O'Brien during the speaker election.

"He represents the millions of kids that don't have the privilege to be on the floor," Gomez said then.

The launch of the dads caucus comes as three House Republicans and three Democrats establish a working group on paid family leave, two of its members said during a Washington Post Live event on Wednesday.

But as that bipartisan group prepares to commence meeting in the coming weeks, the dads caucus has launched without Republican members.

"One of the things I didn't want to do is wait for the bipartisan, bicameral strategy in order to start the dads conference because that's been tried before," Gomez said Thursday.

"If there's a Republican who believes in a national paid family leave or expanding the child tax credit or affordable child care, let's have this discussion," he told reporters.

Republicans on board with those policy proposals would be "more than welcome to join," he added.

However, such an agenda has been a tough pill to swallow for even some Democrats. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, seen as one of the most conservative members of his party, opposed major parts of President Joe Biden's social spending package known as the Build Back Better plan and paid family leave was ultimately stripped out.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Doug Emhoff departs for European trip focused on Holocaust remembrance, combating antisemitism

Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith

(WASHINGTON) -- Second gentleman Doug Emhoff departed Thursday for Poland and Germany on a six-day trip that is aimed at Holocaust education and remembrance as well as combating antisemitism worldwide, according to senior administration officials.

Emhoff's events will focus on honoring the victims of the Holocaust and see "the Second Gentleman educating the public on the true nature of the Holocaust," one official said.

Notable stops include visits in Poland to the Auschwitz death camp on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Friday, and to Oskar Schindler's Enamel Factory museum on Saturday.

Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, will also aim to address antisemitism globally, particularly amid what advocates have warned is a spike in recent years.

"While some of those before us in government, in this fight, may have been able to travel abroad to discuss the issue of antisemitism globally, without the need to spend much time on antisemitism in the United States, we can no longer do so," one administration official told reporters Wednesday, previewing the trip.

"Modern technology and internet, with social media in particular, allows ideas to spread with unprecedented rapidity. Hatred now faces no borders, and we will take an all-of-government and all-societal approach to combat that hate," the official added.

While Emhoff's trip will also aim to strengthen relationships with European allies on this issue, the second gentleman is not expected to deliver new policy proposals or deliverables.

"I would also think of it in many ways as a listening session," one official said, nothing it's more important than ever to share ideas for best steps forward as the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to dwindle.

"The trip is about reflecting on what we know is a dark, difficult history and then renewing our commitment to take action in current times," the official said.

Officials said the trip was designed "to trace the trajectory of Jewish life in Europe, past, present and future."

Emhoff will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and state museum on Friday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, attending a ceremony alongside some Holocaust survivors. Then, he will attend a Shabbat dinner with members of the Jewish community in Krakow, Poland.

He is scheduled to visit Schindler's factory museum on Saturday, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of the iconic film "Schindler's List," which was inspired by Schindler's efforts to shield Jews during World War II.

Later that day, Emhoff will also meet with Ukrainian refugees in Krakow, officials said.

On Sunday, the second gentlemen will tour the historic Jewish Quarter of Krakow and visit Galicia, Poland, before heading on to Berlin, where he will meet with various European officials engaged in combating antisemitism in a "convening of Special Envoy coordinators."

Emhoff will gather Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders to hold an interfaith discussion on Tuesday in Berlin and make stops at Berlin's Holocaust memorial and other historic sites.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


DOJ seizes notorious ransomware group's website

Thinkstock/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice, FBI and international law enforcement partners mounted a major cyber crackdown against the notorious Russia-linked ransomware gang the Hive on Thursday, seizing its website and dismantling much of its digital infrastructure.

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation seized this site as part of a coordinated law enforcement action taken against Hive Ransomware," a note on Hive's leak site, shown in English and Russian languages, said Thursday.

Hive ransomware actors have "victimized" over 1,300 companies worldwide, and are believed to have received approximately $100 million in ransom payments, according to information previously released by the FBI, authorities said.

"Last night, the Justice Department dismantled an international ransomware network responsible for extorting and attempting to extort hundreds of millions of dollars from victims in the United States and around the world," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement Thursday.

The Hive gang is known to threaten companies they target by warning they'll leak their information on the internet, according to bulletins released by law enforcement. Their hackers typically leave a ransom note with instructions on the network.

In one instance last month, Hive hackers allegedly took the data of 270,000 people from the largest medical complex in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The information they stole included full names, addresses, medical records, payment info and in some cases social security numbers of patients at the hospital.

"The coordinated disruption of Hive's computer networks, following months of decrypting victims around the world, shows what we can accomplish by combining a relentless search for useful technical information to share with victims with investigation aimed at developing operations that hit our adversaries hard," FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


EMPLOYMENT

Media One Radio Group is always looking to grow our Marketing team!  For more information on full-time, part-time and out of home opportunities visit our Employment Section - here!

Local News

WJTN News Headlines for Fri., Jan. 27, 2023

Four arrested following drug raids in Dunkirk... Four Dunkirk residents have been arrested in a pair of early morning raids in the north county city that also led to seizures of a significant amount ...

Read More