Political News

DNC to virtually nominate Biden and Harris to bypass Ohio ballot issues

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Democratic National Committee will move to conduct virtual proceedings to certify President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party nominees before Ohio's Aug. 7 ballot certification deadline, and before their in-person convention beginning Aug. 19, the party confirmed to ABC News on Tuesday.

This could take a significant moment away from Biden and the Democratic party as the official nomination at convention is historically met with fanfare and celebration, but Biden will become the official nominee virtually, perhaps without the typical pomp and circumstance. The campaign said that while there will be a virtual roll call and nomination of Biden and Harris, the DNC will still hold in-person ceremonial events for each process at their convention during the week of Aug. 19 in Chicago.

The move came moments before the Ohio Senate convened on Tuesday for a special session to address Biden's ability to appear on the state's general election ballot in November -- which the GOP-led legislature has tied up with an effort related to campaign finance, something Democrats oppose. The bill passed in the Ohio Senate on Tuesday without any Democratic support.

DNC Chair Jamie Harrison said that Democrats will themselves address the conflict and "land this plane on our own."

"Joe Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio and all 50 states, and Ohio Republicans agree. But when the time has come for action, they have failed to act every time, so Democrats will land this plane on our own," he said in a statement provided to ABC News.

"Through a virtual roll call, we will ensure that Republicans can't chip away at our democracy through incompetence or partisan tricks and that Ohioans can exercise their right to vote for the presidential candidate of their choice," Harrison added.

Ohio's Republican Gov. Mike DeWine still urges a legislative remedy to the ballot access concerns.

"While I understand the Democratic National Committee has just today proposed a work-around to help get President Biden on the Ohio ballot, it is prudent legislation be passed to get this done. As I previously said, we do not want to leave something so basic as having the sitting President of the United States on the ballot to others when this can-and should-be done legislatively. It's the right thing to do," DeWine said in a statement.

"For these reasons, it is important that a bill or multiple bills that accomplish these common-sense measures come to my desk right away this week. It's the right thing to do," DeWine added.

Ohio Democratic Chair Liz Walters said that the party would not "trade Ohioans' ability to hold their government accountable for presidential ballot access."

"Once again, Republican politicians at the statehouse are playing politics with our democracy," she said in a statement. "Just like when they attempted to take away our rights and freedoms last year, Ohio Republicans have shown their blatant disregard for the rights of voters, and we won't let them get away with another effort to hold our democracy hostage."

Neither the party nor the Biden campaign have confirmed a date when this virtual nomination could happen, but it will definitely be before the Aug. 7 Ohio ballot certification deadline.

To conduct the virtual roll call, the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee will need to vote on Tuesday, June 4, on a resolution to propose changes to the call to allow for virtual party proceedings. Then, in the coming weeks, the resolution will be voted on by the full DNC membership. Once the resolution is adopted, the remainder of the pre-nomination process will follow the standard order of operations.

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Ohio Senate passes GOP-led Biden ballot access bill without Democrats' support

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(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- As Ohio lawmakers convened on Tuesday for a special session to address President Joe Biden's ability to appear on their general election ballot in November, the Democratic National Committee said it would move to conduct virtual party proceedings to certify Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party nominees -- a move that works around Ohio's ballot certification deadline.

Ohio's Senate Republicans ultimately passed a bill that would both allow Biden to appear on their general election ballot in November, but also bar foreign contributions to ballot issue campaigns. The latter was a direct response to GOP objections to the "Issue 1" campaign last year that constitutionally protected abortion in the state. The move came without Democratic support, however, with members seemingly empowered to vote against the legislation following the DNC announcement.

"We don't need your fix. The DNC just released a statement several minutes ago that says we're going to hold a virtual vote of our delegates across the country and nominate President Biden to the ballot," State Sen. Bill DeMora said on Tuesday. "We don't want a legislative fix that holds the voters and their rights to the whim of the majority."

Biden's ballot access had been uncertain in Ohio because of a conflict over the president's official party nomination and state election certification deadlines. The DNC's move to hold virtual nominations bypasses the ballot access concerns in the state.

Ohio law mandates that political parties confirm their presidential candidates 90 days before the general election -- on Aug. 7. While Biden wouldn't have been the official nominee until the DNC convenes on Aug. 19, after the deadline -- however the virtual nomination helps ensure that Biden is nominated before the Aug. 7 deadline.

The legislation Ohio Senators passed Tuesday extended the deadline to 74 days, which is Aug. 23, following the DNC. The House still needs to take up the bill.

The Ohio Senate on Tuesday considered just one bill that combined both the ballot issue fix for Biden and also the banning of foreign contributions to issue campaigns. Democrats had objected to Ohio Republicans' efforts to vote push the two issues through during the special session, arguing that the GOP has made a legislative fix to address ballot certification -- a measure that has been granted to both parties in previous election cycles -- a political one.

"This special session and the combination of these two bills is a political trade made to try and extract some price to be paid for President Biden being on the ballot," said House Democratic Whip Dani Isaacsohn during a House Government Oversight Committee meeting on Tuesday morning.

Republicans have denied the assertion that they were being "partisan" in trying to combine the issues.

"Which side is really being partisan? Because if we all agree that foreign election interference and foreign contributions into our elections are a problem, then why would somebody vote no on this bill?" said Republican Sen. Rob McColley.

Ohio is the only state where Biden would not qualify to be on the ballot this November. Alabama had also encountered conflicts between their ballot certification and Biden's official nomination, but their legislature unanimously passed a fix in May that was then signed by Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican.

"The fact that we couldn't -- like Alabama and any other state that had to deal with the issue this time -- just pass a clean bill and put Biden on the ballot and deal with all the other issues ... separately. But to put them together has been the thing of heartburn for all of us," said Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, a Democrat, Tuesday on the floor.

The special session to fix the issue legislatively was urged by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, last week.

DeWine also endorsed the GOP-led initiative to bar foreign money from issue campaigns, however.

The Biden campaign has maintained that the president will "be on the ballot in all 50 states."

"Election after election, states across the country have acted in line with the bipartisan consensus and taken the necessary steps to ensure the presidential nominees from both parties will be on the ballot. And this election is no different -- Alabama, with full Republican support, and Washington State are already taking action to ensure that voters can exercise their right to vote for the candidate of their choice in November," Charles Lutvak, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to ABC News.

ABC News' Mike Pappano contributed to this report.

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Has the prosecution made its case in the Trump hush money trial? Legal observers weigh in

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(NEW YORK) -- With prosecutors and defense gearing up for the end of trial in former President Donald Trump's Manhattan hush money case, legal observers said, in their opinion, prosecutors appear to have made a strong case, but a lot is riding on closing arguments and jury instructions.

Both sides have rested their cases with the defense only calling two witnesses to the stand including Robert Costello -- an attorney and longtime Trump ally -- who sought to discredit one of the prosecution's key witnesses -- former Trump fixer Michael Cohen.

Both sides are delivering their closing arguments to the jury on Tuesday, and Judge Juan Merchan will instruct the jury on the law ahead of deliberations expected to begin on Wednesday.

