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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump, while honoring the college football national champions from Louisiana State University amid his Senate trial on Friday, called out Democrats, saying "they are trying to impeach the son of a bitch."

Trump made the comment as he invited the team back to the Oval Office for photos at the Resolute Desk, after he said some "good presidents and some not so good presidents" have sat at the desk.

"But they got a good one now," Trump said. "Even though they are trying to impeach the son of a bitch. Can you believe that?"

While touting the success of the record-breaking LSU Tigers, he also made sure to highlight his own successes as president -- including the signing of the partial trade agreement with China on Wednesday and the Senate passage of a new trade deal between the United States, Canada and Mexico on Thursday.

He continued to talk up the U.S. military -- claiming his administration catches terrorists much like a football team would take out their opponents.

“We’ve got the greatest military … we’ve taken out the terrorists just like your football team would have taken out those terrorists," he said. "So we’re doing good."

Trump also mentioned a record "all-time high" for the U.S. stock market, what he's called an economic victory.

"So that will be 149 times in the past three years," he said, turning to LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. "That's not bad. Coach, that's good, right?"

The president did talk football at the ceremony, giving shoutouts to various LSU players such as Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback Joe Burrow, cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and wide receivers Ja'mar Chase and Justin Jefferson. He also went down a list of some of the most well known plays and games of the season.

When last season's champions, Clemson University, visited to the White House in March, Trump fed them fast food from McDonald's and Chick-fil-A. He said the team ate so much food "we didn't know what the hell to do."

The LSU Tigers gave the president a jersey with "Trump" on the back, displaying the number 45.

"I thought he was giving me the Heisman trophy … He’s just giving me a jersey," Trump joked.

Louisiana federal and state lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Cassidy, Reps. Mike Johnson, Garret Graves and Steve Scalise, Attorney General Jeff Landry and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, also attended the ceremony.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ken Starr is seen here during a 2018 interview with ABC News. (ABC News)(WASHINGTON) -- Former independent counsels Ken Starr and Robert Ray are expected to join President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial legal team, a source familiar with the plans told ABC News Friday.

Former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz is joining the team as well, his office confirmed in a statement. It said he will help argue in the president's defense on the Senate floor.

"Professor Dershowitz will present oral arguments at the Senate trial to address the constitutional arguments against impeachment and removal.," the statement said. "While Professor Dershowitz is non partisan when it comes to the Constitution—he opposed the impeachment of President Bill Clinton and voted for Hillary Clinton— he believes the issues at stake go to the heart of our enduring Constitution. He is participating in this impeachment trial to defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent."

A senior administration official confirmed that Starr, Ray and Dershowitz will be part of the president's team.

Starr was a central player in the impeachment case against President Bill Clinton.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone and one of the president's personal lawyers, Jay Sekulow, will still be leading the defense, according to the source.

The developments come ahead of opening arguments in the trial scheduled to begin Tuesday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


hermosawave/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The traditional kick-off of election season is usually associated with the state of Iowa, when caucus-goers spend hours attempting to lobby support for their top choice candidates in hopes of helping presidential hopefuls establish an early lead in the nominating process.

But as Iowans prepare to brace frigid temperatures to cast their ballots on Feb. 3, voters in another chilly state directly to the North may be the ones to lay claim over casting the actual, in-person first votes of 2020 through early voting.

Among the first states to start in-person early voting is Minnesota, where voters will begin to head to the polls as early as Friday - weeks before the state’s March 3 primary on "Super Tuesday," when the bulk of the nation’s primary contests are held, apportioning nearly one-third of the delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination on one night.

"The earliest people who vote are either the people in situations where they just need to vote early, like our military abroad...or it's these people who are hardcore voters," said Michael McDonald, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who specializes in elections and voter turnout. "They're very engaged, they follow the candidates, they're very confident as who they're going to vote for. And that's the theme, I think, plays out through the early voting period."

But a rush to the ballot box might not overwhelm polling places opening their doors on Friday, McDonald said.

"In a chaotic presidential nomination contest like what we have right now with multiple candidates, what you often see is that voters tend to hold on to their ballots much longer than they will when we get to the general election," he continued. "Right now, people don't know, really, who to vote for. We still have candidates dropping out."

The option to cast votes early is a departure from how Minnesotans have voted for nearly three decades under the caucus system, which required real-time and in-person attendance up until this cycle.

“When we had caucuses, we were requiring people to show up, you know, during a two and a half hour window on Tuesday night during the middle of winter to cast their votes and you know, [it] was very restrictive,” Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said in an interview with ABC News.

Minnesota party officials believe the expanded flexibility will result in record turnout at the polls, meaning that a significant number of votes could be cast across the battleground state weeks before its official primary date. Democrats are pouring resources into the state early, as the party aims to safeguard its blue territory from GOP gains through organizing tactics.

The expected increase in voter turnout could also serve as an indicator for the eventual presidential matchup in the general election, and Minnesota Democrats are also bracing for a flood of political efforts from the Trump campaign.

“Trump's a little bit of a trophy collector, right? And there's no bigger trophy for a Republican running for president than winning Minnesota,” Martin said.

In 2016, President Trump lost the state by a margin of two points, and has been open about wanting to tip the scales in 2020. At a campaign rally in Minneapolis in October 2019, the president made clear that winning the state was a priority in his campaign strategy, as he took a swipe across the aisle at Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar while promising to win the second time around.

“How do you have such a person representing you in Minnesota? I am very angry at you people right now,” Trump said at the time, adding, “She is one of the big reasons that I am going to win, and the Republican Party is going to win Minnesota in 13 months.”

Trump’s focus on Minnesota hits close to home on the campaign trail for Senator Amy Klobuchar who has enjoyed a steady rise in the polls over the last few months, particularly in the early states. She has said she is confident in her ability to face off with the president.

As Klobuchar maps out her winning strategy beyond Iowa, she will be in the state Friday as voters begin to cast ballots to kick off early voting.

