Politics Headlines
Subscribe To This Feed

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump continued to push the idea of arming teachers in schools during a meeting with state and local officials at the White House Thursday but also said having "active shooter drills is a very negative thing."

"I mean if I'm a child and I'm 10 years old and they say we're gonna have an active shooter drill and they say 'what's that?' and I say 'well, people may come in and shoot you,' I think that's a very negative thing to be honest. I don't like it," Trump said.

"I'd much rather have a hardened school. I don't like it. I don't like, I wouldn't want to tell my son that you're going to participate in an active shooter drill and I know some of them actually call it that. I think it's crazy, I think it's very bad for children."

Trump said he'd prefer a "hardened school" where teachers with training or a military background carry weapons.

"We have to harden our schools, not soften them up," Trump said. “You come into our schools - you’re gonna be dead. And it’s gonna be fast,” he added later.

Later, White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah tried to clarify that the president doesn't oppose safety drills to show teachers and students what to do in an active shooter situation, but that calling them "active shooter drills" could scare young students.

"The term active shooter drills particularly could be frightening for young children, he thinks a drill that has a different name that the brand of it frankly doesn't frighten children might be a better way to approach it," Shah told reporters at the White House briefing Thursday.

Trump's suggestion to arm educators in the wake of a deadly mass shooting last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead and 14 injured, has been panned by some education groups, including the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers union.

"Bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms. Parents and educators overwhelmingly reject the idea of arming school staff," NEA president Liky Eskelsen Garcia said in a statement.

"Educators need to be focused on teaching our students. We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that," Eskelsen said.

Trump disagrees, saying that teachers carrying a weapon should be paid more money, adding that it would be cheaper and more effective than hiring armed guards. Shah said the White House has been in touch with some teachers who have indicated they would be willing to be trained to use a weapon.

Trump said that, by arming teachers, "practically for free" you have made the school less of a target, but did not provide specifics during Thursday's meeting about how the administration would reduce the cost for school districts to train and arm teachers. He said later in the meeting, in which Education secretary Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also participated, that the federal government would provide some funding for additional training.

Trump's comments come as part of an ongoing discussion on how to change the country's gun laws.

Over in Maryland, Vice President Mike Pence echoed some of the administration's suggestions for reform and said school safety will be a top national priority in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

"As the president has said, no child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school," he said, adding that the president has called on Congress to strengthen background checks and asked the Justice Department to regulate devices like bump stocks used to change rifles into machine guns.

"Later this week when the president meets with the nation's governors in our nation’s capital we'll make the safety of the nation's schools and our students our top national priority," he said.

National Rifle Association vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre echoed calls for schools to amp up security during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“I refuse to leave this stage until I say one more time that we must immediately harden our schools every day,” LaPierre said. “Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide-open soft targets for any one bent on mass murder."

During Thursday's meeting at the White House, Trump also said he's spoken with lawmakers who support changes to strengthen the background check system and that the administration needs to look into how the Internet affects young people, saying that exposure to violent videos and video games are affecting people's minds.

And he repeated an earlier promise to push raising the federal minimum age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21.

The NRA said in a statement on Wednesday that it would not support such a change.

"Passing a law that makes it illegal for a 20 year-old to purchase a shotgun for hunting or an adult single mother from purchasing the most effective self-defense rifle on the market punishes law-abiding citizens for the evil acts of criminals. The NRA supports efforts to prevent those who are a danger to themselves or others from getting access to firearms. At the same time, we will continue to oppose gun control measures that only serve to punish law-abiding citizens," NRA Spokeswoman Jennifer Baker said in a statement.

The president met with students and family members affected by the shooting for a listening session on Wednesday on solutions to prevent mass shootings.

In that meeting, too, Trump floated the idea that more teachers should carry weapons in schools, indicating that if they had a gun they would be able to stop an active shooter.

"If the coach had a firearm in his locker, when he ran at this guy — that coach was very brave — saved a lot of lives, I suspect," Trump said in the listening session, a comment that seemed to reference Aaron Feis a teacher and coach who was killed protecting students last week. "But, if he had a firearm, he wouldn't have had to run. He would have shot, and that would have been the end of it. And this would only be, obviously, for people that are very adept at handling a gun. And it would be — it's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them."

There was an armed security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, but law enforcement said he did not encounter the gunman during the mass shooting, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said during a press conference on Friday.

Trump also defended the idea of arming teachers in a series of tweets on Thursday morning, saying that knowing there were armed teachers in a school could deter potential shooters.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former campaign aide Rick Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia on 32-counts on Thursday.

The charges include:

• 16 counts related to false individual income tax returns

• 7 counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts

• 5 counts of bank fraud conspiracy

• 4 counts of bank fraud

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.) -- The national spokesperson for the National Rifle Association delivered a heated speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday, denying the NRA had any responsibility for last week's mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school.

“We will not be gaslighted into thinking that we're responsible for a tragedy that we had nothing to do with," Dana Loesch said. "It is not our job to follow up on red flags. It is not our job to make sure that states are reporting to the background check system. It is not our job.”

