Political News

White House warns only enough Ukraine funding for 'urgent battlefield needs'

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(WASHINGTON) -- The White House warned Monday that the U.S. has only enough money to meet Ukraine's "urgent battlefield needs" in the short term, after Congress left additional funding for Ukraine out of a short-term measure to fund the U.S. government.

The federal government has about $6 billion left in military funding for Ukraine, according to U.S. officials.

“It is enough to -- for us to meet the -- meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs for a bit -- for a bit longer,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

About $5.4 billion of the funding is set aside to provide to provide weapons and other military equipment to Ukraine from existing American stocks, the officials said. That money resulted from an accounting error the Pentagon said it fixed earlier this year, an official said.

Another $1.6 billion remains from $25.9 billion Congress had previously provided to replenish those U.S. stocks, the officials said.

No money remains in a program meant to help Ukraine with long-term, new purchases of weapons and other material, known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the officials said. And the U.S. has no money left to provide additional funding for Ukraine's humanitarian, budgetary or economic needs, an official said.

The Pentagon has in recent days warned that money is running low -- and that Congress's fight over aid had impacted the U.S. military, too.

“We have already been forced to slow down the replenishment of our own forces to hedge against an uncertain funding future,” Pentagon Comptroller Michael McCord wrote to congressional leaders on Friday. “Failure to replenish our military services on a timely basis could harm our military's readiness.”

President Joe Biden also cautioned on Sunday that "we have time, not much time, and there’s an overwhelming sense of urgency.”

His administration had asked for $24 billion more for Ukraine to cover the last three months of the calendar year. When Republicans signaled they would agree to extend government funding for just 45 more days – which Congress ultimately did -- the White House said it needed $6 billion for that month-and-a-half.

But the short-term bill that kept the government funded through mid-November did not include any new money for Ukraine.

Taking questions about Congress narrowly averting a government shutdown over the weekend, Biden was asked if he was "going to be able to trust Speaker McCarthy when the next deal comes around."

“We just made one about Ukraine," Biden replied. "So, we'll find out.”

But the president did not elaborate.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, has sought to oust McCarthy from his speakership and accused the Republican leader of striking a “secret side deal" with Biden over Ukraine funding.''

McCarthy on Monday denied that he cut a deal with Biden to hold a vote on Ukraine aid, but rather said he promised White House officials could meet with congressional staff to discuss the president’s request for more aid for Ukraine.

Jean-Pierre on Monday repeatedly declined to clarify what deal Biden had been referring to, or even say if Biden and McCarthy had even made some sort of deal. She also declined to say if the two had spoken in the past two weeks about Ukraine aid.

"When it relates to what the president said, I'm certainly not going to go beyond what he said," Jean-Pierre told ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce. "But what we know, what we know is that there's bipartisan support for this deal."

She said McCarthy had spoken publicly "multiple times" on Sunday "saying that he wants to– he certainly wants to continue to– support for Ukraine, to get the weapons that they need.

"We're gonna hold him to that," Jean-Pierre said. "That is something that he has said. That is a commitment that he has made."

ABC News' Luis Martinez, John Parkinson and Lauren Peller contributed to this report.

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Texas AG Ken Paxton faces other legal troubles after being acquitted in impeachment

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(AUSTIN, Texas) -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was recently acquitted by the state Senate on 16 articles of impeachment, but the state's top lawyer still has multiple legal battles ahead.

Paxton has been under an ongoing federal investigation in Texas since the fall of 2020, when the FBI began to probe allegations of abuse of office and misconduct brought by a group of whistleblowing former employees.

Many of those claims, which Paxton adamantly denies, were also the focus of the impeachment proceedings.

While a majority of the state House backed the articles of impeachment against Paxton, including many of his fellow Republicans, he was ultimately acquitted by the state Senate's Republican majority.

State House Speaker Dade Phelan, a fellow Republican, said in a statement after Paxton's acquittal that there had been "more than enough damning evidence to warrant impeachment" and that the trial was "not the end of this matter," citing Paxton's other legal troubles.

No charges have been filed against Paxton in the federal probe, and the Department of Justice announced in February that its Public Integrity Section would be taking over what was originally a state-led case.

Paxton has repeatedly said he did nothing wrong.

"Every allegation is easily disproved, and I look forward to continuing my fight for conservative Texas values," he said in a statement issued in May, days before the State House of Representatives adopted 20 articles of impeachment against him.

In another statement following his acquittal, Paxton characterized the charges brought by the state House as "false allegations" and labeled the proceedings as a "sham" and "shameful."

Separately, Paxton also faces a long-delayed trial on securities fraud charges that were announced shortly after he entered his first term as attorney general in 2015.

He is being accused of defrauding investors by encouraging them to fund a tech startup that he was, unbeknownst to them, being paid to promote. He has pleaded not guilty.

In an email sent to supporters shortly after the charges were announced, Paxton said he expected "to be fully vindicated of these charges when the full facts of this case come to light."

The felony is punishable by up to 99 years in prison, and even if Paxton is convicted and put on probation, he will lose his legal license.

The securities fraud trial was most recently delayed due to the Senate impeachment trial but a new date is expected to be set during a scheduled Oct. 6 hearing.

Additionally, last week the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of four whistleblowers who asked the high court to lift an abatement placed in February that put their ongoing lawsuit proceedings on pause.

The former employees claim that Paxton violated the Texas Whistleblower Act when he allegedly fired them for reporting him to the FBI in 2020. The high court's decision allows the suit to continue in district court.

Paxton previously called the whistleblowers "rogue employees" and dismissed what he has characterized as their "false allegations." Paxton hired an outside law firm which produced what his office called in a May press release "a report that documents the ... legitimate, non-retaliatory grounds for terminating each of these individuals."

Paxton, however, had agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement with the former employees in which he would apologize for calling them "rogue" but admitted no wrongdoing.

Paxton sought to have taxpayers cover the settlement, but the Legislature did not agree and the House began investigating him -- leaving the suit in limbo amid the impeachment proceedings.

Paxton's team did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on Monday on the suit and he hasn't addressed the lifting of the abatement.

Finally, last year, Paxton was also sued by the state bar over alleged professional misconduct for backing a lawsuit against the 2020 election results.

"No matter how much the partisan activists at the Texas State Bar retaliate against me and my staff for working to promote election integrity, secure our southern border, and fight for conservative values, I will not back down," Paxton said in a September 2022 statement.

Oral arguments for the case were postponed until after the Senate trial and are set to begin on Nov. 15.

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How Tim Scott's run for president is affecting his role as senator

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(WASHINGTON) -- Just a few hours before the midnight deadline, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to keep the government open for 45 more days by a vote of 88-9. Only two senators were not present: Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott. Stabenow posted on X that she is sick with COVID while Scott, fresh off of a speech at the California GOP Convention Friday as its keynote speaker, was on the campaign trail fundraising.

Scott is the only member of Congress running for president in the 2024 election.

When asked last month at Faith & Freedom's Fall Banquet in Iowa if he would vote to shut down the government over the budget, Scott responded he would vote against a deal as he did back in June.

"Unless we have a deal that controls spending, I'm absolutely, positively, undeniably no again -- we have to protect our next generation," he told Iowa Attorney General Brenna Bird.

The text of the continuing resolution Congress passed Saturday to avert a government shutdown was published just a few hours earlier, and it's unclear how Scott would have voted on that specific measure.