But the Land of 10,000 Lakes only slightly beats out Vermont, another Super Tuesday state, as the earliest state to conduct in-person early voting.

Voters in Vermont, a state home to Sen. Bernie Sanders and one that the presidential contender is likely banking on in his second pursuit for the Democratic nomination, can start heading to the polls on Jan. 18.

But the distinction of issuing the first early voting ballots of the 2020 timeline, in this case, does not include people who vote absentee by mail. Voters in both New Hampshire and North Carolina have already started requesting absentee ballots, ahead of Minnesota and Vermont.

Those absentee ballots started trickling out of New Hampshire to military and overseas voters in December, according to the secretary of state's office. On Monday, North Carolina began mailing absentee by mail ballots to voters who requested them, and any registered voter in North Carolina may vote absentee by mail. In Virginia, in-person absentee voting began on Thursday.

Minnesota and Vermont aren't the only non-early states who will start the electoral process before the nation’s first four primaries and caucuses. A slew of states are poised to begin early voting throughout the month of February, allowing voters to cast ballots early on days interspersed between the first four nominating contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

Illinois, a state holding its primary on March 17, begins early voting on Feb. 6, sandwiched in between Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's primary.

Between the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucuses, seven states will begin early voting, including the delegate-rich Texas, another Super Tuesday state.

Closing out the month of February with early voting are another five states, which are all holding primaries in March, including: Massachusetts, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan and Oklahoma.

Among the first four early states, only Nevada will be holding early voting from Feb. 15 to Feb. 18 prior to caucus day.

The benefits of early voting range from the convenience factor to producing higher turnout rates. In the 2018 midterm elections, which saw record highs for early voting, the total number of Texans who cast ballots during the early voting period surpassed the total vote (early plus Election Day) in 2014.

At this stage in the Democratic race, heightened expectations for early voting are driven by the competitiveness of the primary, according to McDonald.

"I don't expect the level of turnout on the Republican side to be the same as on the Democratic side because there's just different levels of competition there," McDonald told ABC News. "We know that competition is one of the key determinants for turnout."

But early voting could provide significant insights into voting patterns and behavior ahead of a competitive primary season and the critical 2020 general election.

"I think probably the more interesting dynamic will be on the Democratic side," McDonald said, adding, "we'll be able to look at the racial composition of the Democratic primary voters" across states that include race on the voter file, including a number of southern states like Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana.

"For like Biden to do well in South Carolina, we’ll want to see if the level of engagement among African Americans is at least the same level as it was in 2016," the last time there was a competitive Democratic primary, McDonald offered as an example.

But more broadly, early voting could potentially signal the level of engagement among America’s electorate -- a key indicator that could decide the trajectory of the 2020 race.

"We might also get some clues about what's going on with overall levels of engagement, just by looking at the total number of voters who have been participating," he added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Lev Parnas, Rudy Giuliani’s former business associate, said on CNN Thursday night that his view of his and Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine was that “it was all about 2020, to make sure [Trump] had another four years.”

“That’s the way everybody viewed it,” Parnas said. "There was no other reason for doing it."

The statement came during Parnas’ second night of back-to-back television interviews, during which he implicated President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rep. Devin Nunes, and the Trump legal team in activities central to the House impeachment investigation and Trump's Senate trial.

In Parnas' second night appearing on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show Thursday, he alleged that former Energy Secretary Rick Perry also played a direct role in the plan to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy into opening an investigation into former Vice President and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Parnas recalled that Perry called Giuliani when Perry was on his way to Zelenskiy 's inauguration "to ask him what to discuss, and Rudy told him to make sure to give [Zelenskiy] the message" that Zelenskiy should announce the opening of an investigation into Biden.

Perry then called Giuliani after the inauguration to confirm "that he spoke to Zelenskiy, and Zelenskiy's going to do it,” Parnas alleged.

The effort did lead Zelesnkiy to make a general announcement about investigating corruption -- but when it didn't mention Biden, "Giuliani blew his lid," Parnas recalled.

It “wasn't supposed to be a corruption announcement," Parnas explained. "It had to be about Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and Burisma.”

Parnas explained that this happened on several occasions. "Every time somebody would meet Zelenskiy" to press him to announce a Biden investigation, Parnas said, Zelenskiy would "agree -- and then [he] would walk it back."

Perry, who has been described by colleagues as one of the "three amigos" in the Trump administration's policy on Ukraine, has insisted that he's "extremely comfortable" that there was no quid pro quo, saying he had only been focused on addressing corruption in Ukraine and encouraging American companies to do business there.

He confirmed at that time that he encouraged the president to call Zelenskiy "multiple times" during a press conference in Lithuania, but said that he never encouraged Trump to talk about the Biden family.

"Not once, as God as my witness, not once was a Biden name -- not the former vice president, not his son -- ever mentioned," Perry said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in October.

Parnas, during Thursday's CNN interview, also stressed that he would be “very willing” to testify at the Senate impeachment trial and that he would be the “best witness.”

"I should be their No. 1 witness, because I'm the one that got all the dirt," Parnas said. "Why do they need Biden? Call me."

When asked why he hasn't been asked to testify, Parnas said, "I think they're afraid of me."

During both the CNN and MSNBC interviews, Parnas detailed a specific conversation he said he had with the president about then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Parnas recalled sitting with Trump at a super PAC dinner and saying something negative about Yovanovitch to Trump, which prompted Trump to immediately turn to an adviser and say, "fire her.”

Parnas said Pompeo and then-national security adviser John Bolton refused to fire Yovanovitch despite being repeatedly pushed by the president. Parnas said he thought it was becoming “comical.”

Parnas’ interview appearances have touched off a new round of debate among lawmakers over the need for witnesses at the impeachment trial. Democrats argue that Parnas' first-hand account would be important testimony, while Republicans have remained largely unmoved.

During his first appearance with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Parnas said he believes "President Trump knew exactly what was going on" with Parnas' activities in Ukraine, including his efforts to have Yovanovich removed from her post as the top U.S. diplomat in Kyiv.