Many student survivors of the shooting have started a campaign for gun control that targets the NRA, including demands that Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio refuse NRA campaign money.

If those blaming the NRA want to give the organization the authority and resources, the NRA will fix the problem by further securing schools, Loesch argued, echoing what President Donald Trump said Wednesday at a listening session with shooting survivors at the White House.

“We have resources available at anyone's disposal - if they want to reinforce their schools," Loesch said.

"I'll say it again loud and clear - we're parents too," she said. "Don't you think our kids deserve the same protection as our celebrities? Don't you all think that our kids deserve the same protection as our athletes? As our banks? As our businesses? But yet we leave them the most unprotected.”

Loesch also spoke about being booed Wednesday night when she participated in a CNN town hall with shooting survivors and their families.

“The government has proven that they cannot keep you safe. And yet, some people want all of us to disarm. You heard that town hall last night. They cheered the confiscation of firearms."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will not accept support from a new legal fund called the “Patriot Legal Expense Fund” established with President Donald Trump’s campaign funds to help his White House and campaign aides shoulder legal expenses related to the special counsel’s probe, a source close to Flynn told ABC News.

“General Flynn early on made a decision not to accept funds from President Trump, the Trump Organization, or the campaign, and has not accepted any funds from them,” the source said. “And he does not expect to accept any funds from the new entity.”

Lawyers paid with Trump campaign money have, for weeks, been working to start up the legal defense fund. The aim is to provide financial support for any bills incurred by anyone who “was an employee, consultant, fundraised or volunteer" on behalf of President Trump’s campaign, according to a document labeled “draft” that was posted on the Office of Government Ethics website late last month.

How the fund is used, and who gains access, could become influential as various targets of the investigation decide whether or not to avail themselves of the money, legal experts told ABC News.

Neither Paul Manafort nor Richard Gates, both former Trump campaign aides who face charges in the Special Counsel probe, have said whether they will seek to access the fund to finance their defense.

One of President Trump’s attorneys, Ty Cobb, told NBC in November the fund would not cover the fees for “indictees or current targets.”

Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador. He was the first senior White House official who agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation into election interference.

“Merely paying someone else’s legal fees is not illegal. But if you use those payments to try to exert control or prevent someone from cooperating with the prosecution that could potentially be obstruction of justice,” said Kathleen Clark, a legal ethics expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The prosecutor would probably look skeptically at these payments. It could call into question the credibility of the witness and taint the testimony,” Clark said. “Nothing necessarily illegal about the payments, but the fact of the payment could be used to question the credibility of the witness. The prosecutor would not want that testimony tainted.”

Stephen Gillers, an ethics expert at New York University School of Law, says defending a felony prosecution can cost as much as $10 million, and he is adamant about a defendant’s right to raise money to offset those expenses.

“It is none of the government’s business about how a defendant funds his case,” Gillers told ABC News. “The only time the government has an interest is if the money is tainted money, the fruits of your crime.”

The Patriot Fund documents were drawn up by lawyers from Wiley Rein LLP, including top Republican election attorney Michael Toner. It remains unclear who sought the fund’s creation or how much in assets the funds currently hold.

The Trump campaign spent $1.1 million on legal fees last quarter which included a $10,000 payment to the same law firm for “legal consulting,” according to FEC filings. A source with knowledge at the time of the document being filed told ABC News the campaign did hire the law firm to start the fund, but that the campaign will have no role in the day to day management or the funding of the project.

Most of the legal questions surround the potential for donors to the fund to improperly influence current government employees. Those questions led to a review by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE). A letter signed by acting OGE Director David Apol said they have reviewed the draft proposal for the fund but do “not approve or disapprove of specific legal defense funds.”

“If the fund is established and administered in accordance with the terms set out in the attached agreement, both the managers and the employee recipients will be in compliance” with the necessary statutes, Apol wrote.

Documents posted on the Office of Government Ethics website says members of the Trump administration and transition team can also benefit from the fund with some exceptions. It explicitly says President Trump and anyone in his immediate family cannot benefit from the fund .

The document says the fund will compensate those who incur legal expenses from the investigation being led by various Congressional Committees and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling during the 2016 Presidential Elections.

“The fund will help many of us that never anticipated being in this situation,” a former campaign official, who faces tens of thousands of dollars in legal bills who believes they will benefit from the defense fund, told ABC News.

This is not the first time a legal defense fund has been established to aide members of a previous Presidential administration or campaign in paying for legal needs. Towards the end of the Bill Clinton administration, the “Clinton Legal Expense Trust” was established to aide Clinton staff who part of the Whitewater Investigation, Paula Jones sexual harassment lawsuit and Congress’ impeachment inquiry and trial.

Last September, relatives of Flynn made a rare public statement in September to call attention to the “tremendous financial burden” the probes are placing on former advisers to President Donald Trump.

“The enormous expense of attorneys’ fees and other related expenses far exceed their ability to pay,” said Michael Flynn’s siblings Joe Flynn and Barbara Redgate.