ABC News has reached out to Scott for comment; the campaign has not responded.

It's not the first time Scott has missed a Senate floor vote.

Recently, he missed the confirmation of Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the highest ranking general in the military.

In June, he was the only senator to miss the confirmation of civil rights lawyer Dale Ho as a federal judge. Since Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sided with Republicans, Scott's presence could have forced Vice President Kamala Harris to break a 50-50 tie.

Although none of the votes he has missed have had an influence on the final result, the public is losing insight on how Scott would approach key issues as president.

This cycle is unlike others when a handful of senators have run for president.

In 2015, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., should be "showing up to work," but Rubio wasn't the only candidate that election cycle susceptible to attacks for missing senate votes: Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.; Rand Paul, R-Ky.; and Ted Cruz, R-Tx., were a part of the same club. This cycle, Scott shoulders the burden alone.

To sway voters, frequent retail politicking is required in the early-voting states, and day-to-day life on the campaign trail can be brutal for anyone without the added pressures of a day job.

Missing key votes is to be expected while senators are on the trail.

According to data from Govtrack.us then-Sen. Barack Obama missed nearly 89.4% of Senate floor votes a year out from the 2008 general election. Former Sens. Hillary Clinton missed 83.5% during her 2008 presidential run, and Rubio missed 90% a year out from the 2016 election in which he ran.

Scott, who is planning a stop in Dallas, Texas, Tuesday, just spent the week in California following the second Republican presidential debate raising money in San Francisco at a fundraiser where tickets were up to $8,300 per person. He hopes the fundraising bolsters his campaign, which has hovered in the single digits since he joined the race back in May, according to FiveThirtyEight's polling average.

The Oct. 15 deadline for 2024 presidential candidates to file their third-quarter campaign finance reports is swiftly approaching. There is a push to up fundraising ahead of Sept. 30, the same day as the government shutdown deadline, which was the last day to make it into the report.

Congress will again get a chance to vote to pass a budget in 45 days on Nov. 17 -- that's nearly two months out from the Iowa caucuses and an important time to be on the campaign trail.

If Congress fails to reach a budget agreement by that deadline, the government would shut down. Past shutdowns have lasted as long as 35 days -- that's weeks off the campaign trail during which Scott could see himself stuck in D.C.

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How the growing Latino vote could factor in to 2024 election

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(WASHINGTON) -- With just about a year out from the 2024 election, Republican and Democratic campaigns and candidates in several key states are courting Latinos, a growing group of voters, who could cast decisive votes in a number of races.

The Latino vote will be influential around the country as the number of eligible voters has swelled over the last five years, said Clarissa Martínez, vice president of the Latino vote initiative, Unidos.

"We are currently the second largest group in the United States in which nearly one of every five people in our country is Hispanic. And we look at that from different angles. Latinos are now the second largest group of voting-age Americans and are playing an increasingly important and defining role in our political landscape," Martínez said.

About 34.5 million Hispanic Americans will be eligible to vote in the 2024 election, making Latinos "the fastest-growing racial and ethnic group in the U.S. electorate since the last midterm elections," according to data from the Pew Research Center.

The number of Hispanic eligible voters has increased by 4.7 million since 2018, according to the Pew Research Center analysis.

"The growth is mostly fueled by a growing number of young Latinos turning 18 every year," said Rodrigo Dominguez-Villegas, the director of research for the Latino Policy and Politics Institute at UCLA. "So in each of the next few years, over 1 million Latino citizens will turn 18 and this trend will continue after it peaks in 2025."

Additional fuel is coming from younger Latinos who are getting politically involved, Dominguez-Villegas said.

Many of the issues Latino voters care about such as gun control and abortion access align with other Americans, Martínez said.

"A lot of big issues that are top of mind for Latinos are also very significant for many equally situated fellow Americans."

Record Latino turnout in battleground states

Battleground states such as Nevada and Arizona are becoming hot beds for Latino voters, said Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Latinos (LULAC). There has been an increase in Latino voter participation and turnout in these states in past elections, Garcia said.

Latinos turned out in record numbers in the 2022 midterm elections, with more than 11.8 million Latinos casting votes from multiple states including Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey and North Carolina, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

LULAC will be hitting the ground in battleground states to reach Latino voters directly, Garcia said. That includes voter registration efforts in Arizona, he added.

Although places with traditionally high Hispanic populations such as California, Texas and Florida are seen as key states for the Latino vote, states such as Nevada and Arizona are ones to keep an eye on in 2024, Martínez said.

"Traditionally I think people have looked at places like California or Texas or Florida where there are sizable Latino populations as perhaps the places where Latinos can be decisive in shaping our political landscape, but the reality is that in an environment of razor thin margins … it's not just the states where there are huge Latino populations," said Martínez.

"[The] reality is that we're seeing Latinos in a variety of places ... from East to West and North to South," Martínez added.

Latinos' concerns

The economy will be one of the most important issues for Latino voters in 2024, Garcia said.

"The No. 1 issue is the economy," said Garcia. "Latinos are hurting with the price of gasoline, food and no increase in wages."

Garcia also emphasized that the Latino vote is very diverse and that different issues motivate different Latinos based on where they live and their age.

"You have Latino Americans primarily from California, Texas and the Southwest [who] are very liberal to moderate on most social issues, and maybe conservative on some issues like the army, the police, religion," he said.

"And then you have Latinos in Florida, a large Cuban-American community, that is very cognizant about communist dictatorships in Venezuela and Nicaragua and are typically more Republican because of other experiences," Garcia added.

During the midterm elections, Pew Research Center data showed that while most Hispanic voters supported Democrats and helped the party maintain the Senate majority, there were higher levels of Republican support than in previous midterm elections.

"In November [2022], 60% of Hispanic voters cast ballots for Democrats compared with 39% who supported Republicans. This 21-point margin is smaller than in 2018, when 72% of Hispanic voters favored Democrats and 25% supported Republicans," the Pew Research Center report said.

Because of this shift, Martínez said it is too early to tell how the majority of Hispanic voters will vote and added that both parties need to work to win Latino voters.

"On the Democratic side, you may have some advantage, but you need to do the work to seal the deal ... and you need to talk more about economic issues," Martínez said. "On the Republican side, you have opportunity, but you need to keep in mind that you're radically out of step on some issues that are really important to this community."

Candidates need to reach out and listen to Latino voters, Garcia said.

"We need to make sure that our voices are being heard," Garcia said. "And that people are responding to either Democrats or Republicans."

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Exclusive: On track to break record, TSA intercepts nearly 20 guns per day at airports

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it intercepts nearly 20 unauthorized guns per day at checkpoints nationwide, putting the agency on track to break its annual firearms record, the agency told ABC exclusively.

So far in 2023, TSA has found more than 5,000 firearms at airport security checkpoints -- where guns are not permitted. Last year, the agency prevented a record 6,542 firearms from getting onboard planes.

In just the third quarter of this year alone, TSA officers stopped more than 1,800 firearms in carry-on baggage -- 94% of which were loaded, according to the TSA.

If last year's record is broken, it would represent the third year of increased firearms found at airports. In 2021, TSA found 5,972 guns. That record was broken in 2022, when the agency found more than 6,500 firearms that weren't permitted on planes.

This comes as more passengers take to the skies. TSA says it's screening more than 2 million people per day at airports across the country.