"[President Trump] was aware of all of my movements," Parnas said. "I wouldn’t do anything without the help of Rudy Giuliani or the president."

Pressed on the president’s insistence that he does not know him, Parnas said, "He lied."

Reactions to Parnas’ claims differed sharply.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, in a statement Thursday morning, attacked Parnas' credibility and dismissed his claims by insisting the president did nothing wrong.

"These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison," Grisham said in the statement. "The facts haven’t changed -- the President did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats, has been a sham from the start."

Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer, however, said that Parnas’ claims raised “lots of serious questions,” and Sen. Chris Murphy said Parnas’ statements “fit neatly into what we’ve already heard.”

Separate from the House impeachment probe, Parnas last year was charged in the Southern District of New York with circumventing campaign finance laws to channel foreign money into Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. He has pleaded not guilty.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


narvikk/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A century-long battle to amend the Constitution to cement equal rights for Americans regardless of sex is coming to a head soon.

On Jan. 15, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, crossing the three-fourths of the union threshold specified in the Constitution for its adoption.

However, the amendment may not see the light of day for a while, due to legal technicalities over a Congress-issued deadline, which are bound to lead to long court fights.

Here's a look at how the Equal Rights Amendment, or ERA, began and progressed, and where it will go in the weeks to come.

Origins in the suffrage movement

Activist Alice Paul pushed to have national protections for women and formally called for the ERA in 1920. Three years later, Congress introduced the amendment, which was authored by Paul. However, both the House and Senate sat on the proposal for decades.

Civil rights movement prompts action

Throughout the 1960s, women's rights groups and civil rights organizations lobbied Congress to pass the amendment and send it to states for ratification. Their efforts included rallies, disrupting hearings and public campaigns.

Their efforts paid off when, in 1971, the amendment passed in the House, followed by the Senate a year later. There was bipartisan approval for the amendment, which read, "equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."

The amendment would give American women more protections and would be the basis for laws that granted equal pay and prohibited gender discrimination, according to experts.

Off to the states, the battle begins

When Congress sent its resolution to the states for ratification in 1972, it came with some stipulations, including a seven-year deadline to meet the 38-state minimum. Article V of the Constitution, though, does not give a specific time limit to ratify any potential amendment.

Although the ERA had big name supporters, such as the AFL-CIO, there was some opposition, particularly from conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly. She argued that the ERA would disrupt social norms and lead to hardships for housewives and possibly women being drafted into the military.

By the end of 1979, only 35 state legislatures ratified the ERA including Nebraska, Texas, Michigan and Oregon. Congress extended the deadline by another three years, but no additional state houses gave their seal of approval.

New push in the '90s

Although activists continued to lobby for the three additional states to ratify the ERA, there was little to no activity among those legislatures for a quarter-century. ERA supporters, however, were still determined, especially after the 27th Amendment was passed in 1992.

That amendment was originally sent to the states for ratification in 1789 and didn't meet its minimum state count until 1992. ERA proponents have argued that the deadlines issued by Congress in 1972 were part of the resolution to send it to the states and not in the actual wording of the amendment itself.

New millennium, new states

In 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify the ERA, and a year later, Illinois approved the amendment. More and more advocates began calling on their elected officials to ratify the amendment including celebrities such as Alyssa Milano and Patricia Arquette.

In January, Virginia's state legislature, which had recently gained a Democratic majority after more than 20 years, ratified the amendment, passing the threshold.

Legal roadblocks make future murky

The congressional deadlines set in the original 1972 resolution continue to be a major impediment to ERA's adoption. Some legal experts contend that those deadlines prohibit ratification and the process would have to start over. However, others have argued that Article V doesn't deter ratification once the threshold is met.

The U.S. Department of Justice's Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC) released an opinion before the Virginia vote that stated the amendment "is no longer pending before the States," because of the expiration. The National Archives and Records Administration, which has to certify the amendment, said in a press release it would comply with the OLC's opinion save for a court order.

Saikrishna Bangalore Prakash, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, told ABC News it is likely a lawsuit will be filed against the National Archives that will compel them to ratify the amendment.

There are bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that seek to remove the deadline, which would negate any legal argument, according to experts.

"It's taken almost a century, but it's closer than we have ever been. We're determined to cross the finish line," Carol Jenkins, co-president and CEO of the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women's Equality, told ABC News.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


izanbar/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. senators settled into their political foxholes on Thursday upon the kickoff of President Donald Trump's historic impeachment trial, saying they would take their duties as jurors seriously while also declaring that the upcoming proceedings were either – depending upon their party – necessary to save the country or a complete waste of time.

"I'm ready for this trial to end," South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told ABC News' Mariam Khan. "And all the evidence I've seen has nothing to do with the facts as far as I'm concerned."

"They've given us two very weak articles of impeachment," added Republican Sen. David Perdue. "Our job is to look at what they've brought us and decide if that rises to the level of impeachment."

For the Democrats, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, speaking at a news conference, drew comparisons to President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, and accused Trump of hiring "henchmen" to do his dirty work and then blocking all efforts by Congress to hold him accountable.

"Nothing we do while we serve in the United States Senate will be more important than putting country above party in this procedure," Blumenthal, D-Conn., said.

"The case is already overwhelming," he later added.

If there was any doubt of the hyper partisan atmosphere, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York declared: "We want the truth, and maybe some Republicans would rise to the occasion."

Trump's Senate impeachment trial officially began Thursday afternoon on a blustery January day in Washington as a group of House lawmakers – designated "impeachment managers" -- marched across the Capitol carrying two articles that accused the president of abusing his power in office and obstructing Congress.

During the House impeachment inquiry, the Democratic majority gathered evidence of a pressure campaign orchestrated by Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to get the newly elected Ukrainian government to announce an investigation that would take aim at the president's chief political rival, Democrat Joe Biden.

According to documents and witness testimony, Trump last July ordered a hold on nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine – money the new democratically elected government desperately needed to fend off Russian troops at its border -- and refused to lift the hold despite the White House being warned that doing so was possibly illegal.