They made the statement to bring attention to their own legal defense fund — formed to help raise money for their brother, who briefly served as Trump’s first national security adviser, after joining the Trump campaign as an adviser in 2016. Michael Flynn was forced to resign after just 24 days as national security adviser, after it was revealed that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

Flynn, a decorated military officer who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012 until his retirement in 2014, was out of the spotlight only briefly. He emerged as an early target of special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to investigate Russian interference in the election. Congress also began pursuing information from Flynn, but he has so far provided only limited information to the House and Senate committees charged with investigating election interference.

His family said they established their own fund, “to help ensure that he can defend himself," and tweeted from his personal account for the first time since late last year to express his gratitude.

Referring to his wife, Lori Flynn, Michael Flynn wrote in two tweets, "Lori and I are very grateful to my brother Joe and sister Barbara for creating a fund to help pay my legal defense costs. We deeply appreciate the support of family and friends across this nation who have touched our lives."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Dozens of Iranian refugees waiting in Austria to be resettled in the U.S. have now been denied entry by the Trump administration, according to refugee resettlement groups and the State Department.

The Christians and other religious minorities, about 100 in total, had been left in limbo for over a year - and now face possible deportation back to Iran, where they would face persecution, arrest, and even torture, warned a congressional human rights commission.

"This is just another example of the United States turning its back on those fleeing from harm," the International Refugee Assistance Project said in a statement Wednesday.

The State Department would not confirm the number of refugees that have been denied, but a spokesperson told ABC News: "Changes to the vetting process introduced in 2016 resulted in a greater number of denials in the Vienna refugee program."

Iranians were barred from coming to the U.S. on President Donald Trump's original and subsequent travel bans, and refugees from Iran were on temporary refugee bans that ended in January. While Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have advocated for special admission of more Christian refugees, Trump has also blasted Iran in particular as a threat.

The State Department spokesperson denied that the increased number of rejected refugees were because of those bans or Trump's rhetoric, but refused to explain why the refugees were denied or what changes to the vetting process now blocked their entry, citing privacy and security reasons.

The decision has also sparked outrage on Capitol Hill. The bipartisan co-chairs of Congress's Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission are demanding details of the decision from the Department of Homeland Security and urged the remaining refugees in Austria be admitted.

"Under no circumstance should those seeking refugee status be repatriated to Iran, where they could be subjected to arrest and torture," Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., and Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said in a joint statement. "We urge our allies to engage and offer safe harbor to these refugees."

The State Department says that they are trying to do just that, with the spokesperson saying, "We are working with the government of Austria and others on protection options, which could include resettlement or asylum elsewhere."

But it's another sign that the administration is working hard to limit the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. As ABC News has reported previously, the Trump administration set the lowest refugee admissions cap in the fall and has admitted refugees at a pace far below even that.

These particular Iranian refugees are supposed to be given entry to the U.S. because of their status as religious minorities. The U.S. and Austria began a partnership in 1983 to initially admit Iranian religious minorities to Austria for additional security vetting there - the same as any other refugee around the world - before finally being given a visa and moved to America.

The program had admitted over 53,000 Iranian religious minorities to date, including 800 since January 2017. Thousands more religious minorities are currently waiting in Iran for U.S. admission, according to Hultgren and McGovern.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- As President Donald Trump calls for an end to immigration to the U.S. based on extended family ties, the legal status of his mother and father-in-law faces new scrutiny as they move closer toward naturalization and U.S. citizenship.

First Lady Melania Trump's parents Viktor and Amalija Knavs are permanent residents of the United States after emigrating from Slovenia, according to their lawyer Michael Wildes.

“I can confirm that Mrs. Trump’s parents are both lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents,” Wildes said in a statement to ABC News. “The family, as they are not part of the administration, has asked that their privacy be respected so I will not comment further on this matter.”

Wildes would not say how the Knavses received green cards to live and work in the U.S.

Immigration experts say the most likely way the Knavses could have become permanent residents is through their daughter’s citizenship -- a process the president has referred to as "chain migration".

“The most obvious way that they would have become green card holders is by being the parents of a U.S. citizen -- i.e. Melania Trump,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration professor at Cornell Law School.

The Knavses theoretically could have applied for green cards through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program or through an employee sponsorship, but that is unlikely Yale-Loehr says, as they are retired and 65 percent of green cards are given out through various family programs.

According to public records, Melania's sister Ines Knauss lives in New York City, but it's not clear whether she was sponsored by her sister and Wildes declined to comment on the matter.

The likelihood that the Knavses received legal status based on their family ties cuts against President Trump's desire to end the practice in favor of immigration by merit and skill basis.

“Restricting family migration in certain ways, including to prohibit parents of U.S. citizens from emigrating to the U.S. -- if that had been law, Melania Trump’s parents would not be able to emigrate to the United States,” Yale Loehr said.

Trump has long said one of the goals of the administration's proposed immigration reform plan is to "end chain migration," the term critics of the current system use to describe the process by which American citizens sponsor their relatives for immigration to the U.S.

"Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited number of distant relatives," Trump claimed during his State of the Union address last month.

This claim isn't accurate, however. Citizens and green card holders can petition for certain immediate family members, but it's not feasible to admit an unlimited number of family members, according to an ABC News fact check of those comments.