Legal observers told ABC News they felt the prosecution did a good job of laying out a motive for why the charge of falsifying business records was allegedly committed as well as the underlying campaign finance or election interference crimes, which potentially bumps up the charges to felonies.

The prosecution laid out the investigation and connected Trump to Cohen's actions, but it is possible a jury may not be convinced, according to Brian Buckmire, trial counsel at Hamilton Clarke and ABC News legal contributor.

Two "reasonable people" could look at the facts and evidence presented and have two opposite opinions. One person could see that Trump falsified business records and allegedly committed some of the crimes he has been charged with and that "it is reasonable that he intended to defraud the American people and the government by falsifying these documents," Buckmire said.

While another could see that "this case is built upon an individual that I don't believe that being Michael Cohen. And so I can't believe each and every element of this crime, because of the person that's giving me the information," he said.

"So, did they prove their case?" Buckmire said. "But it just specifically depends on the 12 that they selected."

"It really comes down to the closing arguments, whoever gives them, on either side, really has to button up this case in a way that says, 'my side is correct.' And the prosecutor having the last word of closing arguments -- that to me is a big advantage," Buckmire said.

A third expert said that he thought an acquittal is “out of reach” for Trump.

“This was a winnable case. It still is not a slam dunk, in my view, having been there every day for the prosecution,” CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen said in an interview with Jim Acosta on Monday. “I think the odds of conviction are somewhere upwards of 80%.”

“In part because of this scattershot approach, the defense is not really gunning for an acquittal. That’s out of reach here,” he opined. “What they are hoping for is one angry juror.”

Another legal observer who said the prosecution has made a strong case, said it is possible the judge may declare a mistrial if it takes the jury too long to deliberate.

"I'm curious to see how long the jury's out. That's always an interesting thing to see. Particularly, if they're having trouble reaching a decision, when does the judge then decide that there's been enough time for the jury to have been out that they declare a mistrial and a hung jury?" said Chris Timmons, a former prosecutor and ABC News legal contributor.

"I'd be concerned about the hung jury in this case," Timmons previously told ABC News.

"One of the jurors who made it onto the jury said that he got his news from two different sources, one of which being Trump's Truth Social. So I think he's going to be more likely to want to believe anything that the president says,” Timmons said, referring to what the juror had consumed prior to the trial beginning.

Jurors have been instructed to not read about or listen to discussions of the case in the media.

Did the prosecution prove their case?

Another expert told ABC News the prosecution has done a good job of arguing the facts in this case.

"Even though Trump keeps arguing that the facts, that people are lying and so forth, I don't buy any of that and I don't think the jury is going to buy any of that," Gregory Germain, an attorney and Syracuse professor of law, told ABC News.

"The judge needs to do a good job on those jury instructions, or there's a likelihood, I think, that the case will get reversed on appeal if they get a conviction," Germain said.

Buckmire said Merchan said he will stick closely to the model instructions set out by state criminal jury instructions, unless there is something the protection or defense want him to deviate from.

Other legal observers are unsure whether the prosecution has made its case to the jury.

"The pieces are all there. But is it there beyond a reasonable doubt?" former Brooklyn prosecutor Julie Rendelman told the BBC. "I don't know."

"It only takes one juror," she added.

Cohen’s testimony could also pose issues for the jury.

"You are relying on a witness who in many respects … comes with a larger load of baggage than others," Rendelman said. "It makes it a bit more difficult to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt."

For a conviction, the prosecution needs to prove to the jury that Trump knew he allegedly falsified the records and that it was being done for political reasons -- to keep the public from knowing that he made a hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels – Timmons said.

"It's a little bit of a technical charge and so the jury may struggle with that," Timmons said.

Did the defense hurt their case by putting Costello on the stand?

The defense has made two contradicting theories of defense in their case -- which could be a problem for them, Buckmire said.

"In the defense's own case, they argued that this is just democracy, this is just the way that things are done, that Donald Trump may have known about the ins and outs of this deal, but it's not a crime," Buckmire said.

Buckmire added that Bob Costello’s testimony could have harmed the defense case.

"But, Bob Costello came on and said that Michael Cohen told him that Donald Trump knew nothing about this, didn't know the ins and outs of this. And so for the defense, what are they going to argue in summation? Because both things can't be true," Buckmire said. "That can backfire on them."

Cohen testified that he lied to Costello.

Costello’s testimony was a “disaster” for the defense, a legal observer told Courthouse News.

“If anything, I think it made the people’s case on this whole pressure campaign issue even stronger than it was,” retired New York judge George Grasso told Courthouse News.

Grasso said it is likely that Costello’s behavior on the stand, which Merchan to excuse the jury and press from the court room, was like that of a “mob lawyer” and likely didn’t help the defense.

“I think the jury saw enough of this. I think the jury probably, legitimately, has a lot of respect for the judge,” Grasso said, adding that Costello’s behavior “probably turns off the jury.”

Buckmire said he thinks the trial is likely to result in a hung jury or the jury could find Trump guilty.

"I don't think the defense gave anyone who believes their side enough ammunition to convince the other side," Buckmire said.

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Trump endorses GOP Rep. Bob Good's primary challenger -- a blow to the House Freedom Caucus chair

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(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Bob Good is learning that lack of complete loyalty has consequences in Donald Trump's political world.

The former president on Tuesday endorsed the Virginia Republican's primary challenger, state legislator John McGuire, creating an uphill battle for the House Freedom Caucus chair who hopes to keep his seat.

"Bob Good is BAD FOR VIRGINIA, AND BAD FOR THE USA. He turned his back on our incredible movement, and was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently, when he gave a warm and 'loving' Endorsement - But really, it was too late," Trump posted on his social media platform.

During the 2024 GOP presidential primaries, Good endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, saying then that he wanted to back a candidate who had the ability to serve eight full years in the White House.

When DeSantis dropped out in Jan. 21, Good, on the same day, immediately endorsed Trump for president, calling him "the greatest president of my lifetime" as he worked to get back in the good graces of the former president who is known for holding grudges.

Before Trump made his official endorsement on Tuesday, Good was touting Trump's endorsement of him in 2022 on his campaign website. The website was then updated to reflect the caveat that Trump hadn't endorsed Good in his 2024 race.

Then, in order to further show his support for Trump, Good traveled to Manhattan less than two weeks ago to attend Trump's New York hush money trial. He was joined by a group of GOP lawmakers including Reps. Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Michael Cloud, Eli Crane, Matt Gaetz, Diana Harshbarger, Anna Paulina Luna, Ralph Norman and Andy Ogles.

McGuire, Good's challenger, also attended court that same day.

"We are President Trump's voice. We have his back. He will ultimately be proven innocent," Good told reporters outside the courthouse on May 16.

However, Trump said "the damage had been done."

McGuire thanked the former president for his endorsement on X, writing "We can do better than Good." McGuire has sought to frame himself as an "America First" candidate, closely aligning himself with Trump as he slammed Good's loyalty to him.

In his endorsement message, Trump went on to praise McGuire's service as a Navy Seal, adding that he is "strong on crime, will protect our great Military/Vets, and will always defend our under siege Second Amendment."