As the Senate chamber prepared for the formalities of a trial this week, new evidence in the case continued to spill out. Lev Parnas, a close associate of Giuliani facing criminal charges provided phone texts and other documents that described the two men's push for a Ukrainian announcement on Biden, while also telling media outlets that the president "knew exactly what was going on."

On Thursday, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office, a federal government watchdog, ruled that the White House budget office indeed broke the law by withholding aid at President Trump's direction.

Trump again called the allegations a "hoax" and insisted that he didn't know Parnas, despite Parnas' close relationship with Giuliani.

"I don't know him at all, don't know what he's about, don't know where he comes from, know nothing about him." Trump said.

Several Senate Republicans seemed unmoved by the new evidence.

"To me, the source of evidence, at best is questionable … The people involved are sketchy at best. I am ready to move on," said Graham.

Added Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana: "I don't want America, once the Senate finishes its work to say ‘well, we just got run over by the same truck twice.'"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that Republicans were content in burying their heads in the sand.

"They're afraid of the truth," she said.

Late Thursday, GOP moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine put out a statement trying to clarify where she stands on the question of witnesses and new evidence. "There's been a lot of mischaracterization and misunderstanding about my position on the process the Senate should follow for the impeachment trial," she said.

"While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999," she said, referring to the Clinton impeachment trial, where the question of witnesses was voted on only after opening arguments.

"Prior to hearing the statement of the case and the Senators asking questions, I will not support any attempts by either side to subpoena documents or witnesses," she added.

The partisan rancor though was left for outside the Senate chamber, as 99 senators signed their names in a book promising to uphold "impartial justice." One senator, James Inhofe, R-Okla., was in his home state because of a medical issue involving a family member.

Reporters described the room as completely silent as each member approached the book with Chief Justice John Roberts observing quietly.

Told to minimize distractions, many senators sat with few materials in front of them. Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, took a Bible from his desk and began reading.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


jganser/iStock(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Republican lawmakers in Florida submitted a batch of anti-LGBTQ bills this week with just hours to spare before the 2020 legislative deadline.

If signed into law, the four bills would walk back local ordinances that protect LGBTQ employees, legalize the controversial practice of "gay conversion therapy" and imprison doctors for up to 15 years if they provide certain transition-related medical care to transgender youth. Conversion therapy is a discredited practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation through psychological or spiritual means. It is grounded in the belief that being LGBTQ is abnormal or unnatural and is banned in more than a dozen states and Washington, D.C., according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The bills -- submitted late Monday by Rep. Anthony Sabatini, Sen. Dennis Baxley, Rep. Bob Rommel, Sen. Joe Gruters, Rep. Michael Grant, Sen. Keith Perry, and Rep. Byron Donalds -- sparked outrage among many LGBTQ advocates and their allies.

The lawmakers submitted four pieces of legislation, each with a companion bill in the House and the Senate.

Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, said the "draconian legislation" would attack the rights of the state's LGBTQ population and make the 2020 legislative session "one of the most hostile to LGBTQ Floridians in recent memory."

"This is the most overtly anti-LGBTQ agenda from the Florida legislature in recent memory,” Equality Florida Public Policy Director Harris Maurer said in a statement. "It runs the gamut from openly hostile legislation that would arrest and imprison doctors for providing medically necessary care, to legislation that would carelessly erase critical local LGBTQ protections."

The group called on leaders within the Florida House and Senate to denounce and defeat the proposed laws.

Florida Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones, who considers himself the state's first openly gay African American legislator, spoke out against the bills immediately, calling them discriminatory and shameful.

"It's shameful that Republican lawmakers are wasting tax dollars attacking Florida's most vulnerable communities rather than prioritizing the issues that impact everyday people's lives," Jones said in a statement. "Clearly they've decided that discrimination and hate are central to their election-year platform despite our state's incredible diversity."

Gina Duncan, the group's director of transgender equality, took particular issue with the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, introduced by Sabatini and Baxley. If signed into law, the legislation would make it a second-degree felony for doctors to provide gender reassignment surgeries and hormone therapies to children seeking to transition to the opposite sex -- even if they have their parents' consent.

"Transgender youth are some of the most at-risk in our community. It is outrageous that conservative legislators would threaten their health and safety," Duncan said. "Medical professionals, not politicians, should decide what medical care is in the best interest of a patient. Forcing a doctor to deny best practice medical care and deny support to transgender youth can be life-threatening."

Baxley pushed back against Equality Florida's characterization of the his bill and accused the organization of trying lump eight different bills into one category.

"These are very different topics. My sole interest is the wellbeing of a child. I'm not trying to address the whole phenomena of how we're adapting to the changes in mores and views on LBGTQ community," Baxley told ABC News on Thursday. "I don't share their views, but I have no condemnation of anyone, OK. To me, those are personal issues."

He said he was inspired to draft the bill after hearing about civil disputes between parents who had different opinions about how they should deal with their child's gender dysphoria, a condition where a person feels like there's a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. He cited a case where one parent wanted to take medical action -- such as sterilizing the child or seeking hormone therapies -- to affirm the child's preferred gender, but the other parent was against it.

Baxley said the proposed bill protects children from having their parents make decisions about their health that the child may regret later in life.

"We're seeing some prominent lawsuits, particularly with divided husbands and wives, about what's to be done regarding the child's care. And obviously, if they're going to court, I think we need to do some kind of policy clarification on what's appropriate," Baxley said. "I am trying to start that discussion, as difficult as it is, but I think we have a responsibility in protecting children."

Equality Florida said Baxley's bill would go against the best medical practices recommended for transgender youth. Many doctors say it’s easier for a person to transition to the opposite sex if they begin the process early, but Baxley said young people dealing with gender dysphoria should be able work through those issues without medical intervention during childhood.

"During adolescence, they're trying on all kinds of things when they're in middle school and high school trying to figure life out," Baxley said. "But I'm very concerned about protecting children from medical procedures that could be damaging to them physically."

