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alexsl/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Snapchat unveiled an online database featuring all of its political ads, as 2020 presidential campaigns intensify and tech giants face increased scrutiny for their roles in the spread of information each election year.

The social media app company's political ads library aims to give "the public an opportunity to find out details about all political and advocacy advertising running on our platform," according to its website.

Snapchat said that a political ad will appear in the library -- which is available as a downloadable sheet -- within 24 hours of it being delivered, and provide information about who created the ad, the targeting criteria, impressions and more.

Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy as well as a former privacy and public policy adviser at Facebook, told ABC News in a statement that this is a "critical development for a platform that has become increasingly important in American media."

"Though this is a positive step forward, we must demand better political ad transparency of Snap," he added. "Clear disclaimers identifying political content to users, real time disclosures of engagement statistics, a searchable online database, better visualizations of historical ad creatives, and granular information about ad targeting and audience segmentation are all vital given Snapchat's increasing importance."

Ghosh added that if tech giants and the broader internet industry "fail to offer such transparency, our democratic process will remain vulnerable to disinformation operations."

Snapchat's effort comes on the heels of Facebook announcing it was also tightening its rules surrounding political ads ahead of the 2020 election.

Critics, however, were quick to point out a loophole in Facebook's efforts that smaller groups could use if they don't have a tax ID, government website or registration with the FTC.

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lucky-photographer/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump and senior administration officials met at the White House on Monday to discuss how to respond to the attack on a Saudi oil facility that the U.S. has blamed on Iran, according to three senior administration officials.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was expected to present evidence that ties Iran to the weekend's attacks, according to the Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Marc Short. Over the weekend, Pompeo and Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran, were pushing for a military buildup in the region, while the Pentagon was looking for a non-escalatory response that would push Tehran to the negotiating table, one senior administration official said.

ABC News was first to report that the U.S. believes the mix of cruise missiles and drones aimed at the key Saudi oil facility was launched from Iranian soil, according to two officials. The attack, which Iran denies, knocked out more than 5 percent of the world's daily crude oil production, disrupting global markets.

President Trump tweeted on Sunday that there was "reason to believe" the U.S. knows who committed the attack, saying the U.S. is "locked and loaded depending on verification."

But a senior official told ABC News that the president knows Iran was behind the attack and wants Saudi Arabia to acknowledge that fact publicly if they want assistance from the U.S.

Saudi military spokesperson Col. Turki al-Malki said on Monday that initial investigations show Iranian weapons were used in the attack and that those weapons were not launched from inside Yemen.

The president tweeted again on Monday morning about an incident in May in which Iran shot down an unmanned American drone over the Strait of Hormuz after saying it had crossed into Iranian airspace.

"They stuck strongly to that story knowing that it was a very big lie," Trump tweeted. "Now they say that they had nothing to do with the attack on Saudi Arabia. We’ll see?"

Following the May incident, the Pentagon advocated for a more cautious response than was pushed for by other senior national security officials in the administration. Ultimately, the president chose to conduct a strike on Iranian missile batteries inside Iran, only to call off the strike at the last minutes due to concerns over casualties and the proportionality of that response.

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Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead(WASHINGTON) -- A woman reportedly involved in a second allegation of sexual misconduct by Brett Kavanaugh during his freshmen year at Yale University had a simple response when asked by ABC News if there are other people who can speak to her story: “All I can say is, ask Brett.”

The woman, who ABC News is not naming at this time, said Sunday she “can’t do it again” referring to speaking about the allegations. The alleged incident was not widely reported on until the New York Times published a story that a former classmate said he saw Kavanagh "with his pants down” at a dormitory “where friends pushed [Kavanaugh’s] penis into the hand of a female student."

That classmate, named in The Times as Max Stier, who now runs a non-profit, nonpartisan organization in Washington called “Partnership for Public Service,” declined to comment to ABC News.

The Times report, adapted from the soon-to-be-released book titled The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation, written by Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, is reigniting controversy by publicizing this alleged incident and raising questions about the scope of the FBI’s probe into allegations of sexual misconduct when Kavanaugh was a student. Pogrebin and Kelly say that although the FBI was notified of the unnamed alleged victim’s account, the FBI did not investigate it, and that the agency declined to interview over two dozen people “who may have had corroborating evidence”related to another former classmate who says she had a similar experience, Deborah Ramirez.

Ramirez told the New Yorker that during a dorm party sometime in the 1983-1984 academic year, Kavanaugh "thrust his penis in her face" causing her "to touch it without her consent." The New Yorker article was published less than a week after Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh were made public. Kavanaugh flatly denied Ramirez’s accusations.

"This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen," he said in statement soon after the report was published. "The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple."

Kavanaugh again denied the allegations, along with Blasey Ford’s and those of another accuser, Julie Swetnick, during his public testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last September.

Through a court spokeswoman, Kavanaugh declined comment to ABC News on the allegations made in the Times story published Sunday and the new book out this week. At the request of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, President Donald Trump eased limits on an FBI background check into Kavanaugh, sources close to the process told ABC News last October. Trump had previously called for it to be "limited in scope," but sources told ABC News he later authorized the FBI to interview anyone it wanted, with a focus on accusations raised separately by Ford and Ramirez.

In early October, the FBI delivered its report to the Senate Judiciary Committee. After reviewing the report, the committee’s chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley called the women’s accusations "uncorroborated" and said "neither the Judiciary Committee nor the FBI could locate any third parties who can attest to any of the allegations." The Senate ultimately confirmed Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court by a vote of 50-48.

