Political News

McCarthy again slams Manhattan DA in defense of Trump

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday again ripped into the Manhattan district attorney when asked about the potential charges against Donald Trump at a news conference at the House GOP retreat in Orlando while seemingly growing frustrated with reporters after multiple questions about the former president who has continued to dominate the news cycle.

McCarthy was asked directly if had concerns specifically about Trump's alleged conduct regarding a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels and quickly pivoted to talking about Hillary Clinton and did not answer the question -- before instead targeting the Manhattan DA.

"What we see before us is a political game being played by a local ... Look this isn't New York City, this is just a Manhattan, this is just a borough DA. Okay," McCarthy said.

McCarthy told ABC News when asked that he hasn't spoken to Trump in three weeks and that he has not talked to him about his calls for House committees to investigate the Manhattan DA.

"I have not talked to the president, maybe three weeks? No, I have not talked to him about the investigation at all," McCarthy said.

At times, McCarthy seemed to grow frustrated that, at the House issues retreat, he's being asked repeatedly about Trump amid potential charges, blaming the press who he claims keeps bringing up the former president.

However, ahead of this weeks retreat McCarthy announced he would direct House committees to investigate the investigation into Trump, which helped fuel the news cycle heading into this week's retreat.

"We're not talking about this in our conference; you're asking about it," McCarthy said. When asked if Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party, McCarthy again took a jab at the press: "In the press room, for all of you, he is."

McCarthy's comments targeting the press come as other GOP members at the retreat have privately complained to ABC News about how the former president has once again dominated the coverage around this week's retreat, which members had hoped to use to promote their legislative goals.

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Xi, Putin meeting highlights US tensions with China

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(WASHINGTON) -- As Russian President Vladimir Putin confers with China's President Xi Jinping in Moscow, the visit signifies more than a celebration of the so-called "no limits" partnership between the two powers.

It's also a pivotal meeting poised to deepen the gap between the East and West, and just the latest in a series of stress tests on the relationship between Beijing and Washington -- one already pushed to a near-breaking point.

Even though Biden administration officials anticipated Xi would journey to Moscow, they still describe the summit as a setback for the U.S.-China relationship and say they'll be watching the visit closely to see if Beijing intends to supply Moscow with military aid -- a potentially game-changing development for the war in Ukraine, and one that could bring the simmering tensions between the U.S. and China to a boil.

ABC News spoke with experts and officials about the challenges Russia and China's alliance poses to the U.S., the Biden administration's approach to Beijing, and how world leaders can avoid potentially catastrophic escalation.

Xi and Putin: Neighbors, partners, and 'leaders for life'

While Xi's three-day state visit is a welcome signal of support for Putin's war effort, it also comes at a critical time for the Chinese leader as he tightens his authoritarian grip, formally locking down an unprecedented third term as China's president.

The two men already have highlighted their personal bond, calling each other "dear friend" as they also touted their strategic partnership and increasingly ominous opposition to the West.

"China and Russia are more aligned than they've been since the 1950s," said Brad Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Despite being a close ally of the Kremlin and echoing many of its talking points on Ukraine, Xi has sought to project his country's involvement in the conflict as a peace mission, promoting his 12-point proposal for a cease-fire.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said the dovish motivations claimed by Beijing were merely a façade, calling it "a stalling tactic at best" or an attempt "to facilitate an unjust outcome."

"It would enable Russia to further entrench positions in Ukraine. And a ceasefire now, without a durable solution, would allow President Putin to rest and refit his troops and then restart the war at a time more advantageous to Russia," Blinken said. "The world should not be fooled by any tactical move by Russia, supported by China or any other country, to freeze the war on its own terms."

Sources in the Biden administration have also said that China could still choose to supply Russia's military with lethal aid, a possibility they've warned of since last month and a development the U.S. has said would prompt steep consequences for Beijing.

"We'll see what they come out of this meeting talking about," White House spokesperson John Kirby said Monday of Xi and Putin.

"China has not condemned the war but they haven't provided lethal weapons. They haven't participated in sanctions the way we obviously would have preferred them to do," he added. "They have made their own sovereign decisions and largely, at least tacitly, many of those decisions have come down on the side of Russia here."

Kirby said Xi Jinping should play a "constructive role" and reach out directly to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying, "China ... we believe ... should hear directly from the Ukrainians, and not just from the Russians."

Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that shared goal has emboldened China to expand its power on the global stage, seeking to edge out the U.S.

"What's new lately is the greater willingness to directly name the U.S. as the source of tensions in the world and just be much more direct, suggesting that they are gradually moving in a direction which they don't see the possibility of improving the relationship and that themselves may take more drastic actions," he said.

A fine line between 'competition' and conflict

Publicly, the Biden administration streamlines its stance toward China into a single catchphrase: "Invest, align, compete."

Invest refers to invigorating American institutions and align means drawing closer to allies and partners. But "compete" seems open to interpretation, and perhaps liable to escalation.

"When I look at the threat from China, it's unprecedented in American history, I don't think we've ever confronted a threat that combines a hostile ideology, an economy roughly the size of her own, in a military that is increasingly capable, and in some ways, more formidable than ours in key capabilities," said Bowman.

Kennedy says that while Washington as a whole has shifted in response to Beijing's increasingly bellicose stance, there's not a consensus on how to move forward.