"Passengers may travel with a firearm, but it must be in their checked baggage," said TSA Administrator David Peksoke. "Firearms are prohibited at security checkpoints, in the secure area of an airport or in the passenger cabin of an aircraft even if a passenger has a concealed carry permit or is in a constitutional carry jurisdiction."

Passengers caught attempting to bring firearms in their carry-on baggage can face arrest or citations from local law enforcement. Individuals can also face civil penalties from TSA up to almost $15,000 and risk losing their TSA PreCheck eligibility for five years.

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Democrats pour $2M more into Virginia, where battle for statehouse could decide abortion and more

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(WASHINGTON) -- With a little over a month until Election Day in Virginia, the national Democratic Party is investing more than $2 million in the state to boost candidates as the party fights to keep Republicans from gaining full control of the General Assembly.

Every seat in both the state House of Delegates and state Senate is up for grabs on Nov. 7 and the new investment by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is the latest example of how both parties see the election as critical -- not just for gaining legislative power but as indicators of where voters stand on abortion, the economy and more.

The outcome will also shape the political future of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is being eyed by some prominent donors as a potential late entry in the 2024 presidential race. (Asked about that possibility, Youngkin said on Fox News last week, "I'm totally focused on Virginia elections and that's what we are going to get done.)

“The stakes are so high and holding on to the Senate and flipping the House in Virginia is so critical,” interim DLCC President Heather Williams told ABC News.

The party's show of support comes as Virginia is the only Southern state that has not tightened restrictions on abortion since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.

If Republicans win full control of the Legislature, Democrats say, Youngkin will try again to ban the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy with exceptions after a previous push was blocked by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Williams said the DLCC has been on the ground in Virginia since January, deploying staff to support candidates and campaigns.

“Our goal in the next few weeks is just to keep everyone super laser focused,” Williams said.

Republicans have also raised millions, with Youngkin's Spirit of Virginia political action committee pulling in $5.75 million in this year's second quarter.

The DLCC investment followed the Democratic National Committee pumping $1.2 million into Virginia’s legislative races last month.

“Each of the parties is fighting a two-front war,” said Dr. Chapman Rackaway, chair of political science at Radford University. “Democrats are going to put maximum effort into defense, retaining the Senate. But they also have the opportunity to take the House of Delegates, so they’re going to go on the offensive to try to win one of the open seats.”

"If [Republicans] hold [the House] and take the Senate away from the Democrats, then they have their trifecta and Gov. Youngkin gets a significant roadblock to his agenda removed,” Rackaway added.

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California Gov. Newsom to appoint Laphonza Butler to fill Sen. Feinstein's seat

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(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Sunday plans to appoint Laphonza Butler, the president of EMILY'S List, to fill the Senate seat left vacant following Dianne Feinstein's death late last week.

Butler was previously an adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris' presidential campaign in 2020, and before that a labor leader. Newsom issued a statement after news of Butler's impending appointment broke.

"An advocate for women and girls, a second-generation fighter for working people, and a trusted adviser to Vice President Harris, Laphonza Butler represents the best of California, and she'll represent us proudly in the United States Senate," Newsom said in his statement.

He added, "As we mourn the enormous loss of Senator Feinstein, the very freedoms she fought for -- reproductive freedom, equal protection, and safety from gun violence -- have never been under greater assault. Laphonza will carry the baton left by Senator Feinstein, continue to break glass ceilings, and fight for all Californians in Washington D.C."

Newsom previously pledged to fill any Senate vacancy with a Black woman, making the comment on MSNBC's The Reid Out, with host Joy Reid, in 2021.

"If in fact Dianne Feinstein were to retire, will you nominate an African American woman to restore the seat [since] Kamala Harris is no longer in the United States Senate?" Reid asked. "And do you have a name in mind?"

Newsom replied: "We have multiple names in mind and the answer is yes."

Many thought he might appoint Rep. Barbara Lee -- the only Black woman of the three high-profile Democrats running for Feinstein's seat.

But on NBC's Meet the Press last month, Newsom said that he would not appoint any of the three, a group that includes Reps. Katie Porter and Adam Schiff as well as Lee, to the seat if it became vacant.

Newsom said he would instead make an "interim appointment" to replace Feinstein so as to not "tip the balance" in the competitive Senate primary.

EMILY's List is a political action committee that works to elect Democrat pro-choice women.

Butler appeared on GMA3 in Oct. 2021 after becoming president of EMILY's List where she spoke about some of the issues the organization was working to address.

"There is so much to be done across our state legislatures where we're seeing our rights contracted by Republican-controlled houses, whether it's abortion rights or voting rights or choosing to not raise the minimum wage in these states," she said. "It is an opportunity right now, in this moment, where we have to have dual focus. We have to make sure we maintain and grow our federal majorities, but we also need to make sure that we're doing the work at the states, all across the country, up and down the ballot, which is the work that EMILY's List has been doing for a number of years and is making an unprecedented investment right now."

California Senator Alex Padilla said in a statement he was honored to welcome her to the Senate.

"Throughout her career, Laphonza Butler has been a strong voice for working families, LGBTQ rights, and a champion for increasing women's representation in politics. I'm honored to welcome her to the United States Senate," Padilla's statement read.

"Governor Newsom's swift action ensures that Californians maintain full representation in the Senate as we navigate a narrow Democratic majority. I look forward to working together to deliver for the people of California," his statement concluded.

ABC News' Isabella Murphy and Marilyn Heck contributed to this report.

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Trailblazing California Sen. Dianne Feinstein dies at 90

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(WASHINGTON) -- Dianne Feinstein, who became California's first female senator and went on to serve six terms, the longest of any woman in Senate history -- and whose political career was forever changed by the assassination of two colleagues -- has died. She was 90.

Her office said in a statement that she died on Thursday night at her home in Washington. The cause was not disclosed. She had voted as recently as earlier that day.

"There are few women who can be called senator, chairman, mayor, wife, mom and grandmother," her chief of staff, James Sauls, said in a statement. He called Feinstein "a force of nature who made an incredible impact on our country and her home state."

"She left a legacy that is undeniable and extraordinary. There is much to say about who she was and what she did," Sauls said, "but for now, we are going to grieve the passing of our beloved boss, mentor and friend."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer seemed at varying points to choke back tears as he memorialized Feinstein in remarks from the chamber on Friday morning, hailing her as "one of the most amazing people to ever grace the Senate." In memoriam, her Senate desk appeared to be draped in black cloth beneath a vase bursting with white roses. Flags outside the Capitol were also lowered to half-staff.

President Joe Biden, in his own statement, called Feinstein a "pioneering American," a "true friend" and "a role model for so many."

Over her three decades in the Senate, Feinstein transformed from a barrier-breaking member of the Democratic Party's liberal vanguard, championing the legalization of same-sex marriage and a ban on assault-style weapons, to one of the Washington's establishment members, esteemed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle but increasingly criticized by outside progressives who argued that she refused to step aside for the next generation.

In her final years, her work on Capitol Hill had also begun to be overshadowed by concern about her mental and physical health even as she insisted she remained a robust public servant, despite her hospitalizations, reports of episodes of confusion and other issues.