The book authors now claim that FBI investigation wasn’t sufficiently thorough, saying that Ramirez’s legal team gave the FBI a list of at least 25 individuals who they said might have been able to confirm her allegations, but that none of them were interviewed as part of the bureau’s supplemental investigation, even after some of them tried to contract the FBI on their own accord. The Times also reports that two FBI agents interviewed Ramirez and said that they found her "credible," but that the Senate "had imposed strict limits on the investigation."

When it was initially published, the New York Times report did not include reporting that the unnamed woman did not remember the alleged incident, and that she declined to be interviewed by Pogrebin and Kelly, although this information is included in the forthcoming book. The Times’ article has been updated to include these details. A spokesperson for Ramirez declined to provide a comment to ABC News.

These newly revealed allegations against Kavanaugh are prompting both calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment and renewed support from his allies. Trump, championed his nominee on Twitter, writing, "He is an innocent man who has been treated HORRIBLY. Such lies about him. They want to scare him into turning Liberal!"

Many of the Democratic candidates for president were quick to call for Kavanaugh’s removal. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment through tweets. Both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders were critical of the new reports, but did not specifically call for impeachment.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., weighed in on last year’s investigations into Kavanaugh on This Week telling ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, "My concern is that the process was a sham."

ABC News has reached out to the Senate Judiciary Committee for comment, but did not receive any response.

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iStock/somboon kaeoboonsong(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said there have been "too damn many" mass shootings in Texas, but claimed that gun control proposals from Democrats would not have stopped the recent mass shootings in his home state.

"We've seen too damn many of these in the state of Texas. So, we need to end them, absolutely, yes," he said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, after describing the time he spent with the families of mass shooting victims in west Texas.

"Now, the question is what do we need to do that actually works? And this is where I get frustrated with Democratic politicians in Washington," he added. "Because the proposals they're putting forward would not have stopped a single one of these mass murders."

Cruz’s claim comes despite federal and local law enforcement sources telling ABC News that the gunman who killed seven and injured 25 in a shooting spree in Midland and Odessa Texas on Aug. 31 purchased his AR-style weapon in a private sale that may have been barred under expanded background check legislation.

Law enforcement sources have told ABC News that the suspected gunman was barred from purchasing or possessing a firearm because he had been diagnosed with a mental illness. He obtained the firearm he used in the shooting through a private sale, federal and local law enforcement sources said.

In private sales, a seller is not allowed to sell a weapon to a buyer that has been flagged by law enforcement. However, sellers are not obligated to run a background check themselves or ask if the buyer can legally own a weapon.

Universal background check legislation -- passed by the House earlier this year -- and the Manchin-Toomey bill proposed in the Senate would expand requiring background checks to include private and internet sales.

On "This Week," Cruz instead argued for the proposal he first introduced in 2013 with Sen. Chuck Grassley, which the two re-introduced in May. While it doesn't enact universal background checks, the legislation aims to strengthen the current system by prosecuting those with a criminal history who lie on background check forms and criminalizing straw purchases

Cruz said there was "a very good possibility" that the Grassley-Cruz proposal could have prevented the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting when speaking to the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday.

Mass shootings in August, two of which were in the senator's home state of Texas, have renewed discussions around the country and on Capitol Hill about gun control.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeated on Tuesday that he would not advance gun control legislation that he believed President Donald Trump would not sign.

Trump said there had been "a lot of progress" on background checks when speaking with reporters on Thursday after being briefed on proposed gun control measures.

However, of Democrats recent proposals on the issue, he said, "There's a possibility that this is just a ploy to take your guns away."

Cruz said he spoke with both McConnell and Trump this past week about his proposal, which he argued would improve and strengthen background checks while protecting Second Amendment rights.

When Stephanopoulos asked Cruz about proposals to expand background checks to private sales, Cruz argued that Democratic proposals were a slippery slope towards gun confiscation.

"If you have a federal government background check for (private transactions), what you will see the next step to be is the only way to enforce that is a federal gun registry and a gun registry is the step you need for gun confiscation," he said.

Cruz voiced opposition to Democrats' proposals for gun control, including that of former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who has called for mandatory gun buybacks.

"The federal government should not be confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens," Cruz said.

He has also said previously that expanding background checks too far could hurt Republicans politically in 2020.

"If Republicans abandon the Second Amendment and demoralize millions of Americans who care deeply about Second Amendment rights, that could go a long way to electing a President Elizabeth Warren," Cruz said Thursday in comments reported by The Hill.

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ChristinLola/iStock(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- Former Vice President Joe Biden delivered a passionate rebuke of the "domestic terrorism of white supremacy," on Sunday morning at the 56th memorial observance of the 1963 bombing at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama that killed four African American girls.

"Occasionally in life there are moments that are so stark, they divide all that came before from all that comes after. They stop the clocks, they rip away the trivial from the essential. They force us to confront difficult truths about our institutions, about our society, about ourselves. 10:22 a.m., September 15, 1963 was such a moment," Biden told the congregation as he began his remarks.

The bombing placed Birmingham as well as the civil rights movement into the national spotlight.

The speech was a solemn remembrance of the tragedy, and a reminder of the work that is still to be done to root out systemic racism and hate in America.

Biden connected the violence seen in 1963 and the resurgence of racially-motivated violence today.

"We must acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery, brought to these shores over 400 years ago. And the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, trauma wrought upon black people in this country," Biden said.

"The same poisonous ideology lit the fuse at 16th Street, pulled the trigger at Mother Emanuel...and unleashed the anti-Semitism, anti-Semitic massacre in Pittsburgh and Poway. We saw a white supremacist gun down innocent immigrants in [an] El Paso parking lot with a military-style weapon, declaring, 'the Hispanic invasion of Texas.'" Biden said, referring to the more than 20 people murdered in a shooting at a West Texas Walmart last month.

Biden also acknowledged that white people, no matter their efforts, can never truly understand how racism and hate have affected African Americans throughout the country's history.