However, Trump isn't the only high-profile Republican to back McGuire. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy also threw his support behind McGuire, using his large political infrastructure to target Good, who was one of the eight Republican lawmakers who voted alongside Democrats to oust McCarthy from his speakership role last year.

Good and McGuire will face off in Virginia's 5th Congressional District GOP primary on June 18. The seat is solidly Republican and whichever candidate is successful in June is believed to have an easy path to victory during the general election cycle.

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Robert De Niro, former police officers slam Trump outside New York hush money trial

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(NEW YORK) -- The Biden campaign on Tuesday dispatched actor Robert De Niro and two former police officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 -- Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone -- to convey the threat they argued former President Donald Trump poses to the country.

Speaking to reporters near the Manhattan courthouse where Trump's criminal hush money trial is taking place, De Niro said Trump "wants to sow total chaos."

De Niro, a New Yorker, called Trump a "clown" whose presidency could be dangerous for Americans. He said New Yorkers once tolerated Trump, but now recognize his threat.

"I love this city. I don't want to destroy it. Donald Trump wants to destroy not only the city, but the country, and eventually he can destroy the world," De Niro said.

De Niro added that if "Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted."

De Niro recently voiced an anti-Trump ad for the Biden campaign. He said he agreed to participate in the ad "because it shows the violence of Trump and reminds us that he'll use violence against anyone who stands in the way of his megalomania and greed."

Dunn and Fanone both defended the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and have been some of the most outspoken members of law enforcement to condemn the Jan. 6 attacks. They were both witnesses during the congressional investigation of the Jan. 6 attacks.

Dunn -- who failed in his bid for Congress earlier this month, losing the Democratic primary to represent Maryland's 3rd Congressional District -- called Trump the "greatest threat to our democracy."

"Donald Trump is the greatest threat to our democracy and the safety of communities across the country today," Dunn said. "We've been called traitors, just today. We were all called traitors on Jan. 6 for doing our job," Dunn said.

Fanone, who was a D.C. police officer, was assaulted by rioters on Jan. 6 and suffered a heart attack from the assault.

"I came here today to remind Americans of what Donald Trump is capable of and the violence that he unleashed on all of Americans on Jan. 6, 2021," Fanone said.

At a press conference following the Biden campaign's, Trump adviser Jason Miller shot back, saying the best the Biden campaign could do in attacking Trump was to "roll out a washed-up actor."

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Trump says he 'would have absolutely gotten' Libertarian Party nomination if he could have run, slams RFK Jr.

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the Libertarian Party National Convention at the Washington Hilton on May 25, 2024 in Washington, DC. Trump addressed the convention one day after Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the independent candidate for president. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump claimed he would have "absolutely" gotten the Libertarian Party convention nomination for president, if not for already being the presumptive GOP nominee.

In a statement on Sunday, following an appearance at the party's convention on Saturday, Trump noted the "enthusiasm" of the crowd, where he received a mixed response that included audible booing.

"The reason I didn't file paperwork for the Libertarian Nomination, which I would have absolutely gotten if I wanted it (as everyone could tell by the enthusiasm of the Crowd last night!), was the fact that, as the Republican Nominee, I am not allowed to have the Nomination of another Party," Trump wrote on his social media platform on Sunday,

"Regardless, I believe I will get a Majority of the Libertarian Votes," Trump continued.

In his message on Sunday, Trump also slammed Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who received a nomination to be a candidate at the Libertarian Party convention, though ultimately was not chosen as its candidate.

"Junior' Kennedy is a Radical Left Democrat, who's destroyed everything he's touched, especially in New York and New England, and in particular, as it relates to the Cost and Practicality of Energy,” Trump wrote on TruthSocial. "He’s not a Libertarian. Only a FOOL would vote for him!"

Kennedy fired back at Trump in a post on X Sunday night, accusing the former president of exacerbating economic inequities and packing his administration with staffers who supported a more muscular U.S. presence abroad, in contradiction of Trump's "America First" slogan.

"If you think a second Trump term would be any different, you are engaging in wishful thinking," Kennedy said.

Kennedy, who received an 11th-hour nomination to be a presidential candidate, but didn't manage enough votes to continue, reacted on social media on Sunday, calling the party's move "an unexpected honor."

"What an unexpected honor to wake up this morning to a groundswell in the Libertarian Party seeking to nominate me. I would have accepted the nomination if offered because independents and third parties need to unite right now to reclaim our country from the corrupt two-party system," Kennedy wrote on X, saying that his speech at the convention was a "high point" of his campaign.

“While we may not agree on every downstream issue, our core values of peace, free speech, and civil liberties make us natural allies… Let’s take our country back," he concluded.

In a post on X, he wrote that he "would have accepted the nomination if offered because independents and third parties need to unite right now."

Kennedy has not responded to Trump's latest attack on social media.

Both candidates had agreed to speak at the convention upon invitation from the party’s chair. Kennedy spoke on Friday, which garnered a lukewarm response from members – most of whom signaled to ABC News in interviews over the weekend that they didn’t consider Kennedy a “real Libertarian.”

Trump’s speech on Saturday was much more chaotic, with constant booing and some physical altercations with law enforcement occurring amid his short remarks focused on courting the voting block.

Kennedy's running mate, Nicole Shanahan, was slated to address the convention Sunday afternoon but left without speaking after Kennedy was eliminated.

On Saturday, however, she spoke with reporters about some party members' opposition to Kennedy being at the convention, saying, "I think there’s a great deal of possibility of success in us working together."

Shanahan said Trump's speech Saturday night showed a "division in this country," claiming that Kennedy is here to "heal that divide."

Shanahan and her partner Jacob Strumwasser were in the room at Trump's Saturday night speech.

"It was an interesting moment to be in that room," Shanahan said. "Very clearly, there’s clearly quite a bit of division in this country and that's what Bobby Kennedy is here for in this moment – to heal that divide. And I think he's the right guy for it, and I'm all in."

Chase Oliver, a millennial political activist who has been embraced by a more left-leaning wing of the Libertarian party, picked up the party's presidential nomination after seven rounds of voting at their convention on Sunday.

In round six, he earned 49.53% (423 votes), followed by candidate Michael Rectenwald with 44.73% (382 votes).

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Trump met with boos asking Libertarians for nomination, votes at chaotic convention

Supporters of former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer as he addresses the Libertarian National Convention in Washington, DC, May 25, 2024. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Donald Trump made a heavy-handed appeal to Libertarian members at their party's frenzied nominating convention on Saturday in Washington, D.C., telling the hostile voting bloc that he would support a number of their key issues and put a Libertarian in his cabinet and more in senior posts.

"I think you should nominate me or at least vote for me, and we should win together," Trump said to the booing crowd.

But he didn't stop making direct, sometimes forceful appeals: "I'm asking for the Libertarian party's endorsement or at least, lots of your votes, lots and lots of libertarian votes."

The speech was around 30 minutes of chaos – nonstop warring booing, cheering and jeering from the crowd and Libertarian members getting tackled to the ground and physically kicked out by law enforcement.