In announcing earlier this year that she planned to retire at the end of her latest term, in 2025, Feinstein said: "Each of us was sent here to solve problems. That's what I've done for the last 30 years, and that's what I plan to do for the next two years. My thanks to the people of California for allowing me to serve them."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a fellow Democrat, will now appoint someone to serve out the remainder of Feinstein's term, ahead of the 2024 race to succeed her. He has committed to naming a Black woman -- who would then be only the third such senator in history -- but has also said he will not pick any of the candidates in the current Democratic primary race, which includes Rep. Barbara Lee.

Journalist Rebecca Traister, who profiled Feinstein at length for New York magazine, told ABC News for this obituary that she believes Feinstein's approach to politics was less tethered to an absolutist ideology than to defending and supporting the importance of rules and order.

Feinstein's political positions changed over time, but what didn't was how she saw her job: "as somebody who was within these institutions to uphold the rules," Traister said.

She said what she found most surprising about Feinstein was that devotion to the institution -- outside of politics.

She cited how, in the early 1960s, before Roe v. Wade, Feinstein determined punishments for abortion providers during her time on a women's sentencing board, where Feinstein later said she saw "not medical people -- these were truly the coat-hanger type of abortions." As a pro-abortion access supporter in college, Feinstein reportedly helped a woman get to Mexico where abortion was legal, Traister said.

"She believed in civic and political control and order, and I would say that is the defining feature of her life in politics," Traister said, adding, "Sometimes that led her to positions that were on the left and sometimes it led her to positions that were on the right."

On Sunday night, officials announced that Feinstein would lie in state at San Francisco City Hall. Her funeral will take place on Thursday, Oct. 5 at the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in the Herbst Theatre.

Feinstein's early life and path to the Senate

Born Dianne Emiel Goldman in 1933 in San Francisco, the first years of Feinstein's life were filled with hardship. Jerry Roberts, author of the Feinstein biography Never Let Them See You Cry, described Feinstein's mother, Betty, as an alcoholic who frequently beat her and her two sisters, citing in his book moments where she chased Feinstein with a knife and once nearly drowned one of Feinstein's sisters in a bathtub.

"Their mother was both emotionally and physically abusive. She [Feinstein] was very much the matriarchal figure in terms of protecting her younger sisters and taking the brunt of things," Roberts said.

Feinstein's surgeon father, Leon, was just as instrumental in shaping her. A barrier-breaker himself, he was the first Jewish chair of surgery at the University of California at San Francisco's medical school.

"She really identified with her father and his kind of propriety and status," said Traister. "But it's certainly true that as the oldest sibling in that household, she really developed a passion for how to keep things in line and under control that I think you can see working its way through her political life."

After serving six years on California women's sentencing board, Feinstein ran for -- and won -- a race to be on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, beginning the first of three terms in 1970.

Her third term as a supervisor was her last and, as she suggested to reporters on the morning of Nov. 27, 1978, it was intended to be her final chapter in politics. She had lost two mayoral bids, was facing health problems and recently lost her second husband to cancer.

Then tragedy struck.

Later that November day, a former colleague on the board, recently resigned Supervisor Dan White, fatally shot Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay elected official.

It was Feinstein who found Milk's body, subsequently recalling how her fingers slipped through a bullet hole in his body as she went to take his pulse. With TV cameras rolling, she was the one to tell a shocked city about the slayings. As the president of the Board of Supervisors, she became the city's first female mayor.

"It sounds like it was scripted in a movie. She leans in, tells reporters she's leaving politics -- you can't make up something like that," said Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak, who covered Feinstein going back to her San Francisco days.

She went on to win two terms as mayor.

Barabak said Feinstein "held up the city on her shoulders ... the city was really on edge." She was "thrust in the middle of it" and "really rallied and really helped keep the city together," he said.

As mayor, she enacted a handgun ban and survived a recall attempt over it, foreshadowing a decadeslong fight over the same issue when she served in the Senate.

Her profile grew quickly. She was on Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale's vice presidential short list in 1984. After losing her own race for governor of California in 1990, she successfully ran in a 1992 special election to serve out the remainder of Republican Pete Wilson's term -- becoming the first women elected from the state to serve as a senator.

In Washington

More firsts followed: Feinstein became one of the first two women to join the Senate Judiciary Committee, with the support of then-Chairman Biden. She made it her mission to pass a ban on assault-style weapons, telling The Los Angeles Times that Biden was "ultimately supportive but initially skeptical," fearing that the measure might stymie a broader bill focused on crime. But he nonetheless thought it would be a good "lesson" for her if she wanted to give it a shot.

The opposition was fierce. Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig was one of the people who challenged her, saying, "The gentlelady from California needs to become a little bit more familiar with firearms and their deadly characteristics."

Feinstein replied, "I am quite familiar with firearms. I became mayor as a product of assassination. I found my assassinated colleague and put a finger through a bullet hole trying to get a pulse. I was trained in the shooting of a firearm when I had terrorist attacks, with a bomb in my house, when my husband was dying, when I had windows shot out. Senator, I know something about what firearms can do."

The ban, which included some exemptions and came with a sunset date of 10 years, to bolster its support, became law in 1994. Feinstein continued to push for similar laws in her remaining time in office.

She was also known for championing same-sex marriage and in 1996 was one of 14 senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act -- the law, later overturned, that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage -- nearly two decades before the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right.

Barbarak said her extensive time in San Francisco likely shaped her ideas on the issue. "The gay community was very large and influential in San Francisco, in a way that really it wasn't in any other city in the country," he said. "And that was just part of the political culture. It was just part of being mayor of San Francisco."

But the accomplishment that she told reporters was the most important work of her career was during her time as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Feinstein called for a full investigation of the CIA's detention and interrogation program after Sept. 11.

Because of her push for further transparency under both the Bush and Obama administrations, Senate investigators said that the CIA repeatedly misled the public and mismanaged the program, which was "far more brutal" than the agency previously had conveyed, with torture ranging from waterboarding prisoners often dozens of times to severe sleep deprivation, including a detainee who was chained to the concrete floor and appeared to die from hypothermia, ABC News reported at the time.

The subsequent, Feinstein-backed report from the Intelligence Committee, released in 2014, found the methods used on more than 100 detainees were "not effective."

Probing the CIA's tactics was risky for Feinstein, in part because she was challenging her own party. "There was an enormous amount of opposition including from the [Obama] administration to not make this stuff public," Traister said.

But that doggedness was consistent with "how seriously she took the violation of norms that she so believes in," Traister said.

"When she discovered that they had been behaving outside of the expectations ... it was like hellfire. She really went after them hard," Traister said.

Annette Bening went on to play Feinstein in the 2019 drama about the CIA probe, The Report.

"I just think that's real legacy stuff, which she did there because nobody wanted that report out ... certainly the CIA didn't," said Roberts, her biographer. "That was, I think, a demonstration of her independence and her determination and her ability to fight."

But her independence was often seen in more recent years as too moderate compared to other Democrats, especially as a representative of one of the country's most reliably blue states.

During the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, liberal groups criticized Feinstein for hugging Republican Sen. Linsey Graham and praising him for running "one of the best hearings I've participated in." Then-Senate Minority Leader Schumer later told reporters they had a "long, serious talk" about it.

And the way she dismissed school children who urged her to support the progressive "Green New Deal" to address climate change went viral after she told them, "I've been doing this for 30 years. I know what I'm doing. You come in here and you say it has to be my way or the highway. I don't respond to that ... I was elected by almost a million-vote plurality and I know what I'm doing."