"We know we're not there yet. No one knows it better. My mom used to have an expression, 'you want to understand me, walk in my shoes a mile.' Those of us who are white try, but we can never fully, fully understand. No matter how hard we try. We're almost, we're almost at this next phase of progress in my view," Biden said.

The former vice president, fresh off a debate performance that saw clashes with many of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, said that while progress has been made, there is still work to be done to ensure racism does not persist in America.

 "We have not relegated racism and white supremacy to the pages of history," Biden warned. "But the greatness of this nation has always been and must continue to be that we still strive to relegate. We hold these truth self-evident. We've never lived up to it, but we've never before walked away from it. It's what unites us. It's the American creed. It's one of the most powerful ideas in the history of the world, and it lives in each and every one of us," he added.

Biden also talked about his own experience with tragedy, including the loss of his two young children in an automobile accident and his son Beau's death to cancer.

"When my first wife and daughter were killed and my two boys were so badly injured in a car accident, I faced, like many of you, a defining moment: walk away from public life or stay. I chose to stay, before and after. My life would never be the same," Biden said.

Biden spoke about the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

"After Charlottesville, I said that I believed that we're in a battle for the soul of America. I say it again today. We are in a battle for the soul of America. And here in the historic 16th Baptist Church, there's no more powerful reminder of what's at stake. No more poignant example of what is demanded of us in response. It's a battle we’ve fought again and again. It's a battle that’s claimed countless lives. Hate only hides, it doesn't go away," Biden said.

While Biden did not mention President Trump in his remarks, he did decry the "coddling" of white supremacy, and has consistently slammed Trump's response to Charlottesville and made it a staple of his stump speech.

"We also should realize that the revulsion of hate as its ugliest can summon as a nation, to do better, to bring out the best in us. The coddling of white supremacy so heinous, it cannot be ignored by any decent American. It presents an opportunity to continue to make progress against systematic racism," Biden said Sunday.

He also recalled when President Obama comforted the congregation at Mother Emanuel after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

"I was astounded by the amazing grace of those parishioners, the families of the victims. As they chose so quickly after the loss by a white supremacist...to forgive the killer. I was dumbfounded. It made me believe, even more strongly, everything about my faith. The killer is forgiven to bind up the wounds, for wrongs done to them, with compassion. To be able to live again in the community after such a horrifying rupture. It’s astounding to me," Biden said near the conclusion of his remarks.

Biden continues his campaign swing this weekend with a stop in Miami, Florida on Sunday afternoon, before heading to speak at the Galivants Ferry Stump Festival in the critical early voting state of South Carolina.

Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, all 14, and Denise McNair, 11, were killed in the bombing 56 years ago. After the attack, Robert Chambliss, an avowed white supremacist and member of the Ku Klux Klan was found guilty of possessing dynamite and received a $100 fine. He spent six months in jail.

It took almost 40 years for others involved in the church bombing to be brought to trial. In 2000, the federal government pressed charges against three men: Herman Cash, Thomas Blanton and Bobby Cherry, all of whom, along with Chambliss, were accused of belonging to a KKK gang called Cahaba Boys.

Cash had died by then, but in 2002, Blanton and Cherry were tried for their roles in the church bombing and found guilty of murder.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she still opposes Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court as recent reporting by the New York Times raises questions about the vetting process last fall.

The reporting by the newspaper indicates there was a lack of a thorough FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against the Supreme Court justice when he was a nominee and detailed an additional allegation that was reportedly not investigated.

ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Klobuchar on "This Week" Sunday if she thinks the latest updates on the Brett Kavanaugh assault allegations are grounds for impeachment of the now-Supreme Court Justice, Klobuchar said she has opposed his confirmation since last September when she was praised for her handling of questioning of Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"I strongly oppose him, based on his views on the executive power which will continue to haunt our country, as well as how he behaved, including the allegations that we are hearing more about today," Klobuchar said. "My concern here is that the process was a sham."

She went on to say she believes the Department of Justice should be investigated by Congress for shielding of relevant documents by Attorney General William Barr.

"I don't think you can look at impeachment hearings without getting the documents, the House would have to get the documents, and the attorney general is shielding documents," Klobuchar said, before adding that in order for any of this to happen, the country needs new leadership. "You need a new president, you need a new attorney general that respects the law."

On her Thursday night ABC News Democratic presidential debate performance and the current divide between moderate and progressives in the race, Klobuchar reiterated that she thinks it’s a "bad idea" to pursue proposals like "Medicare for All" which would eliminate private health insurance options.

"I don't think that's what people want. I don't think it's a bold idea, I think it's a bad idea," Klobuchar said.

She added that if voters do want to see "149 million off of their insurance" in four years, "well, then I'm not your candidate because I don't think you should be throwing people off their current insurance in four years."

On the issue of gun control, the Minnesota senator said during the Houston debate that while she supports a ban on assault-style weapons, she does not support a mandatory buyback program, such as the one former Democratic Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke has been pushing for since the August mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. Instead, Klobuchar called for a "voluntary buyback program" on Thursday night.

Asked by Stephanopoulos on "This Week" if she thinks the proposals being floated by some Democrats would hurt the party’s chances of winning the general election, Klobuchar said such policies would best be approached in Congress.

"I want to make clear, I want to see an assault weapon ban," Klobuchar said on Sunday. "I think the smartest thing to do is, one, right now push Mitch McConnell to allow for votes on universal background checks and my bill to not allow domestic abusers to get guns. Then when I’m president, I will get that assault weapon ban passed as well as a limit on magazines."

In terms of her campaign moving forward and her strategy going into the fall, Klobuchar noted that while it’s important for her to win the presidency, she also think it’s important to win seats in the Senate and to stick to her moderate approach.