"Is the goal to sort of harden the West against China but assume that we're going to be coexisting indefinitely? Or do you see this conflict is such an existential challenge that the U.S. goal has to be to fundamentally change the nature of the Chinese regime to make it more compatible with the international system?" he questioned.

In certain ways, the Biden administration is hedging its bets, straddling both approaches.

As one example, it has repeatedly stressed the need for open lines of communication with China but provided Beijing with little advance warning before announcing an agreement to provide Australia with nuclear subs, a maneuver aimed at countering China in the Indo-Pacific. Likewise, Beijing has used a similar double-edged strategy in many areas.

"The Chinese say that they believe in cooperation and mutual respect, but they're doing a lot of things which are inconsistent with those principles," said Kennedy. "We're locked into now is a vicious cycle in which both sides actually have relatively mirrored views of the other's motives and blame, and both have a relatively fatalistic view about the trajectory of their relationship."

A new Cold War?

While the Biden administration has repeatedly denied the U.S. and China are entering a new Cold War, Bowman says Washington should acknowledge how strained their ties have become.

"It's information warfare, it's economic warfare. It's basically every kind of warfare you can but we're not quite yet to the point where we're shooting at each other yet," he said. "But I'm worried it's not going to stay cold."

Bowman says avoiding that depends on a number of factors, such as moving quickly to arm Taiwan in order to deter a potential invasion from mainland China and continuing to build and reinforce a strong coalition of Western allies.

Kennedy agrees with the administration's stated goal that "guardrails" need to be installed to avoid the relationship from veering into a catastrophic war, but notes that China has been hesitant to adopt and use tools like direct hotlines between the countries.

Chances for direct diplomacy are also limited. After a Chinese surveillance balloon was spotted over the U.S., Biden said he intended to hold a call with his counterpart Xi, but that has yet to be scheduled. That same incident prompted the administration to indefinitely postpose Blinken's trip to Beijing, dashing another chance for engagement.

"We have no good mechanisms in place to manage a crisis," said Kennedy. "I'm worried that we are heading toward the possibility of an unintentional conflict that could spiral out of control very quickly."

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Biden to create national monuments in Nevada, Texas at conservation summit

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden plans on Tuesday to announce the establishment of two new national monuments, protecting land totalling more than half a million acres, a White House official said.

Biden is expected to name Avi Kwa Ame National Monument in Nevada and Castner Range National Monument in Texas as the nation's newest monuments during the White House's Conservation in Action Summit at the Interior Department.

Biden will also direct the Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to consider creating a new National Marine Sanctuary designation to protect U.S. waters surrounding Pacific islands.

The day of conservation comes as Biden approved more drilling in Alaska for the Willow Project, a move environmental groups have slammed, and one day after the United Nations released a dire climate change report.

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Oath Keepers associates found guilty of conspiracy in Jan. 6 Capitol attack

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(WASHINGTON) -- A Washington, D.C., jury on Monday found four associates of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group guilty of conspiracy for their role in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Through the course of two separate trials late last year into January, six members of the Oath Keepers were found guilty of seditious conspiracy including the group's leader, Stewart Rhodes.

The six defendants in the current jury trial, Sandra Parker, Bennie Parker, Laura Steele, Connie Meggs, Michael Greene and William Isaacs, faced the lesser charge of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding along with a range of other felony charges.

Isaacs, Meggs, Steele and Sandra Parker were found guilty as charged while Greene was acquitted of conspiracy to obstruct and prevent officers from carrying out their duties. Bennie Parker was found not guilty of obstructing the Electoral College certification while all six defendants were found guilty of trespassing.

All the defendants have maintained their innocence throughout the trial, arguing the events of Jan. 6 were more of a spontaneous outburst stemming from peaceful protest and not part of a coordinated effort to topple the government. Defense counsel is expected to challenge the verdict in court.

While Bennie Parker and Greene were not alleged to have entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors said the other four defendants did as part of the now-infamous 'stack' formation of Oath Keepers clad in military-style gear seen moving together through the pro-Trump mob.

Greene, U.S. Army veteran who served as an operations leader for the Oath Keepers on Jan. 6 but denied being a formal group member, previously testified on Stewart Rhodes' behalf during the first Oath Keepers seditious conspiracy trial late last year.

While Greene denied the Oath Keepers engaged in any planned effort to attack the Capitol, prosecutors cited private messages he had sent to a Signal chat members of the group communicated in during the course of the riot, including one saying, "We're storming the Capitol" and another where he noted how rioters had invaded then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

Jury deliberations continue on two charges against Bennie Parker and Michael Greene.

Authorities have arrested some 1,000 people in connection to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Federal prosecutors continue to bring forward a mountain of evidence in a variety of complex legal cases, some involving multiple defendants each.

Five accused members of another far-right group known as the Proud Boys are currently standing trial on seditious conspiracy charges. The jury trial is expected to continue at least through the end of the month.

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DeSantis swipes at Trump while decrying former president's possible indictment

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(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) -- Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday broke his silence on possible indictment of former President Donald Trump in remarks that first criticized the Manhattan district attorney who would issue the indictment but then swiped at the former president.

"We are not involved in this. Won't be involved in this. I have no interest in getting involved in some type of manufactured circus..." DeSantis said at a news conference in Panama City, Florida.

DeSantis was asked by a reporter from the Florida Standard what his thoughts were "on the rumored Trump indictment, if he had "any role in it," and if charges were brought against Trump, would DeSantis "have any role in extradition to New York," since Trump is now a Florida resident.