Trump carried out his speech without much interruption but was visibly on edge – standing just rows away from the Libertarian members who openly opposed him, closer than the usual distance he maintains from the crowd at his usual campaign rallies.

The crowd was a mix of non-Libertarian Party members supporting Trump and Libertarian Party members, several of whom had told ABC News ahead of Trump's speech that they were there to express their dissatisfaction with Trump.

Acknowledging that he was speaking to an unfriendly crowd, Trump kicked off his speech by answering the question of why he was there – quipping that he is "sure as hell" a Libertarian now that he's been indicted by the government multiple times.

"In the last year, I've been indicted by the government for 91 different things, so if I wasn't a libertarian before, I sure as hell am a libertarian now," Trump said, joking about various court battles he faces, in all of which he denies wrongdoing.

At one point, Trump seemed to mock the Libertarians who were booing him as he was attempting to pitch himself as their nominee.

"The Libertarian Party should nominate Trump for President of the United States," Trump said, quoting an editorial published by a Libertarian writer in recent days. The remark was followed by loud booing from the crowd.

"Only if you want to win – only if you want to win, maybe you don't want to win," Trump said. "Maybe you don't want to win. Keep getting your 3% every four years."

"Now you want to make yourself winners. It's time to be winners. You have a lot of common sense," Trump said, telling Libertarian voters to not "waste" their votes.

Trump also distinguished himself from President Joe Biden, who was invited to attend the Libertarian convention, but was not speaking at the event: "Why isn't Joe Biden here speaking to you tonight? You know why? Why isn't he– because he can't put two sentences together."

Courting Libertarian voters, Trump expanded on a number of things he's done or would do on key Libertarian issues: Anti-war policies, cryptocurrency, First and Second Amendment rights and the demolition of federal agencies, among other things.

Trump announced during his remarks that he will commute the prison sentence of Ross Ulbricht, who is serving a life sentence for his role in creating the Silk Road, an anonymous e-commerce website that was known for its sale of illegal substances, especially marijuana.

The freedom of political prisoners -- especially Ulbricht -- is the number one issue for Libertarians, according to a straw poll conducted earlier on Saturday. "Free Ross" signs were plastered all over the convention spaces and pins were displayed on nearly every attendee.

"And if you vote for me on day one, I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht, he's already served 11 years ... We're gonna get him home," Trump said to the crowd.

Notably, some of his campaign stump speech that is usually received with loud cheering was followed by loud booing from the crowd – including his promise to end the border crisis and his anti-transgender rhetoric.

After Trump's remarks, senior campaign official Jason Miller downplayed the hostile atmosphere from Libertarian party members throughout his speech, saying policies Trump laid out were "all home runs" and that he had "some big applause lines."

"We're at another party's convention … Can you imagine Joe Biden at the Green Party Convention?" Miller asked, claiming that tonight was a sign that the former president would unite the country.

But many of the Libertarian Party members in the ballroom that ABC News spoke with said otherwise.

"I despise him. He's an authoritarian. He does not support libertarian ideals," Bietro Geraci, a delegate from New York said.

"There are always members who will make a poor decision and vote for Trump in my opinion, but he certainly will not gain by vote without question," said Kentucky delegate Don Stacy.

Following his remarks, three leading Libertarian candidates -- Michael Rectenwald, Josh Smith and Chase Oliver -- got on stage to decry Trump's appearance, remarking that the former president did not reflect the views of their party.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's medical procedure is over, resumed functions and duties

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(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has returned home following his "non-surgical medical procedure" on Friday, and his since resumed his duties, said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon's top spokesman.

Austin underwent the two-and-a-half hour procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, during which his authorities were temporarily transferred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

"He is now back home and will continue with his official schedule which includes events on Monday for Memorial Day," Ryder said, who announced the procedure in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

"The procedure is related to a bladder issue Austin suffered as a result of a surgery he underwent to treat prostate cancer earlier this year," said Ryder said at the time.

"The Secretary has determined he will be temporarily unable to perform his functions and duties during the procedure, so Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense and serve as the Acting Secretary of Defense," Ryder had added.

Ryder noted that the bladder issue is not related to Austin's prostate cancer diagnosis and "has had no effect on his excellent cancer prognosis."

Ryder added that the "White House and congressional notifications have occurred."

Friday's announcement continues the transparency about Austin's health and potential treatments that he committed to undertake in the wake of the controversy surrounding his secret hospitalization on New Year's Day.

Austin had been hospitalized from complications arising from a surgical procedure he had undergone in late December to treat his prostate cancer.

Neither President Joe Biden nor his top advisors were made aware that Austin had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, that he underwent a surgical procedure to treat it, and that he had been hospitalized in early January as he suffered complications from that procedure.

While Austin remained hospitalized for days in early January, his duties had temporarily been transferred to Hicks though she was not made aware of the reason why until days later. It was after she learned that he had been hospitalized that the White House was first informed that Austin had been hospitalized for days.

The furor surrounding the lack of proper notifications led to an internal Pentagon review that resulted in changes in who should be notified of the secretary's health status, when a transfer of authorities had occurred and why the temporary transfer was taking place.

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Special counsel Smith seeks order from judge barring Trump from making statements that pose risk to law enforcement

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(WASHINGTON) -- Special Counsel Jack Smith on Friday took the extraordinary step of seeking an order from the federal judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's classified documents case to bar Trump from making statements that could pose a significant risk to law enforcement.

The request follows Trump's efforts to seize on an item of recently released discovery in the case that he falsely claims shows President Biden planned to assassinate him during the search of his Mar-a-Lago club in August 2022.

"The Government moves to modify defendant Donald J. Trump’s conditions of release, to make clear that he may not make statements that pose a significant, imminent, and foreseeable danger to law enforcement agents participating in the investigation and prosecution of this case," the filings from Smith said.

"The government’s request is necessary because of several intentionally false and inflammatory statements recently made by Trump that distort the circumstances under which the Federal Bureau of Investigation planned and executed the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. Those statements create a grossly misleading impression about the intentions and conduct of federal law enforcement agents—falsely suggesting that they were complicit in a plot to assassinate him—and expose those agents, some of whom will be witnesses at trial, to the risk of threats, violence, and harassment."

In a fundraising email responding to right-wing media reports that offered a distorted reading of a newly unsealed court filing in Trump's classified documents case, Trump falsely claimed Biden was "locked & loaded ready to take me out."

In a separate post on his Truth Social platform Tuesday evening, Trump further said he was "shown Reports" that Biden's DOJ "AUTHORIZED THE FBI TO USE DEADLY (LETHAL) FORCE" in their search of the property for classified documents.

"Trump... has grossly distorted... standard practices by mischaracterizing them as a plan to kill him, his family, and U.S. Secret Service agents," the filing says. "Those deceptive and inflammatory assertions irresponsibly put a target on the backs of the FBI agents involved in this case, as Trump well knows."

The special counsel walks through in comprehensive detail the steps they took to mitigate any risk of escalation in the search of Mar-a-Lago in Aug. 2022 – ensuring he and his family were out of state and even contacting his lawyer before they began the search of the property.