The interaction was satirized on Saturday Night Live.

Final years and service amid decline

In the final years of her political career, some voices in Feinstein's own party grew louder in saying that she should retire. Her defenders, too, often spoke up for her. In 2017, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called her a "strong voice and a staunch advocate for the people of California."

During Feinstein's last and final campaign for Senate, the California Democratic Party backed challenger Kevin de León instead. At the time, León said he was offering "a new voice, a new change represented in California of today, not of the past."

Feinstein still won by a landslide -- by roughly a million votes. But the discontent continued.

In April 2022, Feinstein's home paper, The San Francisco Chronicle, published a piece citing multiple anonymous staffers and Senate colleagues who said Feinstein's memory was "rapidly deteriorating. They said it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required to represent the nearly 40 million people of California."

Feinstein pushed back in an interview with the Chronicle's editorial board. "I meet regularly with leaders. I'm not isolated. I see people. My attendance is good. I put in the hours," she said then, echoing what she told The Los Angeles Times in 2020: "I don't feel my cognitive abilities have diminished. ... Do I forget something sometimes? Quite possibly."

In February 2023, Feinstein announced she would not be seeking reelection, telling reporters soon after, "The time has come."

Schumer said during a closed-door lunch meeting when she made her announcement, "She got a standing ovation that lasted minutes and minutes and minutes. One of the longest I've ever seen, which shows the love that our caucus and our country have for this wonderful, wonderful leader and legend."

Feinstein's pending retirement was soon eclipsed by her health struggles. For three months in 2023, she remained at home in California to recuperate from shingles, which also caused her to suffer brain inflammation and Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which affects facial nerves.

That absence also temporarily halted Democrats' ability to confirm nominees through the Judiciary Committee on which Feinstein sat.

California congressman Ro Khanna and some others called for her to step down. But she never left her job.

She is survived by a daughter, Katherine. Her third husband, the wealthy investor Richard Blum, whom she married in 1980, died in 2022 after being diagnosed with cancer.

Feinstein's tenacity, Barabak said, fueled her success as much as the controversy at the end of her career.

"She's very determined. She's very stubborn. She's very dogged," he said, adding, "She's shown, time and again and again and again, [she] is not someone who is going to be pushed around. I think that this is pretty consistent with who she has been her whole career, her whole public life."

ABC News' Isabella Murray, Allison Pecorinm Benjamin Siegel and Marilyn Heck contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

House Democrats averted shutdown amid GOP's 'brinkmanship,' Biden's budget director says

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- It was Democrats in the House who helped avert a partial government shutdown this weekend, in the final hours before funding ran out amid "brinkmanship" and "theater" by hard-line conservatives, President Joe Biden's budget director argued on Sunday.

"I will tell you, if I'm sick of it, I can only imagine what the American people are feeling," White House Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl. "Why go down this road, take us so close?"

After increasingly urgent deliberations in the House, Republicans on Saturday introduced a stopgap funding bill that will fund the government until Nov. 17, a near "clean" continuing resolution that did not include the priorities of some in the party, such as border security measures and broader cuts.

The measure only passed on Saturday in the House with Democratic support, as 90 Republicans voted against it and 126 of them voted for it.

"Let me tell you, there were over 200 Democrats who saved us from shutdown. Go look at the votes," Young said on "This Week."

The temporary funding bill was then quickly approved by a bipartisan majority in the Senate and signed by President Joe Biden late Saturday night -- an hour before the midnight deadline.

Young on Sunday urged lawmakers to resume work on longer-term funding legislation.

"We need to start today to make sure that we do not have this brinkmanship, last-minute anxiousness of the American people," she said. "Let's do our jobs to not have this happen again. Let's have full-year funding bills at the end of this 47 days."

Karl asked Young if Speaker Kevin McCarthy -- now threatened with a motion to remove him by one vocal GOP critic -- deserved credit for putting the bipartisan bill to a vote on the floor, despite threats to his job.

"That's the job of speaker," Young said. "Put the American people before anything else, keep your end of the bargain, keep your end of the deal."

"I appreciate the speaker for keeping it, but, boy, vote after vote after vote, 30% cuts," Young said, referring to some previous Republican-led attempts at funding legislation. "When none of that worked, finally, finally, putting a bill on the floor that serves the American people and kept his end of the bargain," she added.

However, a major priority of the president's -- that has bipartisan support -- was left out of the bill that eventually passed: billions in financial assistance for Ukraine in defending against Russia's invasion.

In a written statement on Saturday, Biden said he expected McCarthy "will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment."

Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, along with key committee heads, said in their own joint statement on Saturday that their chamber intends to continue "to provide critical and sustained security and economic support for Ukraine."

A separate bill focused on Ukraine funding is expected to be taken up in the House.

Asked by Karl on Sunday whether more assistance could pass over strong opposition from some House Republicans, who believe the money could be better used on domestic priorities or not poured into an overseas conflict, Young said she is still "confident" it will.

"We've seen that the majority of Congress understands what's at stake in Ukraine," Young said. "Who are you for? Western democratic values or dictators like Vladimir Putin?"

Karl pressed Young on how confident she is that McCarthy will be able to shepherd through spending legislation, over the objections within his own conference, that satisfies an earlier deal with the Biden White House.

"Speaker McCarthy is one member. You saw a coalition, mostly Democrats, and Republicans, who say, 'Enough is enough.' That's what that vote was yesterday," Young said.

"We have to use that coalition of bipartisan members to start work now to make sure we aren't in this place again."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Matt Gaetz says he is planning a vote to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy over government funding bill

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- In a dramatic move that could roil the House, hard-line Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said Sunday that he plans a vote this week to try and remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his role as punishment for McCarthy backing a bipartisan stopgap funding bill to stave off a partial government shutdown.

In an interview with ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, Gaetz, a longtime McCarthy critic, savaged the speaker's leadership and handling of the spending fights since conservatives retook the House this year.

"The one thing Democrats, Republicans, the White House, that we all have in common is that Kevin McCarthy, at one point or another, has lied to all of us," Gaetz said.

The stopgap legislation that was hastily passed on Saturday, with hours to go before the federal government ran out of money, did not include border security provisions or broader spending cuts that had been demanded by some in the GOP. McCarthy had previously supported such moves as well.

The measure funds the government through mid-November while Republicans continue to work on single-subject, longer-term spending bills.

All Democrats but one joined 126 Republicans in approving the temporary bill on Saturday; 90 Republicans voted against it.

"I tried every possible way listening to every single person in the conference," McCarthy told reporters Saturday after the vote. "I want to be part of a conservative group that wants to get things done," he added.

He also sought to play down the risk to his speakership, via a so-called motion to vacate.

Because Republicans hold only a five-seat majority, a small group of detractors could successfully remove McCarthy from his leadership role -- which would essentially halt all legislative business in the House until a replacement is picked.

"If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it," McCarthy said Saturday. "There has to be an adult in the room. I am going to govern with what's best for this country."

Gaetz, on "This Week" on Sunday, responded.

"Kevin McCarthy's going to get his wish," he said.

It remains unclear if Gaetz currently has more than a handful of votes for such a dramatic move. Once Gaetz introduces his motion to vacate, it must be voted on within two legislative days.

The motion has never successfully been used against a speaker before, though a few lawmakers have tried throughout history.