"There's a lot of people that have transgender lives that don't undergo surgeries that permanently change their physical makeup," he added. "Let them make these life decisions as they become adults. When you start these heavy hormonal treatments and you're talking about the sterilization of a child, these are very weighty issues to be making for them while they're children."

It's unclear exactly how likely the bills are to pass. They were each introduced by individual members, not committees, which would give them a better chance of advancing.

Baxley said he's more concerned with starting a discussion.

"The way a legislator starts a discussion is to file a bill. It will make people start thinking about that issue to come up with a public policy that is appropriate," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Zach Gibson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., revealed in an interview Thursday that she has been living with symptoms of alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss.

In an interview with The Root, the freshman lawmaker said her desire to be honest with her supporters at home and abroad, many of whom identified with her signature Senegalese twist hairstyle, spurred the decision to disclose her condition.

"I think it's important that I'm transparent about this new normal," she said.

Alopecia causes a body's immune system -- which is supposed to fight external pathogens -- to attack its own hair follicles, resulting in hair loss, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is neither painful nor contagious, and in some cases, hair may even grow back.

There is no cure for alopecia, though, and its cause is uncertain. Experts believe an undefined combination of environmental and genetic factors can trigger the disease.

Pressley said that she first discovered signs of the condition in the fall last year, when she noticed small patches of missing hair during a hair appointment.

She soon started finding "sinkfuls of hair" and tried to stymie the progression of the disease with a variety of techniques.

"Every night I was employing all the tools that I had been schooled and trained in throughout my life as a black woman because I thought that I could stop this," she said, adding that she didn't want to sleep because she feared waking up to more lost hair and facing down "a person who increasingly felt like a stranger" to her in the mirror.

Pressley said that she came to the decision in December to eventually disclose her condition while hiding in a restroom stall in the U.S. Capitol -- right after voting to impeach President Donald Trump.

She had worn a wig that day, but said, "I couldn't recall the last time I'd ever felt more naked."

Despite well-meaning efforts to comfort her -- some have tried reminding her of the India Arie song "I Am Not My Hair" -- Pressley said her hair was a "synonymous and conflated part" of her personal and political identities, and that at the end of the day, "I still want it."

She said that she thinks making her condition public will help her come to terms with her condition.

"It's about self agency. It's about power. It's about acceptance," Pressley said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After Chief Justice John Roberts swore in senators for the trial of President Trump on Thursday, several Republican senators described the gravity of the moment, while, at the same time, wondering whether partisan politics has diminished the magnitude of impeachment.

“It felt like ‘my gosh – this is more serious than the House gave it,’” Sen. Kevin Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, told ABC News. “And it’s unfortunate that they diminished the seriousness, the constitutional seriousness of their charge, but thank God that the Founders knew that there would need to be another body that would lend the seriousness to it and to protect against partisan political impeachment.

"So, that’s how it felt like to me. I did contemplate a few times: 'I wonder if there’s anybody thinking we might have gone too far after sensing the gravity of the moment?'” he said.

Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun added that there was a “somber” mood in the chamber as the historic moment played out.

“We’ve known we’re going to come to this day and we’re here and for me personally it was a somber feeling when you listen to the articles, and you know how important this is in a historical context,” Braun said. “I think most of us wonder how we’ve gotten into this twice in 20 years, so I think that, ah, that’s probably the big question – what’s underlying politics to put us in a spot like this? I think there’s a lot of polarization out there.”

“Once you sit down, you raise your hand, take the oath and listen to the particulars of what we’re dealing with, with the Chief Justice sitting there, all senators assembled - it’s a big deal,” Braun added. “I’m just hoping for the future of the country that this isn’t something that easily occurs.”

GOP Sen. Roy Blunt had a similar reaction after being sworn in by the chief justice.

“It impresses -- the historic nature of the moment. Relatively few times in the history of the country we have approached this,” Blunt, R-Mo., told ABC News, adding he wondered “if in the last 46 years we've allowed this [impeachment] to become too routine.”

Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin next Tuesday, following a long weekend.

Cramer said that a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday, finding Trump violated law by withholding aid from Ukraine, makes an impeachment trial “more interesting” but stressed it’s up to the House managers to get into that subject – not for senators to force the trial to take a new direction.

“I want to wait and start hearing from both sides and then ask the questions and then be informed by that,” Cramer said. “I think at this point we’re all in jury-mode and that’s the best way to proceed. It’s really up to the House managers to make the case for these things. I’m certainly open to it and want to wait to see what they say.”
Cramer, however, said the Senate’s goal “ought to be to get through this as quickly as possible” although he expressed a preference for witness reciprocity, underscoring that he’d be “surprised if there weren’t witnesses.”

“Whether it’s one for one, two for two, or four for four, I think each witness will be presented and will be voted on based on the merits of that witness and what they may have to offer,” Cramer said. “I can tell you I would be one that would strongly advocate for something like reciprocity and I certainly wouldn’t expect that only one side gets to present their case.”

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jetcityimage/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A coalition of 15 states and New York City is suing the Trump administration over a recent rule from the Agriculture Department that could cause hundreds of thousands to lose benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as "food stamps."

New York State Attorney General Letitia James and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine announced Thursday they are leading the coalition, arguing that the "rule directly undermines Congress' intent for SNAP, and that the USDA violated the federal rulemaking process," according to a press release.

The rule, announced in December 2019, would require more stringent work requirements in order for eligibility for SNAP.

The final rule could result in an estimated 688,000 individuals potentially losing their SNAP benefits, according to the regulatory impact analysis.

"Further, they argue that the rule would impose significant regulatory burdens on the states and harm states' economies and residents," the news release said, later adding that it would "deny access to food assistance for more than 50,000 people in New York City, and put tens of thousands more throughout New York State at risk of going hungry."

At the time it was announced, Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the new regulation would restore the "original intent" of SNAP. The new rule would raise the standard for states to receive waivers from specific work requirements depending on an area's unemployment rate and job availability.

