Political News

Fishermen's Supreme Court fight against government monitors could make big splash

Ryan McGinnis/Getty Images

(CAPE MAY, N.J.) -- For nearly 50 years, America's herring fishermen have been required to take federal monitors on their boats when they set out into the North Atlantic.

Aboard cramped private trawlers, the monitors record the health of fish and of the sea.

But now there's a catch.

When regulators said the fishermen were on the hook to pay the monitors' salaries, many said the government had gone too far.

"We don't mind taking observers, you know, we have for decades now," said Stefan Axelsson, a third-generation herring fisherman. "But to be told to pay for it just isn't right."

"Me and everybody around me is concerned about that, highly concerned," added Bill Bright, who has been in the herring business for four decades, "because the margins are so tight right now."

This fall, Axelsson, Bright and half a dozen other fishermen -- who say the added expense could drive some out of business -- will take their crusade against the policy to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A ruling in their favor could have an impact far beyond the ocean, experts say.

"This case is going to completely change the way the federal government operates if the Supreme Court decides to change the status quo," said Meredith Moore, director of the fish conservation program at Ocean Conservancy and member of the nation's Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee. She says this is a "Trojan horse" for the anti-regulation movement -- a loophole that could affect oversight across the federal government.

At issue in the case, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, is how much discretion federal agencies should have in doing their jobs -- setting rules that govern everything from public health to environmental protection to tax collection – when Congress does not spell out the details in the laws that authorize regulation of American life.

The fishermen say a 1976 law directing management of the nation's fisheries -- the Magnuson-Stevens Act -- says nothing about requiring them to foot the bill for their own minders.

"You expect the government to pay the police force. You expect the government to pay for the IRS auditors. So that seems like kind of the default assumption. If Congress thinks this is really important that there be a monitor on every ship, then it can pay for a monitor on every ship," said Paul Clement, one of the country's most experienced Supreme Court lawyers who has argued over 100 cases.

Lawmakers have not appropriated funding for a federal monitoring corps aboard all vessels.

Clement says the fishermen's dispute with the National Marine Fisheries Service is just one example of how agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service, have seized too much power that Congress never intended them to have in some cases.

"This is about gray areas, but the problem is, once you say that there are gray areas and then there's a different rule, people start seeing gray everywhere," Clement said. "If the agency really wants this authority, they should go back to Congress and get it."

Since 1984, the Supreme Court has said judges should generally defer to federal agency experts in disputes over ambiguities in the law. The practice has become widely known as the Chevron Doctrine, named after the case Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. National Defense Resources Council.

A federal appeals court sided with the government in the fishermen's challenge.

"If you got rid of Chevron you would essentially force - you'd make the executive branch a little less powerful. You'd make the other two branches a little more powerful," Clement says.

For years, the executive branch – under presidents of both political parties – has vigorously defended the legal precedent and the leeway it provides. But several conservative members of the high court have signaled an eagerness to overturn Chevron.

"We don't want Congress trying to figure out the nitty gritty details of literally everything," said Moore. "Congress has delegated these sorts of authorities to federal agencies to be experts, to be scientists, to be these technicians and make sure that we're protecting human health and safety and the environment."

The NOAA declined comment to ABC News about the case, citing the pending litigation.

The Biden administration argues in court documents that Congress explicitly gave fisheries regulators the power to set rules "as may be necessary" to do their jobs. The broad language implicitly gives the agency authority to have fishermen pay their observers, it argues.

"What we could lose with this case is the grounding of our government in expertise and science in the way that we interpret laws all over the country," said Moore.

Meanwhile, Axelsson and Bright say the salary payment rule -- which has not yet taken effect -- could make the economics of fishing herring significantly more difficult.

Higher insurance rates and fuel costs have eaten into profit margins over the past decade, and shrinking stocks of fish, likely caused by climate change, have meant dramatically lower government caps on what they can catch.

"Nobody has more invested than me and Steve, and nobody cares more about this fishery and nobody cares more about the ocean than we do," Bright said. "There is without a doubt a role [for] the government [in managing the fishery], but this should be based on, in our opinion, in science."

Since 1976, federal marine observers have been put on commercial fishing vessels to collect data to help set fishing guidelines. The scientists track water temperature and condition of the fish, and monitor for protected species swept up in the nets. They do not have law enforcement authority.

For sometimes days at sea, they're In close quarters with the fishermen, even sharing bunk beds in a tiny cabin.

In 2020, federal regulators -- looking to expand coverage of observers at sea -- moved to require some herring fishermen to directly pay observer salaries -- up to $700 a day. By one estimate, that could top 20% of the revenue from a fisherman's catch.

"Sometimes [the catch is] zero. Sometimes we have to go back out next trip to cover what the expenses were from this trip," said Axelsson. "So at some point, I may not make a herring trip if I got to, you know, take a monitor and pay for it because it might not be worth it to me and my crew."

As Bright prepares for herring season in November and Axelsson games out his next big catch, both men say their minds will be on the Supreme Court -- just don't expect to see them in the courtroom for oral arguments.

"I'll probably be fishing," Axelsson said. "Probably be fishing, too," added Bright.


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Sen. Bob Menendez due in federal court to be arraigned on bribery and extortion

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(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Bob Menendez, his wife and two business associates are due to appear Wednesday in a Manhattan, New York federal court to be arraigned on bribery and extortion charges.

Menendez has already said he is innocent in fiery statements and in public remarks but this is when he will formally enter a not guilty plea and begin mounting a legal defense.

Menendez said the wads of cashed found in his jacket, his closet and in other parts of his home were the results of legitimate withdrawals he makes from his savings account, what he likened to “old fashioned” paranoia of the son of a Cuban immigrant worried about confiscation.

He did not address the gold bars and other forms of alleged bribery federal prosecutors said he took in exchange for wielding political influence on behalf of three associates.

One of them, Wael Hana -- who returned to the United States on Tuesday -- was formally placed under arrest and brought to court for an initial appearance.

Hana allegedly paid off Menendez, including giving a no-show job to the senator’s wife, to ensure he could maintain a lucrative exclusive contract to provide halal meat to Egypt.

The other two businessmen charged in the case, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe, are accused of paying Menendez in exchange for his help with separate criminal cases they faced, though U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said last week in his announcement of the charges neither the New Jersey Attorney General’s office nor the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey succumbed to the pressure Menendez is alleged to have provided.

Sen. Menendez signaled Monday that he will remain in office despite pressure to resign from office.

Defiant as he delivered his first public remarks since the Sept. 22 indictment, Menendez spoke in Union Station, New Jersey, where he started his political career four decades ago. He took no questions from the press.

Menendez has temporarily stepped down from his influential post as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced last week. Senate Democratic caucus rules state that any member who is charged with a felony must step aside from any leadership position.

Menendez has served in the Senate since 2006 and is up for reelection next year.

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Five things to watch in the second Republican debate

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(SIMI VALLEY, Calif.) -- Most of the Republican presidential candidates are gathering in Simi Valley, California, on Wednesday night for the 2024 cycle's second debate in the GOP primary, which has become increasingly dominated by former President Donald Trump.