Wildes declined to comment further on the matter. A spokesperson for the First Lady declined to comment to ABC News.

The news was first reported by the Washington Post.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Communication Commission on Thursday officially repealed the landmark Obama-era "net neutrality" rules by publishing the order to the National Register, the official journal of U.S. federal government regulations.

The reversal is a hallmark victory for FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, whose tenure has seen him strongly advocate for reduced regulation in lockstep with President Trump.

"It is not the job of the government to pick the winners and losers of the Internet. We should have a level playing field," Pai said on December 14 when the FCC voted along party lines --three Republicans to two Democrats -- to roll back the "net neutrality" rules imposed in 2015 under President Obama.

Reversal supporters claimed the rules unnecessarily regulate the industry and impede the free market.

Meanwhile, those who support the "net neutrality" rules are more likely to find a resolution in federal court than Congress. In the unlikely event Democrats gain enough support in the House of Representatives within the 60-day deadline to overturn the decision, the president has already expressed support for the repeal and is unlikely to sign any opposing legislation.

A coalition of state attorneys general has signaled its intention to sue the FCC and block what they called an "illegal rollback of net neutrality."

For that final rule to take effect, the White House Office of Management and Budget will have to sign off, which is expected to happen quickly.

The Office of Management and Budget did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.

A number of prominent technology companies, including Netflix, Amazon, Twitter and Microsoft, have voiced opposition to the reversal.

A spokesperson for Pai did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABC News(NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.) -- National Rifle Association vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre took the stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday just over a week after a deadly mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida galvanized a national conversation on gun policy reform.

In a highly anticipated speech, he made the case that there is room for the gun lobby and gun control advocates to find common ground.

"The NRA does care," he told the gathering at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.

LaPierre defended the Second Amendment against what he called "new European socialists" looking to seize control of Congress and the White House.

"Our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever," he said. "And the first to go will be the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution."

LaPierre also called out systemic and societal “failures” that form a complicated web of issues that make gun policy reform a difficult task.

“They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America's mental health system and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI,” LaPierre said of those calling for increased gun restrictions.

Pierre's appearance at the conference comes eight days after one of the most deadly school shootings in American history took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — a gun spree that left 17 dead and 14 injured. The suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, allegedly used a legally purchased type of AR-15 to carry out the attack.

The subsequent backlash and campaign for change, led largely by student survivors of the mass shooting, has focused, in part, squarely on the gun lobby as a roadblock to substantive reforms.

LaPierre focused on lawmakers critical of the gun lobby and members of the mainstream media as the beneficiaries of the heated debate over gun policy.

"Chris Murphy, Nancy Pelosi, and more, cheered on by the national media, eager to blame the NRA and call for even more government control. They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom," he said. "In the rush of calls for more government, they also revealed their true selves. The elites don't care, not one whit about America's school system. And school children. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them, for them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue."

LaPierre said his organization has the best interests of the nations' students and teachers at heart in the call to arm school staffers adding, “to stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.”

“The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous,” LaPierre said. “If that's true, and just think about this, if that's true, armed security makes us less safe, let's just go ahead and remove it from everywhere. Let's remove it from the White House, from Capitol Hill, and remove it from all of Hollywood.”

He offered the NRA’s School Shield programs assistance “absolutely free to any school in America."

“I refuse to leave this stage until I say one more time that we must immediately harden our schools every day,” LaPierre said. “Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide-open soft targets for any one bent on mass murder."

In many ways, Pierre's comments echoed President Donald Trump's during a listening session on Wednesday with people who’ve been affected by mass shootings, including families who lost children in the Parkland shooting.

At the White House meeting, the president suggested that he’s open to possibly arming teachers.

“It would be called conceal carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them, they would go for special training,” Trump said. “And they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone. Gun-free zone to a maniac is let's go in and let's attack.”

The president is set to meet Thursday with state and local officials, largely from schools and in law enforcement, to wade further into school safety.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A Trump-appointed federal judge who donated to the Trump campaign and worked on his presidential transition team has rejected requests to recuse himself from overseeing a legal battle involving Fusion GPS, the research firm that commissioned the so-called “dossier” of unverified intelligence that contains claims about Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden, who sits on the bench in Washington, D.C., made two donations to Trump’s presidential campaign totaling $1000 in October 2016 -- both coming within three weeks of Election Day, documents filed with the Federal Election Commission show.

“Fusion’s argument that I should look beyond the traditional grounds of disqualification to consider President Trump’s alleged political interests proves too much,” McFadden wrote in an opinion. “Such an argument would lead to the disqualification of numerous judges appointed by the sitting president on a wide range of cases.”

Attorneys for Fusion GPS were not immediately available for comment to ABC News about McFadden’s decision.

The little-watched case provides an early glimpse of the political obstacles that could emerge as the courts grapple with a growing number of lawsuits filed in the aftermath of the caustic 2016 presidential contest. McFadden’s connection to Trump itself is in dispute. McFadden said he does not know Trump and has “never met him in any capacity,” but Fusion GPS has argued that the connection is significant.