"The new Rule eliminates State discretion and criteria regarding local economic conditions for waiving work requirements, resulting in the termination of essential food assistance for benefits recipients who live in areas with insufficient jobs," the complaint reads.

James, in the news release, called the rule "cruel to its core."

"Denying access to vital SNAP benefits would only push hundreds of thousands of already vulnerable Americans into greater economic uncertainty. In so doing, states will have to grapple with rising healthcare and homelessness costs that will result from this shortsighted and ill-conceived policy," James said.

The final rule was widely criticized when it was announced last year, including by members of Congress.

Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow said at the time the rule would hurt individuals who work in the tourism industry and others who have "unreliable hours like waiters and waitresses," and New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer called the rule "heartless" and "cruel."

Food Research & Action Center's legal director Ellen Vollinger on Thursday applauded the move to file the lawsuit, saying, "The Food Research & Action Center applauds the efforts of states and cities to prevent USDA from sidestepping Congress, ignoring the great weight of public opinion, and taking food away from people who are struggling with unemployment and underemployment,"

The lawsuit is being filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia and asks the court to issue an injunction before the rule goes into effect on April 1, according to the press release.

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Nicolette Cain/ABC(NEW YORK) -- After new audio of a tense exchange between Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., following Tuesday's Democratic debate was released, "The View" co-hosts weighed in on the presidential candidates' confrontation.

While on the campaign trail Monday, Warren confirmed earlier reports that, during a private meeting between the two that occurred prior to their 2020 campaigns, Sanders disagreed with her that a woman could win an election against President Donald Trump. Sanders denied the allegations, but the two addressed the claims head-on during the last Democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday.

"I don't want to waste a whole lot of time on this, because this is what Donald Trump and maybe some of the media want," Sanders said.

"Bernie is my friend, and I am not here to try to fight with Bernie," Warren responded. "Look at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections. The only people on this stage who have won every single election that they've been in are the women, Amy and me."

"The only person on this stage who has beaten an incumbent Republican anytime in the past 30 years is me," she added.

Warren approached Sanders on stage following Tuesday's debate, telling him she thought he called her "a liar on national TV," according to audio of the contentious interaction released by CNN on Wednesday night.

"I think you called me a liar on national TV," Warren said when she first approached Sanders. The two did not shake hands.

"What?" Sanders said.

"I think you called me a liar on national TV," Warren repeated.

"You know, let's not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we'll have that discussion," Sanders told Warren.

"Anytime," Warren said.

"You called me a liar. You told me – all right, let's not do it now," he said, turning away.

Asked Wednesday if they had any comment on the audio released by CNN, Warren campaign communications director Kristen Orthman responded, "We do not."

The Sanders campaign also declined to comment.

On Thursday, "The View" co-hosts reacted to Warren and Biden's post debate exchange.

“If anybody was wondering if Elizabeth Warren could take on a man in power, she showed you how to do it," longtime co-host Joy Behar responded. "I don’t worry about her with Trump. She can handle herself."

Sunny Hostin said Warren "stuck by what she has said all along. She believes that Bernie Sanders told her he does not believe that a women can be president -- can win this election."

“I love it," Meghan McCain said of the candidates' tense exchange. "I really respect straight shooters in life. In general, people will say things to your face, not just go behind your back. And her staff and his staff have been feuding, I respect the debate stage, she knows she’s mic'd, she knows she’s on TV in front of millions and millions of people."

"She’s a political animal," McCain added. "I didn’t know she had it in her. I kinda love it. I’m kind obsessed with this. Call him out.”


Every episode of ABC's award-winning talk show "The View" is now available as a podcast! Listen and subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, TuneIn, Spotify, Stitcher or the ABC News app.


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rarrarorro/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A revised trilateral trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada (USMCA) was passed by the Senate on Thursday, marking the second victory this week for the Trump administration's trade agenda.

The largely bipartisan vote -- 89-10 in favor of the legislation -- comes only a day after President Donald Trump celebrated the signing of a partial trade agreement with China, marking a de-escalation of the ongoing trade dispute between the two countries.

The USMCA, which renames and revises the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) of 1994, was agreed to last year by the leadership of all three nations but must be ratified by each individual country to be implemented.

The revised agreement -- which now heads to the president's desk for signature -- will expand market access for American dairy producers and aims to support auto manufacturing in North America. The new trade rules also include updates for digital trade and copyright rules.

The Mexican government has already ratified the agreement and the deal awaits the Canadian government's approval.

The White House has yet to announce plans for the signing of the agreement, which would represents a fulfilled campaign promise from the administration. Trump has long blasted NAFTA as “the worst trade deal ever made” and even campaigned in 2016 on negotiating a new deal.

The Trump administration worked with Democrats for more than a year to compromise on labor and environmental standards included in the legislation.

While the president continues to say that the deal will "end our Country’s worst Trade Deal, NAFTA," his implication that the USMCA is a monumentally different agreement is misleading. USMCA makes some tweaks to the previous trade agreement, but it is not as dramatically different as the president suggests.

In a surprising flash of bipartisanship just a day after the president’s formal impeachment in December, the House passed the USMCA legislation 385-41.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle hailed the revamped deal as beneficial for farmers and ranchers in particular.

In an interesting parallel, the Senate's passage directly preceded the official reading of the articles of impeachment against Trump, as a Senate trial now gets underway.

The lawmakers that voted against the bill are Sens. Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Ed Markey, Jack Reed, Bernie Sanders, Brian Schatz, Chuck Schumer, Pat Toomey and Sheldon Whitehouse.

Schumer, Senate minority leader, posted his reasoning on Twitter just before the vote.

Still, the passage will give Republicans a positive point of contrast to the impeachment proceedings.

"Quite a week of substantive accomplishments for the nation, for the president and for our international trade," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Stephen Emlund/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate formally accepted the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump shortly after noon on Thursday, officially triggering only the third trial of a president in U.S. history.