Like he did with the first debate, Trump is skipping the event at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, citing his hefty primary polling leads and his complaints with the host venue and Fox News, whose sister network Fox Business is moderating.

That'll leave seven candidates on stage, vying with one another for momentum as they seek to close the huge gap with Trump.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, entrepreneur and commentator Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum all qualified, while various other hopefuls, like former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, didn't make the polling and donor thresholds.

Here are five things to watch for as the candidates square off again:

Can Haley and Ramaswamy keep themselves in the spotlight?

Haley and Ramaswamy both garnered positive reviews after the first primary debate last month, according to a FiveThirtyEight/Washington Post/Ipsos poll of likely GOP primary voters. Haley touted her conservative bona fides while pitching herself as an accomplished leader rather than a provocateur, while Ramaswamy sought to go toe-to-toe with other candidates to burnish his outsider credentials.

The second primary could offer them a chance to maintain a key asset: momentum.

"You need to have a strong night, and you can't fall off the stage, literally or figuratively, at the debate. Both of them have to perform as well as they did or better," said New Hampshire-based GOP strategist Dave Carney.

However, their performances last month could inspire other candidates to step up their games on Wednesday night and possibly direct barbs specifically their way.

"Just take Nikki Haley, who did a great job at the first debate. I think all the other contenders think, 'Well, holy moly, I gotta do the same thing.' So there will be a lot more people who are much more proactive, much more assertive -- some of them, than they were the first debate," Carney said.

And for Ramaswamy, who has drawn the spotlight but raised eyebrows for mixing it up with other candidates while calling for broad overhauls of the federal government and advocating a Trump-like platform, GOP strategist Bob Heckman said voters may be looking for added policy meat on the bone.

"I think Ramaswamy, in particular, people want to see what the second act is. The first act was basically being a contrarian to everybody on stage. What comes after that in terms of substance?" Heckman said.

Can DeSantis and Scott change their narratives?

DeSantis, who has bounced from second place in some New Hampshire and South Carolina polls for the first time in recent weeks, has battled constant speculation that his status as the main Trump alternative is at risk.

And Scott, who was thought to be rising before the first debate, appeared to fade into the background at last month's event, with relatively little speaking time and tepid marks from likely voters in the post-debate poll.

It's unclear how much their strategies will change ahead of the Wednesday debate, though Scott has started to go after other candidates more by name.

"For DeSantis, it's critical. I don't think he can afford to have a second straight flat debate," Heckman said. "And I don't think he was bad in the first debate, but I don't think he excited anyone, and he needs to show some personality and some willingness to mix it up with the front-runner. And I don't think he showed that in the first debate."

"I think Tim Scott continues to be a curiosity. People look at him and say, 'Sounds good, and I want to know more about him.' If you look at his recent appearances, Tim Scott's been much more combative, much more forceful," Heckman added. "I think Scott has got an opportunity to really emerge in the second debate."

However, other strategists said that one debate is not enough to change perceptions of the candidates after months of campaigning -- particularly without Trump on stage to go after directly.

"Scott and DeSantis are likely who they are, and voters won’t come away with a different impression," GOP strategist Rob Stutzman said.

Shutdown, immigration could loom larger

Policy wise, strategists predicted that an approaching government shutdown and immigration are likely to dominate discussion on stage Wednesday night.

Moderator Stuart Varney told Variety that "we are going to go over all the issues, and that’s what the audience wants."

Republicans in the House have been unable to pass their own spending bills amid fierce infighting between Speaker Kevin McCarthy and hard-liners on his right flank who are demanding steeper spending cuts.

Republicans on and off Capitol Hill are also seizing on a rise in unauthorized crossings at the southern border to hit the Biden administration on its immigration policies.

"It's going to be the No. 1 topic of discussion, we're a few days from the government shutdown. As of today, right now, there's no plan in place. No. 2 will be the border as the crisis boils over," Carney predicted. "I think things like Ukraine and other things may come up, but only in context of the spending in the budget, which will all be part of the government shutdown conversation. And I'm sure the moderators will try to interject other issues, but I don't think voters are really caring about anything else but those two things right now."

Varney told Variety that their focus for the questions won't just be "the economy. That may be the most important issue in the category, but there are other subjects involved here."

With few of the candidates currently holding federal office and many making calls to clamp down on the border, it's unclear how much differentiation will emerge on the subjects of spending and the border.

"Immigration likely gets airtime, but they'll all sound the same," Stutzman said.

How much traction does the counterprogramming get?

While the debate will be the main event on Wednesday, the candidates on stage will have to at least partially share the spotlight.

Trump is set to speak in Clinton Township, Michigan, one hour before the debate begins. The speech is ostensibly about the ongoing United Auto Workers strike, whose members the former president is trying to court, but Trump has a longstanding reputation for lengthy and thematically meandering speeches.

Trump sought to counterprogram the first debate with an interview with Tucker Carlson on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Meanwhile President Joe Biden will start Wednesday in San Francisco after a campaign reception Tuesday evening before holding another campaign event later in Arizona.

"Trump gets attention no matter what he does. And so, I think it'll get some attention, but I think that most of the attention will be on the debate," Heckman said. "I don't think Trump loses a thing by not being in the debate, but I don't think he can avoid the fact that coming out of the debate, there's going to be talked about who has a good debate, who doesn't."

Is this the last time the stage is this big?

The stage only shrunk by one candidate after the first debate, with Hutchinson failing to qualify for Wednesday's event. But strategists predicted there will be a bit of culling by the time the third debate rolls around in November.

To qualify for that event, candidates must poll at least 4% in two national polls or at 4% in one national poll and 4% or one early state poll from two separate "carve out" states approved by the Republican National Committee: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

That’s a 1% jump in polling from the second debate’s requirements, where a candidate needed 3% in three national polls or 3% in two national polls and 3% in two early-state polls.

Candidates will also need a minimum of 70,000 unique donors -- up from 50,000 for entry into the second debate -- with at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in at least 20 states and/or territories.

"I think, potentially, the Reagan Library will be the scene of a massive killing field, and I think you'll see a number of people not make it on to the third debate, which is what the contenders really need," Carney said. "You need to have as clear a field as possible s that instead of people writing about eight or seven people, they're writing about four or five, and then hopefully that narrows down."

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Mike Pence calls out Trump for skipping debate: 'He ought to be on that debate stage'

ABC News

(SIMI VALLEY, Calif.) -- In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday with ABC News' Linsey Davis, former vice president Mike Pence said his former running mate, former President Donald Trump, should be facing the same questions in Simi Valley, California, as the rest of the field, with hours to go until the second Republican primary debate.

"Well, I think he owes it to voters to answer the tough questions and to share his vision for where we lead this country out of the failed policies of the Biden administration," Pence said from outside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. "I think that Donald Trump today is different than the Donald Trump of 2016. And you bet I think he ought to be on that debate stage."

"He ought to be engaging all of us that are vying for this nomination. He ought to be sharing his vision," he added. "But for my part, I'm going to continue to share a vision of a tested proven conservative that knows those same ideas, those ideas we governed on, those ideas that Ronald Reagan brought forward and brought America back in the 1980s, they're the ideas that are going to bring America back today."