"We don't just need to win the presidency, we also have to win the Senate, and that means winning in states like Colorado and Arizona and Alabama and how important that is to get things done," Klobuchar said. "My argument is I’m from the middle of the country, I was one of only three women up on that stage, and also I’m someone that has a history of getting things done and bringing people together, which is what we need in this country."

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that his comments about Afghanistan during Thursday night's ABC News Democratic debate are being misconstrued.

During the debate in Houston on Thursday, he said, "The best way not to be caught up in endless wars is to avoid starting one in the first place."

The tail end of that remark prompted the Wall Street Journal to claim that the mayor said the United States started the war.

"Let's be very clear, we went to war in Afghanistan, because the United States was attacked," Buttigieg said. "That's why we acted. … What I'm saying is that wars are extremely difficult to end."

Buttigieg, an Afghanistan war veteran, told Stephanopoulos that Sunday marks his anniversary for leaving the country five years ago when he was serving overseas.

"I thought I was one of the very last troops there. We are still there. We are still debating how to get out. So the lesson is, when we're looking at the possibility of new conflicts erupting, like some of the talk around Iran, we better remember how hard it was and is to resolve even a war that we had no choice but to be drawn into."

The mayor was also asked about the recent drone strike on Saudi Arabia’s largest oil processing facility, who the U.S. if blaming Iran for the attack, saying this, "appears to be spillover from the Yemen conflict."

President Donald Trump has called the Saudi Crown Prince with a message of full support. Buttigieg said if he were commander-in-chief, his focus would be to make sure "this doesn't escalate into further instability, conflict, and not only danger to world oil supply, but danger to peace."

He said the region is already destabilized enough "without fears that a president could destabilize it further with the next tweet."

"We need to make sure right now that we create options to prevent things from escalating further and … making sure that the United States is playing a constructive role in guiding that conflict toward resolution," Buttigieg said. "The good news, in a case like this, when you think about the United States ability to be a constructive force, is that we have leverage with both sides. We have leverage with the Saudis because of our alliance and have had leverage with Iran. The problem is, we're either taking our own options off the table or not using them well."

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DianeBentleyRaymond/iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Officials from the Trump administration have met with local agencies and advocates in Los Angeles about the federal government getting more involved in assisting with the homelessness crisis in the state.

President Donald Trump said on Thursday his administration has warned officials in Los Angeles and other cities in California to "clean it up."

Speaking at a GOP lawmaker retreat in Baltimore -- a city he said earlier this summer was "rat and rodent infested" -- Trump claimed businesses are leaving Democratic-controlled cities.

"We're going to fight for the future of cities like Baltimore that have been destroyed by decades of failed and corrupt rule," the president said. "These are our great American cities, and they're an embarrassment."

Trump has made it a campaign issue, saying in August at a Make America Great Again rally in Ohio: "Nearly half of all the homeless people living in the streets in America happen to live in the state of California. What they are doing to our beautiful California is a disgrace to our country. It's a shame the world is looking at it. Look at Los Angeles with the tents and the horrible, horrible disgusting conditions. Look at San Francisco. Look at some of your other cities."

A White House official confirmed there was an administration team on the ground in California this week on a fact-finding mission about the homelessness crisis but didn’t elaborate on specific options being discussed.

"Like many Americans, the President has taken notice of the homelessness crisis, particularly in cities and states where the liberal policies of overregulation, excessive taxation, and poor public service delivery are combining to dramatically increase poverty and public health risks," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. "In June, the President took action and signed an Executive Order to confront the regulatory barriers to affordable housing development, a leading cause of homelessness. President Trump has directed his team to go further and develop a range of policy options for consideration to deal with this tragedy."

"The spike in homelessness we are seeing in places like Los Angeles and San Francisco is alarming," A HUD spokesperson said in a statement. "While there are many state and local issues at play here, we’re looking at a range of options available to us at HUD -- as well as other agencies -- for possible federal action, if and where appropriate."

The Washington Post first reported Tuesday that Trump ordered aides to launch a "sweeping effort" to combat homelessness in California cities, which could include plans to force people out of tents and camps and direct them into unused government facilities.

The Los Angeles Times also reported officials met with law enforcement unions in the city a discussed a range of issues including options to increase law enforcement involvement.

The White House statement seems to shift partial blame for the problem on local policies. In a letter to Trump, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said he welcomes increased attention to the issue of homelessness but that a lack of resources and support on the federal level is also part of the problem.

"It is clear that no local government, including ours, can address homelessness on our own," Garcetti said in the letter. "For many years, the federal government has woefully underfunded our housing safety net, contributing to homelessness. The federal government cut HUD funding for the production of new housing and preservation by 31% for the 2016-2018 time period, and according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, only one in four low-income families who qualify for housing assistance actually receive it. This pressure is acutely felt here in Los Angeles, where 36,000 people experience homelessness on any given night."

Affordable housing and homelessness advocacy groups like the National Low Income Housing Coalition said the most significant step the administration could take would be to fund existing programs focused on ending homelessness and stop proposing cuts to the budget for those programs at HUD and the Interagency Council on Homelessness.

"The solution to homelessness is affordable homes -- not criminalization, not punishing poor people for being poor, not sweeping homeless people into increasingly unsafe areas, and not warehousing people in untenable and unsustainable conditions," NLIHC president and CEO Diane Yentel said in a statement.

"Homelessness in California is a crisis, as it is in many other areas of the country," she added, "and it demands action from federal, state and local government. But Trump and his administration are not acting in good faith to solve for it -- they’ve worked time and again over the last two years to worsen the housing and homelessness crisis and this latest effort looks to be no different."