"I'll survive," McCarthy said on Sunday on CBS. "Let's get over with it. Let's start governing," he said.

Pressed by Karl on "This Week," Gaetz acknowledged he may not yet have the support to actually oust McCarthy. Still, he said that he might get enough votes before 15 rounds of ballots -- which is how long it took for McCarthy to win the gavel.

"If, at this time next week Kevin McCarthy is still speaker of the House, it will be because the Democrats bailed him out," Gaetz said, "and he can be their speaker, not mine. ... This is an exercise to show the American people who really governs you and how that governing occurs."

On CNN on Sunday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a prominent Democratic lawmaker, said she would vote to remove McCarthy as he had "clearly lost control." Other Democrats have indicated they may merely vote "present" on a motion to vacate -- not weighing in while making it easier for McCarthy to win, because it would lower the number of total votes he needs.

Gaetz said on "This Week" that his motion being defeated wouldn't stop him from trying again.

"I am relentless, and I will continue to pursue this objective," he said.

When Karl followed up to ask whom Gaetz would support as McCarthy's replacement, Gaetz suggested he hadn't decided on someone. A similar dynamic played out during the speakership contest in January, when McCarthy's Republican critics -- a minority of the conference -- could not settle on an alternative who could unite the party.

"We have a lot of talented people in our conference," Gaetz told Karl. "Obviously, it's an awkward discussion while our No. 2, [Majority Leader] Steve Scalise, is in treatment for blood cancer. ... I want to see how Steve Scalise comes out of that."

In a separate interview on "This Week," New York Rep. Mike Lawler, a more moderate Republican, called Gaetz's position "delusional" and accused him of being "mealy mouthed" and "duplicitous."

Despite his harsh words for McCarthy, Gaetz insisted what he was doing "isn't personal."

He said McCarthy had failed to live up to his promises in order to become speaker, including consistently pursuing broad spending cuts and rejecting a pattern of approving funding via continuing resolutions -- like the one passed Saturday -- and sweeping omnibus bills that tie all government programs together in one vote.

"I don't think the adult in the room would allow America to sit atop a $33 trillion debt facing $2.2 trillion annual deficits," Gaetz said.

"This is about what turf we battle on to reduce spending. I do not believe that we will ever reduce spending if the manner of negotiation is just, what is the condition or the ornament that we're going to hang on to a continuing resolution," he said.

He also pushed back on criticism from other conservatives for not supporting an earlier funding bill that did include spending cuts. He argued that was a "mirage" because the Senate didn't back it and President Joe Biden would veto it.

He conceded that because Washington is currently divided between the two parties, there has to be some kind of compromise -- while still pushing single-subject spending bills.

"I don't think you should work with them on a continuing resolution or omnibus bill," he said. "You should make those Senate Democrats have to take up our defense bill to give troops a raise, take up our homeland security bill to make changes at the border, take up our veterans bill."

ABC News' Meghan Mistry and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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RFK Jr. teases announcement amid third party bid rumors

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Robert F. Kennedy Jr. teased an announcement on Friday that he said would create a "sea change in American politics" amid speculation that the Democratic candidate may leave the party. Kennedy previously refused to rule out an independent run for president in August. 2024 contest.

Kennedy said in a video on Friday that voters were frustrated with Congress and the leadership of both political parties.

"A lot of Americans who had previously given up any hope of real change would ever come through the American electoral process have begun to find new hope in my candidacy," Kennedy said in the video entitled 'Save the Date. Save the Country,' declining to provide any specifics. "I want to tell you now what I've come to understand after six months of campaigning: there is a path to victory. The hope we are feeling isn't some kind of trick in the mind."

Kennedy's announcement is set for Monday, October 9, in Philadelphia.

But Kennedy -- the nephew and son of party stalwarts President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, respectively has flirted with the idea of running independently before -- refusing to close the door earlier this month on leaving his party's primary amid a bitter fight with the Democratic National Committee over its rules governing the nomination process, even after saying he would only run as a Democrat.

Speaking during a town hall in North Charleston, South Carolina, in September, Kennedy said he was keeping all options open when asked by an attendee if he was prepared to run an independent campaign amid perceived hurdles erected by the DNC, which the campaign claims were built to foil his candidacy.

"They're trying to make sure that I can't participate at all in the political process, and so I'm going to keep all my options open," Kennedy said of the DNC. A day later, he told another crowd in New Hampshire that he "would have to make a call before Oct. 15" if he decided to run independently.

While Kennedy has long assumed the role of an outsider Democratic candidate up against Biden's better-established and better-funded incumbency, he has frequently brushed aside questions about any potential third-party bids.

During a NewsNation town hall in June, Kennedy called being a Democrat part of his identity.

"You know, people have said to me, 'Why don't you run it as an independent?'... and I say 'because I'm a Democrat,'" Kennedy said.

"This is who I am. This is my identity. But I want my party back. I want my party to be … the party that I grew up in. The party of John Kennedy, the party of Robert Kennedy, the party of FDR and Harry Truman," he said.

And again, when asked during a Fox News interview in August if he would consider a third-party bid in the 2024 election, Kennedy explicitly said he would not.

"No, I'm a Democrat. You know, I'm a traditional Democrat, and … part of my mission here is to summon the Democratic Party back to its traditional ideals," Kennedy said. "I'm not surprised that the people who are aligned with the DNC, people who are closely aligned with the White House, are troubled by my candidacy."

When asked by ABC News a day after his North Charleston town hall if he were willing to make a third-party run, Kennedy said he was going to "wait and see."

"I'm hoping to run in the Democratic Party. If it's possible to have a fair election in the Democratic Party, I will run in the Democratic Party, and I haven't made any kind of plans other than that," he said.

No Labels, a bipartisan group committed to launching a third-party 'unity ticket,' commented that they are not involved with RFK Jr.s' announcement; however, the group supports Kennedy's decision to potentially do the same.

"The failures of our two major parties have created an unprecedented groundswell of support for new voices and choices in our politics, which is why the No Labels movement is growing exponentially," No Labels national co-chair Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. said in a statement.

The Kennedy family members have long been standard-bearers in the Democratic Party -- a fact Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has sought to capitalize on in his bid to defeat President Joe Biden in the contest for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.

Earlier this week, the New York Times broke the news of a previously unreported meeting Kennedy had in July with the Libertarian Party Chair Angela McArdle, where the two "had a really good conversation," McCardle told ABC News on Friday.

"I have not had any conversations [with Kennedy] since then," McCardle said. "At the time, you know, he said he wasn't looking to switch parties. But you know…the Libertarian Party is the only third party. We are the third party," McCardle said, referring to the Libertarian Party's status as the third largest in the country by membership. "And there is no other party that's going to come close to getting 50-state ballot access at this point."

ABC News' Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.

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Special counsel raises more concerns over Trump's attacks on witnesses

David McNew/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office filed a reply Friday evening to former President Trump’s opposition to the prosecution's proposed gag order in Trump's federal election interference case.

Smith's office raises new concerns about Trump's recent public statements attacking prosecutors and other potential witnesses and also suggests he may have violated a law prohibiting people under felony indictment from purchasing firearms.

"Since [the] date [the government proposed the gag order], the defendant has continued to make statements that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case and that fall within the narrowly tailored order proposed by the Government," Smith's office writes.