The filing says, "As Trump is well aware, the FBI took extraordinary care to execute the search warrant unobtrusively and without needless confrontation: they scheduled the search of Mar-a-Lago for a time when he and his family would be away; they planned to coordinate with Trump's attorney, Secret Service agents, and Mar-a-Lago staff before and during the execution of the warrant; and they planned for contingencies—which, in fact, never came to pass—about with whom to communicate if Trump were to arrive on the scene."

In bolstering the request, the filing points to the attack on an FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, which they say was in the wake of statements Trump made "inflaming his supporters" following the August search.

They also point out that Trump's lawyers misleadingly characterized the FBI's "Use of Deadly Force" policy in their motion that has caused the current controversy, noting Trump's attorneys – without explanation – omitted the word "only" before the words "when necessary" without any ellipses reflecting the omission.

For example, this is how Trump's attorneys wrote about the policy in their filing: "Law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force when necessary" but how it actually reads on the policy statement is: "Law enforcement officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force only when necessary."

Trump pleaded not guilty last June to 37 criminal counts related to his handling of classified materials after leaving the White House, after prosecutors said he repeatedly refused to return hundreds of documents containing classified information ranging from U.S. nuclear secrets to the nation's defense capabilities, and took steps to thwart the government's efforts to get the documents back.

It's unclear when or how U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will respond to the request. She has set a series of hearings at the end of June to hear various efforts by Trump and his co-defendants to dismiss the case.


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Kenyan President William Ruto discusses US visit, supporting Haiti

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(NEW YORK) -- Kenyan President William Ruto is the first African leader to make an official state visit to the United States in over 15 years.

On Thursday, the White House held a state dinner, honoring Kenyan President Ruto with stunning Washington, D.C. views, a high-class menu, and a dose of celebrity star power.

President Ruto's visit to the U.S. was not just a diplomatic event, but also an aggressive engagement aimed at changing the narrative about Africa. For too long, the continent has been unfairly portrayed as a place of trouble, war, poverty and disease.

President Joe Biden has announced his intention to designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally, making it the first in sub-Saharan Africa.

ABC News interviewed Ruto about being the first African leader in over 15 years to receive a state visit.

ABC NEWS LIVE: President Ruto, thank you so much for being here. So what does it mean to be the first African leader in more than 15 years to receive a state visit?

KUTO: What it means the situation is changing. We have embarked on an aggressive narrative-changing engagement because Africa for a long time has been viewed profiled as a continent of trouble, war, poverty, disease and all the negative things. But what we are saying this time around ... and I started this campaign last year during the Africa climate summit that yes, we could be having our own share of troubles and problems. But Africa to me is a continent of great potential, with tremendous potential and opportunity. So this is what we are working on. And I'm very proud that President Biden invited me for this, to undertake this state visit. It's not just about Kenya, it's about our continent as well. And many people who want to build relationships that are meaningful, that give us a chance for a win-win outcome.

ABC NEWS LIVE: In 2022 President Biden had promised to visit the African continent sometime within a year. That obviously did not happen, did the president tell you why he never made the trip?

KUTO: Well, it's certainly my place to ask him, but two things have happened. We have the African Leadership Summit here. Where we engage with President Biden. And I think there was substantial, you know, agreements on what the future would look like, especially on matters of security on matters of economy, and on shared issues that are of importance to America and to Africa. And then secondly, there is this visit that I have undertaken, and if you look at the issues that we have arrived at as an outcome of the conversation between me and President Biden, they are issues that are Pan-African. Let me give you examples: number one, America has agreed to work with us on redesigning the international financial architecture. America has agreed that the current architecture is not fair. And therefore we need to think about how to re-engineer it. That's number one. Number two, they have also committed substantial resources, including doubling their resources to either the World Bank's conditional windows. That means 26 African countries, will now have a chance to access concessional resources to manage two important things to mind to manage climate action. Because we are suffering the effects of climate change, and number two to manage their debt. And then number three, we have also agreed on expanding opportunities for training. Opportunities for value addition, agro-processing, in fact, the Africa green industrialization initiative that we launched last year at COP 28. We have agreed today that is going to be a joint program. In fact, there was a Nairobi Washington statement that speaks to Pan-African issues, including what we can do together in the areas of security, what we can do together in the areas of finance and the economy and the economy, and creating jobs and creating opportunities. I think we have managed to achieve so much, even before President Biden comes to our continent

ABC NEWS LIVE: And on the matter of security, Kenya is getting ready to send about 1000 police officers to Haiti. Why is Kenya leading this mission?

KUTO: Because we are a responsible global citizen. We have the requisite experience we have participated in 47 countries, making peace-keeping peace for the last 14 years. And because we believe the responsibility in Haiti is a shared responsibility. Every country that believes in freedom, democracy, self-determination, would want peace everywhere in the world and that is why Kenya's stepping forward to provide the leadership in Haiti. And we are working with many partners, many other police-contributing countries and many others who are contributing in different ways, like Canada, like the U.S., like others who want to participate in this space because the women and children in Haiti deserve peace the same way that women and children in Kenya do.

ABC NEWS LIVE: A group of missionaries, including Americans were killed in Haiti last night by gangs. Can the Kenyan forces stop that kind of violence?

KUTO: Yes, we believe we have what it takes. We have the necessary experience. And we have built as I talk to you. I have a team from Kenya in Haiti for the last one week, doing an assessment of the capabilities that are available the collaborations that are necessary. They have made contact they have engaged with a transitional presidential council. They have talked to the ministry responsible for security, they have spoken. They have had a conversation with the inspector general of the police and the whole police leadership. And I think we have the best chance to deal with it and to secure Haiti once and for all.

ABC NEWS LIVE: This is an ambitious mission that no African country has ever led a mission outside of the continent. So what gives you that confidence?

KUTO: As I have told you, Kenya led the mission in Namibia. Successful mission. Today, Namibia is an independent country. We have always participated in that ... told you in 47 different missions abroad, including in Kosovo, one of the most difficult places where 1000s of people had been killed. We stepped in, and today Kosovo is a story that is different from what it was. So I have confidence that not just Kenya but Kenya working with others will have the chance to deal with the challenges that he faces.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Human rights groups have criticized the Kenyan police forces for extra judicial killings and what happened with the protests in Kenya last year where several protesters were killed. So how can you ensure that they will have the correct conduct halfway around the world?

KUTO: Any police officers in Kenya that have gone beyond the call of duty and have used exces authority that they don't have? We have a clear, independent police oversight authority that makes sure that excess criminality perpetrated by the police is investigated, and either those involved are prosecuted and dismissed, or disciplinary action taken against them. So we have a clear ecosystem of making sure that there is accountability by the police, in their discharge of responsibilities, even as they provide security, even as they use force. That force must be against the rules that are set.

ABC NEWS LIVE: President Biden has praised you for really stepping up on the global stage. How much of this is this decision for Kenya to lead this police force? How much of it has to do with fulfilling a US request America clearly needs your help in Haiti?