The former vice president offered his usual account of Jan. 6, when asked to react to former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson claiming in her new book that Trump repeated parts of the "Hang Mike Pence" chant along with rioters while watching the attack unfold.

"Well, I wasn't there. I have no idea what was happening at the West Wing. I was -- I stayed at my post that day," Pence said. "Whatever happened down at the White House, I know that what we did that day, what law enforcement did quelling that riot and making it possible for us to reconvene the Congress the very same day and complete our work under the Constitution of the United States. It took a day of tragedy and made it a triumph of freedom, and I'll never see it any other way."

Pence said he was "not familiar with the judge's ruling," when Davis asked if it's fair now to raise on the campaign trail how a New York judge on Tuesday found Trump liable for fraud, but said, "judgments about the president can be made by any American."

"Look, anybody on that stage can bring up any issues they want. I'm going to be focused on the issues the American people are focused on, and the fact that I'm committed to bringing those conservative solutions that have defined our party over the last 50 years, to bear on it, while Donald Trump and others are following a siren song of populism and want to lead our party to a whole different range of policies that I think will ill serve the nation as we try and find our way out of the failures of the Biden administration," Pence said.

Pence has been cautious not to alienate either side amid the United Auto Workers strike but told Davis he blames the economy under President Joe Biden's agenda for driving it.

"It's a free country. Joe Biden can go to the picket line and grab a bullhorn and talk about his support for members of the UAW, but I gotta tell you, you know, I come from the second leading manufacturing state in the country... I think what's putting those people on the picket line is not the class warfare politics you're hearing about, I think it's that Bidenomics has failed. Wages are not keeping up with inflation, and auto workers know it, just like all American workers," Pence said.

"I heard he didn't stick around very long on the picket line," he added, suggesting union workers could have "pulled him aside when the cameras weren't rolling" to question "this aggressive electric vehicle agenda."

"That's the issue that's driving that strike," he said. "And if I'm president, we're gonna go back to it all of the above energy strategy."

While seven Republican candidates including Pence are expected to debate on Wednesday night in California, Trump is holding a rally in Michigan to also shore up support among auto workers, skipping out on his second primary debate.

Pence, a seasoned debater, spoke longer than any of his competitors at the last debate, directing his attacks at political newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy and, at times, interrupting the moderators to get in on the topic of discussion.

The former vice president continues to poll in the single digits, indicated by his position on the debate stage, but his team remains confident in a pathway to victory with a heavy focus on Iowa.

Committed to America, a super PAC backing Pence, told donors in a pre-debate memo that they have surpassed 500,000 doors knocked in Iowa, claiming to be the first organization in the state to do so, and branding Pence as "the clear conservative alternative to Donald Trump."

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Growing number of Senate Democrats call on Sen. Bob Menendez to resign

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- A growing number of Senate Democrats on Tuesday called on New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez to resign after a federal grand jury returned a sweeping indictment against him late last week.

The Senate returned to Washington Tuesday for the first time since Menendez, a Democrat, was indicted on federal bribery charges. While many Senate Democrats were initially slow to react, many of them are now calling for Menendez to step aside, with at least 18 having done so by Tuesday evening.

Most notable is Menendez's New Jersey Senate colleague Cory Booker. Booker called the allegations against Menendez "hard to reconcile with the person I know," but said he ultimately concluded that Menendez ought to resign his seat in the Senate.

"Stepping down is not an admission of guilty but an acknowledgement that holding public office often demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost," Booker said in a statement Tuesday morning. "Sen. Menendez has made these sacrifices in the past to serve. And in this case he must do so again. I believe stepping down is the best for those Senator Menendez has spent his life serving."

Menendez and his wife, Nadine, are accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for wielding his power to enrich three businessmen -- Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daides -- and benefit the Egyptian government. Those bribes, according to prosecutors, included gold bars, a luxury convertible car, home mortgage payments and more. Menendez has denied wrongdoing.

Sen. John Fetterman, D-Pa., was the first Senate Democrat to call on Menendez to step down. In a Saturday statement, Fetterman asserted that while Menendez is deserving of a presumption of innocence until proven guilty, he is "not entitled to continue to wield influence over national policy, especially given the serious and specific nature of the allegations."

Menendez seemed to be answering Fetterman's statement, and calls from others for his resignation, during remarks to gathered press on Monday afternoon.

While defending himself from what he described as "salacious" allegations in the indictment, Menendez called on his fellow lawmakers to be patient as he defends himself in court.

"A cornerstone of the foundation of American democracy and our justice system is the principle that all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. All people. I ask for nothing more and deserve nothing less," Menendez said. "The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system. We cannot set aside the presumption of innocence for political expediency when the harm is irrevocable."

Menendez called on onlookers to "pause and allow the facts to be presented."

But he did not find a sympathetic audience in many of his fellow Democratic senators.

Since Menendez's remarks, several additional Senate Democrats have joined Fetterman in his calls for Menendez to resign.

Among them are Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who said Menendez violated the public's trust.

"Public service is a sacred trust. The specific allegations set forth in the federal indictment indicate to me that Senator Menendez violated that trust repeatedly. While he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, serving in public office is a privilege that demands a higher standard of conduct. Senator Menendez should resign," Casey said in a statement.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, joined as well.

"Senator Menendez has broken the public trust and should resign from the U.S. Senate," Brown said.

Menendez, who is up for reelection 2024, has not yet announced whether he intends to run. But so far, the most vocal of those calling for his resignation are his colleagues who will be on the ballot next November.

Casey and Brown are up next cycle. So, too, are Sens. Jacky Rosen, Tammy Baldwin, Martin Heinrich and Jon Tester, who have joined the chorus calling on Menendez to resign.

Tester's call was particularly notable as he holds what is largely expected to one of the hardest seats for Democrats to keep next fall, in red Montana.

"I've read the detailed charges against Senator Menendez and find them deeply disturbing. While he deserves a fair trial like every other American, I believe Senator Menendez should resign for the sake of the public's faith in the U.S. Senate," Tester said in a statement.

Other Democrats include Sens. Kirstin Gillibrand of New York, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Michael Bennet of Colorado, Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Georgia's Raphael Warnock and Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal.

On Monday, Menendez seemed to swipe at those who are using his indictment to forward their political campaigns.

"Remember prosecutors are wrong sometimes. Sadly, I know that," Menendez said. "Instead of waiting for all the facts to be presented, others have rushed to take the opportunity for themselves or those around them."

Menendez has temporarily stepped away from his role as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee amid allegations.

This is the second time Menendez has been charged with corruption. A 2015 indictment ended in a mistrial in 2018 after a jury failed to reach a verdict on all counts and a judge acquitted him on some charges.

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Top DOJ official warns of potential 'dangerous' shutdown impact on nation's cyber defenses

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(WASHINGTON) -- A government shutdown could have a "dangerous" impact on the nation's cyber defenses as well as on state and federal efforts to combat violent crime, a top Justice Department official said Tuesday.

"The cascading effects of something like this is really, I think, quite dangerous and quite irresponsible," Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in an interview Tuesday morning with Washington Post Live. "We need to be able to give our employees certainty that they can come to work and do their job."