Before Trump nominated McFadden for a federal judgeship, Trump selected McFadden to serve as his Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice. McFadden remained at the Justice Department until the Senate confirmed his nomination to the bench last October.

Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian businessman named in the dossier, is suing Buzzfeed News, which published the “dossier” in its entirety in January 2017, for libel because it published what Gubarev says is false information about him.

In December, Judge McFadden was assigned through a random process to see that Fusion GPS was served a subpoena as part of the lawsuit. The subpoena in that case calls on Fusion GPS to turn over information about the controversial political research project as part of a defamation suit. Fusion GPS has objected.

The defamation case involving the legal request is being argued in a Miami federal court, but because Fusion GPS’ offices are based in Washington, a D.C. federal judge was assigned to oversee the dispute over the subpoena. In January, Fusion GPS first sought to have the subpoena reassigned to a different judge because McFadden served as a “volunteer” adviser on the Trump presidential transition team.

The research firm also argued that, during McFadden’s prior employment as an attorney at the multinational law firm Baker & McKenzie – where he worked until January 2017 – he represented a company controlled by Russian billionaire business magnate Mikhail Fridman of the investment firm, Alfa Group. Fridman shares control of Alfa Group, which has a separate lawsuit pending against Fusion GPS over the research they produced during the 2016 campaign.

“Federal law requires that judges maintain not only actual impartiality, but also the appearance of impartiality,” one of Fusion GPS’s attorney’s, William W. Taylor, III, wrote in a Motion for Judicial Recusal filed in January. “In this case, the Court will adjudicate a matter that pits the interests of Fusion GPS against the interests not only of the Court’s recent former client, but also against the interests of President Trump, on whose presidential transition this Court volunteered.”

James Sample, a professor of law at Hofstra University who has written extensively on the subject of recusal, says that while he found some of the judge’s contentions “curious,” recusal would not necessarily be required under the law.

“My assessment is that while a cautious recusal in this case would certainly not be inappropriate, it does not appear to be a case in which the judge’s disqualification is objectively required under the statute,” Sample told ABC News.

McFadden had disclosed during his confirmation process that he “volunteered as a vetter on Trump's transition team” before and after Election Day in November.

When asked to elaborate on his work for the transition team by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) during questions for the record in July, McFadden replied "I reviewed public-source information about potential cabinet appointees to the Executive Branch for evidence that may disqualify them or reflect poorly on the President should they be appointed to office.”

Fusion GPS argued that the subpoena should be reassigned, arguing that McFadden’s past association with Trump presented politically-charged conflicts of interest. After the month-long battle by Fusion GPS, McFadden denied their request that he recuse himself from the case on Friday.

“I decline Fusion's invitation to decide its motion based on the alleged connection between the motion and President Trump's political interests,” McFadden wrote in his decision. “The President's connection with me and his interest in this case are simply too tenuous to cause a reasonable observer to question my impartiality."

McFadden made note that he did represent the Fridman-controlled telecommunications business, VimpelCom, while at Baker & McKenzie, but he said he never provided direct representation to Fridman, and has never represented Gubarev.

“By no stretch of the imagination is VimpelCom a mere shell company serving as Mr. Fridman's alter ego,” he wrote.

As for his connection to President Trump, McFadden said he wasn’t involved closely enough for his role with the transition team to factor in for a case recusal, and said the fact that he was appointed by Trump had no impact on his case judgment.

"As a volunteer, I reviewed public-source information about potential cabinet appointees for approximately four hours every few weeks for two to three months," McFadden wrote. "I did not come into contact with Mr. Trump or any of the senior members of his campaign team. In fact, I do not know the president and have never met him in any capacity."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former Trump campaign staffer Sam Nunberg is expected to meet with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team on Thursday in Washington, according to a source with knowledge.

Nunberg spoke on the record about the Trump campaign in Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Before the book published, leaked passages showed Nunberg quoted as reportedly calling President Trump as an "idiot" in a conversation with Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

In an interview with ABC News' The Briefing Room on Jan. 4, Nunberg said he "probably" called the commander-in-chief an "idiot" in the conversation with Wolff, but maintained that the comment was sarcastic.

Nunberg also declined to dispute another exchange in the book in which he reportedly described his struggle to explain the Constitution to Trump.

“I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head," Wolff writes of Nunberg's recollection.

Nunberg was fired in August of 2015.

Nunberg declined ABC News' request for comment.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- A Republican candidate running for what will be an open Senate seat in Arizona reiterated the call for mental health reforms over new gun laws in the wake of the latest school shooting in Florida.

"I think that we can look at the existing laws that we have on the books and see what's working and what's not but making new gun laws doesn't seem to do much for the criminals or the mentally ill," Kelli Ward, who is one of the Republicans vying to fill Sen. Jeff Flake's seat come November, told ABC News' "Powerhouse Politics" podcast. "It just seeks to make it more difficult for law-abiding gun owners."

Ward calls herself "a proud supporter of the Second Amendment" and says that she is open to considering increasing the age required for gun sales.