KUTO: I don't know about America needing help. I know that this assignment came from a request by a U.N. resolution that Kenya has had to make a decision. The decision to deploy in Haiti was not made by America. It wasn't made by Biden. I made it and the people of Canada made it. And we made this decision conscious of our international obligations as a nation, conscious of our requirements and the law. And we followed every step to make sure that even as we do this, we do it ourselves. Not because we are adapting for anybody or request from America, America and our great friends. They are all great partners, but we make our own decisions.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You said you have a clear mandate in Haiti. Can you explain what that mandate is and what exactly success would look like?

KUTO: Their mandate is to support the police in Haiti to maintain law and order ... to make sure that schools are working, hospitals are operating citizens can go about their responsibilities and their duties and their businesses and people can go to school. People can go to church, people can go to mosques, without having to fear for their lives. And success would be when that is done in collaboration with Asian police. And we will also assist in training the Haitian police in what they need. To do better professionally, of course, working with others so that eventually, when we exit, the people who hate using their police can take charge of their own security.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You were not so long ago in Beijing for a state visit. The U.S. has fallen far behind China when it comes to investments in Africa, who's a more reliable partner?

KUTO: You know, there are people who want to drive a narrative that it is the East versus the West. We are facing east, facing west. Let me tell you, we are neither facing east nor facing west. We are facing forward.

ABC NEWS LIVE: A lot of what this partnership is about with the U.S. you talked about reworking financial arrangements with low income countries. Kenya owes a significant amount of debt to China in what ways has that constrained Kenya's development?

KUTO: You know, the debt we owe to China is exaggerated. It's less than 15% of all the debts we have. So in fact, the biggest lender to Kenya is the World Bank. So it is a misrepresentation to create an impression that we are doing this because we're trying to run away from something or we are running to something we are doing what is right that's why I'm telling you we are facing, we are looking into the future. We are making decisions that are necessary. We are working with different teams, different countries, different companies, different institutions, and even the reform of the international financial architecture is a joint project of all those who contribute in to the kitty. And it includes, you know, the U.S. ... Europe. It includes China. It includes Japan and many other countries. So this is not about one country versus the other. It's about a collective humanity assignment.

ABC NEWS LIVE: And here in America, we're just months away from the presidential election. Former President Trump has used demeaning words to describe African countries, how do you think us Kenya relations would change if Trump were to win the White House again?

KUTO: Well, I think we close every vote when we get there. I think it would be an exercise in guesswork. If I were to say what will happen with the elections in the United States, it's up to the people of the United States to choose their leaders. And when that happens, whichever way does, I'm very confident that we will know how to proceed into the future.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Lastly, you had spoken with former presidents Clinton and Obama last night do they give you any any advice?

KUTO: They are good people. And they have ... they're pretty wise gentlemen. I had a wonderful time with President Obama. And I discussed many things, including him visiting Kenya and working with us, with Nairobi University on establishing a leadership school there in the university where Barack Obama senior, was a graduate and I was too, a graduate of the same university. I had a big conversation with President Clinton on what the Clinton Foundation is doing in Kenya and in Africa, to encourage him to do more. And I think they are wonderful people who mean well, and they are ready to partner with us as we go into the change.

ABC NEWS LIVE: Thank you so much, President Ruto, for your time.

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Louisiana governor signs bill classifying abortion pills as controlled substances into law

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(SHREVEPORT, La.) -- Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry said Friday he has signed a first-of-its-kind bill making abortion pills controlled substances into law.

The law puts the abortion pill regimen -- mifepristone and misoprostol -- in the same category as opioids and other addictive medications.

"Requiring an abortion inducing drug to be obtained with a prescription and criminalizing the use of an abortion drug on an unsuspecting mother is nothing short of common sense," Landry said in a statement posted on X. "This bill protects women across Louisiana and I was proud to sign this bill into law today."

The law makes it illegal for people to possess the drugs without a prescription in Louisiana, which has a near-total ban on abortion. The bill does say the drugs can be used for non-abortion reasons and women will not be punished.

The bill will go into effect on Oct. 1.

The state Senate, which is more than 70% Republican, approved the bill, 29-7, on Thursday, two days after it passed the state House.

Under the law, possession of the medications without valid prescriptions or orders from medical professionals would be punishable by up to five years in prison with an exception for pregnant women in possession of the pills for their own consumption.

The bill creates a crime of "coerced criminal abortion" -- prohibiting a third party from fraudulently using an abortion-inducing drug to cause or attempt to cause an abortion on an unsuspecting pregnant woman, without their knowledge or consent.

The law was created by state Sen. Thomas Pressly, whose pregnant sister's husband tried to induce an abortion more than once, ultimately failing to abort the pregnancy, lawmakers said on the floor Tuesday.

"Coerced criminal abortion" is punishable by five to 10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000 to $75,000 under the law.

The punishment is more severe for anyone found guilty of committing the crime on a pregnant woman who is more than three months pregnant. They could face 10 to 20 years in prison and a fine from $50,000 to $100,000, according to the bill.

A federal case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court also seeks to revoke the Food and Drug Administration's approval of mifepristone, the first pill taken in a two-drug regimen for a medication abortion. This could restrict nationwide access to the pill. The Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision on the case by the end of June.

The regimen is currently federally approved to end pregnancies up to 11 weeks.

Estimates by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization supporting abortion access, found that 63% of abortions in 2023 were medication abortions.

ABC News' Nadine El-Bawab contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to temporarily transfer duties as he undergoes medical procedure

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(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will undergo what the Pentagon is describing as "a scheduled, elective and minimally invasive follow-up non-surgical procedure related to his previously reported bladder issue" on Friday night that will lead him to temporarily transfer his authorities to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

Austin will undergo the procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon's top spokesman, who announced the procedure in a statement issued Friday afternoon.

"The procedure is related to a bladder issue Austin suffered as a result of a surgery he underwent to treat prostate cancer earlier this year," said Ryder.

"The Secretary has determined he will be temporarily unable to perform his functions and duties during the procedure, so Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense and serve as the Acting Secretary of Defense," Ryder added.

Ryder noted that the bladder issue is not related to Austin's prostate cancer diagnosis and "has had no effect on his excellent cancer prognosis."

Ryder added that the "White House and congressional notifications have occurred."

Friday's announcement continues the transparency about Austin's health and potential treatments that he committed to undertake in the wake of the controversy surrounding his secret hospitalization on New Year's Day.

Austin had been hospitalized from complications arising from a surgical procedure he had undergone in late December to treat his prostate cancer.

Neither President Joe Biden nor his top advisors were made aware that Austin had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, that he underwent a surgical procedure to treat it, and that he had been hospitalized in early January as he suffered complications from that procedure.

While Austin remained hospitalized for days in early January, his duties had temporarily been transferred to Hicks though she was not made aware of the reason why until days later. It was after she learned that he had been hospitalized that the White House was first informed that Austin had been hospitalized for days.

The furor surrounding the lack of proper notifications led to an internal Pentagon review that resulted in changes in who should be notified of the secretary's health status, when a transfer of authorities had occurred and why the temporary transfer was taking place.