The filing specifically flags to DC district judge Tanya Chutkan in a footnote that earlier this week when Trump was visiting a firearms dealer in South Carolina -- he was "caught potentially violating his conditions of release" by saying he was going to buy a Glock and posing with it.

They say despite a statement from Trump's spokesperson that later sought to clarify he did not actually purchase the firearm, Trump later re-posted a video from one of his followers with a caption stating he did buy the gun.

"The defendant either purchased a gun in violation of the law and his conditions of release, or seeks to benefit from his supporters’ mistaken belief that he did so," they write. "It would be a separate federal crime, and thus a violation of the defendant’s conditions of release, for him to purchase a gun while this felony indictment is pending."

Smith’s office raised issue with several posts by Trump on his Truth Social platform attacking a Special Counsel prosecutor and former VP Mike Pence, as well as comments he made in his interview on “Meet the Press.”

Smith's office also points to Trump's post attacking Mark Milley, saying Trump "falsely claimed [Milley]... had committed treason and suggested that he should be executed."

"The defendant’s baseless attacks on the Court and two individual prosecutors not only could subject them to threats—it also could cause potential jurors to develop views about the propriety of the prosecution, an improper consideration for a juror prior to trial," Smith's filing says.

"Likewise, the defendant’s continuing public statements about witnesses are substantially likely to materially prejudice a fair trial."

Smith’s office argued Trump's attorneys in their opposition filing, "makes light of some of his previous attacks on witnesses" and claims none were actually intimidated. "Even assuming that certain witnesses are not intimidated by the defendant’s statements, other witnesses see and may be affected by what the defendant does to those who are called to testify in this case," Smith's filing says.

"And regardless of whether certain witnesses are intimidated by the defendant’s extrajudicial statements, the defendant should not be permitted to attack or bolster the credibility of any witness in a manner that could influence prospective jurors."

The filing also seeks to dispute Trump's claim they are trying to "unconstitutionally silence" him, saying their proposed narrow gag order "would in no way hinder the defendant’s ability to campaign and publicly maintain his innocence."

"All it would limit is the defendant’s use of his candidacy as a cover for making prejudicial public statements about this case—and there is no legitimate need for the defendant, in the course of his campaign, to attack known witnesses regarding the substance of their anticipated testimony or otherwise engage in materially prejudicial commentary in violation of the proposed order," they argue.

They also accuse Trump of trying to play clean-up after his Truth Social post had stated, "IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I'M COMING AFTER YOU!"

"[Trump's] spokesperson’s after-the-fact explanation is implausible on its face," they write. "The truth is clear: the defendant was caught making a public threat and then had a spokesperson issue an excuse."

"The defendant should not be permitted to obtain the benefits of his incendiary public statements and then avoid accountability by having others - whose messages he knows will receive markedly less attention than his own—feign retraction," Smith’s office states.

In seeking to pick apart the arguments put forward by Trump's team, they argue Trump's filing is "premised on inapplicable caselaw and false claims."

"[Trump] demands special treatment, asserting that because he is a political candidate, he should have free rein to publicly intimidate witnesses and malign the Court, citizens of this District, and prosecutors," they say.

"But in this case, Donald J. Trump is a criminal defendant like any other."

Trump last month pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called "fake electors," using the Justice Department to conduct "sham election crime investigations," trying to enlist the vice president to "alter the election results," and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged -- all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

On Tuesday, Trump's attorneys said they vehemently oppose Smith's office's request, calling it an affront to Trump's First Amendment rights and accusing Smith's team of having political motivations due to Trump's strong standing in the 2024 presidential race.

"Following these efforts to poison President Trump's defense, the prosecution now asks the Court to take the extraordinary step of stripping President Trump of his First Amendment freedoms during the most important months of his campaign against President Biden," the filing said. "The Court should reject this transparent gamesmanship and deny the motion entirely."

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Vivek Ramaswamy’s TikTok presence draws young voters' attention -- and GOP rivals' attacks

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- It started with a short clip of him dancing with social media influencer Jake Paul and what Vivek Ramaswamy called a vision to better engage with younger voters.

It's continued with him documenting his travels on the campaign trail, showing time spent with his two young sons and responding to commenters.

However, the GOP presidential candidate's presence on the popular app TikTok has put a spotlight on his past business dealings and comments, drawing criticism from his rivals about his lack of political experience, as leaders on both sides of the aisle grapple with how or whether to use TikTok because of its links to the Chinese government.

On the GOP debate stage in Simi Valley, California, Wednesday night, Ramaswamy's TikTok presence was the target of aggressive attacks from his primary rivals, including Nikki Haley, who cut off Ramaswamy to shout, "We can't trust you with TikTok," as he tried to explain the importance of reaching the younger generation in order to win the general election.

"TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have," Haley cut in, "... Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say."

It was a full-on attack from Haley who had previously said Ramaswamy's "combination of honesty, intellect, and foresight are exactly what we need to overcome our challenges in the years ahead" in her review of his first book, "Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America's Social Justice Scam."

Continuing to talk over Ramaswamy as he attempted to defend himself, Haley took another shot: "When you were in business with the Chinese ... we can't trust you with TikTok"

Later in the debate, Haley again attacked Ramaswamy when he spoke out against providing military support for Ukraine, saying: "A win for Russia is a win for China. But I forgot you like China."

Haley was referring to Ramaswamy's company, Roivant Sciences, which has subsidiaries in China and has previously partnered with a private-equity arm of a state-owned investment company there. Sen. Tim Scott also took a swipe at Ramaswamy's business dealings in China on the debate stage Wednesday night, comparing it to the scrutiny President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden is under for his alleged business dealings in China.

However, it's not just Haley. Ramaswamy's TikTok debut comes as most GOP candidates have proposed banning the app or enacting similar safety features, citing national security risks at the hands of the Chinese-owned technology company ByteDance that controls the app.

Scott has pushed legislation that would require app stores to list an app's country of origin "so that parents can make better choices," he's said, while former Vice President Mike Pence has been a vocal proponent of banning TikTok altogether. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson last year banned TikTok on state-owned devices, saying he does not want China accessing state data. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, too, when asked if he would ban the app as president, said "I think so."

Concern about TikTok's digital footprint is also leading to bipartisan efforts in Congress and by the White House to limit its reach. President Joe Biden's administration, which has prohibited the app from being downloaded on federal employees' work devices, has also threatened a national ban if the Beijing-based corporation doesn't divest.

Ramaswamy has also shared his own criticisms of the app, maintaining that children 16 and under "should not be using addictive social media."

Still, Ramaswamy, who has swarmed early states with campaign events, joined TikTok earlier this month, gaining tens of thousands of followers, but also sparking parody accounts and trolls, and forcing him to defend his flip-flop on the widely popular social media app he's previously called "digital fentanyl."

The comments are part of his hard line proposing "decoupling" from China, a country he believes the U.S. relies on too heavily.

"Because you know what he's thinking, he's looking back at me and he's saying, 'Okay. You don't have it in you because you're addicted to me. You're addicted to the fentanyl that I'm pumping across your southern border. You're addicted to the digital fentanyl that I'm putting in your kid's hands in the form of modern social media,'" Ramaswamy said to voters in August, weeks before posting his first TikTok after a convincing conversation with influencer and boxer Jake Paul.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Government shutdown live updates: Millions in military would go without a paycheck

Mint Images/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- With Congress failing to agree on spending, the U.S. is barreling toward what could be one of the largest government shutdowns in history.