"I think upping the age a bit to 21 before you can purchase a firearm is reasonable because I as a parent, if I want to take my children out to the gun range to teach them how to properly handle firearms, I'm more than able to do that but they don't need to be able to go and purchase one themselves perhaps," she said.

Speaking directly about the "heartbreaking" deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Ward said that the system's failure to help the alleged gunman, Nikolas Cruz, before the shooting should prompt mental health reforms.

"We let that kid down. He's been crying out for help basically for his entire life and he's been pushed aside and pushed aside and pushed aside to the point that he created havoc and committed this horrific act and what I think we need to be looking at is the mental health issue, not only in the adult population but also in kids," Ward said.

 "We have to be finding ways to connect people so that they don't feel that utter loneliness and that just the despair that is playing out on this kid's face. You have to also be looking at bullying behavior and finding ways to root that out so that our kids are growing up in a safer, healthier and happier environment so that we don't get to this point again and again and again in this country," she said.

Turning to the impending March 5 deadline that President Donald Trump imposed as decision day for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program, Ward says that no permanent solution should be agreed upon until multiple facets of border security are addressed.

Ward included the funding of the border wall, the end of the diversity lottery immigration program, the elimination of chain migration, and defunding sanctuary cities as steps that need to come before a permanent DACA solution.

"Once we do that, and only then can we talk about a permanent solution for that population. In the meantime, I'm fine with a temporary solution to allow them to continue to work, to continue to go to school, to live without being in fear, while we secure our border," Ward said.

 Ward is in Washington D.C. this week to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), and, when asked, would not directly call Trump a conservative.

"I don't think that President Trump ran as a conservative. He ran as a Republican, he ran as someone who was going to offer something different from what we've had decade after decade after decade, and I've been very happy with what he's delivered," Ward said.

"I think he's done a lot of conservative things. I don't know, you'd have to ask how he describes himself," she said. "I describe myself as a liberty-loving constitutional Republican."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images(WASHINGTON)--  Lawmakers on official overseas trips this congressional recess have made public comments appearing to reassure foreign partners that the U.S. relationship with their countries is not changing for the worse, despite remarks from President Donald Trump that can make those partners think otherwise.

Here’s a look at where members of Congress have been traveling on trips known as CODELs - short for congressional delegations - and what they’ve been saying while abroad:

MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE – MUNICH, GERMANY

Attendees: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Rep. Mike Turner, R-Tenn., and Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

The public message from the American lawmakers at this gathering of U.S. and European officials seemed clear and bipartisan: the U.S. commitment to its relationships with European partners has not changed despite the president's sometimes heated rhetoric.

“The Trump administration is still making the transition from campaign rhetoric to governing. Those who have made it reflect a continuation of a very longstanding U.S. tradition of support for the Atlantic alliance, support for NATO, support for freedom and a strong desire to push back against falsehood with truth and a strong desire to push back against bullying with teamwork,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, said.

“The values are the same, the relationships are the same,” Republican Rep. Mike Turner added.

Trump has previously sent mixed messages about NATO and its fundamental concept of mutual defense. On the campaign trail, he repeatedly called it “obsolete” and accused European nations of not contributing their fair share, but last year, after a meeting with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, declared NATO “no longer obsolete.”

In a statement after the Munich conference, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse implicitly pushed back on Trump once calling NATO "obsolete."

"NATO is the most successful military alliance in modern history. It won the Cold War and is currently keeping Putin’s neo-Soviet ambitions in check. Moscow wants to destroy NATO and is waging a shadow war to undermine confidence in self-government here in the United States and across Europe. Nobody at the Munich Security Conference is asleep to that threat.”

At least one administration official also appeared to want to send the message that the U.S. is in lockstep with Europe over confronting challenges like Russia, which has interfered with both U.S. and European elections.

It was in Munich this past weekend that the president's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, following the indictments of 13 Russian nationals by special counsel Robert Mueller.

That prompted a Trump tweet seeking to correct McMaster.

 “GRAHAM CODEL” – JORDAN, UK

Attendees: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

After the Munich Security Conference, Graham brought seven Senate colleagues on a multi-country codel, which so far has included visits to Jordan and the UK.

The U.S. Embassy in Jordan shared pictures of Graham and his colleagues meeting with King Abdullah and his wife Queen Rania as well Graham touring the ancient city of Petra.

On this trip too, the senators reassured the key Mideast ally of U.S. continuity on at least one critical regional issue: the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. That - despite Trump’s inflammatory statements that stand to fundamentally reshape relations, namely his announcement that the U.S. would move its embassy to Jerusalem and formally recognize that city as Israel's capital.

The Jordan Times reported that, during a news conference at the embassy in Amman, Graham and Coons “emphasized the U.S.’ commitment to peace and stressed that the decision does not mark the end of the two-state solution,” despite Palestinians and their regional neighbors saying the U.S. announcement on Israel undermined the peace process.

The two senators reportedly also told their Jordanian allies that the U.S. was likely to send even more funds to Jordan than the $6.3 billion promised over five years, in order to support Jordan for taking in refugees from neighboring Iraq and Syria.