Advocates also have said that uncertainty around federal grant programs during shutdowns and the federal budget process also can make the private housing sector less willing to work with nonprofits on affordable housing, creating additional challenges.

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Gwengoat/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- A hand-drawn swastika was discovered inside an office building at the Department of Homeland Security Nebraska Avenue Complex, a source confirmed to ABC News on Saturday.

The hand-drawn image was removed and the matter was referred to the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

"This display of hate and cowardice does not represent the dedicated hardworking men and women of the Department of Homeland Security," Andrew Meehan, acting assistant secretary for public affairs for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement provided to ABC News.

"It has no place in an organization that works tirelessly to protect the American people and combat hate in all its forms," he added. The situation "is currently being investigated to ensure that swift and corrective action is taken."

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- A political advertisement during a commercial break in Thursday night's Democratic debate, hosted by ABC News and Univision, caused an uproar for disturbing content that showed progressive icon Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being consumed by fire, followed by a black-and-white image of skeletons in an apparent reference to Cambodia's Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970s.

The controversial ad, placed on several local ABC stations but not across the network, was paid for by a Republican super PAC called New Faces GOP.

The ad's narrator featured the executive director of the outside group behind the ad, Elizabeth Heng, who says: "Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism? My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life. ... Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white, I'm not outrageous, racist nor socialist. I'm a Republican."

Heng formed the group in March following her unsuccessful bid in 2018 for a seat in California's 16th Congressional District, losing to Democratic Rep. Jim Costa by 15 percentage points.

She began her political career by working for the Oregon Republican Party in 2010. She later worked under Congressman Ed Royce, R-Calif., as a press and legislative assistant before taking on the role of his deputy campaign manager in 2012. Heng also worked for the U.S. House's Foreign Affairs Committee from 2013 to 2017 before she launched her congressional bid.

Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman New York lawmaker, initially responded to the provocative ad Thursday night by tweeting: "Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren't racist. Life is weird!"

She later followed up with another tweet, condemning it further: "Know that this wasn't an ad for young conservatives of color - that was the pretense. What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP's white supremacist case."

Heng, the daughter Cambodian refugees, invoked rhetoric frequently used by President Donald Trump on the campaign trail, calling Democrats in Washington "radical liberals" in a statement Friday.

Ahead of Thursday's debate, the Trump campaign unleashed an ad blitz that included buying two full-page newspaper ads and flying a massive banner in the air that criticized socialism just before the debate began.

Painting Democrats as socialists is routine for the president's reelection team, which has argued the entire opposition field is radical leftists.

But Heng went further in her statement, arguing that "in reality socialism is forced obedience, conformity, and blind allegiance that leads to a tyrannical State. Socialism represents the exact opposite of the values and freedoms on which our nation was built."

Heng's New Faces GOP PAC has raised about $170,000 so far this year, according to its most recent FEC filing. FEC reports show it's funded by a seemingly random group of GOP donors from across the country, including Trump donor Andrew Sabin.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump confirmed the death of Hamza Bin Laden, son of the 9/11 terrorist mastermind and al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, marking the first time the White House is confirming his death since it was initially reported earlier this summer.

"The loss of Hamza bin Laden not only deprives al-Qaeda of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group," said President Trump in a White House statement. "Hamza bin Laden was responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups."

Bin Laden was killed in a United States counter-terrorism operation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

His death was first reported by senior U.S. officials back in July.

Hamza bin Laden is believed to have been killed during a joint raid by American and Afghan Special Forces, according to an Afghan intelligence source. Bin Laden wasn’t the target of the raid, but was caught in the compound as they conducted a raid for someone else.

After the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in Pakistan in 2011, Hamza bin Laden later emerged as a "key leader" in the terrorist organization, according to U.S. officials.

The U.S. government said a letter found in the elder bin Laden’s compound during the Navy SEAL raid “indicat[ed] that he was grooming Hamza to replace him as leader" of al-Qaeda .

In February, the U.S. State Department announced a $1 million reward for information leading to bin Laden’s capture and accused him of "threatening attacks against the United States in revenge for the May 2011 killing of his father by U.S. military forces."

"Hamza was both the biological and ideological heir to his father,” said Tom Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Al-Qaida counted on him to speak to a new generation of jihadists," he said.

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- Despite previous warnings, the State Department is still not doing enough to ensure the safety of bomb-sniffing dogs that it provides to partner countries for counter-terrorism, resulting in poor conditions, mistreatment, and sometimes death, according to a watchdog report.

"While dogs in the [Explosive Detection Canines Program] are tools used to combat terrorism, they are also living creatures that deserve appropriate attention to their safety and well-being," the department's inspector general said in a new report. But some countries, in particular Jordan, have not been providing proper care.

What's worse, according to the inspector general, is that the State Department failed to provide enough oversight despite previous issues. At least 10 dogs died while others lived in "unhealthy conditions" in Jordan's care from 2008 to 2016, for example, but the department continued to provide dozens of dogs to the critical counter terror ally.

According to the new report, one veterinarian working with the department recommended the program be shut down because of how poorly the dogs were handled. The inspector general called for the department to halt providing dogs "until there is a sufficient sustainability plan in place to ensure their health and welfare" -- a recommendation the department has rejected, citing national security.

Dogs remain one of the most effective means of detecting explosives and therefore deterring terrorism, according to the department. But the report argues that this is only the case when they are being properly care for and are healthy.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or ATF, was initially in charge of providing canines to countries -- 10 in total: Bahrain, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Oman, and Thailand. But the State Department developed its own program in 2016 where dogs and their new foreign trainers are given training in the U.S. and then sent back home.

The program, however, did not have "any written policies, procedures, or written standards of care until after a draft" when the inspector general report was first provided in June, the report said. That meant there were no defined follow-up periods to check on canines' health, and while the State Department team followed U.S. Army standards, they had no standard of care that they required of foreign partners. Letters of agreement about the canines with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco, for example, made no mention of standards of care, beyond that it is the country's responsibility and not America's, per the report.