With the Oct. 1 funding deadline looming, Monaco raised alarm over the thousands of staffers across DOJ's 115,000-plus workforce who could be furloughed as a result of a shutdown, as well as grants that could be stalled that aid local police departments around the country.

"Folks who have life and safety missions will continue to do their work," Monaco said. "But all of the support that they have, all of the work that they do and that we fund with our state and local partners -- when we talk about violent crime, the lion's share of that work to combat violent crime, it's being done by our state and local law enforcement partners."

"Our ability to fund those efforts, to work in partnership -- all of that is dramatically reduced and hindered by a government shutdown," she added.

A contingency plan released this week shows that roughly 85% of the department's workforce will be expected to remain on the job even if there is a lapse in funding, either because their roles involve protecting human life or property or their compensation is funded by a revenue stream separate from annual appropriations.

That would include, for example, officials on the staff of all three special counsels appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland -- who are expected to continue their investigations even if the government shuts down.

Federal courts and other judiciary operations are expected to begin running out of money around Oct. 13 after exhausting court fees and other leftover balances.

Criminal cases would continue uninterrupted, according to the department, though civil litigation could be "curtailed or postponed" as a result of a shutdown.

In her remarks Tuesday, Monaco also raised concerns about the approaching expiration of a key surveillance program used by the government to collect communications from foreign targets overseas who message on U.S.-based communications platforms.

For months, Monaco and other senior law enforcement officials from the Biden administration have been engaged in a full-court press to persuade Congress to reauthorize the program -- Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- before it's due to expire at the end of the year.

That campaign has been further complicated by recent disclosures from the FBI of how analysts have at times abused the program by conducting improper searches on the system seeking information on Americans.

The FBI has said it has implemented a number of reforms to protect against future abuses, and has reported significant improvements in the last year showing a drop in improper queries. While negotiations to reauthorize Section 702 could be further stymied in the event of a government shutdown, Monaco argued allowing the program to lapse would eliminate one of the most "vital" tools in the government's arsenal to protect against foreign threats such as cyber attacks and terrorism.

"If we lose this authority it is catastrophic for our national security efforts," Monaco said. "It is vital to our ability to understand threats -- from cyber threats, to nation-state adversaries, to Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, plans and intentions across a whole host of threats."

Monaco said she supported reauthorizing the program "with appropriate changes" that would assure Americans "we are using this tool in accordance with our responsibilities under the law and under the Constitution."

"That's what we owe the American people," she added.

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Supreme Court refuses Alabama Republicans' request to stop second Black voting district

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(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday again rejected Alabama's push not to have to add a second Black district to their election map, with the justices refusing a request to halt a lower court order that outside experts will draw new districts for the 2024 elections.

The brief order did not note any dissents from the court. The state, led by Republicans, had sought an emergency stay.

In September, a three-judge federal panel found that that a GOP-drafted plan likely did not comply with the Voting Rights Act as it did not create a second district in which Black voters would likely be able to elect their preferred candidate.

The federal ruling that originally struck down Alabama's map in 2022 ordered the Legislature to draw "two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it."

About 27% of Alabama residents are Black, according to census data. Only one of its seven districts is represented by a Black lawmaker.

The state Legislature had passed their latest congressional map in late July, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a month earlier that the previous map violated the civil rights law.

Defenders of the now-rejected map argued they had achieved "something quite close," as the lower federal court ordered. Under that plan, Black voters comprised 39.93% of Alabama's 2nd District and 50.65% of the 7th District.

In their sharply worded opinion on Sept. 5, the federal panel disagreed.

"Law requires the creation of an additional district that affords Black Alabamians, like everyone else, a fair and reasonable opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The 2023 Plan plainly fails to do so," U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus, U.S. District Judge Anna Manasco and U.S. District Judge Terry Moorer wrote.

There are political implications for the redistricting, as Democrats believe an additional minority district will be favorable to them, given that Black voters in Alabama favor Democrats.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, a Republican, said in a statement after the Supreme Court ruling was handed down on Tuesday that the state will "now be encumbered with a racially gerrymandered, court-drawn map for the 2024 election cycle" and called the maps with two majority-Black districts an "absurd disfigurement."

"It is now clear that none of the maps proposed by Republican supermajorities had any chance of success. Treating voters as individuals would not do. Instead, our elected representatives and our voters must apparently be reduced to skin color alone. No Alabamian—black, white, Republican, or Democrat—can look at the court-drawn maps that will soon be imposed on us and see anything other than the prioritization of race above all else. Our communities, local economies, and basic geography will be cast aside in the radical pursuit of racial quotas. There simply is no other explanation for the absurd disfigurement," he said.

Marshall said that his office would continue their fight to defend the 2023 map.

"We will comply with the district court’s preliminary injunction order, while building our case for the 2023 map, which has yet to receive a full hearing. We are confident that the Voting Rights Act does not require, and the Constitution does not allow, 'separate but equal' congressional districts," he concluded.

A statement released by the American Civil Liberties Union, the plaintiffs in the suit against the original maps, said, in part: "This additional representation in Congress will undoubtedly change lives, especially for the hundreds of thousands of Alabamians residing in the Black Belt who suffer from lack of healthcare access, job opportunities, and crumbling infrastructure. We look forward to a new era in our state’s history, in which power is shared and Black voices are heard.”

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Cassidy Hutchinson says Trump said 'hang' as he watched rioters chant 'hang Mike Pence' on Jan. 6

ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson claims without providing further evidence that former President Donald Trump said the word "hang" as he was watching rioters chant "hang Mike Pence" as the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection unfolded on a TV in the dining room of the Oval Office, according to an excerpt of Hutchinson's new book read out by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

"I take a few steps back as Mark takes my place in the doorway and strain to listen to both conversations," Hutchinson wrote. "The TV in the Oval dining room is blaring, and the president is yelling. What's he saying? I can't make it out. I hear him say 'hang' repeatedly. Hang? What's that about? Mark hands his phone back to me, the cue for me to return to my desk."

Last year, Hutchinson testified before the House Jan. 6 committee that she overheard then-White House counsel Pat Cipollone and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows recounting Trump's reaction when told rioters were chanting "Hang Mike Pence!" -- that he responded he "deserves" it.

Trump has denied saying Pence deserved to be hanged, calling Hutchinson a liar. Meadows has not publicly commented.

He previously defended the rioters who chanted for Pence to be hanged.

"Were you worried about him during that siege? Were you worried about his safety?" ABC Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl asked Trump in March.

"No, I thought he was well-protected, and I had heard that he was in good shape. ... No, because, uh, I had heard he was in very good shape. But, but -- no, I think --" Trump responded.

"Because you heard those chants, that was terrible. I mean, you know, those," Karl said, to which Trump replied, "He could have -- well, the people were very angry."

In her new book, Enough, Hutchinson also reportedly made additional claims about the alleged chaotic nature of the final days of the Trump presidency, including Meadows regularly burning documents in the fireplace of his office.

According to the New York Times, the Guardian and CNN, Hutchinson wrote that Meadows burned so many documents in his office that his wife complained about the dry-cleaning cost of his suits to get rid of "bonfire" smell.

Meadows' spokesperson told CNN that the account has been mischaracterized, claiming Meadows often used old newspaper to start his office fireplace and that it had "nothing to do with documents."