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Trump continues to demonize migrants, falsely claims they're 'building an army'

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump ratcheted up his anti-immigrant rhetoric at a rally in the South Bronx, where he claimed, without evidence, that migrants coming to the U.S. are forming an "army."

The comments are part of the dark narrative Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, is advancing on the 2024 campaign trial that what is occurring at the southern border amounts to an invasion.

With New York as his backdrop, a city that's reckoned with housing a surge of migrants seeking asylum in recent years, Trump continued to demonize immigrants.

"They come from Africa. They come from Asia. They come from all over the world. They come from the Middle East, Yemen ... Large numbers of people are coming in from China," he said. "And if you look at these people, did you see them? They are physically fit. They’re 19 to 25. Almost everyone is a male, and they look like fighting age."

"I think they're building an army ... they want to get us from within," he said.

"They're building something," Trump repeated. "They have something in mind. We're gonna end all of that stuff."

Trump went on to reiterate his threat to lead the “largest criminal deportation operation in our country's history because this situation is unsustainable." Though experts told ABC News his plan would be extremely difficult to carry out, and would have adverse consequences on the nation if it were to be implemented.

The comments prompted the crowd to begin chanting, "Send them back."

Trump previously made similar comments specifically about migrants from China, telling conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt last month they, too, were "probably building an army." Again, he didn't provide any evidence to back up his claim.

Trump at his campaign rally also continued to claim, without evidence, that many migrants are coming from the "jails" and "mental institutions" of other nations and are committing a new category of "migrant crime."

But studies have shown U.S.-born citizens more likely to be arrested for violent crimes.

Trump's rally comments came hours after lawmakers on Capitol Hill held a showdown vote on border security, with the Senate again failing to advance a package negotiated earlier this year by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The bill was largely quashed by Trump, who told Republicans earlier this year not to accept it -- prompting Democrats to accuse conservative lawmakers of caring more about appeasing Trump than fixing issues within the immigration system.

"By blocking the bipartisan border agreement, Republicans in Congress said no to legislation that would hire more Border Patrol Agents, add more immigration judges and asylum officers to process cases in months and not years," President Joe Biden said in a statement. "They said no to new technology to detect and stop fentanyl from entering the United States, and no to resources to go after drug traffickers. They rejected an agreement that would give me, as President, a new emergency authority to temporarily shut down the border when the system is overwhelmed."

ABC News' Lalee Ibssa, Kelsey Walsh and Soorin Kim contributed to this report.

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Missouri attorney general race emerges as new front in GOP civil war

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(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- The GOP civil war has reached a new beachhead: blood-red Missouri.

The state's Republican attorney general primary is pitting incumbent Andrew Bailey against Will Scharf, a lawyer for Donald Trump. And while intraparty battles elsewhere in states such as Texas and Idaho have ostensibly focused on issues like school choice and vaccine mandates, the Aug. 6 primary in Missouri is centered largely around allegiance to the former president and who counts as a member of the oft-maligned "establishment."

Bailey, who was appointed to his position in 2022 and has never had to defend himself at the ballot box, has used his office to toss red meat to the base, filing lawsuits on issues such as transgender athletes and immigration and demanding the Justice Department provide documents and communications regarding investigations into Trump.

Scharf, meanwhile, is promoting his ties to Trump just as the former president stands trial in New York while casting Bailey as an insider of Jefferson City -- a capital city with a Republican governor and GOP supermajorities in both state legislative chambers.

"I think this is going to be a lot of those factors here as far as a microcosm on establishment versus outsider, Trump versus traditional Republican," said one unaffiliated Missouri GOP strategist. "This is definitely going to be a race that's going to show how poignant one side or the other is and if anyone is able to fend off a funded Trump candidate without a lot of baggage at this point, in Scharf's case."

"I don't think you're gonna see a lot of policy differences between the two," added the operative, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke anonymously to discuss the race. "I think it's just, is being affiliated with Trump more important, ultimately, than anything Bailey could have even done as AG?"

To break through, both campaigns are seeking Trump's endorsement. A source familiar with the race confirmed to ABC News that Scharf and the former president have discussed the primary, and Mike Hafner, a Bailey campaign consultant, said that the attorney general's camp and Trump's team have talked about the race.

Yet it's unclear if Trump plans on getting involved in the race, leaving the candidates to fight it out among themselves. And with such little ideological daylight between Bailey and Scharf, the race is largely revolving around who is Trumpier and more of a fighter -- with early signs of an ugly race brewing.

A super PAC supporting Scharf, who is backed by well-heeled outside groups such as the Club for Growth and the Concord Fund, went up with an early ad saying that "Trump relies on Will Scharf as one of his lawyers to defend him from legal persecution and election interference" and that Scharf is "taking on the entire legal and media establishment."

Bailey has fired his own shots, dubbing Scharf "Wall Street Willy," noting his affluent, East Coast upbringing and ties to wealthy outside benefactors through his PAC.

Although Bailey is technically the incumbent, operatives compared the primary to one for an open seat given that neither candidate has appeared on a general election ballot before, and both contenders are anticipated to hold nothing back to cast themselves as the right choice for primary voters just getting up to speed on the race.

"Both candidates have shown a willingness to attack, and I think this is going to be a no-holds-barred race," a second Missouri GOP strategist said. "Whenever [you've] got an open seat, it's important to define yourself, but it's also important to find your opponent. And I think both of the candidates are going to try to do that to the best of their abilities."

Observers speculated that Scharf has the upper hand in a more national knife fight given his legal representation of the GOP leader at a time when polls show Republican voters believe Trump is being treated unfairly by the legal system -- a message that can be blitzed across the airwaves by millions in outside spending.

"If you're a Missouri Republican, or I'd say, Republican voter in general, they believe that Trump, a lot of these various cases and charges are a stretch or reach," said a third Missouri GOP strategist. "And Will Scharf's ability to say, 'I'm a Trump lawyer,' the primary voters will say he is at the tip of the spear fighting and defending liberty."

"... It will resonate, and it will be probably all Will Scharf needs to say," the strategist added.

Some Scharf allies insisted the race has less to do with Trump and more to do with frustration with what voters view as broader inaction in Jefferson City on issues near and dear to the GOP faithful -- warranted or not.

"Conservatives … want a proactive, activist, conservative attorney general who is going to take the fight to the left. And there's a belief and a perception, and I believe it to be true, that that's not Bailey, but that very much is Will, someone who's gonna upset the applecart, someone who's going to be an agent of change, rather than just another Jefferson City person who's gonna go along to get along and not get much done," said one Scharf campaign aide.

Multiple sources who spoke to ABC News said voters perceive Jefferson City to be a "swamp" -- despite it being a seat of unified Republican power -- and said the perception extends to those who work there, including Bailey, who was appointed to his role by a governor he previously served as general counsel, regardless of policy.

"[Bailey] is a good pro-Trump, pro-Second Amendment, pro-life conservative," the third GOP strategist said. "I don't think you can really find anything wrong with his record as attorney general."

Bailey's campaign has highlighted the litany of lawsuits he's filed against the Biden administration and action on culture war issues, including local lightning rods such as going after former St. Louis prosecutor Kim Gardner and defending Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker over controversial remarks he made about women.