According to the AP, Graham said a recently-signed memo granting Jordan $1.275 billion was a “floor” and that Congress was likely to approve more funding.

"REED CODEL" – JORDAN, SOMALIA, REPUBLIC OF DJIBOUTI

Attendee: Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was traveling throughout the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, his office announced. His stops include Jordan, Somalia, the Republic of Djibouti and other nations.

He was scheduled to meet with U.S. forces, diplomats and embassy personnel and high-ranking foreign leaders, his office said. He was also to meet with the leaders of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

“LEAHY CODEL” – HAVANA, CUBA

Attendees: Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif.

Leahy led this congressional delegation to Havana through Wednesday in order to, in part, assess “the impact of the withdrawal of U.S. Embassy and Cuban Embassy personnel and of revised Treasury Department regulations on U.S.- Cuban relations.”

Last year, Trump tightened the economic embargo on Cuba as part of his efforts to undo President Barack Obama’s loosening of restrictions against U.S. travel to - and economic engagement with - Cuba.

Trump also expelled Cuban diplomats after 24 American diplomats in Havana started reporting the same mysterious ailments that the FBI has said could have been caused by a “sonic attack.”

McGovern said the embassy staff cuts affect ordinary Cubans, “making it virtually impossible for the average Cuban to go the United States, whether it's for a funeral, wedding, or to be able to be with their families, betrays our values," he said. "It's not the way we should be approaching this. And that's why we all want our staffing issues addressed here."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Parents and students — including those who were impacted by the deadly mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school — offered emotional stories of their experiences during a “listening session” with President Donald Trump on Wednesday.

They were narratives that painted a painful portrait of the youngest victims of mass gun violence in America.

Their stories of the aftermath of those deaths and of friends and teachers lost was the climax of a day focused on student action on gun policy reform. On Wednesday, students gathered in Washington D.C., held signs and spoke about the need for more gun safety laws as they marched down the National Mall toward the White House.

There was the story of Samuel Zeif, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor, who through tears, told of frantically texting his loved ones and then realizing that his brother was in a classroom on a floor above him.

He learned that a good friend died in the attack. The next day, Zeif turned 18.

"I don't understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war," he said sobbing.

He vowed to speak for the fallen and demanded action.

"Let's be strong for the fallen who don't have a voice to speak anyomore," he said. "And let's never let this happen again. Please. Please."

Zeif sat next to Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan, a six-year-old killed during a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 and near Darrell Scott, whose daughter, Rachel, was killed in yet another mass shooting years earlier in 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado.

For those in the room whose emotion was still fresh and raw, people like Hockley, co-director of the group Sandy Hook Promise, and Scott offered the perspective of distance and policy prescriptions gleaned from years spent advocating on behalf of slain loved ones.

"This is not difficult. These deaths are preventable. And I implore you, consider your own children," she said. "You don't want to be me. No parent does. And you have the ability to make a difference and save lives today. Please don't waste this."

Cary Gruber, the father of Parkland student Justin Gruber, also pleaded with the president.

“If you're not old enough to buy a drink, to buy a beer, you should not be able to buy a gun at 18 years old,” Gruber said. “That's just common sense. We have to do common sense. Please, Mr. Trump, these are things we have to do.”

"We cannot have our children die," he said. "This is just heart breaking. Please.”

Andrew Pollack, the father of a girl killed in last week’s shooting and who had previously made comments supportive of Trump online, stood up with his sons and delivered an impassioned speech about the need to strengthen school safety.

“All these school shootings, it doesn't make sense. Fix it!” Pollack said. “... We should have fixed it! And I'm pissed. Because my daughter... She's not here. She's not here. She's in Fort Lauderdale King David cemetery, that is where I go to see my kid now.”

Pollack added, “It is not about gun laws. That is another fight, another battle. Let's fix the schools and then you guys can battle it out whatever you want. But we need our children safe.”

For his part, President Trump offered the gathering an opportunity to grieve and to be heard by the powerful. He was joined by Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

“We are going to do something about this horrible situation that’s going on," Trump said. "We will figure it out together.”

That something, he vowed, would include strengthening background checks.

The president's proposed 2019 budget could potentially roll back federal grants aimed at helping states reporting to the national background check system.

Trump also said he would soon be speaking with a gathering of the nation's governors and would discuss school safety.

He also promised that solutions are on the horizon.

"Starting two minutes after this meeting we're going to work. We're going to settle this all together," he said. "We don't want others to go through the kind of pain you've gone through."



Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A firm run by Keith Schiller, the loyal bodyguard who followed Donald Trump from the boardroom to the Oval Office and then abruptly departed in September, has been added to the payroll of the Republican National Committee, federal campaign filings show.

Schiller’s firm, KS Global Group LLC, has received several payments totaling $75,000 for “security services “ beginning in October, just weeks after Schiller left his White House post as director of Oval Office operations.

KS Global Group is a company bearing Schiller's initials and was incorporated in Florida under his name in October 2017. It appears to be a branch of a company formed in Delaware in October 2015, according to corporate records. The story was first reported by CNBC.

An RNC official tells ABC News Schiller’s company has been retained to provide security consultation for the RNC's 2020 convention site selection process, which is currently underway.