"Look, I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair. I just can't speak to that," DeSantis said, without mentioning Trump directly by name.

"But what I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction, and he chooses to go back many many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush money payments, you know, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda, and weaponizing the office," he continued.

A spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office, in response to DeSantis' comment Bragg is "ignoring" crimes, said, "We will not be intimidated by attempts to undermine the justice process, nor will we let baseless accusations deter us from fairly applying the law."

On his social media platform Saturday morning, Trump claimed that he would be arrested Tuesday in connection to the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election -- he also called for his supporters to protest.

Trump's allies and supporters have been publicly urging DeSantis to weigh in on Trump's proclamation of his possible indictment since the former president posted the news on Saturday. They've also pressured DeSantis to possibly block Trump's extradition from Florida to New York.

DeSantis is widely considered to be Trump's strongest competitor for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. The Florida governor has privately indicated to allies that he expects to jump in the race around May or June, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Former Trump senior adviser Jason Miller thanked some other confirmed or possible 2024 GOP contenders for their comments slamming the potential indictment while condemning DeSantis and hopeful Nikki Haley for not responding to the news.

"Thank you, Vice President Mike Pence and Vivek Ramaswamy, for pointing out how Radical Left Democrats are trying to divide our Country in the name of Partisan Politics," Miller said in a tweet on Saturday.

"Radio silence from Gov. Ron DeSantis and Amb. Nikki Haley," he said.

On Saturday, former Vice President Mike Pence said that the possible indictment of Trump would be "a politically charged prosecution," during an interview with ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, on Saturday.

Ramaswamy tweeted on Saturday that a "Trump indictment would be a national disaster."

"It is un-American for the ruling party to use police power to arrest its political rivals," Ramaswamy wrote.

"This will mark a dark moment in American history and will undermine public trust in our electoral system itself. I call on the Manhattan District Attorney to reconsider this action and to put aside partisan politics in service of preserving our Constitutional republic," he said.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky, Jay O'Brien and Brittany Shepherd contributed to this report.

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Weekslong filibuster grinds state legislature to a halt over transgender youth care

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(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- For the past three weeks, Nebraska State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh has been on an endless run, speaking on the Senate floor on just about every topic: legislation, fish fries, Girl Scout cookies and the movie "Madagascar."

The state's non-partisan, single-chamber legislature is ruled by Republican lawmakers, however, it takes 33 votes to overcome a filibuster, and the legislature has only 32 Republicans.

Now, Cavanaugh is heading into her fourth week of fighting an anti-LGBTQ bill that would ban transgender health care for people under the age of 19. According to a representative from Speaker of the Legislature Sen. John Arch's office, debate on the bill is set to begin on Tuesday, and is being brought to the floor sooner thanks to a deal between Cavanaugh and Arch.

Nebraska is one of at least 23 states considering restrictions on gender-affirming care.

“It's a parental rights violation. As a parent, I'm opposed to any government taking away my ability to make medical decisions for my child,” Cavanaugh told ABC News in an interview. “But in addition to that, it's an assault on trans youth and their health care. And it's going to result in extraordinarily negative outcomes for our trans youth.”

LB 574 would ban puberty blockers, hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries – the last of which are done only on a case-by-case basis on adolescents, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Gender-affirming hormone therapy has been shown on average to improve the mental health and reduce the risk of negative outcomes, including the risk of suicidality, of transgender adolescents and teenagers, according to recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Major national medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and over 20 more organizations support gender-affirming care as generally safe, effective, beneficial and medically necessary with appropriate care.

Sen. Kathleen Kauth, the bill’s sponsor, has argued that her bill is intended to protect children.

“Children deserve to know that their body isn't something that needs to be fixed,” Kauth said during a March 1 debate on the bill. “They deserve to grow up whole and they deserve to be given a chance at life as an adult before that is taken away from them by these medical practices.”

At least 427 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced or considered in 2023 alone, according to the ACLU.

Nebraska itself is facing at least four, including a trans sports ban, a ban on people under 21 attending drag shows, and a bill that would allow doctors to deny performing elective medical treatment based on personal beliefs.

“This is not our job,” said Cavanaugh. “This is not what we should be doing. We should not be legislating hate. We were not sent here to legislate hate. We were sent here to do the business of the state, which is tax policy, and budgets; there's so much work to be done to address the economic crisis that we are all in in this country.”

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Republicans demand Manhattan DA Bragg turn over docs related to Trump investigation, potential indictment

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Republican chairmen of the House Judiciary, Oversight, and Administration committees issued a letter to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Monday demanding testimony and documents related to the investigation and potential indictment of former President Donald Trump.

The joint letter, from House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, and House Administration Committee Chairman Bryan Steil, is the first action by Republican House committees in response to Trump saying he expects to be indicted this week and after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy quickly announced he planned to use committees to probe the potential indictment and whether federal funding was involved.

"You are reportedly about to engage in an unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority: the indictment of a former President of the United States and current declared candidate for that office," the letter reads.

Jordan also told ABC News on Monday that he doesn't believe Trump broke the law and called the expected indictment unprecedented in nature. When pressed on whether Jordan had any evidence to believe that federal funds were used in a local investigation, he said he did not and that's why they're looking into it.

McCarthy said during a press conference on Sunday evening at the House Republicans' retreat in Orlando, Florida that he doesn't think people should protest in relation to any potential impending indictment of Trump.