House managers, who will act as prosecutors, arrived on the Senate floor after walking silently across the Capitol to present the articles, with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff taking the lead role in the solemn ritual.

The Senate Sergeant at Arms, following centuries-old tradition, called out: “Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! All persons are commanded to keep silent, on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, President of the United States.”

"Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye: all persons are commanded to keep silent on pain of imprisonment, while the House of Representatives is exhibiting to the Senate of the United States articles of impeachment against Donald John Trump, president." https://t.co/lmJgZSs2bJ pic.twitter.com/KU7W3VOGWU

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 16, 2020

Schiff then read the articles accusing the president of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as all 100 senators sat listening at their desks, some taking notes.

Quoting the articles, he called Trump "a threat to national security" and said his conduct "warrants removal from office."

"Resolved that Donald J Trump is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors,” Schiff, D-Calif., declared, adding, “Donald J. Trump has abused the presidency.”

Rep. Schiff reads impeachment articles: "In the history of the Republic, no president has ever ordered the complete defiance of an impeachment inquiry, or sought to obstruct and impede so comprehensively the ability of the House...to investigate high crimes and misdemeanors." pic.twitter.com/jTHuObNZRk

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) January 16, 2020

Schiff, citing the articles, said President Trump acted with “corrupt motives” by conditioning $391 million in military aid to Ukraine “for the purpose of providing vital military aid” for “corrupt personal benefit.”

“President Trump has abused the power of the presidency in a manner subversive of the Constitution,” Schiff read from the articles, adding that the president “interposed the power of the Presidency” by stonewalling the House impeachment inquiry.

Schiff made note of the officials – by name - who defied House subpoenas for their testimony, including some of the witnesses Senate Democrats now want to testify at the trial, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Once Schiff finished, the House managers were dismissed and left the Senate chamber.

With the articles "exhibited" -- or read into the record -- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that Chief Justice John Roberts had come from the Supreme Court to be sworn in to preside over trial.

Roberts was sworn in by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, the president pro tempore – the highest ranking senator who presides over the Senate in the absence of the vice president.

Once Roberts was sworn in, he administered the same oath he took to all senators -- to do "impartial justice."

“I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of President Donald Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God,” Roberts said, reading from notes.

Each senator then. according to Senate rules and ritual, came forward to sign an "oath book."

ABC's Trish Turner reported the Senate chamber was largely silent as senators signed their names and, unlike the Clinton trial, senators were not taking a ceremonial pen after they wrote out their names.

Most senators were following the rules or decorum, not many had material on their desks, most weren't chatting. GOP. Sen Mike Lee took a Bible from his desk and was reading it.

The only senator absent was Republican Sen. James Inhofe, who was said to be out because of a family medical issue.

McConnell said earlier in the week that he expects the Senate impeachment trial to kick off in earnest with opening arguments on Tuesday, Jan. 21.

All senators are expected to be in attendance for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least two to three weeks, according to several senators.

According to the trial decorum guidelines, when Roberts arrives every single day, senators will have to "silently rise” at their desks and remain standing until Roberts takes his seat.

Senators are expected to do the same when Roberts leaves the chamber every day, as well.

Senators will have to refrain from speaking to their neighboring senators in the chamber and will have to remain seated throughout the duration of the trial every day.

Cellphones and other electronic devices will not be allowed in the chamber -- senators and any staff allowed inside will be asked to keep their devices in a separate room outside the chamber.

Senators will have to refer to Roberts as "Mr. Chief Justice."

Just hours before the Senate proceedings, the Government Accountability Office said it has concluded “that the Office of Management and Budget violated the law when it withheld approximately $214 million appropriated to DOD for security assistance to Ukraine.”

Trump directed that the aid be withheld -- what the GAO called illegal and which is covered in the impeachment articles accusing the president of wrongdoing.

“The law does not permit OMB to withhold funds for policy reasons,” the statement fro the the GAO, an independent, nonpartisan watchdog that investigates requests from members of Congress, read.

The House voted Wednesday afternoon to formally send the impeachment charges against Trump.

The House resolution officially appointed the seven managers, named by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Wednesday morning.

"This is a very important day for us," Pelosi said Wednesday.

"Time has been our friend in all this," she added, noting what she called the new "incriminating" evidence that has surfaced in the month since the House impeachment vote on Dec. 18, including new documents and other evidence from Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer.

Schiff said the new evidence, revealed by the House just Tuesday night, must be considered by the Senate.

It’s undecided at this point if the Senate will hear from witnesses or consider new evidence during the trial.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump's hold on security assistance to Ukraine was illegal, according to the federal government's independent watchdog.

The new determination by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, comes as the Senate is set to take up the articles of impeachment against Trump, which were delivered from the House on Wednesday.

Last June, Trump placed a hold on $214 million of security assistance from the Pentagon for Ukraine, as it battles Russian-led separatists in its eastern provinces. The White House Office of Management and Budget, or OMB, told Congress, which had passed the budget law appropriating those funds, that they were being withheld to ensure they weren't spent "in a manner that could conflict with the President’s foreign policy."

But GAO said that the executive branch can't use that kind of policy reason to withhold funds appropriated by Congress.
"OMB violated the [law] when it withheld" the Ukraine assistance "for policy reasons," the report concludes.

Trump has always maintained he's done nothing illegal. A spokesperson for OMB said the agency disagreed with the GAO findings.

"We disagree with GAO's opinion," the spokesperson, Rachel Semmel, said in a statement. "OMB uses its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President's priorities and with the law."

The GAO is an independent, nonpartisan watchdog agency that investigates the federal government on behalf of Congress, taking up requests on behalf of both Republicans and Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters the GAO decision "reinforces again the need for documents and eyewitnesses in the Senate" impeachment trial.

"This bombshell legal opinion from the independent Government Accountability Office demonstrates, without a doubt, that the Trump Administration illegally withheld security assistance from Ukraine," said Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who originally requested the GAO investigation. "This violation of the law reflects a contempt for the Constitution and was a key part of his corrupt scheme to abuse the power of the presidency for his personal political purposes."