During her testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee last year, Hutchinson similarly testified that then-White House chief of staff Meadows burned papers in his office after meeting with Rep. Scott Perry, who was the chair of the House Freedom Caucus.

Appearing on The Rachel Maddow Show Monday night, Hutchinson described alleged mishandling of classified documents during the final days of the Trump administration as "reckless and careless."

"It speaks also just to how reckless and careless much of the administration was not taking classified document protocol seriously a lot of the time," Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson appeared on ABC's The View on Tuesday but did not address these claims.

Hutchinson also alleges in her book that Rudy Giuliani groped her at Trump's Jan. 6 rally tent, which Giuliani denied, according to multiple reports.

Despite what she saw in the final days of the Trump administration and leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection, Hutchinson wrote that she wanted to move to Mar-a-Lago to continue to work for Trump after his term ended, USA Today reported, but that Meadows told her Trump suspected her of leaking to the press the names of people joining him in Florida.

"My frustration turned to rage. 'Mark, you can go to hell if you think that,'" Hutchinson wrote, according to USA Today. "That night I went home and unpacked, trying to let the news sink in that I wasn't moving to Florida."

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Asa Hutchinson sets new goal for 2024 campaign after missing debate requirement

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson will continue his 2024 campaign for president despite failing to qualify for the second Republican presidential primary debate, but he set a new standard for himself late Monday to stay in the race beyond November.

"Despite falling short of the RNC's polling requirement for inclusion in the second Presidential Primary Debate, I will continue our campaign to bring out the best of America with events scheduled in Iowa, New Hampshire, and across the country in the next several weeks," Hutchinson said in a statement.

"My goal is to increase my polling numbers to 4% in an early state before Thanksgiving," he said. "If that goal is met, then I remain competitive and in contention for either Caucus Day or Primary Day."

Hutchinson is the only candidate who was at the first debate in Milwaukee in September to now not make the second stage on Wednesday.

He went on to say in his statement that he entered the race "because it is critically important for a leader within the Republican Party to stand up to Donald Trump" and teased a press conference that he'll hold in Detroit on Wednesday to "highlight [Trump's] false promises to blue collar and union workers in Michigan and across America."

Former President Trump will also be in Michigan on Wednesday to counter-program the debate with a rally in Clinton Township, as he tries to shore up support with auto workers amid the strike.

Seven candidates cleared all polling, donor and pledging benchmarks to participate in Wednesday's debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, the Republican National Committee confirmed on Monday night.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, biotech entrepreneur and commentator Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum are all expected to participate. Trump, the front-runner, again declined to attend.

Candidates had until 48 hours prior to the debate to prove to the RNC that they'd hit at least 3% in three national polls or in a mix of national and early state polls recognized by the committee. They also had to show at least 50,000 individual donors to their campaigns, including a minimum of at least 200 unique donors per state in 20 states.

The former Arkansas governor, who is registering below 1% according to FiveThirtyEight's national polling average tracker, called into CNN late Monday to explain his self-imposed benchmark for staying in.

"We're going to continue the campaign. Whenever you look at where we need to be, I've set a goal to be at 4% by Thanksgiving or by the next debate. So, we set internal goals. We're not going to let everything be dictated by the standards that are set by the RNC," he told The Source.

"I know that there's going to be those that say we ought to step aside, but whenever you look at the role that Iowa and New Hampshire plays, we're going to continue to compete there and measure based upon the response we get in those states," he said.

When asked last week in New Hampshire if he would drop out if he didn't make the second debate stage, Hutchinson said he would talk to donors and self-evaluate.

"Right now, my message makes a difference," he told reporters. "I'm also raising issues on the direction of our party, and I'm fighting for the soul of the party and saying we don't need to go down the path of Donald Trump for another four years."

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Judge rules Trump engaged in repeated fraud, effectively deciding central question in $250M civil trial

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(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump submitted "fraudulent valuations" for assets that were then used by himself, his eldest sons and his business to obtain better loan and insurance terms, a judge in New York decided Tuesday before ordering the cancelation of the company's business certificates in New York.

The judge's determination came as he granted partial summary judgment in New York Attorney General Letitia James' multimillion-dollar civil fraud lawsuit.

Judge Arthur Engoron cites "false and misleading square footage" of Trump's Fifth Avenue apartment among other faulty valuations.

The judge immediately canceled all of the defendants' business certificates in New York, and ordered that they must recommend no more than three potential independent receivers to manage the dissolution of the canceled LLCs within 10 days.

The move severely restricts Trump's ability to conduct business in New York going forward.

The judge said Trump and the other defendants have a "propensity to engage in persistent fraud," severely undercutting the defense Trump will offer when the case goes on trial next month.

Engoron wrote in his order that Trump, his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr., and the other defendants fraudulently inflated the value of properties including Trump's Mar-A-Lago estate in Florida and his own triplex apartment in New York City, as well as 40 Wall Street, Trump Park Avenue, multiple golf courses, and an estate in upstate New York.

Eric Trump, who runs the Trump Organization's day-to-day operations, responded on X, previously known as Twitter, saying, "Today, I lost all faith in the New York legal system. Never before have I seen such hatred toward one person by a judge."

"We have run an exceptional company -- never missing a loan payment, making banks hundreds of millions of dollars, developing some of the most iconic assets in the world. Yet today, the persecution of our family continues..." he said.


In a statement to ABC News, Trump attorney Alina Habba said they intend to "immediately" appeal the decision, calling the Trump Organization "an American success story."

James, in a statement, said, "Today, a judge ruled in our favor and found that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in years of financial fraud. We look forward to presenting the rest of our case at trial."

Trial is currently scheduled to begin Oct. 2, although upcoming rulings may alter that schedule. Among other determinations, the trial will decide how much Trump will have to pay in penalties.

In his ruling Tuesday, Engoron said Trump inflated the value of his own Trump Tower residence between $114 million and $207 million -- including claiming the property was triple its actual size in square feet.

"A discrepancy of this order of magnitude, by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades, can only be considered fraud," Engoron said in his order.

Engoron also found that Trump inflated the value of his Mar-a-Lago club by at least 2,300%, claiming the property assessed by the county between $18 million and $27.6 million was actually worth between $426,529,614 and $612,110,496.

In total, Engoron wrote that the New York attorney general "submitted conclusive evidence" that the defendants overvalued their assets between $812 million and $2.2 billion.

In his 35-page order, the judge described the conduct of the defendants in the case as belonging in a "fantasy world," and sharply criticized what he called the "bogus arguments" made by the defense.

"In defendants' world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party's lies..." Engoron wrote, citing multiple arguments made by defense to justify the allegedly inflated valuations of Trump's assets. "That is a fantasy world, not the real world."

Engoron also appeared to use the words of former President Trump against him, citing a transcript from a deposition of Trump about the inclusion of so-called "worthless clauses," disclaimers included in financial statements which defense has argued insulate the defendants from liability.

"However, defendants' reliance on these 'worthless' disclaimers is worthless," Engoron wrote, rejecting a frequent argument cited by the defense.

Engoron similarly disagreed with the defense's argument that property values were "subjective" and therefore could not be fraudulent.