"I don't think people should protest, no," McCarthy said when asked if he condones Trump's call to protest in relation to it made over Truth Social.

McCarthy wouldn't directly denounce Trump using similar language that he did prior to Jan. 6, but added, "We want calmness out there" and "no violence."

When asked if he believes it's still appropriate for Trump to run if he's convicted of a crime, McCarthy said "the Constitution allows him to."

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E. Jean Carroll's defamation trial against Trump indefinitely delayed

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(NEW YORK) -- A federal judge on Monday indefinitely delayed the defamation lawsuit writer E. Jean Carroll brought against former President Donald Trump.

Carroll, a former Elle magazine columnist, claimed Trump defamed her when he denied her allegation that he raped her in a Bergdorf Goodman dressing room in the 1990s.

The trial had been set to begin on April 10. Attorneys for Carroll and Trump declined to comment.

Judge Lewis Kaplan adjourned the case without setting a new date while he awaits a decision from a different court that could affect whether the trial goes forward.

The Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals, which governs the conduct of federal employees, is deciding whether Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he spoke out against Carroll. If so, the Justice Department would substitute for Trump as the defendant and the case would be over, as the federal government cannot be sued for defamation.

Last year Carroll filed a second defamation lawsuit against Trump that also alleged battery. In his ruling, Judge Kaplan declined to merge the cases for the purposes of trial.

In a criminal case, Trump could decline to testify in his defense. In a civil case, he could be called to testify by the plaintiff. Carroll’s attorney, Roberta Kaplan, has not said whether she would.

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NY grand jury investigating Trump will hear from attorney Bob Costello, at Trump's behest: Sources

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(NEW YORK) -- The Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump over a payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels will hear from an additional witness on Monday, attorney and longtime Trump ally Bob Costello, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Costello at one point represented Michael Cohen, Trump's former fixer and attorney, who is a key witness for the district attorney’s office since Cohen wrote the $130,000 check to Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

Prosecutors in New York are looking into whether Trump falsified business records in connection with that money, which was allegedly to keep Daniels from talking about a long-denied affair, sources familiar with the matter previously told ABC News.

The district attorney's office informed Trump earlier this month of his right to testify before a grand jury in the probe, a possible signal that prosecutors are moving toward a charging decision.

In New York, potential targets of investigations are, by law, given the chance to appear before the grand jury hearing evidence.

Trump has "no plans" to participate in the grand jury investigation, his attorney Joe Tacopina told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Good Morning America last week.

However, the Trump legal team did petition to have Costello testify before the grand jury, sources said Sunday.

Cohen, whom Trump has turned on and dismissed as a "fraudster," said Sunday he was asked to make himself available Monday as a rebuttal witness.

Reached by ABC News, Costello declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg also declined to comment. News of Costello's pending appearance was first reported by The New York Times.

Trump has acknowledged paying Daniels, which Tacopina described as akin to an extortion payment, but Trump has said he did nothing wrong and cast the district attorney's work as biased.

On social media on Saturday, he claimed he would be arrested on Tuesday and called for protests to "TAKE OUR NATION BACK."

A spokesperson subsequently walked some of that back and said there had been no notification that Bragg "has decided to take his Witch-Hunt to the next level."

In an email to staff, reviewed by ABC News, Bragg wrote that "we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York."

Trump's social media post was denounced as "reckless" by Democrats including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, appearing on ABC's This Week,"said, "No one is above the law."

In a separate sit-down for This Week, former Vice President Mike Pence said of Trump's potential arrest: "It just feels like a politically charged prosecution."

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Mike Pence says voters are ready to move past Trump for a 'fresh start'

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In an exclusive ABC News interview, former Vice President Mike Pence expressed dissatisfaction with the possible arrest of former President Donald Trump and expanded on pointed remarks regarding his former boss and the Capitol insurrection -- as well as his vision for the future of the country as he mulls a potential 2024 presidential bid.

In a sit-down in Des Moines, Iowa, that aired Sunday, Pence told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl that Trump's handling of Jan. 6 was one of the reasons the country and, perhaps more pointedly, Republicans need a "fresh start."

"The president's wrong. He was wrong that day and ... I had actually hoped that he would come around in time, Jon, that he would see that the cadre of legal advisers that he surrounded himself with had led him astray," Pence said after Karl played a clip of Trump defending the rioters. "But he hasn't done so and it's, I think, it's one of the reasons why the country just wants a fresh start."

Pence, who has been traveling across the country and recently released a memoir, has not been shy in suggesting that his party should be looking elsewhere for candidates for the White House, repeatedly saying he's confident there will be "better choices" than Trump even as he says he has not yet made a decision about running himself.

He told Karl that any hypothetical support for Trump in the 2024 race is "yet to be seen" -- though he wouldn't rule it out while once again indicating there will be other options for the American people.

"We're going to decide as a family whether we offer ourselves as one of them, but I think different times call for different leadership," Pence said.

"I think the American people long for leadership at the highest level that's focused on the issues that are affecting their lives. And also, I think they longed for leadership that will keep faith with our highest traditions," he said.

But he remained vague about when, specifically, he might announce. He has said that he and his family hope to come to a decision by the spring but when Karl followed up, he demurred, only adding that he's getting "closer" amid "prayerful consideration."