There have been problems with dogs in several countries. In Indonesia, all the dogs were overweight and had skin issues, the report said, while in Mexico, there was no record of health and welfare checks by the ATF.

But Jordan has had the most persistent problems. The department told the inspector general that it had put in place guarantees to ensure better care, including sending "mentors" to live in country full-time and oversee the program.

The report found, however, "Concerns persisted even with [mentors'] presence in Jordan... Since 2016, little progress has been made regarding the ability of Jordan to care for the [dogs]; in that time, however, [the State Department] has provided 66 dogs to Jordan."

"Multiple dogs" appeared emaciated months after "supposed improvements" were reported, per the report, while many suffered from engorged ticks. Five veterinarians working with the program "expressed concern with the health and welfare of the canines in Jordan," with two recommending on-the-ground oversight.

In particular, the report told the story of three dogs -- all of which happened after improvements were supposed to have been made.

Zoe, a two-year old Belgian Malinois, died of heat stroke near the Syrian border in July 2017, which was attributed to "negligence and improper care" by her trainers.

Mencey, a three-year old Belgian Malinois, became so sick with infections from fleas that even after the U.S. took him back for emergency medical care, veterinarians were unable to treat him and had to euthanize him in March 2018.

Athena, another two-year old Belgian Malinois, was found in a kennel covered in dirt and feces, emaciated and unhealthy -- but her poor condition wasn't noticed by the two full-time mentors on the ground until the veterinarian team raised concerns. She was returned to the U.S. in April 2018 and successfully nursed back to health, and after her incident, the department sent a veterinarian team that arrived last November to live in country full-time for two years.

Still, despite steps like that, the inspector general says it "remains concerned that Jordan is not able or willing to provide adequate care for working dogs without the Department's intervention and that any improvements that have been made were simply a reaction to pressure."

They recommend Jordan not receive any new canines until there is a sufficient plan in place, but the department rejected that, saying it would harm U.S. national security interests to counter terrorism and prevent "explosives from reaching the United States." Instead, the department's counter terrorism bureau says it has a sufficient plan in place.

No plan was ever provided to the inspector general, which says it therefore "cannot confirm whether this plan addresses canine health and welfare."

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- A special operations airman was awarded the Air Force Cross on Friday at a ceremony that recognized his actions during a 2017 combat mission against the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Keller, assigned at the time as a joint terminal attack controller for Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component Afghanistan, is credited with helping to save the lives of 130 members of his assault force who came under fire during a clearance mission against 350 ISIS fighters in Nangarhar Province on Aug. 16, 2017.

Keller, a combat controller with the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, was awarded the medal by Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday.

The Air Force Cross is the nation's second-highest medal for combat valor, only after the Medal of Honor, and is "bestowed on members of the armed forces who display extraordinary heroism while engaged in action against an enemy of the United States," according to a release from the Kentucky Air National Guard.

"[Keller] controlled the most aircraft, he dropped the most bombs -- by a long shot I might add -- and saved the men he was with," Goldfein said during the Friday ceremony.

After 15 hours of combat, his force struck an improvised explosive device that killed four personnel and wounded 31 others, the release said. Keller, who also suffered a traumatic brain injury from the explosion, managed to direct airstrikes while returning fire, "repulsing an enemy assault" less than 500 feet away.

The award citation states that Keller helped move 13 critically wounded casualties to a helicopter landing zone "under a hail of enemy fire."

"When medical evacuation helicopters were unable to identify the landing zone, he sprinted to the center of the field, exposing himself to enemy fire in order to marshal in both aircraft and aid in loading casualties," according to the citation.

Keller then "repulsed a three-sided enemy attack by returning fire with his M-4 and passing enemy positions on to another joint terminal attack controller, allowing friendly forces to break contact" with the enemy. He later had to be medically evacuated for his injuries.

"His personal courage, quick actions and tactical expertise whilst under fire directly contributed to the survival of the 130 members of his assault force, including 31 wounded in action," the citation said.

It's estimated that 50 ISIS fighters were killed during the operation.

"We never know when airmen like Dan will risk everything for a teammate in a really bad situation," Goldfein said, adding, "He didn't give it a second thought or a moment's hesitation."

The American killed in the operation was Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, 27, a Green Beret with 19th Special Forces Group. Air Force Staff Sgt. Pete Dinich, an active duty pararescueman assigned to the 24th Special Operations Wing, was presented a Silver Star medal in September for his actions during the 2017 operation.

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Kameleon007/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- Federal action on guns has been a divisive issue, but a quarter of a century ago, it was a reality.

On this day 25 years ago, then-President Bill Clinton signed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, commonly called the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which was a part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

The ban was law for a decade before expiring in 2004, but the effectiveness of the ban has been debated ever since.

Regular mass shootings have kept the topic of a new version of an assault weapons ban in the national conversation in recent years.

The 1994 version

Most reviews of the 1994 version of the assault weapons ban point to loopholes in the text of the bill that, some argue, made it less effective than some would have wanted.

The bill specifically changed the federal criminal code "to prohibit the manufacture, transfer, or possession of a semiautomatic assault weapon," however, it specified which semiautomatic assault weapons were included.

The bill banned more than a dozen specific firearms and certain features on guns, but because there are so many modifications that can be made on weapons and the fact that it did not outright ban all semiautomatic weapons, many such guns continued to be legally used.

It also banned the "transfer or possession" of large-capacity ammunition devices that carried more than 10 bullets, and noted that while there were exceptions, those not excluded would be treated as firearms.