"The defenses Donald Trump attempts to articulate in his sworn deposition are wholly without basis in law or fact," Engoron wrote, saying that the documents presented to the court "clearly contain fraudulent valuations that defendants used in business."

Engoron also sanctioned Donald Trump's lawyers for peddling "bogus arguments," ordering five attorneys to pay $7,500 each. Christopher Kise, Michael Madaio, Clifford S. Robert, Michael Farina and Armen Morian were each ordered to pay within 30 days.

A lawyer for the New York attorney general's office had earlier described "staggering" misrepresentations about the value of Trump's properties and assets, arguing that Trump engaged in a prolonged "bait-and-switch" to lower his tax burden while inflating his assets to obtain favorable loan terms.

ABC News' Olivia Rubin and Lalee Ibssa contributed to this report.

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Hillary Clinton swipes at Trump, Putin during portrait unveiling

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(WASHINGTON) -- At an event Tuesday highlighting her contributions to American diplomacy as the 67th secretary of state, Hillary Clinton barbed her political rivals, issuing thinly veiled criticisms of her one-time presidential opponent Donald Trump and taking direct aim at Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

After being introduced by current Secretary of State Antony Blinken, she thanked him for the contributions he had made so far, remarking that at one point it would have been nearly unthinkable for the United States and its allies to remain united behind Ukraine because of what she described as damage done during the Trump administration -- without ever calling out the former president by name.

"We had burned so bridges with our allies and our friends, so reinstating a foreign policy that plays to the best of American values, that puts our interests and security front and center but does it in a way that actually brings people to us, not pushes them away -- would have been thought to be extremely difficult, and indeed it was," she said at the State Department ceremony. "But it was accomplished."

Before the veil was dropped from her portrait, which depicts the former first lady standing in front of an American flag, Clinton commented that it had been a long time since she had seen the painting "between Covid, between not wanting to finish it during the last administration," drawing laughter from the crowd of State Department employees and other guests.

Clinton also took time to thank the current and former Foreign Service officers and civil servants in the room for their contributions, calling their often-unsung work "vital to our nation's security" and enumerating their accomplishments during her time in office and after.

"We continued to build on our human rights commitments, women's rights, gay rights, the rights of all people to have a chance to live up to their own God-given potential. And we have seen the continuation of a lot of the values and priorities that we worked on into the Biden administration, in looking across the globe, defending democracy in Ukraine, expanding NATO," she said.

"Just as an aside: Too bad, Vladimir. You brought it on yourself," Clinton quipped, referencing Putin's invasion of Ukraine, where fighting has reached a stalemate more than a year into the war despite bullish early predictions about Russia's chances of success.

In his remarks introducing Clinton, Blinken extolled her trailblazing stances and said he admired her tough approach to Russia.

"A lot of what's now recognized as universal, what's commonly accepted, Secretary Clinton helped make it that way. She led with America's values and interests, calling out Putin for who he really is from the start," he said.

"Secretary Clinton has often said that America's leadership in the world is like a relay race. Presidents, secretaries, entire generations are handed the baton and asked to run a leg of the race and then hand it off as best we can," Blinken added. "Secretary Clinton, your leg of the race helped revitalize the power and the purpose of American diplomacy. It reminded the world of who America is, what we stand for, and helped us achieve our mission."

Clinton was accompanied on the stage by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and Blinken's wife, Evan Ryan.

In his speech, Blinken thanked Clinton for indirectly introducing him to Ryan when they both worked at the White House during her time as first lady.

"I spent an inordinate amount of time in the first lady's office on the other end of the old executive office building and also in the East Wing. And that was, in fairness, all because a certain member of her staff," he said, referencing Ryan. "Of all the things I have gratitude for the Clintons for, number one is bringing my wife Evan into my life."

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From secretaries to secretary of state, Biden documents probe casts wide net: Sources

Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference

(WASHINGTON) -- The federal investigation into President Joe Biden's handling of classified documents prior to becoming president has grown into a sprawling examination of Obama-era security protocols and internal White House processes, with investigators so far interviewing scores of witnesses, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, sources familiar with the investigation told ABC News.

Federal prosecutors and FBI agents from special counsel Robert Hur's office have been interviewing witnesses for nearly nine months, targeting an expansive constellation of former aides -- from high-level advisers to executive assistants and at least one White House attorney. Several sources estimated that as many as 100 witnesses have already been interviewed, with interviews conducted as recently as last week and some witnesses asked to return for follow-up interviews.

Sources who were present for some of the interviews, including witnesses, told ABC News that authorities had apparently uncovered instances of carelessness from Biden's vice presidency, but that -- based on what was said in the interviews -- it seemed to them that the improper removal of classified documents from Biden's office when he left the White House in 2017 was more likely a mistake than a criminal act.

Nevertheless, the special counsel has reached no final determinations and the investigation is ongoing, ABC News was told.

In January, shortly after news first surfaced that classified documents had been found at a personal office used by Biden after his vice presidency, Blinken, a long-time aide to Biden, said he and Biden were both "surprised to learn that there were any government records taken." It's unclear what Blinken told Hur's team in his voluntary interview with them.

For a high-stakes special counsel investigation into a sitting president, Hur has operated largely under the radar since his appointment in January -- avoiding the attention and media scrutiny of special counsel Jack Smith's probes into former President Donald Trump.

But ABC News learned from sources that Hur's team has cast a wide net, gathering documents dating back to the early days of the Obama administration and drilling into questions about the task of securely updating the vice president on highly sensitive matters.

Investigators have shown witnesses email chains dating back to at least 2010 and asked for context about those exchanges, sources said. Witnesses have also been pressed about the use of cabinets and safes, sources said.

It has been publicly reported that investigators searched for documents dating back to Biden's tenure in the Senate.

Sources said investigators are asking witnesses, especially former military aides, granular questions about internal procedures for handling classified materials, apparently seeking to understand the minutiae of how the vice president obtained, consumed, and discarded classified briefing materials.

Of particular interest to investigators, according to multiple sources, was any context surrounding Biden's tendencies for notetaking and document retention, including where he stored documents, briefing books, notes, and notecards. Prosecutors also asked the witnesses about an iPad and cell phone Biden kept for personal use, and whether they were aware if he ever handled classified materials on those devices, the sources said.

Investigators also asked witnesses about how Biden's closest aides handled classified records, according to sources. Michelle Smith, a former executive assistant to Biden who is now deceased, has been brought up in some interviews. ABC News previously reported that Kathy Chung, Smith's successor as executive assistant, met with investigators earlier this year.

Spokespersons for Hur, the State Department, Biden's personal attorney, and the White House declined to comment for this story. An attorney representing Blinken also declined to comment.

Hur has vowed to conduct a "fair, impartial, and dispassionate" investigation, following the facts "thoroughly" and "without fear or favor."

A series of revelations precipitated Hur's ascent to special counsel. In late 2022, the White House told the National Archives that documents bearing classification markings had been discovered at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C. -- the location of Biden's private office after his term as vice president expired in early 2017.

From 2017 to 2019, Blinken was the managing director of the Penn Biden Center, and before that he served as Biden's national security adviser during President Barack Obama's first term, with their association going back more than two decades, beginning when Biden was still a U.S. senator.