Jan. 6 accountability

Since leaving office in 2021, Pence has worked to separate himself from Trump regarding the violence of Jan. 6 and the related push to overturn the 2020 presidential election. At the same time, he has said he remains proud of the administration’s work and legislative accomplishments -- on lowering taxes, on military spending, on the border and more -- which he reiterated in his ABC News interview, only days after again rebuking Trump's choices around the Capitol attack.

Speaking at the white-tie Gridiron Dinner in Washington, Pence said earlier this month that "history will hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6."

While the event wasn't recorded, his quotes were published by journalists present -- and he went further in his "This Week" interview.

"We all face the judgment of history, and I believe in the fullness of time that history will hold Donald Trump accountable for the events of Jan. 6, as it will other people that were involved," he said.

Karl asked him: "In what ways?"

"Well it will be the judgment of history, I truly believe it. And I also think the American people will also have their say," Pence said. "I mean the president is now a candidate for office again, he's running for election, but as I go around the country, I'm convinced the American people have learned the lessons of that day."

Pence said he had his own strong feelings about what happened but seemed to set that aside for a broader message as he weighs a potential campaign.

"I was angry that day. And while I believe in forgiveness, I've been working hard at that for a while. The president let me down that day. ... but be honest with you, the emotions of that day, the emotion since, I just haven't had time for it. To me, there's just too many issues that we're facing this country today under the failed policies of this [Biden] administration that I don't have a lot of time for looking backwards."

When pressed by Karl if he still finds Trump to be a man of his word, Pence conceded that he holds some disappointment in Trump personally, despite believing the pair delivered on their administration's promises.

"One issue after another, I saw the president keep the word that he made to the American people and I was proud those four years to stand with him. And I know that grates on some people in the national media, Jon," Pence said.

"As I wrote in my book, I'm incredibly proud of the record of our administration," he said, though he acknowledged, "It didn't end well, ended in controversy."

Karl returned to the question: "I'm not asking you about the record. I'm asking you about the man."

"I was deeply disappointed with the president's words and conduct in the days leading up to Jan. 6 and on Jan. 6. ... And I continue to be disappointed in the fact that the president has not seen his way clear to know that by God's grace, we did our duty that day," he said.

What happened at the Capitol turned into a breaking point, Pence said, despite his private conversations with Trump.

"When the president committed to a peaceful transfer of power [right after Jan. 6], when he condemned the violence at the Capitol, I thought we were back on track and in the week that followed we would we spoke, I was very direct with him about my experience, and my view of it, and my belief that I'd done my duty, and we parted amicably and respectfully," he said. "But in the months that followed, he returned to that that same rhetoric he was using before Jan. 6, rhetoric that continues much up to this day, and that's why we've gone our separate ways."

In response to Pence's Gridiron remarks, Trump told reporters that Pence shoulders some blame for the riot due to his refusal as president of the Senate to halt the certification of the presidential election results.

Trump also knocked Pence's lagging popularity in surveys of Republican primary voters.

"I heard his statement, and I guess he decided that being nice isn't working because he's at 3% in the polls, so he figured he might as well not be nice any longer," Trump told a group of reporters aboard his plane en route to Iowa last week.

GOP fissures on Ukraine

Trump is not the only other Republican with whom Pence has found noted disagreement. On Russia's invasion, he contrasted his view with that of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans like him who voice skepticism of U.S. aid to Ukraine as they fend off Russia's invasion.

DeSantis recently called the invasion a "territorial dispute." Pence stressed to Karl that he feels it is crucial to stand with the Ukrainians.

"The war in Ukraine is not a territorial dispute. It's a Russian invasion. It's just the latest instance of Russia attempting to redraw international lines by force," he said, "and the United States of America must continue at a quickened pace to provide the Ukrainian military the support that they need to repel the Russian invasion, and the stakes are that high."

Though he has said that there's no room in the GOP for "Putin apologists," Pence did not further criticize DeSantis by name. However, he did add that "there are voices in our party that don't see a vital American interest in Ukraine, but I see it differently," and he said he found DeSantis' perspective on the matter "wrong."

Karl asked Pence how he felt about Trump's own recent Ukraine comments, calling for a cease-fire that might preserve the current status quo, with Russia in control of some Ukrainian land.

"Whether it's President Trump or others in our party around the country, there are those who see some choice before us other than giving Ukraine the ability to fight and win against the Russian invasion. I believe it's imperative that we stand firm," Pence said, "that we continue to provide the Ukrainian military the resources that they need to repel the Russian invasion. And that will be the fastest way to secure peace and stability in Ukraine and in Eastern Europe."

A potential Trump arrest

There is one major area where Pence and Trump see eye-to-eye: Trump’s possible arrest.

On his social media platform Saturday morning, Trump claimed that he would be taken into custody on Tuesday in connection with the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into alleged hush money paid to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election. Trump also called for his supporters to protest.

He has denied wrongdoing, including denying having an affair with Daniels, but has admitted he paid her -- once defending it as "very common among celebrities and people of wealth."

A Trump spokesperson appeared to walk back his arrest comments in a subsequent statement this weekend, saying in part that there had been no notification that Trump's potential arrest was coming on Tuesday and that "Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system.”

Pence echoed that to Karl.

“It just feels like a politically charged prosecution here. And I, for my part, I just feel like it's just not what the American people want to see,” he said.

He said he believes Trump is “innocent until proven guilty."