Keith Schiller has not responded to a request for comment from ABC News. expressed hope he will be found alive in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

A former New York City police officer, Schiller has been a fixture at Trump’s side for decades, serving as a body man for the New York developer, and a previous longtime point of contact for people trying to get in touch with Trump.

Schiller testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors late last year. At the time, a source familiar with the matter said Schiller was asked in part about Trump's 2013 trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant. Schiller joined Trump on that trip, which is the focus of some of the salacious, unverified allegations in the controversial dossier produced by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Steele was hired by the political research firm Fusion GPS to dig up dirt on Trump. The firm was retained by the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign after initially working for the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news organization, during the 2016 GOP presidential primary.

In May 2017, Schiller hand-delivered Trump’s letter firing former FBI director James Comey to FBI headquarters. Special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating the circumstances around Comey’s firing.

He was also known on the campaign trail as Trump’s enforcer, physically removing Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from a 2015 press conference, and hitting a protester in the face outside another event at Trump Tower in New York.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

0
comments



Subscribe To This Feed

ABCNews.com(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- They were cheered at rallies for their moving stories of survival. They were comforted by politicians who wore ribbons in honor of their dead classmates.

But the students who survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School say the things they didn't receive in their trip to the Florida state capital are promises from lawmakers that their school will be made safe and that assault weapons like the one used in the slaughter on their campus will be banned.

After meetings with legislators in Tallahassee, Alphonso Calderon, a 16-year-old junior, said he was left feeling that he and his classmates "were not being taken seriously enough."

"Although we are just kids, we know we are old enough to understand financial responsibility, we are old enough to understand whether a senator cares about reelection or not. We are old enough to understand why someone would want to discredit us for their own political purposes," Alphonso said at a news conference. "But we will not be silenced."

He and his classmates who endured the horror that invaded their school a week ago Wednesday said any politician hoping the students' "Never Again" movement will cease with the passage of time do not understand their resolve.

"Trust me, I understand. I was in a closet locked for four hours with people I would consider almost family crying and weeping on me, begging for their lives," Alphonso said. "I understand what it's like to text my parents goodbye, that I might not ever, ever get to see you again and say 'I love you.' I understand what it's like to fear for your life."

Ryan Deitsch, 18, said he was not satisfied by the words he heard from lawmakers.

"I will say that I'm a high school senior. I do not know the exact course of action to take. I don't know exactly what needs to be done. I just know what we're doing now is not enough if I have to keep seeing neighbors die, if I have to keep seeing friends die," Deitsch said.

"I fear after talking to representatives today that that is not enough, that one trip to Tallahassee I knew was not going to be enough," he added.

He said he watched in disbelief Tuesday night as Florida legislators voted down a proposal to ban the purchases of assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

"I want to see those people who shot down that bill, who did not let it get past the committee," Deitsch said. "I want to see those people. I'm not here for a fight, I'm not here to argue with you, I just want to speak, I just want to see your face and know why."

At a rally outside the Old State Capitol Building, Florence Yared, a 17-year-old Stoneman Douglas student, stared out at a massive crowd and described how her school was "viciously attacked."

"No longer can I walk the halls I walked billions of times before without fear and sadness," Florence said. "No longer can I walk the halls without hearing the gunshots. No longer can I walk the halls without seeing blood stains and dead bodies all because of the damage a single AR-15 rifle caused."

She recalled lessons learned about the Second Amendment in her history classes, but said the right to bear arms "does not and will never overpower the individuals right to life and liberty."

 "The only purpose of an assault weapon like this is to kill and to kill as many people as possible," she said. "I'm not trying to take away your Second Amendment rights, nor am I trying to eliminate all guns, but we cannot protect our guns before we can protect our children."

While the students continued to make change in Tallahassee, a half-dozen of their classmates and their parents were at the White House this afternoon meeting with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in what was described as a listening session.

Also at the meeting were other students from Washington, D.C., and gun control advocates, including Mark Barden, whose son, Daniel, was killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

"It's very scary and knowing that a lot of people do not have this opportunity to be here is mind-blowing," Stoneman Douglas student Julia Cordover told Trump.

She told the president that there needs to be a compromise so that no one will ever have to go through something like this again.

Andrew Pollack -- whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the attack -- pleaded with Trump to do something to protect schools.

"My daughter has no voice. She was murdered last week, shot nine times on the third floor," Pollack said. "This shouldn't happen. We go to the airport, I can't get on the plane with a bottle of water, but we leave some animal to walk into a classroom and shoot."

Pollack, flanked by his two sons, added: "One school shooting and we all should've fixed it. And I'm pissed because my daughter, I'm not going to see again. She's not here. We protect airports, we protect concerts, stadiums, embassies, the Department of Education that I walked in today that has a security guard in the elevator. How do you think that makes me feel?"

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved

0
comments



WJTN News Headlines for Feb. 22, 2010

Top's Friendly Markets confirmed Wednesday that it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  However, all of it's stores across the region-- including the one in Jamestown-- wil...

Read More