The biggest of the various loopholes in the bill was that it only applied to the specified types of weapons and large-capacity magazines that were created after the bill became law, meaning that there was nothing illegal about owning or selling such a weapon or magazine that had been created before the law was signed.

The bill that ultimately became law was passed in the Senate with a vote of 95-4 in November 1993.

The effort to have the House of Representatives' iteration pass was pushed along by a bipartisan group of former presidents -- Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan -- who wrote a letter in May 1994 to House members urging them to pass the bill, according to The Los Angeles Times. Former President George H.W. Bush did not sign the letter, the paper noted.

It passed the House in August 1994, with a vote of 235-195, and the reconciled version passed the Senate four days later. It was signed into law by Clinton as part of a larger crime bill on Sept. 13, 1994.

The bill passed with a sunset provision of a decade in place, meaning that when lawmakers agreed to it they knew that it would automatically expire in 2004 unless renewed through another vote.

Congress did not reauthorize the ban at that time, meaning that the sale and manufacture of those previously banned weapons was legal once again on Sept. 13, 2004.

How effective was the ban

Findings and opinions on the ban, unsurprisingly, have differed.

On Aug. 5, after the mass deadly shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Clinton tweeted a call for a new iteration of the ban.

"How many more people have to die before we reinstate the assault weapons ban & the limit on high-capacity magazines & pass universal background checks? After they passed in 1994, there was a big drop in mass shooting deaths. When the ban expired, they rose again. We must act now," Clinton wrote in the tweet.

One of the most-cited studies on the effectiveness of the ban was done in 2004. That federally funded report by the National Institute of Justice at the Department of Justice found that the number of gun crimes involving automatic weapons dropped by 17 percent in the six cities involved in the study during the ban.

The report pointed to a reduction in the use of assault pistols, but noted that there had not been a clear decline in the use of assault rifles.

Ultimately, the report claimed that it was "premature" to make any decisive conclusions.

"Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of LCMs [large capacity magazines] in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. However, the ban’s exemption of millions of pre-ban AWs [assault weapons] and LCMs ensured that the effects of the law would occur only gradually. Those effects are still unfolding and may not be fully felt for several years into the future, particularly if foreign, pre-ban LCMs continue to be imported into the U.S. in large numbers," the report stated.

"Although the ban has been successful in reducing crimes with AWs, any benefits from this reduction are likely to have been outweighed by steady or rising use of non-banned semiautomatics with LCMs, which are used in crime much more frequently than AWs. Therefore, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence," the study’s summary said.

The prospects of another ban

Calls for a new assault weapons ban often crop up after mass shootings, and some lawmakers -- mostly Democrats -- hope to act upon those requests.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., introduced the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 in January, though there has been little movement on the bill since.

Some individual states have adopted their own iterations of the law, banning some semiautomatic weapons, but no such federal law has been in place since.

According to the Giffords Law Center, which is associated with a nonprofit gun violence prevention group, seven states -- California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York -- as well as Washington, D.C., have laws banning assault weapons.

An amendment banning the future sale of assault rifles in Florida has prompted recent debate.

A Florida National Rifle Association lobbyist spoke out against the proposal at a hearing in August, pointing to the impact it would have on gun manufacturers in the state, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

"If I were the owner of one of these firearm manufacturing companies, I wouldn’t wait to see what voters do," lobbyist Marion Hammer said, according to the newspaper. "If this were allowed to go on the ballot, I'd say, 'I’m outta here.'"

Assault weapons and a possible federal ban or buyback program have been a popular topic among the 2020 Democratic candidates as well, ensuring that there will be continued debate on the issue for the months, and possibly years, to come.

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ABC News(HOUSTON) -- As Democrats descended into Republican territory for Thursday’s debate in Houston, Texas, they made their pitches to voters with the hope of creating a battleground opportunity in 2020.

Over the course of nearly three hours, the 10 candidates exchanged blows over pivotal issues including health care, gun legislation, climate change, education and criminal justice.

Amid the multitude of topics, all eyes were focused on Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren who were facing off for the first time at the center of the stage. Despite the high stakes for two of the top-polling candidates, their matchup didn’t create major fireworks, but rather continued the back-and-forth over whether Democrats should embrace a moderate party platform or move toward a more progressive stance.

The debate also featured a rare moment of unity on the heels of tragedy that took place in the border town of El Paso, Texas. Despite their differences regarding the best way to pursue gun policy reform, all of the candidates rallied around former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native.

The center stage tangle over health care

The first-time faceoff between Biden and Warren almost immediately devolved into a pile-on over health care across all wings of the debate stage. With Warren on his left, and Sen. Bernie Sanders to his right, Biden, the current top-polling front runner, was pelted with attacks on all sides.

While Warren and Sanders questioned whether Biden’s plan, which would build upon Obamacare rather than completely overhaul it, went far enough, Biden staunchly defended the former president’s landmark health care bill.

“I know that the senator says she’s for Bernie. Well I’m for Barack. I think Obamacare worked,” Biden said. “This is about candor, honesty, big ideas.”

Biden also questioned how the two progressives flanking him on stage would pay for their plans.

“My distinguished friend, the senator on my left, has not indicated how she pays for it,” Biden said in reference to Warren’s defense of a “Medicare For All” plan.

“And the senator has, in fact, come forward and said how he's going to pay for it, but it gets him halfway there,” Biden added in a pivot to Sanders.

Biden also argued Warren’s plan would result in tax hikes for the middle class, which the Massachusetts senator didn’t overtly deny. Instead, Warren took a swipe back by insisting she “actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company.”

The debate over “Medicare For All” exposed deep divides between the progressive and more moderate candidates on stage, including current Senate colleagues.