Karl asked Pence about his reaction to Trump calling for protests should he be taken into custody -- which echoed Trump's push for protests leading up to and during Jan. 6

Pence did not disavow Trump's call, citing that "the American people have a constitutional right to peaceably assemble" though he stressed that any demonstration should occur "peacefully and in a lawful manner."

ABC News has not verified Trump's claims.

While Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office had no comment, he wrote in an email to staff obtained by ABC News that “we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York."

“I know that President Trump can take care of himself and -- and this process will play out, if in fact an indictment comes down,” Pence told Karl. “But I just have to tell you that the politicization that we see ... is deeply troubling to millions of Americans who want to see the equal treatment before the law.”

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Warren reacts to Trump's call for protests over possible arrest: 'No one is above the law'

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Sunday pushed back on former President Donald Trump over his call to protest his potential arrest related to paying the adult film star Stormy Daniels.

"Violence is never the right answer, and I always worry about it. But this is another case of Donald Trump just trying to advance the interests of Donald Trump, not of the rest of the nation," Warren, D-Mass., told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

"Let's be clear about what's going on here: No one is above the law, not even the former president of the United States, and if there has been an investigation, and that investigation should be allowed to go forward appropriately, if it's time to bring indictments, then they'll bring indictments," Warren said. "That's how our legal system works."

In a statement on social media on Saturday, Trump claimed he would be arrested on Tuesday and that his supporters should protest to "take our nation back." A spokesperson later walked some of that back, saying the former president was merely "highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system" and that there was no notification of an imminent arrest.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg's office has been investigating whether Trump's payment to Stormy Daniels -- to allegedly cover up what Daniels claimed was an affair with Trump -- constituted a violation of campaign finance law amid the 2016 election.

While Bragg's office had no comment on Trump's social media post, Bragg wrote in an email to staff obtained by ABC News that “we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York."

Trump has denied wrongdoing, including having an affair with Daniels, but has admitted he paid her, once defending it as "very common among celebrities and people of wealth."

On "This Week" on Sunday, Warren said Trump was wrong to claim political persecution, a view echoed by his former vice president, Mike Pence, in a separate "This Week" sit-down.

"There's no reason to protest this. This is the law operating as it should, without fear or favor for anyone," Warren said.

Much of her interview was focused on the financial industry in the wake of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, which led to the federal government stepping in to ensure all depositors at SVB received their money.

Karl pressed Warren, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, on any consequences she believes should be meted out, including criminal charges, and whether she had learned from regulators if any other institutions were at risk.

She declined to speak about "private conversations" but said, "Let me be clear about what I'm calling for right now: I'm calling for an independent investigation of the [Federal Reserve] and the whole regulatory system here. The Fed doesn’t just get to do it."

"Do you think we could see criminal charges?" Karl asked.

"It depends. ... The Department of Justice has opened an investigation. I think that’s appropriate for them to do. We’ll see where the facts take them. But we’ve got to take a close look at this," she said.

Warren reiterated her anger with what she described as the cycles of banking busts and bailouts and said it was time for the government to impose regulations on banks that are not among the biggest in the country but still hold billions of dollars in assets.

"I'm also calling on Congress ... to roll back the ability of the Fed to weaken regulations and calling for these CEOs to be held accountable so that we have laws in place to get claw-backs of their bonuses, of their giant salaries. And, when you explode a bank, you ought to be banned from banking forever," she said.

In particular, she singled out the recent history of lessening regulations on banks like SVB, urged on by executives like former President and CEO of SVB Greg Becker, who had played down the danger to the broader economy, she said.

Just days before his bank's collapse, Becker sold more than $3.5 million of his company stock holdings while publicly appearing confident to investors, ABC News previously reported. (Becker has not responded to multiple requests for comment from ABC.)

"These big multibillion-dollar banks loaded up on risk, they boosted their short-term profits, they gave themselves huge bonuses and big salaries and they exploded their banks. And so, where we stand now is now the federal government's got to step back in and back up these multibillion-dollar banks," Warren said on "This Week."

"And I think there's two halves to this: One half is the government is clearly doing that. But there are a lot of people saying, 'Gee, if they've been so lightly regulated for such a long period, it's important to look under the hood and see what's happening with the other banks.'"

Warren, however, declined to go after some of her fellow Democrats for supporting a deregulatory bill in 2018, saying she had no problem with removing stress tests for community banks but that regulations should be reimposed on larger institutions.

"You got more than $50 billion? Then by golly, you ought to be subjected to stress tests and decent capital requirements and so on," she said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Pence indicates he won't challenge all aspects of special counsel's subpoena, as more details emerge

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Vice President Mike Pence indicated that he is not challenging all aspects of the subpoena issued last month by special counsel Jack Smith in his probe of the failed attempt by then-President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.

Pence, who has argued that he is covered by the "speech and debate clause" that shields congressional officials from testimony related to their work, was pressed by ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl on whether he was objecting to every topic area covered by the subpoena.

"We're not asserting executive privilege, which may encompass other discussions," Pence told Karl in a sit-down for "This Week."

Pence has invoked the speech and debate clause because in his role in Congress' certification of the vote on Jan. 6, 2021, he was acting as president of the Senate and was a legislative branch member.

"I just believe that the work that I did preparing for and conducting on my role as President of the Senate is covered by the speech and debate clause. I believe we have the law on our side," he told Karl.

But according to Pence's subpoena -- which has been described to ABC News by sources familiar with the document -- there are a number of items that do not relate to Pence's duty certifying the election, including documents and communications relating to efforts to contest the 2020 election and relating to Trump's Jan. 6 rally that led to the Capitol attack.