After the classified documents were found at the Penn Biden Center late last year, Blinken told reporters he "had no knowledge of it at the time" but "would cooperate fully" with the Justice Department's review. The White House similarly said that it would cooperate.

Biden's personal attorney later informed investigators that additional classified records were identified in the garage of Biden's Wilmington, Delaware, home -- a development that marked a tipping point in the Justice Department's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate further, sources told ABC News in January.

In all, about 25 documents marked classified were found in locations associated with Biden.

Biden has sought to downplay his legal exposure. One week after Hur's appointment, in response to reporters' questions about why he did not reveal the documents before November's midterm elections, Biden replied that "we found a handful of documents" that had been "filed in the wrong place" and that he was cooperating with the National Archives and the Justice Department.

"I think you're going to find there's nothing there," he said.

Meanwhile, special counsel Smith's team has aggressively pursued former President Trump and two aides in his investigation into Trump's handling of classified records after leaving office. In their indictment against Trump, prosecutors allege a months-long conspiracy to block government efforts to retrieve classified documents from his Mar-a-Lago estate in the summer of 2020, including by allegedly hiding those documents from the FBI and Trump's own attorney.

According to the indictment, when the FBI then searched Mar-a-Lago in August of last year, agents found more than 100 documents marked classified that Trump allegedly failed to turn over in defiance of a federal grand jury subpoena.

In Biden's case, all of the classified documents found in locations associated with Biden were voluntarily provided to the government, Biden's lawyers said at the time.

"We are confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced," an attorney for Biden said in a statement after Hur's appointment.

Trump and his aides have denied the allegations against them and pleaded not guilty.

ABC News' Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.

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Biden's dog Commander bites another Secret Service officer in 11th incident

Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden's dog Commander bit another Secret Service officer on Monday, according to a statement from a Secret Service spokesperson.

Commander, a purebred German shepherd, bit the Secret Service officer around 8 p.m. Monday. The officer was treated by medical personnel, according to a Secret Service spokesperson.

This would be the 11th known instance of Commander biting a Secret Service officer and acting aggressive.

U.S. Secret Service emails obtained by Judicial Watch in July via a Freedom of Information Act request describe 10 incidents of the German Shepherd biting people in a four-month period -- including one incident that resulted in the victim, a Secret Service agent, being transported to a hospital after getting treatment from White House medical personnel, according to the emails.

The Bidens had another dog, Major, who behaved aggressively, including biting Secret Service and White House staff. They eventually sent the dog, also a German shepherd, to live with friends in Delaware.

Commander joined the first family at the White House in December 2021. He was gifted to Biden by his brother James and his sister-in-law for his birthday. The family also has a cat, Willow.

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

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Biden and Trump focus on wooing union workers, underlining their swing state power: Experts

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(DETROIT) -- With national attention drawn toward the United Auto Workers amid their strike, and as 75% of Americans back them in their negotiations, according to Gallup polling published in August, the 2024 presidential front-runners are increasingly angling to boost their ties to workers.

Donald Trump plans to skip the second Republican presidential debate on Wednesday to instead court unionized employees with remarks outside Detroit. President Joe Biden joined the picket line in Michigan just a day before.

A sitting president attending a strike is without precedent in modern history, and while the White House insists that shouldn't signal Biden is inserting himself in the ongoing talks, administration officials also say it reflects his continued support for workers.

On the picket line on Tuesday afternoon, Biden took control of a bullhorn to express his support for the striking auto workers.

Biden, wearing a UAW black baseball cap, told the workers to "stick with it" because they "deserve a significant raise" and "other benefits."

Political experts believe there is electoral value in Biden's position as well.

"It's important that Biden be viewed as on the side of the unions, especially since the unions currently have their highest level of support in memory from the public," Matt Grossmann, director of the Michigan-based Institute for Public Policy and Social Research, told ABC News.

Democrats have historically relied on union support to buoy their campaigns, with double-digit margins of union household voters favoring the party over Republicans in some past races, according to exit polling.

But Trump's victory in 2016 was powered, in part, by him earning more union votes than other Republicans.

In 2016, his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton struggled with union voters in states like Michigan and Ohio, exit polls showed. Trump won both.

Four years later, Biden narrowly won Michigan and two other Rust Belt states, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, that had gone for Trump in 2016.

Some of Trump's appeal with union voters has been credited to his opposition to free trade agreements in comparison to Clinton. Trump also vowed to revive domestic manufacturing -- a pledge the Biden White House is now quick to contend that they, and not Trump, have better sought to fulfill through new investments and regulations.

According to government statistics, Michigan and Pennsylvania were in approximately the top fourth of states with the highest proportion of unionized workers in 2022. Wisconsin, too, had a higher rate than more than 20 other states.

In 2020, Biden won union households 56-40% over Trump, exit polling found.

"I am a union man, period," Biden told Pittsburgh laborers when he launched his 2020 campaign. Four years later, he again held his first campaign rally of the cycle in front of union workers in Pennsylvania.

Jonathan Hanson, a lecturer at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, said Democrats should keep thinking about how to reach union workers.

"I think Democrats should be concerned about what is their message that's going to appeal to these voters," Hanson told ABC News. "They didn't do so well in responding to Trump's use of campaigning against trade agreements in 2016. That seemed to work pretty well for him."

Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan told reporters last week that in 2016 Trump had an ability "to understand people's concerns and their anxieties," something she said made her take that election seriously.

"Michigan is not a blue state. We are a purple state," Dingell said, adding that "nobody can take Michigan for granted."

Rep. Haley Stevens, also a Michigan Democrat, agreed: "Certainly our state is in play."

But the two lawmakers laid into Trump, criticizing him for his plans to speak to laborers in the state, suggesting it was insincere.

"It's just laughable, and it's not welcome," Stevens said.

A closer look at Biden and Trump on unions

Trying to draw a contrast between the former president and Biden, Dingell argued last week of Trump, "The truth is that he was one of the most anti-worker presidents this country ever had."

Trump's aides have returned fire at Biden for announcing his trip to the picket line after Trump had announced his own speech in Michigan, on the same night as a Republican presidential primary debate that he is skipping.

"Joe Biden's trip to Michigan is nothing more than a cheap photo op as he finds himself between a rock and a political hard place," Trump adviser Jason Miller wrote on social media. Miller also criticized Biden for not undoing environmental regulation that Miller argued while harm auto manufacturers. Biden has said he wants to invest in car companies as they shift to make electric vehicles as part of a broader push to address climate change.

In office, Trump worked to renegotiate the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico into a new trading pact that the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions, praised at the time as something "that working people can proudly support."

But critics have pointed to the incongruence between many of Trump's comments and actions.

In his inaugural address, Trump denounced "politicians [who] prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed." He later hailed electronics manufacturer Foxconn's investment in Wisconsin at a groundbreaking ceremony, only for the scope of the company's involvement to drastically scale back in the following years, according to local reports.

The Trump administration also asked the Supreme Court to decide in favor of a petition that ultimately curbed unions' ability to solicit dues. Additionally, Peter Robb, the Trump-appointed general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), issued a memo that labeled Uber drivers as contractors, rather than employees, effectively stripping them of federal protection to unionize.