Sanders was put on the spot for his backing of “Medicare for All” by Sen. Amy Klobuchar. While Sanders claimed ownership over writing the plan, which he said would would be the most cost-effective policy for providing Americans with health care, Klobuchar insisted otherwise.

“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill,” Klobuchar jabbed.

Former colleagues face off

While the former vice president invoked the accomplishments of President Obama on health care, he also fielded a sharp attack from one of his former administration colleagues. In a testy exchange, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro seemed to question Biden’s mental fitness as he argued over the difference between automatic enrollment and opting-in for coverage.

“That's a big difference, because Barack Obama's vision was not to leave 10 million people uncovered. He wanted every single person in this country covered. My plan would do that. Your plan would not,” Castro said.

As Biden said Americans would not have to buy into coverage under his plan, Castro followed up with a claim that the former vice president contradicted himself.

“You just said two minutes ago that they would have to buy in,” Castro shot back. “Are you forgetting what you said two minutes ago? Are you forgetting already what you said just two minutes ago?”

In fact, two minutes earlier Biden stated people would be enrolled in Medicare if they could not afford health insurance.

“Anyone who can't afford it gets automatically enrolled in the Medicare-type option,” Biden said, later adding, “If you want Medicare, if you lose the job from your insurance company, from your employer, you automatically can buy into this.”

Harris pivots from challenging Biden to taking on Trump

After briefly rising and falling in the polls following a headline-grabbing debate performance in June, Sen. Kamala Harris on Thursday pivoted away from the theatrics that marked her early performances and focused on targeting a rival not on the debate stage: President Donald Trump.

“I have a few words for Donald Trump,” Harris said, turning to speak directly to the camera. “What you don't get you is that the American people are so much better than this.”

The California senator added that her campaign is focused “on our common issues, common hopes and desires” and that she will work to unify the country and turn “the page for America.”

“And now, President Trump, you can go back to watching Fox News,” Harris said after calling out the president.

And later in the debate, amid a fiery discussion on Medicare for All, Harris again used her time to address the president.

“At least five people have talked, some repeatedly on this subject, and not once have we talked about Donald Trump,” Harris said. “So let's talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office and spent almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.”

Harris’ campaign has somewhat stumbled after initially seeing a bump in polling following a blockbuster moment in the first debate when the California senator criticized Biden for his history of working with segregationists and opposing school busing.

In Thursday’s showing, Harris looked like a candidate trying to stretch over the primary and into a general election showdown with the president by making the case she’s the most prepared to lead the Democratic Party and the country moving forward.

Candidates defend records on race, praise O’Rourke’s response to El Paso shooting

The issue of race in America took center stage during Thursday night’s debate -- and while most of the candidates called out Trump for widening the racial divide, a number of the Democrats on stage were asked to defend their own record.

ABC News Correspondent Linsey Davis asked Mayor Pete Buttigieg, “You've been struggling with issues around race in your own community. You've also said that anyone who votes to re-elect President Trump is, at best, looking the other way on racism. Does that sort of talk alienate voters and potentially deepen divisions in our country?”

The South Bend mayor looked to divert his response away from his record and toward Trump, saying, “I believe what's deepened divisions in the country is the conduct of this president, and we have a chance to change all of that.”

And when confronted about her record in law enforcement by Davis, Sen. Harris seemed ready to respond: “I'm glad you asked me this question, and there have been many distortions of my record.”

Harris went on to defend her service, promising to close private prisons and to hold law enforcement, including prosecutors, accountable. The former California attorney general added that her experience would allow her to fix the system “from the inside.”

“I will have the ability to be an effective leader and get this job complete,” Harris said.

Another major moment: Amid the heated discussion on racial issues and gun control, candidates found a brief moment of unity Thursday night, offering support for O’Rourke in his home state for his response to the recent mass shooting in El Paso which targeted Latinos.

“I want to commend Beto for how well he has spoken to the passion and the frustration and the sadness after what happened in his hometown of El Paso. He's done a great job with that,” Castro told his fellow candidate.

The former vice president also commended O’Rourke for how he handled the shooting, first calling the former congressman “Beto” before apologizing.

“Excuse me for saying Beto," Biden said, to which O’Rourke replied, "That’s all right, Beto's good.”

“The way he handled what happened in his hometown is meaningful. The look in the eyes of those people, to see those kids, to understand those parents, you understand the heartache,” Biden said.

And in one of the more passionate moments from Thursday’s debate, O’Rourke argued for stricter gun control by telling an emotional story of visiting with victims of the shooting.

“I met the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was shot by an AR-15 and that mother watched her bleed to death over the course of an hour because so many other people were shot by that AR-15 in Odessa, in Midland. There weren't enough ambulances to get to them in time,” O’Rourke said. “So, hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We're not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.”

Buttigieg shares his personal story of coming out

All 10 candidates were asked to close the debate by sharing some of their professional setbacks in order to demonstrate their ability to be resilient leaders if elected president.

The question drew a wide array of responses, including Buttigieg’s personal story of coming out under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, before becoming an elected official in a conservative state.

“When it came to professional setbacks, I’d wonder whether just acknowledging who I was, was going to be the ultimate career-ending professional setback,” Buttigieg said. “I came back from the deployment and realized that you only get to live one life, and I was not interested in not knowing what it was like to be in love any longer, so I just came out.”

“I had no idea what kind of professional setback it would be, especially because inconveniently, it was an election year in my socially conservative community,” he continued. “What happened was that when I trusted voters to judge me based on the job that I did for them, they decided to trust me and re-elected me with 80% of the vote. And what I learned was that trust can be reciprocated, and that part of how you can win and deserve to win is to know what's worth more to you than winning.”

As the first openly gay person to run for U.S. president, Buttigieg’s account offered a reminder of the historic nature of the diversity among this field of candidates.

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