The subpoena also asks for any documents and communications Pence has related to efforts to install Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general, which critics say would have empowered Clark to pursue baseless allegations of voter fraud. Clark emerged as a key player in Trump's efforts to leverage the powers of DOJ to find widespread corruption in the 2020 electoral process after it became clear that Joe Biden had won the election.

Sources tell ABC News that the special counsel also wants information from Pence related to Trump attorney John Eastman and any communications Pence may have had with him or involving him. Eastman drafted a plan for Trump to cling to power by falsely claiming that Pence could reject legitimate electors during the certification on Jan. 6.

Investigators also want to know whether Pence had any communications with state or local officials related to any claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

Pence has vowed to fight the subpoena to the Supreme Court, if necessary, telling Karl, "We're going to respect the decisions of the court, and that may take us all the way to the highest court in the land."

Trump, for his part, is challenging Pence's subpoena as well, but on the basis of executive privilege. The court battles, which are taking place out of public view, are shrouded in secrecy due to the confidential nature of the grand jury.

Pence's subpoena was issued after months of negotiations between federal prosecutors and Pence's legal team.

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Trump claims he will be arrested Tuesday, calls for protests

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump claimed in a post on his social media platform that he will be arrested on Tuesday related to the Manhattan district attorney's investigation into hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

As part of the post, Trump also called on his supporters to protest.

In a statement, a Trump spokesperson appeared to walk back the comments.

The spokesperson said there is no notification the DA "has decided to take his Witch-Hunt to the next level. President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system. He will be in Texas next weekend for a giant rally."

Trump has not been charged with a crime in the probe.

ABC News has not verified the claims and the Manhattan district attorney's office has no comment.

However in an email to staff, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said he would not be intimidated by calls for protest as he considers whether to make Trump the first former president to face criminal charges.

"We do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York," Bragg said in the emai obtained by ABC News.

The email was sent Saturday evening, hours after Trump posted on social media that he expected to be arrested.

Bragg's email did not mention Trump by name but referenced "the ongoing press attention and public comments surrounding an ongoing investigation by this office."

Bragg told his staff their safety "is our top priority" and said the office "will continue to coordinate" with the NYPD and Office of Court Administration on matters of security.

"Our law enforcement partners will ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1600 of us have a secure work environment," the email said. "I'm the meantime, as with all of our investigations, we will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly and speak publicly only when appropriate."

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., criticized the probe as politically motivated and said he's directing relevant congressional committees to investigate whether New York prosecutors have federal funds.

"Here we go again -- an outrageous abuse of power by a radical DA who lets violent criminals walk as he pursues political vengeance against President Trump," McCarthy tweeted Saturday. "I'm directing relevant committees to immediately investigate if federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by interfering in elections with politically motivated prosecutions."

Former Vice President Mike Pence also called the probe a "politically charged prosecution" during a gaggle with reporters on Saturday in Iowa.

"The idea of indicting a former president of the United States is deeply troubling to me," Pence said. He added, "I know, I know President Trump can take care of himself."

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump's statement Saturday calling for protests was "reckless."

"Whatever the Grand Jury decides, its consideration makes clear: no one is above the law, not even a former President of the United States," Pelosi tweeted. "The former president's announcement this morning is reckless: doing so to keep himself in the news & to foment unrest among his supporters."

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders signs bill to create 'monument to the unborn' on Arkansas Capitol grounds

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(NEW YORK) -- Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders quietly signed into law on Thursday a bill that will create a "monument to the unborn" on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.

Sanders' team confirmed the bill signing in a release late Friday.

State Senate Bill 307, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Kim Hammer and Rep. Mary Bentley, allows for private funds "of gifts, grants, and donations from individuals and organizations" to pay for a monument to "unborn children aborted during the era of Roe v. Wade."

Once the monument is installed, it would then be maintained by taxpayer funds due to its location.

Bentley said its intent is to "remember those children we were not able to protect and we will not be able to forget."

Holly Dickson, executive director of the ACLU of Arkansas, an organization that challenged the installation of a Ten Commandments monument on State Capitol grounds in 2017, called the move to place an anti-abortion monument there a "performative political stunt."

"Arkansas is ranked as one of the worst states in the nation for overall child well-being, maternal health, and the life expectancy among adults, yet the legislature has enacted dangerous limits and bans on reproductive healthcare. Lawmakers should be working to protect Arkansans with real solutions instead of this type of performative political stunt," Dickson said in a statement to ABC News.

A total ban on abortion, except to save the life of the mother in a medical emergency, took effect in Arkansas last June when the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

But despite a super majority of Republicans in the legislature identifying with anti-abortion rights, the bill to make a monument enshrining Arkansans' aborted fetuses did not see unanimous support among Republicans in the state legislature.

The House passed the legislation Tuesday in a 60-19 vote with two Republicans voting "no." Ten Republicans didn't vote, and another ten Republicans voted "present," which has the same effect as voting no. When the bill moved through the state Senate last month, two Republicans didn't vote and one Republican voted present.

"From a Christian perspective, this has the look and feel of spiking the football," said state Rep. Steve Unger, a Republican who voted against the bill, on the House floor. "It looks like gloating."

"Public memorials to our nation's wars where we face an external threat are right and proper," he added. "A memorial to an ongoing culture war where we seem to be shooting at each other is not."