Lawmakers have until the end of the day Saturday to reach a deal to keep much of the government open.

If they don't, 3.5 million of federal workers are expected to go without a paycheck, millions of women and children could lose nutrition assistance, national parks would likely close and more.

Latest headlines:

  • Millions of military members will go without a paycheck
  • White House says they're pleading with House GOP to 'do the right thing'
  • How did we get here?

Here's how the news is developing. All times Eastern.

Sep 29, 5:07 PM EDT
Shutdown would 'hurt' service members, drive down recruitment

A partial government shutdown would hurt military recruitment -- as well as its members, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Friday.

Military recruitment, which is already suffering, would take a hit in a shutdown and send a "horrible message to young people" and deter them from enlisting, Kirby said.

"Young people … graduating high school here, you know, in the spring, they can be forgiven for thinking, 'Maybe that's not where I want to go. Why would I want to sign up and do that dangerous work, when I can't even guarantee that there's going to be a paycheck for it?'" Kirby said.

While Kirby said there is patriotism and a sense of duty in serving in the military, he said a shutdown hurt service members.

"You start missing a couple of paychecks when you're in active-duty service to the nation, and it starts to hurt. You can't buy groceries, or as many, anyway. Bills are tougher to pay, rent and mortgage payments are tough to cover."

If the government shuts down, an estimated 3.5 million federal workers would have to go without pay – about 2 million of which are in the military.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson

Sep 29, 4:47 PM EDT
Millions of military members will go without a paycheck

Unlike shutdowns past, where lawmakers passed appropriations bills to fund the Department of Defense personnel, the White House estimates that 2 million military members will have to without pay if the government shuts down over the weekend.

President Joe Biden, at a farewell ceremony for Gen. Mark Milley, said if the House fails to keep the government open it will have "failed all of our troops," going as far as calling it a "disgrace."

Austin Carrigg, a military spouse, spoke to ABC News Live about the impact a partial government shutdown will have on her family. Carrigg said she and her husband, Master Sgt. Joshua Carrigg will be in a life-or-death situation if they don't receive a paycheck because they might not be able to afford medication for their 11-year-old daughter, who has Down syndrome, a congenital heart defect, metabolic disorder and recently suffered a catastrophic stroke.

"It really feels like a smack in the face that they think so little of us that they're unwilling to pay our troops while they are going through this negotiation," Carrigg explained about her frustrations with lawmakers. "We understand that negotiations have to happen and that everybody takes a stand. But that stance shouldn't be on the backs of our military families and that's what they're doing this time."

Sep 29, 4:36 PM EDT
White House says they're pleading with House GOP to 'do the right thing'

OMB Director Shalanda Young told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang that to avert a shutdown, "we're doing everything we can to plead, beg, shame, House Republicans: do the right thing."

Asked to respond to the concerns of mothers who rely on WIC for their babies' nutrition, Young gave an impassioned response:

"The cavalierness is what gets me. I've heard people say in a Republican House conference, 'Oh, shutdown. It's not that bad. It's not like the debt ceiling.' Well, you go tell people who cannot pay their daycare bill ... You go tell men and women in uniform that they don't get a paycheck when they show up to work every day. You will tell that mother that she cannot … And you're right, it -- it sets an expectation for how people deal with their government throughout their lives."

Sep 29, 4:16 PM EDT
How did we get here?

Earlier this year, amid the threat of a first-ever default on the nation's debt, President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated a spending cap for the 2024 budget year beginning Oct. 1. But spending legislation remains mired in Congress with the hard-liners in the House insisting on curbing spending further and other proposals that couldn't pass the Senate.

A last-ditch effort by McCarthy to pass a short-term funding measure with border security measures to keep the government open until Oct. 31 failed on Friday. More than 20 Republicans voted against it.

The Democrat-led Senate is considering a separate stopgap bill to keep the government open until Nov. 17 as well as additional funding for Ukraine and FEMA, but McCarthy has already said it would be dead on arrival in the House.

Congress remained at a standstill Friday afternoon with the shutdown deadline roughly 32 hours away.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Exclusive: Biden campaign to air ad aimed at Black voters during college football game

Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's re-election campaign is kicking off a new TV advertisement in the heat of the college football season, with the ad set to air during the University of Colorado Buffaloes and University of Southern California Trojans game Saturday.

First shared with ABC News, the TV spot zeroes in on the Biden White House's investments into racial and economic equity for Black Americans.

"Getting ahead means getting the same chance to succeed as everyone else. It's why on his first day, President Biden signed an executive order to address racial inequity, working to narrow the racial wealth gap by creating millions of new, good paying jobs and more funding for black businesses," a narrator says.

The narrator continues: "But it's also lowering the cost of living, including health premiums, prescription drugs, and the cost of insulin. Getting ahead with the president, Joe Biden, who is putting in the work for black America."

The 30-second ad, titled "Get Ahead," is part of the campaign's big ticket $25 million investment, which includes the largest and earliest re-election ad-buy any campaign has placed in Hispanic and African American media outlets. A source familiar with planning tells ABC News the Biden campaign intends to pepper those advertisements throughout news, entertainment and sports adjacent programming, including the NFL, NBA and NCAA programming in select markets.

The campaign targeting high-viewership sporting events was first put into practice during the NFL season opener earlier this month. These various ad placements are part of their broader plan to aggressively invest in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

The ad will air in the Atlanta market, one of the largest African American media markets in the country, in efforts to reach Black fans who are tuning into Colorado games at high margins. That spiked viewership comes thanks, in part, to the popularity of University of Colorado's newest football coach Deion Sanders.

The University of Colorado's first three games of the season rated 77% higher among Black viewers, making up 23% of the audience for those games, compared to 15% for non-Colorado games, per ESPN research -- a figure that doesn't go unnoticed by Biden's re-election campaign. The number of African American viewers tuning in from the Atlanta area is helping to drive viewership numbers two-to-three times larger than a typical high profile college football game when Colorado is playing, according to data from the Biden campaign.

"The Coach Prime phenomenon reaches well beyond Boulder, CO and well beyond the traditional college football fanbase. It just so happens that many among the millions of fans tuning in every Saturday to watch Colorado football represent the core coalition of voters who were so integral to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris's victory in 2020," Biden for President communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement to ABC News.

"So as millions more tune in Saturday afternoon, we're making sure that we're tapping into moments like these and presenting audiences with President Biden's historic record of accomplishment for Black families," he added.

After the Buffaloes' first win of the season last September, Sanders spoke candidly about the racism he -- and his team -- are up against.

"We're doing things that have never been done, and that makes people uncomfortable," Sanders said. "When you see a confident Black man sitting up here talking his talk, walking his walk, coaching 75% African Americans in the locker room, that's kind of threatening. 'Oh, they don't like that.' But guess what? We're going to consistently do what we do. Because I'm here and 'ain't going nowhere."

Only 14 black coaches currently head NCAA Division I football teams.

Black voters were critical in Biden's victory over former President Donald Trump in 2020, supporting him in overwhelming margins, 87%-12% per ABC News exit polls. Maintaining that coalition will be critical to his re-election efforts, too. A New York Times/Siena Poll conducted in July, still shows that 60% of Black Americans currently approve of Biden's job performance.

ABC News' Fritz Farrow contributed to this report.

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