Trump had placed a hold on a total of $391 million of security assistance to Ukraine and has provided various reasons for doing so -- including that he was concerned the money would be well-spent and not used for corruption or that European allies have not contributed enough to Ukraine's security. The European Union has provided more than €15 billion in loans and grants to Ukraine, according to the bloc, with an additional €134 million in humanitarian assistance for the ongoing conflict.

The other portion of the $391 million came from the State Department, and the GAO is still investigating whether its funds were withheld for legitimate reasons, but said that the department and OMB have failed to comply with their investigation.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born associate of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, made dramatic claims Wednesday about President Donald Trump’s awareness of activities central to the House impeachment investigation and his Senate trial.
"President Trump knew exactly what was going on" with his activities in Ukraine, Parnas told MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.

Parnas said that included his efforts in spring 2019 to have Ambassador Marie Yovanovich removed from her post as the top U.S. diplomat in Kyiv.

"[President Trump] was aware of all of my movements," Parnas said. "I wouldn’t do anything without the help of Rudy Giuliani or the president."

Pressed on the president’s insistence that he does not know him, Parnas said, "He lied."
Parnas pointed to his constant contacts with Ukrainian officials as evidence he was close to the president.

"Why would President [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy's inner circle or minister -- or [former Ukraine] President [Petro] Poroshenko meet with me -- Who am I?" Parnas asked. "They were told to meet with me. That's the secret they were trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work."

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, in a statement Thursday morning, attacked Parnas' credibility while not offering an explicit, direct denial of his claim that the president was aware of all of his movements. She dismissed Parnas' claims by insisting the president did nothing wrong.

"These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison. The facts haven’t changed - the President did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats has been a sham from the start," Grisham said in the statement.

Grisham then went on Fox and Friends later Thursday morning, again seeking to distance the president from Parnas.

"The president has said he did not know him, and I've got to say, just to say 'Rudy told me these things' doesn't mean that it has anything to do with the president and it certainly doesn't mean that the president was directing him to do anything. We stand by exactly what we've been saying the president did nothing wrong,” Grisham said.

Giuliani has previously said he would testify in the Senate trial and that he’d love to try the case himself. When asked again about that Wednesday night, Giuliani texted ABC News: "I am bound by attorney client privilege so it’s not just my decision."

Parnas said he and the president were by no means friends, but that the president had to have known exactly who he was.

"I was with Rudy four or five times a week," Parnas said.

Parnas’ appearance on the cable network landed on a historic day in Washington.

On Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially triggered the process to send two articles impeachment to the Senate, where senators will be sworn in on Thursday and House managers, acting as prosecutors, will read the articles aloud before make opening arguments next week.

Shortly after delivering the impeachment articles, the House Intelligence Committee published new records gathered from Parnas as part of a subpoena request dating back to September connected to the House impeachment inquiry. Over the weekend, Parnas' counsel announced he had handed over records to the committees.

Trump has repeatedly attempted to distance himself from Parnas’ activities. In October, Trump told reporters, "I don't know those gentlemen," referring to Parnas and another associate.

"That is possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody -- I have a picture with everybody here. But somebody said there may be a picture with -- at a fundraiser or somewhere so, but I have pictures with everybody. I don't know if there's anybody I don't have pictures with. I don't know them," Trump said.

Documents released Wednesday by the committee appear to confirm Parnas’ position. In a calendar entry from September, Parnas wrote, "Breakfast with President Trump in NYC," the documents showed.

The new records made public on Wednesday include voicemails, photographs, videos and messages that shed further light on the activities Giuliani undertook in Ukraine that ultimately led to the impeachment inquiry in Congress -- including efforts to have Yovanovitch dismissed.

On May 3, 2019, for example, Giuliani boasted to Parnas about his efforts to have Yovanovitch recalled from Kyiv.

"Boy I'm so powerful I can intimidate the entire Ukrainian government," Giuliani wrote. "Please don't tell anyone I can't get the crooked Ambassador fired or I did three times and she's still there."

Parnas also said former national security adviser John Bolton was "definitely involved" in Vice President Mike Pence's mission to secure an agreement with Ukraine.

"I know Mr. Bolton was definitely involved in the loop because of the firing of Maria Yovanovitch," Parnas said.

The vice president's office in a statement Thursday morning said that Parnas' claims of the vice president's knowledge and involvement contradicts testimony of witnesses in the House inquiry.

"Democrat witnesses have testified under oath in direct contradiction to Lev Parnas statements last night," the vice president's chief of staff Marc Short said in a statement. "This is very simple: Lev Parnas is under a multi-count indictment and will say anything to anybody who will listen in hopes of staying out of prison. It’s no surprise that only the liberal media is listening to him."

The new statement is consistent with Pence and his office's previous statements that the vice president had any knowledge or involvement in a scheme to pressure Ukraine to launch an investigation into Biden.

Parnas and Giuliani also communicated about their efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader to have former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, investigated. Those efforts led to the impeachment inquiry in Congress.

On the day after Trump’s phone call with Zelenskiy on July 25, Giuliani sent Parnas about "good news on Zelensky." Three days later, on July 29, Giuliani wrote to Parnas again, "on way to WH," referring to the White House.

Giuliani then wrote to Parnas on Aug. 1, "I want their commitment that they will support a real, full investigation."

"I full (sic) agree," Parnas replied.

At one point in Parnas’ communications, the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, was invoked.

After an exchange that suggested she was to meet with President Trump, Victoria Toensing, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer, wrote to Parnas that "POTUS stood us up and sent Ivanka to speak in his stead."

Parnas confirmed: "That's what Rudy said."

Toensing did not reply to a request for comment. The White House has not directly addressed Parnas’ accusations that the president lied.

Separate from the House impeachment probe, Parnas was charged in a criminal campaign finance case in the Southern District of New York. Accused of allegedly circumventing campaign finance laws against straw donations and foreign contributions, Parnas pleaded not guilty.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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