Unger told ABC News on Friday, "My comments reflected my beliefs, but I respect other convictions."

Rep. Jeremiah Moore, the other House Republican to vote against creating the monument, warned it could "have an unintended effect on the pro-life cause."

"I believe that life is precious, but we must approach this issue with grace. It will serve as a poke in the eye to all those who don't share our beliefs," he said in a floor speech.

Rep. Tippi McCullough, a Democrat who voted against the legislation, told ABC News, "I could think of a thousand ways to better spend money that would be helpful to our citizens."

"This bill makes no real distinctions in the type of abortions it would enshrine with a statue on Capitol Grounds. That means a woman who went through a traumatic pregnancy that resulted in the death of her child-to-be would have to face a monument commentating that awful moment when she comes here to the people's house," McCullough said in a statement to ABC News. "Abortion was legal in this country for nearly 50 years. Putting a monument outside these walls won't change that. The state has no business in a woman's healthcare or in a family's tragedy."

Hammer, one of the bill's sponsors, countered the criticism to say, "Abortion had no unintended affect because it achieved what those who supported it intended for it to do which is to kill innocent lives."

"Many tax dollars went to organizations that supported and encouraged abortions," Hammer told ABC News in a statement. "Rep. Moore can defend his own comments. I will defend remembering the 250,000 innocent babies through a visual reminder in the hopes that we will never repeat a terrible chapter in our nation's history."

Hammer also said he is in touch with a company already that wants to donate the monument but did not disclose the company's name or a description of the design. The secretary of state will have final approval of the monument's maker and design, which the Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission will select, according to the bill's text.

While there are hundreds of anti-abortion monuments across the country, this appears to be among the first approved for the grounds of a state Capitol.

The National Day of Remembrance for Aborted Children, an anti-abortion rights group, which says it exists "to honor the gravesites of our unborn brothers and sisters," told ABC News it was not aware of any other currently existing monuments to unborn children on the grounds of other State Capitols.

Lawmakers in Tennessee approved legislation in 2018 allowing for a similar privately-funded monument to anti-abortion rights on its state Capitol grounds, but that monument has yet to be installed, said spokesperson John Jansen.

Monuments already on Arkansas Capitol grounds include statues honoring the Little Rock Nine, the first Black students to enter Little Rock Central High School under the landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, and one of the Ten Commandments, which was damaged a day after it was installed when a man ran it over in protest. It has since been repaired.

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Michael Cohen 'absolutely' prepared to testify against Trump if he's indicted

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Donald Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, speaking on ABC's Good Morning America Friday, said he was "absolutely" prepared for cross-examination in a potential trial after completing his testimony this week before a Manhattan grand jury mulling charges against Trump.

"I was working for a man who ultimately became president of the United States, and, yes, there are things that we did that were wrong -- for example, the hush-money payment -- but I never expected that democracy would be on the line as a direct result of the former president," Cohen told ABC News Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

Trump's one-time fixer said he's not worried about allies of Trump attacking his testimony.

"The facts are the facts. The truth is the truth and the truth will always rise so I'm not worried about anything that they want to come at me with," he said.

Cohen did not divulge what prosecutors, investigating the 2016 payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, asked him specifically after he met with them twice this week, but said, in his view, they have enough evidence to indict and convict the former president.

"I promise you and I promise the American people that all the information that is needed in order to create the indictment to get a prosecution and a conviction is in the hands of the district attorney," Cohen said.

Stephanopoulos asked Cohen his biggest regret, and he said it was accepting a job from Trump in 2007.

"That's my biggest regret. There was absolutely no reason for it. I didn't need to work for him and I probably shouldn't have. I should have listened to my wife, my daughter, my son and not accepted the job, but I did and, yeah, it's cost me a lot. It's cost my family a lot. Our happiness, finances, my law license," he said. "But most importantly, as I said to you almost five years ago today that my wife, my daughter, my son and my country have my first loyalty and they always will."

Stephanopoulos asked, "Do you think justice will be served?"

"I know it will be," Cohen replied.

Cohen tweeted a reminder ahead of the interview that five years ago he told Stephanopoulos that⁩ his first loyalty was not to Trump but to his family and country, promising to discuss how he's adhered to the words since.

Trump's one-time fixer paid $130,000 to Daniels in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign to allegedly keep her quiet about an affair she claimed to have had with Trump. The former president has denied an "affair" and his attorneys have framed the funds as an extortion payment.

"You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael," Trump told reporters on Air Force One in 2018, denying knowledge of the payment.

But the Manhattan district attorney's office has been investigating whether Trump falsified business records when the Trump Organization allegedly reimbursed Cohen for the payment and then recorded the reimbursement as a legal expense.

Cohen served prison time after he pleaded guilty to federal charges that included campaign finance violations related to the hush payment. Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, noted Wednesday that when federal prosecutors charged Cohen they said that Trump -- identified in court records as Individual 1 -- directed Cohen to make the $130,000 hush payment, after which his reimbursement to Cohen was falsely logged in the Trump Organization's records, according to prosecutors.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, met with prosecutors Wednesday over Zoom after former Trump advisers Hope Hicks, Kellyanne Conway and several other witnesses testified recently.

Prosecutors also invited Trump last week to testify in the probe -- the clearest indication yet that they're nearing a decision on whether to indict him.

No current or former U.S. president has even been indicted for criminal conduct.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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