"I think that Andrew Bailey is doing all the right things that you'd want to see in a conservative fighter, and I think Missourians will respond well to that in August," Hafner said.

"We've been as pro-Trump as Scharf has been," he added. "There's not going to be a whole lot of daylight where we're at ideologically, but man, there's a whole lot of character issues that we're gonna make a pretty significant contrast with Will Scharf on."

To be certain, Bailey is not the only conservative to be targeted in Missouri this year. The state's Republican National Committee members, all of whom ran with Trump's endorsement, were ousted this year. And the GOP primary to replace term-limited Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, is also divisive.

But the attorney general primary offers particularly incisive tea leaves given the way Bailey has performed in office -- and, strategists said, in a race dominated by national trends, overcoming Scharf's proximity to Trump will be no small feat.

"I'm not sure if he can do anything," the third strategist bluntly said.

"He's going to attempt to say that Will Scharf is this kid from New England who's a private-equity kid who went to Harvard … and he's a carpetbagger," the source added. "Will that persuade some voters? Yes. But at the end of the day, in Missouri, I think statewide Trump with Republicans has nearly an 80% favorable rating. And so, if you're Will Scharf, you can kind of write off the 20% that maybe don't like Trump and still win."

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What Haley donors, voters think about her saying she'll vote for Trump in November

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley's supporters are still split after she said she will be voting for former President Donald Trump, some seeing it as a "greenlight" for them to vote for Trump as well, while others are still not convinced.

After Haley suspended her campaign in March, Trump immediately became the presumptive GOP nominee but was faced with the task of bringing back Haley's supporters and reuniting the Republican Party without her endorsement, especially after months of bitter rivalry.

Haley's announcement on Wednesday that she will be voting for Trump appeared to soften the lingering animosity between the two, with Trump himself saying during media interviews on Thursday that he appreciated Haley's comment – even saying he thinks she's "going to be on our team," while not specifying what he meant by "our team."

The latest comments from the two is a move that could unite their support base, especially for Haley's donors after earlier this year Trump "permanently barred" them from his MAGA movement, saying, "We don't want them, and will not accept them," as the rivalry between the two escalated in the primaries.

"Anybody that makes a 'Contribution' to Birdbrain, from this moment forth, will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp," Trump wrote on his social media platform in January. "We don't want them, and will not accept them ..."

Eric Levine, a New York-based Haley fundraiser who had vowed not to vote for Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol but had recently announced he would be voting for Trump, said: "What was her alternative?"

He told ABC News voting for Biden instead of Trump is not an option right now when the United States needs to "support Israel, confront our enemies and support our allies." Levine also said that Haley's public comment -- even if it's not a full endorsement -- could persuade a lot of her supporters who felt "lost" inch toward Trump.

"I think this gives a lot of people permission to not just not vote for Joe Biden, but to vote for Donald Trump," Levine said. "I think this is a very important statement that she made."

Longtime Haley ally David Wilkins, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada under the Bush administration, also praised Haley's announcement as "a good move," saying, "Republicans need to be united as best we can."

Ozzie Palomo, a lobbyist and prominent GOP bundler who raised money for Haley, echoed that sentiment, saying, "I think it's the right call."

"All the statements she made about Trump was during the primary; primaries are over and I think the world has dramatically changed, probably faster and more significantly than anyone anticipated over the last five, six months," Palomo said, criticizing the Biden administration.

"Her saying she plans to vote for him probably gives cover to a significant portion of those that remain on the fence to feel comfortable enough to do the same," Palomo said while acknowledging there are still likely people who will not support Trump.

Palomo said her comment that she will vote for Trump is "about as close to a full-out endorsement as you're gonna get from her at least in the near term."

"She could have easily said I'm not voting for Biden and left that open ended," Palomo said. "However, she took the opportunity in a very public format to stress the fact that based on geopolitical matters and other policies like immigration, the economic mess, she's comfortable to pick one over the other in a clear binary choice."

Palomo stressed it's still "incumbent on the former presidential reach out to her supporters and try to lure them back," but noted the Trump campaign and the Republican Party's recent fundraising success is a sign that many are already moving toward Trump's direction — adding he himself has begun supporting Team Trump's high-dollar joint fundraising operation with the Republican National Committee.

However, another major Haley donor, who spoke under the condition of anonymity to talk freely, told ABC News that Haley's decision to vote for Trump did not change her mind about writing in her name in November instead of voting for the former president.

"I'm not voting for him -- I'll just tell you that," the donor said. "I know it's a binary choice, and I bravo and brava to those who take the binary choice seriously. I'll be writing in Nikki Haley."

The donor said the only way she's voting for Trump is if Haley is picked as his running mate, but the donor said she doesn't see that happening.

Earlier this month, Trump quickly shut down rumors about his team considering Haley as his running mate, writing on his social media platform, "Nikki Haley is not under consideration for the V.P. slot, but I wish her well!"

"I'm surprised how many of the bigger donors are coming to the same conclusion that Nikki has," the donor said, later adding, "Clearly, I'm a minority in the GOP."

Criticizing Biden's policies, the donor said she feels Biden's team's effort to court Haley's support base has not been enough, adding at the end of the day, Haley is "more at odds with Joe Biden than she is with Donald Trump."

Following Haley's withdrawal from the presidential race, the Biden campaign said there is room in their coalition for Haley supporters and has continued to reach out to the Haley Coalition.

Most recently, Biden's reelection campaign held a call with a group of supporters of former presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Wednesday night—after Haley said she would vote for former President Donald Trump in November. On the call, voters shared policy issues that were important to them heading into November, with much of the focus on the border and immigration.

"Does this help her? Does it hurt her? Maybe both," the donor said of how Haley's comment that she plans to vote for Trump could affect her future political aspirations.

"Some people that thought she was going to be the avatar of beating up Trump until he's in the grave are probably not coming back for more spoonfuls, so I think that is a potential loss," the donor said. "But there are a lot of Republicans that are 'real Republican' … That is support whoever the nominee is — then you're not a team player."

Those who voted for Haley in the GOP primary also reacted to her saying she'll vote for the former president, many of whom said that they didn't see her intent to vote for him as a complete endorsement.

Eli Raykinstein, a student at Michigan State University, told ABC News he thought it was inevitable that Haley would say she would be voting for Trump, but he also added that he doesn't see it as a complete endorsement of the former president.

"I've already begun leaning more towards Trump, and I agree with Nikki when she says that Biden has been a complete catastrophe," Raykinstein said. "I'm also looking to see who Trump chooses as his running-mate for 2024 cause I'm sure that will skew my thinking on the race, too."

Alissa Baker, a voter in Virginia who supported Haley, told ABC News that she felt relief when Haley said she would vote for Trump because now we can move on from anticipating who she would vote for in November.

Baker also shared Raykinstein's thoughts -- that Haley is not endorsing Trump and added that this won't impact her decision on who she'll vote for in November.

"This was a personal decision of a private citizen, not an endorsement. Nikki has told her voters to vote their conscience and in November, that's exactly what I will do," Baker said.

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