Since taking office, Biden has taken steps to signal his abiding support for unions, including his day-one move to fire Robb. He's also signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes a requirement that American-made iron, steel and other material be used in construction projects funded by the law -- though waivers could be granted.

But Biden found himself at odds with the labor movement last year when he signed legislation to force railroad workers to accept a deal -- which his administration played a role in negotiating -- in order to avoid a strike. Biden said he was "reluctant" to do so but said a work stoppage's potential impact to the economy outweighed the concerns of the group of laborers who held out on accepting the agreement.

The AFL-CIO endorsed Biden earlier this year. The UAW has not made any endorsement.

'Unions are always part of our path'

Democrats did not wait until the UAW strike to start maneuvering. Last month, during a motorcycle tour across Michigan to tout Democratic legislative victories, Sen. Gary Peters made a stop at a UAW union hall in Lansing where he delivered fiery remarks in support of their cause -- as they geared up for a strike authorization vote -- crediting them with strengthening the middle class and the country.

Peters, who leads Democrats' senate campaign committee, later told reporters, "Unions are always part of our path. ... We work together. When you lock arms, that's how you're victorious."

Some Republican presidential hopefuls have struck a different tone. Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley has criticized Biden for "emboldening" unions, adding that she believes taxpayers will pay for the UAW's strike.

"We're all gonna suffer from this," Haley, who calls herself a "union buster," said in a Fox News interview.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, asked by a voter in Iowa last week if, as president, he would insert himself in labor negotiations, pointed to then-President Ronald Reagan's firing of air traffic controllers who went on strike in the 1980s.

"He said, 'You strike, you're fired,'" Scott said of Reagan. "Simple concept to me, to the extent that we could use that once again."

The senator has also recently said, when asked about UAW, "I support workers."

But he has panned the union's demand, in light of high auto company profits, for a 46% raise over a four-year period and a four-day work week, something fellow 2024 GOP candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called a "problem."

Grossmann said these criticisms could hurt both candidates in 2024 if they are their party's presidential nominee.

"It's potentially good in a Republican primary, but it's definitely not a general election in Michigan," Grossmann said. "There is a history of Republicans trying to be more pro-labor in Michigan."

Other candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson have instead focused their criticism on Biden's push for a transition to electric vehicles as part of his effort to tackle climate change, rather than the union members.

The electric vehicle transition is of concern for many UAW members who feel the move could negatively impact their jobs, and that unease is in part why the union has so far withheld an endorsement of Biden.

"What I think the UAW leadership is doing is really trying to put pressure on the president," said Hanson, with the University of Michigan. "I think they know that Biden is wanting their support in the upcoming election next year, and they're using that as leverage."

With UAW President Shawn Fain publicly voicing his opposition to Trump being reelected, it's not likely the former president will secure the UAW's endorsement. But Grossmann predicts that if Trump sufficiently talks about union issues, he could bypass leadership and woo the rank and file.

"If Trump visibly sides with the union workers and against the companies enough to get flack within the Republican Party, then that might cause this issue to increase in salience and give the Republicans more of an opportunity," Grossman said.

Democrats say they are prepared to keep making their case to workers.

"When these negotiations are done, we need to go out and fight like blank," Dingell said.

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Justin Gomez, Lalee Ibssa, Nicholas Kerr, Soo Rin Kim, Molly Nagle and Kelsey Walsh contributed to this report.

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Biden to join striking auto workers on picket line in move White House calls 'historic'

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden will join the United Auto Workers picket line Tuesday in his strongest show of support yet for union members striking against General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.

Biden announced Friday on X that he would travel to Wayne County, Michigan, "to join the picket line and stand in solidarity with the men and women of UAW as they fight for a fair share of the value they helped create."

It's a move some experts are calling apparently unprecedented in modern political history, something the White House has been quick to tout.

"He supports the UAW workers and tomorrow what you're going to see is historic," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday, although she declined to give further details on where exactly Biden will be, exactly what he'll do and what the trip will entail. "This is going to be a historic visit."

At the same time, Jean-Pierre was peppered with reporter questions about whether the president is officially siding with the striking workers' demands by joining the picket line, and how his appearance is consistent with the White House claim he's not getting involved in the negotiations.

"He is standing with the workers," she said. "We are not involved in negotiations. That is something for them to decide what is going to work for the parties that are involved, but he is standing with the auto workers."

Biden's appearance will come one day before former President Donald Trump arrives in Michigan -- a 2024 battleground -- to campaign in lieu of participating in the second Republican primary debate Wednesday night. Trump announced earlier this month he would give a speech to current and former union workers. Jason Miller, Trump's senior adviser, criticized Biden's upcoming trip as a "cheap photo op" and reaction to Trump's plans.

The White House said Monday Trump's schedule didn't factor into Biden's decision to accept an invitation from UAW President Shawn Fain to join members on the picket line.

UAW launched its strike against the "Big 3" U.S. automakers on Sept. 15 after failing to reach a contract agreement. The union, which is conducting a "stand-up" strike, recently expanded its walk outs with 38 new locations targeting Stellantis and GM.

Key among the union demands are a 36% pay increase over four years and a 32-hour work week.

But Jean-Pierre during Monday's briefing repeatedly declined to say if Biden, who touts himself as the most pro-union president, supported those specific requests when asked by ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Selina Wang.

"I'm not gonna get into the details of what's being negotiated right now on the table with certainly with the parties," Jean-Pierre replied.

"What we're saying is that we support the auto workers," Jean-Pierre said, adding at one point that he "stands by the side of the workers."

Biden has said he believes union workers deserve their "fair share" of the record earnings of the companies. He's added that it's time for a "win-win agreement" between the union and automakers.

ABC's Wang also pressed Biden on whether he supports the UAW demands later Monday afternoon.

“I think the UAW gave up an incredible amount back when the automobile industry was going under. They gave up everything from their pensions on, and they saved the automobile industry,” Biden responded.

“And I think that now that the industry is roaring back, they should -- they should participate in the benefit of that," Biden continued. "And if you take a look at the significant increase in salaries for the executives and growth for the industry, they should benefit from it. So yes, I support -- I always support the UAW."

The move is not without political risk for Biden as he runs for reelection.

He originally tapped two top officials -- acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior adviser Gene Sperling -- to offer their support to both parties in reaching agreement. Biden's announcement last Friday that he would join the picket line came hours after UAW's Fain publicly extended an invitation.

"We invite and encourage everyone who supports our cause to join us on the picket line from our friends and families all the way up to the President of the United States," Fain said in a video. "We invite you to join us in our fight."

ABC's This Week co-host Martha Raddatz asked Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg whether Biden joining the picket line is a "good idea."

"That's where he stands," Buttigieg responded. "He's a pro-worker president. He is an unapologetically pro-union president. And, you know, not just in contrast to the anti-union policies of the Trump administration, but really with respect to presidents of both parties over the last half century. He's proud of the fact that he is the most pro-union and pro-worker among them. And, by the way, getting this right."

Buttigieg also said he believed the companies and auto sector will "benefit in the long run" from the deal.

Asked if Biden had spoken recently with the three auto companies, Jean-Pierre said she had no calls to read out to reporters.

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